DEE: The Arch-conjuror of England. BRUNO: The arch-conjuror of Europe?

Who could resist a new book about the celebrated, notorious “arch-conjuror of England,” Dr. John Dee (1527-1609)? A contemporary of Queen Elizabeth I, Dee possessed what was probably the finest private library in the country. He lived near the Thames in a house with a name that any Gothic novelist would steal in a minute: Mortlake. As a young man, he was a pupil of Gerard Mercator (whose maps are still famous) and studied the works of all the most notable alchemists and natural philosophers of Europe, including Paracelsus, Raymond Lull, Johannes Trithemius and Henry Cornelius Agrippa. Dee might even have met Giordano Bruno, who, during a visit to England, joined the circle of their mutual friend, the occult-minded poet Sir Philip Sidney. (In 1600, Bruno was burned at the stake, ostensibly for his heretical beliefs about the nature of the universe.) In 1584, this English wizard even made a laborious journey to Rudolf II’s Prague, the center for astrological and hermetic research in the 16th century — in essence, the capital of magic.

Galileo was only placed under house arrest because of his “repentance,” but others such as Michael Servetus (1511-1553) and Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) were burnt at the stake.

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