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

Part 6: John Dee's Annotated Books from the Library of the Royal College of Physicians, London

Part 6 completes our coverage of John Dee’s printed books from the
Dorchester Library at the Royal College of Physicians. Clearly identified as belonging to John Dee, many carry his annotations and significant marginalia. The annotations are of three kinds. There are signs (the pointing hand and the ‘flower sign’ which both occur in his library catalogue); underlinings of key words or key passages of text; or marginal notes - often the occasional word or phrase penned beside the text. There are also important biographical and bibliographical notes, written for the most part before 1560, either on fly leaves, title pages or at the end of volumes.
The annotations reveal much about Dee's interests, his reading habits and sometimes they even give details of particular events in Dee's life. They also inform our understanding of general reading practices and the management of knowledge in the Renaissance period.

Authors represented in Part 6 of this project include Buratelli, Chytraeus, Constantin, Curio, Euripides, Fontaine, Geuffroy, Herodian, Lull, Machiavelli, Marinello, Mizauld, Morzillus, Muenster, Natta, Panvinio, Peucer, Postel, Quintilianus, Ringhieri, Sardi, Seneca, Thevet, Tritheim, Velcurio and Walsingham.

Subjects covered range across many disciplines:

  • Alchemy, Philosophy and Theology.
  • The History of Rome and the Holy Roman Empire.
  • The History of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Africa, the Turks and the Ottoman Empire.
  • Geography and Exploration.
  • Women.
  • Latin and Greek Language, Classical Culture and Literature.

Places of publication include Antwerp, Anvers, Basel, Frankfurt, Geneva, Lyon, Paris, Rostock, Venice and Wittenberg. Titles include:

  • Seneca’s Tragoediae (Lipsiae 1566).
  • Geuffroy’s Aulae Turcicae (Basel 1577).
  • Pedro Mexia’s Les Diverses Leçons de Pierre Messie Gentil-homme de Seuile (Lyon 1563).
  • Machiavelli’s Princeps (Basel 1580).
  • A History of Alexander the Great written in 1494.
  • Historia adversus Paganos, written by Orosius in 1574, with descriptions of Alexander’s victories and details of the conquests of the early Roman empire in Spain, Germany and Africa.
  • Panvinio’s Republicae Romana (Venice 1558).

This project will prove of great interest to scholars exploring the history of collecting printed books. It also provides much detail for those interested in Dee's marginalia and annotations; it provides excellent source material for everyone interested in knowing what books were available to Dee, his friends, colleagues and students. 

"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 Massachusetts Press, 1995).

Digital Guide
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