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John Dee's Conversations with Angels


  • 7 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 268 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.36 kg
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521027489 | ISBN-10: 0521027489)

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$27.99 (G)

Elizabethan England's most famous natural philosopher John Dee recorded his reflections on the natural world, the practice of natural philosophy, and the apocalypse in a series of conversations with angels, which have long been an enigmatic facet of his life and work. This book makes extensive use of Dee's library and annotations to clarify this mystery by providing a detailed analysis of these conversations. Professor Harkness contextualizes Dee's angel conversations within the natural, philosophical, religious, and social contexts of his time, arguing that the conversations represent a continuing development of John Dee's earlier concerns and interests. This book will appeal to those with an interest in the history of science, students of religion, and everyone who approaches the new millennium with a wary eye.


List of illustrations; Acknowledgements; List of abbreviations and conventions; Introduction; 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; Epilogue; Select bibliography; Index.


" John Dee's Conversations with Angels: Cabala, Alchemy, and the End of Nature, marks an important addition to Dee scholarship. For the first time, it places Dee's conversations with angels into a comprehensible framework. Harkness elegantly demonstrates that Dee's angel conversations were at the center of his mission to reform nature and the world in the midst of intellectual and religious tumult when the end of human history was imminently expected. This book brilliantly brings out the place of the angel conversations as exegetical aids in a natural philosophy that was meant to restore a corrupted and decaying Book of Nature. Natural philosophy was to provide a bridge between this world and the next, but only with the help of angels could faulty human perception and intelligence be remedied and the real significance of the things of nature be made clear." Pamela Smith, Pomona College

"John Dee's 'angelic conversations' have long proved resistant to the attentions of intellectual historians. Deborah Harkness's impressive and important new book, by situating this unique intellectual formation in a full range of appropriate historical contexts not only makes them intelligible for the modern reader, but identifies some of the key cultural imperatives which shaped late-Elizabethan intellectual life." Stephen Clucas, Birkbeck College, University of London

"[A] fascinating study." Religious Studies Review

"Harkness' book is a welcome addition to Dee scholarship, one that perpahs will open the way to solving the questions that remain." Albion

"Harkness's monography is a lively read that offers an interesting interpretation of Dee's works and their place within early modern intellectual life. It is a work that clearly deserves a place within the corpus of Dee scholarship." The Historian

"Through careful description and analysis, Harkness takes us into that very strange world of early modern thought-a world of astrology, alchemy, and Christian cabala-which eventually led to the rise of science. This is a scholarly book, full of interesting footnotes and with an extensive bibliography, Such apparatus, however, should not dter the interested but nonacademic reader. This is clearly one of the best books to be published on esoteric spirituality during the Renaissance in recent years. It is clear, insightful, and a pleasure to read." the quest Sept-Oct 2001

"This is a truly remarkable story and merits telling for its own sake. Harkness's version is beautifully written with rich footnoting and a good command of the sources. That she has told it unflinchingly and with sensitivity to its subject only adds to its value." Canadian Journal of History

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