John Dee arguing for positions…

[John Dee, arguing for positions of Math Reader and the development of studies in mathematics at Cambridge and Oxford (roles he could have contentedly filled) in his Euclid preface. Mathematics was not a traditional part of the curriculum, and the nation needed better trained and qualified workers:]

“Of these feats (farther applied) is sprung the feat of Geodesie, or Land Measuring: more cunningly to measure & Survey Land, Woods, and Waters, afar off. More cunningly, I say: but God knoweth (hitherto) in these Realms of England and Ireland (whether through ignorance or fraud, I cannot tell, in every particular) how great wrong and iniury hath (in my time) been committed by untrue measuring and surveying of Land or Woods, any way. And, this I am sure: that the value of the difference, between the truth and such surveys, would have been able to have funded (for ever) in each of our two Universities, an excellent Mathematical Reader: to each, allowing (yearly) a hundred Marks of lawful money of this realm: which, indeed, would seem requisite, here, to be had (though by other ways provided for) as well, as, the famous Uniuersitie of Paris, hath two Mathematical Readers: and each, two hundred French Crowns yearly, of the French Kings magnificent liberality only.”

Pasted from The Mathematicall Praeface to Elements of Geometrie of Euclid of Megara by John Dee at <>

[(Dee’s use of the word “cunning” is interesting. Today it has a connotation of having one’s own hidden agenda – offers “shifty,” “insidious,” and “Machiavellian.” In Dee’s time, perhaps it just meant “clever.” Yet in his time folk magicians – conjurers or wizards – were also called “cunning” men, so we’re struck that Dee would chose to use the word “cunning” when he was so sensitive to being accused of conjuring. offers the two meanings:

1. skill employed in a shrewd or sly manner, as in deceiving; craftiness; guile.
2. adeptness in performance; dexterity: The weaver’s hand lost its cunning.


Glindoni painted skulls around Dee’s feet….

[Glindoni painted skulls around Dee’s feet. Dee would have objected, and presumably the patron who commissioned this work did also, because the skulls are over painted in the final version (here). Considering Dee’s lifelong efforts to overcome the ignorance and fear of his contemporaries who equated skill and learning with sorcery, the inclusion of the skulls and the implication of necromancy is offensive. Glindoni may have simply been adding a theatrical touch, not realising the sensitivity of the matter. In Dee’s time, witchcraft could lead to execution, and Dee had already been accused, detained and examined for it. He had also prosecuted others for slander.]

X-ray of Henry Gillard Glindoni, “John Dee performing an experiment before Queen Elizabeth I” (late 19th century), showing skulls in a ring around John Dee (courtesy Royal College of Physicians) (click to enlarge)

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Dee’s friendly association with Catholic bishop “Bloody Bonner” suggests there’s

[Dee’s friendly association with Catholic bishop “Bloody Bonner” suggests there’s more to him than we know. Was he a spy? Is that why his name was removed from the Book of Martyrs (Foxe’s Actes and Monuments)?]

‘Dee got into many scrapes in his life and in 1555 was placed under house arrest for casting royal horoscopes without permission. He writes in the back of one book that he is in the Fulham house of “his singular friend” the bishop of London, Edmund Bonner. Was he really a friend of his persecutor, a man known as “Bloody Bonner” for his ruthless treatment of heretics?

Birkwood said it was impossible to know. ‘Bonner was a horrible man, but they were both learned men and maybe they did get on. The tantalising thing is we can’t know.’

Elsewhere are examples of codes Dee invented. He used one to record the daily weather in August 1548 when he was studying at Louvain near Brussels; his symbol for windy looks like a modern hashtag. “It is not a very difficult code to break,” Birkwood said.’I’m very used to his handwriting.”
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The navigator John Davis was one of John Dee’s buddies

[The navigator John Davis was one of John Dee’s buddies (and probable student), as were explorers Walter Raleigh and his half-brothers. John Dee’s alliances pre-dated Christopher Marlowe’s purported one with Raleigh’s group.]

“John Davis or Davis (c. 1550 – 29 December 1605) was one of the chief English navigators and Elizabeth I. He led several voyages to discover the Northwest Passage, served as pilot and captain on both Dutch and English voyages to the East Indies. He discovered the Falkland Islands (today a British Overseas Territory) in August 1592.

Davis was born in the Parish of Stoke Gabriel circa 1550 and spent his childhood in Sandridge. It has been suggested that he learned much of his seamanship as a child while plying boats along the river Dart, and went to sea at an early age. His childhood neighbors included Adrian and Humphrey Gilbert and their half-brother Walter Raleigh. From early on, he also became friends with John Dee.”

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Glindoni’s portrait of Dee demonstrating before the Queen

John Dee Performing an Experiment before Elizabeth I by Henry Gillard Glindoni
Oil on canvas, 152 x 244.4 cm
Collection: Wellcome Library.

“The scene depicted is set within the house at Mortlake of Dr John Dee (1527–1608). At the court of Queen Elizabeth I, Dee was revered for the range of his knowledge, which embraced the fields of mathematics, navigation, geography, alchemy and chemistry, medicine and optics.”

From <>

“He was a Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge, and later one of the original Fellows of Trinity College (he declined a lecturing post at Oxford), and he had an international reputation. In the painting he is showing the effect of combining two elements, either to cause combustion or to extinguish it. Behind him is his assistant Edward Kelly, wearing a long skullcap to conceal the fact that his ears had been cropped as a punishment for forgery. Queen Elizabeth I paid several visits to Dee’s house in Mortlake and gave all her support to his research. In the picture the Queen sits in the left middle ground, Sir Walter Raleigh is on her left, and behind him, holding a staff, is the Lord Treasurer William Cecil, 1st Lord Burghley.”

From <>.

[Recently a row of skulls have been revealed in a circle around Dee using radiography.
See <>

What happened to Dee?

[What happened to Dee? What happened to Marlowe? Knowledge has been lost over the centuries, but … where are the bodies? Their absence keeps conspiracy theories alive. We have not seen evidence that Dee did anything but die. Same with Marlowe. Neither have we seen evidence that Dee was consulted about the Spanish, and as noted, he was far away at the time.]

John Dee lived on the south bank of the Thames…

[John Dee lived on the south bank of the Thames, a few hours up by barge from London, but was even closer to Richmond Palace where the Queen spent a lot of time. Consequently visitors would drop in for consultations and demonstrations, or to examine his collections. Even the Queen dropped by on occasion.]

“From his mother, on the other hand, John Dee received his house and land at Mortlake, conveniently close to Richmond Palace, which would subsequently serve as a site for his library, museum and alchemical workshops; as a venue for receiving the Queen and other visitors; and as security for loans and mortgages.”

Pasted from <> (Jennifer M. Rampling, John Dee and the sciences: early modern networks of knowledge, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, Volume 43, Issue 3, September 2012, Pages 432-436, ISSN 0039-3681,

“Richmond Palace was a royal residence on the River Thames in England that stood in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It lay upstream and on the opposite bank from the Palace of Westminster, which lay nine miles (14 km) to the north-east. It was erected about 1501 by Henry VII of England, formerly known as Earl of Richmond, in honour of which the manor of Sheen had recently been renamed as “Richmond”, later to become Richmond upon Thames. It replaced a palace, itself built on the site of a manor house appropriated by the Crown some two centuries before.
In 1500, a year before the construction of the new Richmond Palace began, the name of the town of Sheen, which had grown up around the royal manor, was changed to “Richmond” by command of Henry VII. However, both names, Sheen and Richmond, continue to be used, not without scope for confusion.


Richmond Palace was a favourite home of Queen Elizabeth, who died there in 1603. It remained a residence of the kings and queens of England until the death of Charles I in 1649. Within months of his execution, the Palace was surveyed by order of Parliament and was sold for £13,000. Over the following ten years it was largely demolished, the stones and timbers being re-used as building materials elsewhere. Only vestigial traces now survive, notably the Gate House. The site of the former palace is the area between Richmond Green and the River Thames, and some local street names provide echoes of the former Palace, including Old Palace Lane, Old Palace Yard and The Wardrobe.”

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John Dee would have you know he was no wizard

[John Dee would have you know he was no wizard or sorcerer and that he was as devout and God-fearing as any man (or woman). He was, undoubtedly so, yet he tried to contact the spirits, and it is debatable who responded. Did they, like Mephistopheles come to corrupt him? Was he taking too big a risk? How can anyone be sure who he is contacting? Like Faust, who was he that he thought he knew better than anyone else and could do what he chose?]

Prayer from Dee’s Primus:

Omnipotens, Sempiterne, vere, et vive Deus, in adjutorium meum intende: Domine Dominantium, Rex Regum, Jeovah Zebaoth, ad adjuvandum me festina:

Gloria Deo, Patri, Filio, et spiritui Sancto: Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper et in sæcula sæculorum: Amen.

Recte sapere, et intelligere doceto me, (ô rerum omnium Creator,) Nam Sapientia tua, totum est, quod volo: Da verbum tuum in ore meo, (ô rerum omnium Creator,) et sapientiam tuam in corde meo fige.

O Domine Jesu Christe (qui sapientia vera es, æterni et Omnipotentis tui Patris) humilimè tuam oro Divinam Majestatem, expeditum mihi ut mittere digneris, alicuius pii, sapientis expertique, Philosophi auxilium, ad illa plenissimè intelligenda perficiendaque, quæ maximi valoris erunt ad tuam laudem et gloriam amplificandam: Et si Mortalis nullus iam in terris vivat, qui ad hoc munus aptus sit: vel qui ex æterna tua providentia, ad istud mihi præstandum beneficium assignatus fuerit: Tunc equidem humilime, ardentissimè et constantissimè a tua Divina Majestate requiro, ut ad me de cælis mittere digneris bonos tuos Spirituales Ministros, Angelosque, videlicet Michaëlem, Gabrielem,Raphaëlem ac Urielem: et (ex Divino tuo favore) quoscunque, alios, veros, fidelesque tuos Angelos, qui me plene et perfecte informent et instruant, in cognitione, intelligentiaque vera et exacta, Arcanorum et Magnalium tuorum (Creaturas omnes tuas, illarumque naturas, proprietates, et optimos usus, concernentium)
et nobis Mortalibus scitu necessariorum; ad tui nominis laudem, honorem, et gloriam; et ad solidam meam, aliorumque (per me,) plurimorum
tuorum fidelium consolationem: et ad Inimicorum tuorum confusionem, et subversionem.


Fiat Jeovah Zebaoth: Fiat Adonay, fiat Elohim. O beata, et superbenedicta Omnipotens Trinitas, Concedas mihi (Joanni Dee) petitionem hanc, modo tali, qui tibi maximè placebit.


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[Translated at][from “Recte sapere”:]

Teach me to know aright and to understand (O Creator of all things) for thy wisdom is all that I desire. Give thy word in my mouth (O Creator of all things) and fix thy wisdom in my heart.

O Lord Jesus Christ (who art the true wisdom of thine eternal and almighty Father), I most humbly beseech thy Divine Majesty, that thou deignest to send me the speedy aid of some pious, wise and expert philosopher for the complete understanding and accomplishing of that which will be of the greatest worth for the increase of thy praise and glory: And if there should be no Mortal now living on earth who might be fitting for this gift, or who by thy divine providence might be assigned to the fulfillment of this my prayer, then equally most humbly, most ardently and most constantly, I request from thy Divine Majesty that thou deignest to send to me from the heavens thy good Spiritual Ministers and Angels, which is to say, Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel: and (out of thy Divine favor) whatever other true and faithful of thy Angels, who might completely and perfectly inform and instruct in the knowledge and in the true and exact intelligence of thy Secrets and Miracles (concerning all thy Creatures and their natures, properties and best uses) the understanding of which is necessary to us Mortals; to the praise, honor and glory of thy name and to my thorough consolation and (through me) that of many others of thy faithful, and to the confusion and subversion of thine enemies.


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[Remainder from Google Translate:]

let it be done Jehovah of hosts: let it be done Adonay, and let it be done Elohim. Oh, Blessed and Most almighty Trinity, yield to me (John Dee) this request this, in such a way as is most pleasing to you.


John Dee expresses his hopes and devotion…

[John Dee expresses his hopes and devotion, and in doing so, speaks the early prayers and longings of Faust.]

Ad Deum Omnipotentem Protestatio fidelis: ad perpetuam rei memoriam Anno 1582. O God Almighty, thow knowest, & art my director, and witnes herein, That I have from my youth up, desyred & prayed unto the for pure & sownd wisdome and understanding of some of thy truthes naturall and artificiall: such, as by which, thy wisdome, goodnes & powre bestowed in the frame of the word might be brought, in some bowntifull measure under the Talent of my capacitie, to thy honor & glory, & the benefit of thy Servants, my brethern & Sistern, in, & by thy Christ our Saviour. And for as much as, many yeers, in many places, far & nere, in many bokes, & sundry languages, I have sowght, & studyed; and with sundry men conferred, and with my owne reasonable discourse labored, whereby to fynde or get some ynckling, glyms, or beame of such the forsaid radicall truthes: But, (to be brief) after all my forsaid endevor I could fynde no other way, to such true wisdome atteyning, but by thy extraordinary gift: and by no vulgar schole doctrine, or humane Invention. Pasted from <>

From Charlotte Fell-Smith’s 1909 book on John Dee

[ From Charlotte Fell-Smith’s 1909 book on John Dee (out of copyright and available on-line (see below)), an excerpt from Dee’s preface to Euclid. Being a mathematician left one open to suspicion (from baser sorts) that one was a sorcerer. Dee was upset. Perhaps indignant is a better word. Fell-Smith writes:]

‘…the astrologer’s defence of himself in the “very fruitfull” preface which he, as the first mathematician of the day, was asked to write to Henry Billingsley’s first English translation of Euclid’s Elements, in February, 1570:

“O my unkind countrymen. O unnatural Countrymen, O unthankfull countrymen, O brainsicke, Rashe, spitefull and disdainfull countrymen. Why oppresse you me thus violently with your slaundering of me, contrary to veritie, and contrary to your own conscience? And I, to this hower, neither by worde, deede or thought, have bene anyway hurtfull, damageable, or injurious to you or yours! Have I so long, so dearly, so farre, so carefully, so painfully, so dangerously fought and travailed for the learning of wisedome and atteyning of vertue, and in the end am I become worse than when I began? Worse than a madman, a dangerous member in the Commonwelath and no Member of the Church of Christ? Call you this to be learned? Call you this to be a philosopher and a lover of wisdome?”’

John Dee by Charlotte Fell-Smith (1909)

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