48 Claves Angelicae; Liber Scientiae Auxilii et victoriae terrestris; De heptarchia mystica; and Tabula bonorum angelorum invocationes; Mysteriorum Libri Quinque; & Liber Loagaeth
by John Dee, Court Astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I, 1582-1585
Sloane 3191 | Sloane 3188 | Sloane 3189 | Sloane 2599
Dr. John Dee (1527–1608/09) was an ardent promoter of mathematics, a respected astronomer and a leading expert in navigation, who trained many who would conduct England’s voyages of discovery. In his later life, he became discontented with his progress in learning the secrets of nature and his diminishing influence and recognition in court circles.
This state of liberating was the catalyst for a expanding the scope of his research. As hermetic philosopher and student of the Renaissance Neo-Platonism, he made no distinctions between mathematical research and supernatural pursuits. He considered these activities mere tools for achieving a transcendent understanding of divine forms underlying the visible world, what he called, “pure verities”.
In 1580 he began experimenting with evocationary scrying to contact and communicate with angels. His initial pursuit began by seeking the aid a “scryer” which would act as an intermediary between Dee and the angels. Dee’s first attempts with several scryers were unsatisfactory, but in 1582 he met Edward Kelley, who impressed him greatly with his abilities. Dee took Kelley into his service and began to devote all his energies to his supernatural pursuits.
He spent his last 30 years dedicated to his “actions with spirits” as means to “learn the universal language of creation.”
Dee documented every interaction he had with the angels and wrote extensively on how to call them and their Language which he called Enochian, revealed to him by the various angels he summoned. This collection of esoteric writings he kept secret, discovered only by accident long after his death.
Below are many of his original manuscripts, of particular interest, Sloane 3191. This manuscript was transcribed and put together by Dee from earlier notes and diaries. The Latin title, De Heptarchia Mystica (f. 33r), translates roughy to ‘On the Mystical Rule of the Seven Planets’. It shows John Dee’s desire to decipher God’s mysteries, by communing with the angels who rule the seven planetary spheres. In doing so he hopes to heal the rift between man and God that took place at the Fall.
Chapter Four gives details of the ceremonies which Dee conducted with Kelley. Using diagrams and drawings, Dee describes the costumes and gestures of the angels he claims to have seen. These reveal the magical status of the number seven, in its many different forms. Dee identifies the angels with individual names and titles, such as King Carmara.
According to Dee, King Carmara appeared ‘in a long purple Robe’ with seven princes waiting on him (f. 40r).
Hagonel showed himself with 42 ministers represented in the manuscript by seven rows of six dots (f. 40v). Some of them played catch with ‘balls of Gold’, but when they tried to grasp them, the balls were revealed to be ‘empty like a blown bladder’.
Prince Bornogo was also accompanied by 42 ministers who performed a series of magical feats, vanishing like drops of water or falling down like hailstones. At other times, they arranged themselves into formations of letters, as shown in Dee’s illustrations (f. 41r)
(References: “John Dee’s De Heptarchia Mystica, a guide to summoning angels, 1582” Copyright: ©The British Library Board)
The British Library Catalogues 3191 as follows:
ff. 1r–80v: The only book of ceremonial magic extant in John Dee’s hand.
ff. 1r–13r: The forty eight angelical keys, received at diverse times from 13 April to 13 July 1584 at Cracow, Poland. [’48 Claves Angelicae, anno 1584: Cracoviae, ab Aprilis 13 o , ad Julii 13 mi , (diuersis temporibus) Receptae: ex mera Dei nostril Misericordia cui soli, omnis laus, honor, et Gloria, Amen.’]
ff. 14r–31r: Book of earthly knowledge, aid and victory, 2 May 1585 (‘Liber Scientiae Auxilii et victoriae terrestris Anno 1585 Maii 2 o , stylo novo; Cracoviae in Polonia per [Dee] collectur ex praemissis in lib 10 o et aliis.’) In English.
ff. 32r–51r: On the mystical rule of the seven planets (‘De heptarchia mystica (Divinis ipsius Cicatonis, stabilita legibus) collectaneorum liber primus.’) In English; divided into seven chapters. Portions of Dee’s conferences with angels beginning 16 November 1582 (See Sloane 3188). The entirety of these books is in Dee’s handwriting.
ff. 52r–80v: The remainder of the Liber scientiae .
One of Dee’s manuscripts recovered by Elias Ashmole, of which he gives an account in Sloane MS 3677. A copy of this manuscript, made by Ashmole, is Sloane MS 3678.
Dimensions: 335 x 225 mm.
Foliation: ff. 80 + 7 (endleaves).
Binding: British Museum binding.
Elias Ashmole (1617–1692), in 1672.
Sir Hans Sloane (b. 1660, d. 1753), baronet, physician and collector.
Purchased in 1753 from Sloane’s executors by the Act of Parliament which also established the British Museum.
* By permission of the British Library