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The Reconstructed Libraries of European Scholars, 1450-1700
Series One: The Books and Manuscripts of John Dee, 1527-1608

Part 4: John Dee's Manuscripts and Annotated Books from the Library of the Royal College of Physicians, London

Parts 4-6 of this project focus on the European printed books which were once part of John Dee’s Library. They are full of interesting annotations and marginalia. The annotations reveal much about Dee's interests, his reading habits and sometimes they even give details of particular events in Dee's life, nativities and other occurrences. They also inform our understanding of general reading practices and the management of knowledge in the Renaissance period. Places of publication include Antwerp, Basel, Brescia, Frankfurt, Ingolstadt, Lyon, Paris, Rome and Venice.

Subjects covered range across many disciplines:

  • mathematics, alchemy, astrology, astronomy and navigation.
  • music, philosophy and theology.
  • history, classics and politics.
  • military and naval arts.
  • science, medicine and anatomy.
  • mechanics and the study of metals and minerals.

These materials from the holdings of the Dorchester Library at the Royal College of Physicians, London form the largest surviving group of Dee's printed books.
The items in Part 4 include:

  • Well illustrated cosmographies by André Thevet and François de Belle-forest.
  • Ptolemy’s Quadripartitum (Venice 1519).
  • Francesco Feretti’s Della Osservanza Militare (Venice 1568).
  • Bernardino Rocca’s Du Maniement et Conduite de l'Art Militaire (Paris 1571).
  • Antoine Mizauld’s Planetologia (Lyon 1551).
  • Johannes Taisnier’s De Annuli Sphaerici Fabrica (Antwerp 1560).
  • The writings of Frisius on the principles of astronomy and cosmography.

"When it was catalogued in 1583 Dee’s library was Elizabethan England’s largest and - for scientific subjects at least - most valuable collection of books and manuscripts.... The collection was the result of extraordinary commitment and energy in the preservation, collection, and management of textual information and as such it is central to an appreciation of both Dee’s life and the period in which he lived. It is not only a monument to Dee’s scholarly interests and achievements; it is one of the greatest monuments of English Renaissance culture."
Dr William H Sherman
writing in John Dee: The Politics of Reading & Writing in the English Renaissance
(University of Massuchusetts Press, 1995).

Digital Guide
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