Cover image for John Dee's conversations with angels : cabala, alchemy, and the end of nature
John Dee's conversations with angels : cabala, alchemy, and the end of nature
Harkness, Deborah E., 1965-
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Publication Information:
Cambridge, U.K. ; New York : Cambridge University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xiii, 252 pages ; 24 cm
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BF1598.D5 H37 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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John Dee's angel conversations have been an enigmatic facet of Elizabethan England's most famous natural philosopher's life and work. Professor Harkness contextualizes Dee's angel conversations within the natural philosophical, religious and social contexts of his time. She argues that they represent a continuing development of John Dee's earlier concerns and interests. These conversations include discussions of the natural world, the practice of natural philosophy, and the apocalypse.

Author Notes

Deborah Harkness was born in 1965. She received a B. A. from Mount Holyoke College in 1986, a M. A. from Northwestern University in 1990, and a Ph. D. from the University of California at Davis in 1994. She is a professor of history at the University of Southern California. Harkness is a well-regarded historian of science and medicine, specializing in the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries. Her first novel, A Discovery of Witches, was published in 2011. She is the author of the All Souls Trilogy. In 2006, she began a wine blog entitled, Good Wine Under $20. It provides an online record of her search for the best, most affordable wines. She made The New York Times Bestseller List with The Book of Life and Shadow of Night.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Demonstrating a thorough knowledge of Dee's life and library, even to the point of examining his marginalia, Harkness (history, Univ. of California, Davis) has produced an indispensable study of this key figure of the English Renaissance. While recent works by Nicholas Clulee (John Dee's Natural Philosophy, 1988) and William Sherman (John Dee: The Politics of Reading and Writing in the English Renaissance, CH, Nov'95) have updated the standard biography by Peter French (John Dee: The World of an Elizabethan Magus, CH, Oct'72), this study targets what may be the least understood aspect of Dee's career: his purported conversations with angels. Harkness shows how these angelic conversations are not incongruous with, but integrated into, Dee's natural philosophy. She capably pulls together various threads of Dee's occult interests--astrology, alchemy, hieroglyphs, cabala, mathematics, and optics--to present a fascinating intellectual portrait in which religion, science, and magic have thoroughly fused. Perhaps most importantly, Harkness convincingly situates Dee's pursuit of esoteric wisdom in an apocalyptic milieu, in which he and his contemporaries were striving to read the Book of Nature even as they believed that Nature was reaching its end. Lucidly written, this learned effort well deserves a place next to Frances Yates and other great scholars of Renaissance thought. Undergraduates, graduates, faculty. G. Spinner; Central Michigan University

Table of Contents

List of illustrations
List of abbreviations and conventions
Part I Genesis
1 The colloquium of angels: Prague, 1586
2 Building Jacob's ladder: the genesis of the angel conversations
3 Climbing Jacob's ladder: angelology as natural philosophy
Part II Revelations
4 'Then commeth the ende': apocalypse, natural philosophy, and the angel conversations
5 'The true cabala': reading the book of nature
6 Adam's alchemy: the medicine of God and the restitution of nature
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