A REPUTATION HISTORY OF JOHN DEE, 1527-1609: The Life of an Elizabethan Intellectual

Author: Barone, Robert
Argues that the Elizabethan polymath John Dee was not the influential intellectual he purported himself to be. Dee’s scientific works were anachronistic and in no way heralded the new age of experimental science. This book traces the course of Dee’s life showing how he was a marginal figure and his works had little lasting value. It also provides a useful historiographical summation of Dee’s life and career.


“Robert Barone’s John Dee: A Reputation Through Time is the first book to confront directly the formation and history of Dee’s reputation. . . . Barone also brings out how, during the long period when Dee’s negative reputation was dominant, the gradual publication of many of Dee’s autobiographical records as well as his serious philosophical works provided an interesting counterpoint that built the foundation for the modern scholarly approach to Dee. In sum, Barone provides a clear introduction to Dee’s life and career and a useful guide to the historiography to date.” – Prof. Nicholas H. Clulee, Frostburg State University

“. . . will be of great benefit to both students at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and to scholars seeking a foothold in the literature on John Dee.” – Prof. Andrew Keitt, University of Alabama at Birmingham

“Through an exhaustive analysis of unpublished manuscripts and published works, Barone provides classic deflation, arguing that that Dee was not the celebrated forerunner of modern science his defenders claim he is. While modern scholars are fascinated by his “angelic conversations,” Barone demonstrates Dee achieved little of note in the traditional fields of geography and mathematics. In his probing examination, he explodes the notion that modern science emerged out of hermetic Neoplatonism: he endorses Nicholas Clulee and Robert Heilbron in their view that the rational and mechanical philosophy of Galileo and Newton was a parallel, concurrent development. In truth, Barone’s analysis indicates Dee was deservedly forgotten in the century after his death and that there is little of substance in his work to justify a “recovery.” Dee’s enduring popularity with novelists like Peter Ackroyd and Umberto Eco notwithstanding, his reputation has come to resemble a modern phenomenon: Dee is famous for being famous.” – Prof. Douglas R. Bisson, Belmont University

Table of Contents

Foreword by Dr. Nicholas H. Clulee
Part I. The Making of a Reputation
1. Dee’s Early Life: 1527-1553
2. Uneasy Times: Dee’s Fortunes during the Reign of Mary, 1553-1558
3. The Queen’s Philosopher: The Apex of a Career, 1558-1583
4. Contact with Angels and Travels Abroad: Waning
Fortunes and Desperate Hopes, 1583-1589
5. Twilight Years: Broken Promises and Broken Dreams, 1590-1608/9
Part II. The Evolution of a Reputation
6. Seventeenth Century Reception: Casting the Die
7. The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries: A Reputations Journey from the Age of Reason through the Victorian Age
8. The Twentieth Century to the Present Day: A Reputation Revised
Conclusion - Dee’s Place in History