John Dee's Crystal & scrying mirror
© Science Museum,
At once deeply religious and fastidiously superstitious, Dee was a scholar of mathematics and magic, a keen historian and courtier and tutor to Elizabeth I and a polymath whose interests included astronomy, astrology, exploration, the occult, alchemy, spying and imperialism.
Dee annotated his books enthusiastically and extensively to reveal his interest in medicine, belief in a single ‘language of God’ as spoken by biblical Adam and his fascination with cryptography, the science of codes.
Among the curiosities are Dee’s astrological textbooks; he was once imprisoned for casting horoscopes of Queen Mary and throughout his life undertook ‘conversations with angels’ and divine spirits via mediums known as ‘scryers’.
From the collection of the British Museum comes a crystal ball for researching the occult and conversing with spirits, a ‘magic disc’ for contacting angels and ‘magical mirror’ for conjuring visions. From the Science Museum is a ‘scrying mirror’ for predicting the future and John Dee’s own crystal, which he claimed was given to him personally by the angel Uriel, who also ‘instructed’ Dee on how to make the philosopher’s stone.