Where Is It? No. 1


Doctor John Dee was one of the most influential philosophers of the Elizabethan Age. A close confidant of Queen Elizabeth, he helped to introduce mathematics to England, promoted the idea of maths as the basis of science, anticipated the invention of the telescope, charted the New World and created one of the most magnificent libraries in Europe. At the height of his fame, Dee was poised to become one of the greats of the Renaissance. Yet he died in poverty and obscurity, because he also believed in the power of magic.

There is a painting of the meeting between Dr Dee and Queen Elizabeth hanging in Central London. So, where was this taken?

Thanks and a tip of the hat to Porl Cooper.

6 comments on “Where Is It? No. 1”

  1. Alan Morgan says:

    Gibbs Building, owned by the library of the Wellcome Trust.

    I confess this time it was just an internet thing rather than a hint that recalled or something I knew. I feel a bit dirty about that. Still. But having found somewhere I did not know I have somewhere now about which I ought to.

    Dee’s a great character. It’s easy to uphold his science and deride all that enochian magic he pursued. but that too was done mathematically. We know much because people have found it out for us. But those who raised a torch to show it were looking for a great many things, none of which were labelled science or nonsense. Of course there was no working Elizabethan magic, nor was there a working Elizabethan locomotive. Chemistry and alchemy, leads to gold (the purification of the spirit). Hermetic principles were long established. It’s no real surprise that those that advanced our understanding investigated a lot that turned out to be dead ends. Science is surely the acceptance that we don’t know, and trying to.

  2. Diogenes says:

    There is a very good bio of John Dee called The Queens Conjurer. Dee also features in books by Ackroyd and the latest Rory Clements books, although you don’t get much of a sense of what a great mind he had in those books.

  3. Anne Fernie says:

    Interesting how Manchester Cathedral seems very reluctant to acknowledge Dee’s time there as a warden. You have to look very hard to find any evidence. Elizabeth 1st granted him the post in 1596 after his home in the south was attacked because of his occult research with Edward Kelley. Dee lived in Chetham’s School, which then housed priests and in the Audit Room there can still be seen a table a circular burn mark said to have been made by the Devil’s hoof after Dee apparently ‘summoned’ him. He wasn’t too popular with his congregation either and after Elizabeth died, he unsuccessfully petitioned James 1st to clear his name. This was denied and he had to leave Manchester in disgrace and return to Mortlake. The old British Library used to display Dee’s (or Kelley’s) ‘scrying stone’ – not sure if it can still be seen at the Euston Road premises….

  4. Helen Martin says:

    I guess I’ve read the wrong books, because I always feel a little uncomfortable around Dr. Dee. I walked past the Wellcome Institute a number of times but was unable to lure my husband inside. I remember the model of London that Admin described to us in his ‘what you can see in your lunch hour’ post and there’s all sorts of medical stuff there and now this. Probably their library is wonderful, too.

  5. Jez Winship says:

    Dee also features in John Crowley’s four novel Aegypt sequence (quatralogy?), and was portrayed by Richard O’Brien (in a costume which looks like it’s taken from the above picture) in the bracketing scenes of Derek Jarman’s film Jubilee, magically transporting good queen Bess into the present day. I think the scrying ball is now in the British Museum – I must seek it out next time I’m in London.

  6. FabienneT says:

    I have “borrowed” John Dee for my second novel. I find occultism and alchemy quite fascinating, even though it is really, really difficult to understand. It’s kind of fun to play with, though.

Comments are closed.

Posted In