Ranging from alchemy to necromancy, "books of secrets" offered medieval readers an affordable and accessible collection of knowledge about the natural world. Allison Kavey's study traces the cultural relevance of these books and also charts their influence on the people who read them. Citing the importance of printers in choosing the books' contents, she points out how these books legitimized manipulating nature, thereby expanding cultural categories, such as masculinity, femininity, gentleman, lady, and midwife, to include the willful command of the natural world.
John Dee has fascinated successive generations. Mathematician, scientist, astrologer and magus at the court of Elizabeth I, he still provokes controversy. To some he is the genius whose contributions to navigation made possible the feats of Elizabethan explorers and colonists, to others an alchemist and charlatan.
Thoroughly examining Dee’s natural philosophy, this book provides a balanced evaluation of his place, and the role of the occult, in sixteenth-century intellectual history. It brings together insights from a study of Dee’s writings, the available biographical material, and his sources as reflected in his extensive library and, more importantly, numerous surviving annotated volumes from it.