Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Queen's Conjurer: The Science and…

The Queen's Conjurer: The Science and Magic of Dr. John Dee, Adviser… (original 2001; edition 2002)

by Benjamin Woolley

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
503820,248 (3.63)8
Title:The Queen's Conjurer: The Science and Magic of Dr. John Dee, Adviser to Queen Elizabeth I
Authors:Benjamin Woolley
Info:Holt Paperbacks (2002), Paperback, 376 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Non Fiction, History

Work details

The Queen's Conjurer: The Science and Magic of Dr. John Dee, Adviser to Queen Elizabeth I by Benjamin Woolley (2001)

  1. 00
    The Notorious Astrological Physician of London: Works and Days of Simon Forman by Barbara Howard Traister (baobab)
    baobab: Simon Forman and John Dee both shared a view of the occult as being fundamental to the study of science. Both books offer a perspective of how the scientific culture of the time included serious study of demons, spirits, and magic.

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 8 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
A popular but thorough and well written biography of Dee. There's not as much here on his library as I might have liked, but what's here is good. ( )
  JBD1 | Dec 30, 2016 |
A highly readable, account of the life and times of dr John Dee, Edward Kelly and the house at Mortlake. This is an interesting, generally quite accessible account of the life of the great magician, but at times I found it hard to follow. Not overall a bad book but just one that at times, to the initiated, and unprepared, would be difficult to penetrate. There was not much discourse on the language of angels, and Enochian will remain obscure and inaccessible after reading this. Clearly there is a twenty first century bent to the authors opinion and this allows Dee to be seen not only as a many of his time, but as a man out of his time as as well. Broadly sympathetic, although not to Kelley, I think this is a good read, and for those with an interest you won't be disappointed. For the novice, there are still sections which will be difficult to get into. ( )
  aadyer | Jan 29, 2016 |
Borrowed this from a friend when it first came out. Was totally fascinated with it, but only just remembered the correct title now to add it. ( )
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
On page 38 of this book there is a quote by the 17th century historian John Aubrey: "In those dark times, astrologer, mathematician and conjuror were accounted the same things". This encapsulates the contradictory nature of Doctor John Dee very well. He demonstrates amply the contradictions of the Elizabethan era, the boundary between Medieval magic and enlightenment science and rationality. The book goes into what was for me rather excessive detail on the seances (or "actions") in which Dee took part, usually through the medium of the sinister Edward Kelley. But there were many interesting passages about Dee's interest in the latest explorations of America, astronomy and calendar reform, which show that he was a polymath of considerable achievements. He wrote a paper on calendar reform for Elizabeth's government after Pope Gregory's promulgation of the revised calendar in Catholic countries in 1582; but was also consulted by Robert Dudley on the most auspicious day for Elizabeth's coronation in 1558, based more on astrology than practical scheduling issues.

Dee led a colourful life, being married three or four times and having a lot of children (the book seems a litle inconsistent in places over the names of his wives and number of children), reverted from oppressed Protestant to Catholic oppressor under Queen Mary and may have been employed by Walsingham as part of his network of intelligencers. He also made a long journey across central and eatsren Europe in the 1580s after England became too hot for him and returned to find that the attitude towards alchemy and mysticism was beginning to change (though it is worth remembering that even the great Isaac Newton made experiments in alchemy later).

In sum, a lot of fascinating stuff about the Elizabethan era, but the detail in the lengthy scenes involving spirits, etc. became boring for me after a while. ( )
  john257hopper | Nov 25, 2011 |
“The Queen’s Conjuror" by Benjamin Wolley is a hypnotic account of Dr. John Dee, the 16th-Century mapmaker, mathematician, venture capitalist, cryptanalyst, astrologer, alchemist and all-around international man of mystery.

Wolley, in a masterful work of scholarship, has written a detailed, engrossing biography of a most remarkable man. Which is something, for the Elizabethan era was a most remarkable age – a world transforming like a starburst, with science and superstition in equal measure, with dynastic power politics and feverish Christian theology locked daily in deadly embrace. A time, perhaps like no other, when the soothsayer, the scientist, the prince and the poet together engaged in rich intellectual exchange to weave an extraordinary cultural tapestry.

Dr. Dee led a precarious, wondrous life, full of blessings, full of tribulations, sometimes a trusted advisor, sometimes a fugitive, depending on the twist of fortune’s wheel. A renowned bibliophile and keen observer of the natural world and of the heavens, Dee’s search for universal truth was unquenchable, as he put it, “I found (at length) that neither any man living, nor any book I could yet meet withal was able to teach me those truths I desired and longed for.”

Eager to wrestle the secrets from the angels, Dr. Dee turns to crystal-ball gazing, employing a charming and unstable younger man named Edward Kelley to act as his medium , or scryer. Dr. Dee plans to use Kelley as his eyes and ears to the spirit world. But, as Wolley notes, it’s open to question exactly who was using who – especially when the angels sing.

Woolley keeps his account grounded in research, avoiding any temptation to drift into new age speculation. He is a sympathetic biographer, but definitely suggests that Dr. Dee’s eventual downfall was fault found, as Shakespeare put it - “not in our stars/But in ourselves.”

If I had to level any criticism of the book, it would be that Queen Elizabeth herself seems a little flat and wooden – her character isn’t explored in any great detail, and it’s hard to decipher why she would consult with Dee, or what she thought of him. Despite that, “The Queen’s Conjuror” is a book left me fascinated and hooked on wanting to learn more about this charming man. ( )
1 vote madcatnip72 | Jul 28, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
He cometh unto you with a tale which holdeth children from play, and old men from the chimney-corner.
Sir Philip Sidney,
Defence of Poesy
First words
There is no record of the moment John Dee entered the world.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (4)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0006552021, Paperback)

A spellbinding portrait of Queen Elizabeth's conjuror - the great philosopher, scientist and magician, Dr John Dee (1527-1608) and a history of Renaissance science that could well be the next 'Longitude'. 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 - his crime was to dabble in magic. Based on Dee's secret diaries which record in fine detail his experiments with the occult, Woolley's bestselling book is a rich brew of Elizabethan court intrigue, science, intellectual exploration, discovery and misfortune. And it tells the story of one man's epic but very personal struggle to come to terms with the fundamental dichotomy of the scientific age at the point it arose: the choice between ancient wisdom and modern science as the path to truth.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:07 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Although his accomplishments were substantial--he became a trusted confidante to Queen Elizabeth I, inspired the formation of the British Empire, plotted voyages to the New World--John Dee's story has been largely lost to history. Beyond the political sphere his intellectual pursuits ranged form the scientific to the occult. His mathematics anticipated Isaac Newton by nearly a century, while his map making and navigation were critical to exploration. He was also obsessed with Alchemy, Astrology and mysticism. His library was one of the finest in Europe, a vast compendium of thousands of volumes. Yet, despite his powerful position and prodigious intellect, Dee died in poverty and obscurity, reviled and pitied as a madman. Benjamin Woolley tells the story of the rise and fall of this man, who wielded great influence during the pivotal era when the age of superstition collided with the new world of science and reason.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
61 wanted

Popular covers


Average: (3.63)
0.5 1
2 6
2.5 1
3 17
3.5 5
4 26
4.5 2
5 10

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 114,426,154 books! | Top bar: Always visible