The Lost Library of John Dee

Sunday April 17th 2016
From the exhibition at the RCP on until July.

From the exhibition at the RCP on until July.

John Dee — astrologer, alchemist and magus, one of the great characters of Tudor England — had the greatest private library in the western world. But when he was off on a European tour, it was pillaged by “friends” and the contents were lost. Some turned up in other collections over the centuries, but his library — like the ones of Alexandria, Constantinople, Cordoba and the Maya — is partly legendary.

The libraries we have now are mosaics of knowledge: mere fragments of the libraries we have lost plus the knowledge we have acquired.

The Royal College of Physicians has put on a show of some of the books retrieved, which include marginalia by the man himself. It’s a small, eclectic bunch, reminding us of the knowledge that has been lost.

I went to see it with my friend and colleague Sally Kirkman and we found ourselves talking astrology so much that the exhibition flashed by. I recommend going if you are in London — partially to see the absolutely beautiful building, which is a masterpiece of 20th century architecture, and works beautifully with the books on mathematics which were the outstanding items.

Then I came across this — novelist Jeanette Winterson’s brilliant talk for the opening of the exhibition. Winterson has always been interested in alchemy and I believe she is an astrology aficionado. If you have 20 minutes, listen to this. It’s not about astrology, but it’s about taking a poetic, metaphorical view of how the world works. It’s a call to respect other paradigms as well as the currently fashionable scientific one. Winterson reminds us of how astrologers should — and sometimes do — think.

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  1. Amazing opening speech by Jeanette Winterson. Well done for finding it, Christina. He was quite a character, John Dee. Love that he was the inspiration for both Prospero and James Bond via his 007 signature.

  2. Bekki Shining Bearheart says:

    Thanks so much for posting this. I have long been fascinated by John Dee.

  3. really enjoyed…many thanks

  4. morgana says:

    `nourishing, inspiring, many thanks….

  5. […] Για την έκθεση που πραγματοποιείται φέτος στο «Royal College of Physicians» φέτος και αφορά στα βιβλία και τις σημειώσεις του Dr. John Dee έχουμε αναδημοσιεύσει πολλές φορές στην ομάδα αυτή. Στο τέλος αυτής της δημοσίευσης φιλοξενείται το βίντεο της 20′ ομιλίας της διάσιμης συγγραφέως Jeanette Winterson’s, η οποία άνοιξε και την έκθεση. «Τhe Past is another country and they do things differently there. Link:Youtube Πηγή: […]