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RENAISSANCE MAN: The Reconstructed Libraries of European Scholars: 1450-1700
Series One: The Books and Manuscripts of John Dee, 1527-1608

Part 1: John Dee’s Manuscripts from the Bodleian Library, Oxford


This chronology aims to place John Dee, 1527-1609, in the broader context of events occuring in this period.

Readers should note that a more thorough biographical chronology appears on pages 75-78 of John Dee’s Library Catalogue by Roberts and Watson (The Bibliographical Society, London, 1990). Also, a thorough bibliography of John Dee’s writings (in chronological order with detailed book and manuscript references) appears on pages 302-309 of John Dee’s Natural Philosophy by Nicholas H Clulee (Routledge, London & New York, 1988).

Items referring directly to John Dee appear in bold type.


Henry VIII is crowned King of England, aged 18. Erasmus visits England (1509-1514) and lectures at Cambridge. He dedicates “In Praise of Folly” to Thomas More.


Deaths of the artists Botticelli (1444-1510) and Giorgione (1478-1510).


Henry VIII joins the War of the Holy League, combining with Germany and Spain to protect papal dominions from the French. Erasmus is elected Professor of Greek at Cambridge. Birth of Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574), artist and art historian.


Michaelangelo completes the Sistine Chapel (painted 1508-1512). Death of Amerigo Vespucci (1451-1512), explorer. Birth of Gerardus Mercator (1512-1594), geographer.


The Scots form an alliance with France and invade England but are defeated at the battle of Flodden Field. Vasco Nunêz de Balboa discovers the Pacific Ocean.


Peace is made with Scotland and France. Louis XII of France marries Mary Tudor, sister of Henry VIII. Copernicus drafts his heliocentric theory (not published until 1543). Hieronymous Bosch paints “The Garden of Worldly Desires”. Durer completes “Melancholia”.


Thomas Wolsey is made a Cardinal and Henry VIII appoints him Lord Chancellor of England. Francis I is crowned King of France (reigns 1515-1547). Death of Aldus Manutius (1450-1515), printer and publisher.


Birth of Mary, daughter of Henry VIII. Publication of “Utopia” by Sir Thomas More. Birth of Gesner (1516-1565), naturalist and zoologist. Ariosto’s “Orlando Furioso” performed. Deaths of the artists Bellini (1428-1516) and Bosch (1450-1516).


The beginning of the Reformation is signalled by Martin Luther posting his 95 theses on the door of the Palast Church in Wittenberg.


Foundation of the Royal College of Physicians, the first scientific organization in Britain.


Charles V is crowned King of Spain. Magellan commences the first circumnavigation of the world (1519-1522). Zwingli starts Swiss Reformation. Deaths of Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519) and Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).


Henrey VIII and Francis I meet at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Henry VIII subsequently entertains and forms an alliance with the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. Francis I establishes the Royal Library of France at Fontainbleau. Death of Raphael (1483-1520). Birth of William Cecil (1520-1598), later Lord Burghley, statesman.


Henry VIII proclaimed Defender of the Faith by Pope Leo X. Publication of On the Art of War by Machiavelli. Cortez subdues Aztec people and culture and conquers Mexico. Magellan killed in the Phillipines, leaving del Cano to complete the expedition.


Luther completes New Testament translation.


Titian paints “Bacchus and Ariadne”.


Wynkyn de Worde introduces Italic type in English books (printing started in England in 1477).


Pietro Bembo popularises the use of vernacular languages in literature.


Hans Holbein the younger first visits England.


Birth in London of John Dee (1527-1609), son of Rowland Dee and Jane Wild. Henry VIII seeks to divorce Catherine of Aragon, his first wife, and marry Ann Boleyn. Holbein paints “Thomas More and His Family”. Publication of Castiglione’s Il Cortegiano. Death of Macchiavelli (1469-1527), political philosopher and writer.


The plague becomes widespread in England. Death of Dùrer (1471-1528).


Wolsey is forced to resign by Henry VIII and Sir Thomas More replaces him as Lord Chancellor.


Wolsey dies en route to the Tower of London, where he is to be held on charges of treason. Thomas Cromwell becomes the King’s leading administrator. Henry VIII decrees a separation from Rome as the Pope still refuses to grant a divorce. Births of John Whitgift (c1530-1604), ecclesiastic, and Richard Mulcaster (c1530-1611), educational reformer. Charles V is crowned King of Italy and Holy Roman Emperor.


A great comet appears in the sky (later known as Halley’s comet). Erasmus completes the first complete edition of Aristotle.


Births of Francis Walsingham (c1532-1590), statesman, and John Hawkins (1532-1595), seafarer. Publication of the first book of Pantagruel by Rabelais. Calvin leads the reformation in France.


Henry VIII secretly marries Ann Boleyn. Birth of Princess Elizabeth (1533-1603), future Queen of England. Pizarro ravages Peru. Holbein paints “The Ambassadors”. Titian paints “Charles V.”


The Act of Succession declares Henry’s original marriage invalid, allowing him to marry Ann Boleyn and declaring that the Pope has no authority in England. Jacques Cartier sights Labrador on his first voyage to North America.


John Dee is sent to Chelmsford Grammar School at about this date. Henry VIII is declared the Supreme Head of the Church of England by the Act of Supremacy. Fisher and More are executed for refusing to acknowledge his supremacy. Holbein paints “King Henry VIII”. Cartier journeys up the St Lawrence River.


Anne Boleyn is executed and Henry VIII marries Jane Seymour. The dissolution of the monasteries begins with the suppression of the minor monasteries by Thomas Cromwell. The leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace, protesting against the dissolution, are executed. An English Bible is placed in every church. Michaelangelo paints “The Last Judgement”.


Jane Seymour dies after the birth of Prince Edward. William Cecil enters St John’s College, Cambridge at about this date. Publication of Parcelsus’ Grosse Astronomie. Titian paints “Francis I”.


Calvin is expelled from Geneva.


The dissolution of the monasteries continues with the suppression of the larger houses. Birth of Martin Frobisher (c1539-1594), explorer. Hernando de Soto explores Florida.


Thomas Cromwell falls from power and is executed following Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne of Cleves - which is rapidly anulled, allowing him to marry Catherine Howard. Birth of Francis Drake (c1540-1596), explorer. Antwerp becomes a major centre of European commerce.


Death of Parcelsus (1493-1541), alchemist & natural philosopher. John Knox leads the Reformation of the Church in Scotland. De Soto discovers the Mississippi. Francisco de Orellana discovers the Amazon. Coronado crosses Texas.


John Dee enters St John’s College, Cambridge, where he is tutored by John Cheke. Contemporary students include William Cecil, Thomas Chaloner, William Grindal, William Pickering and James Pilkington. Catherine Howard is executed for infidelity. War breaks out with Scotland again, and King James V of Scotland dies following the defeat of his forces at the battle of Solway Moss. His infant daughter is pronounced Mary, Queen of Scots.


Henry VIII marries Catherine Parr. Birth of Edward Dyer (1543-1607), poet and friend of Dee. Birth of William Byrd (c1543-1623), composer. The Spanish Inquisition starts to burn heretics at the stake. Celllini completes his masterpiece - the salt-cellar for Francis I. Death of Copernicus (1473-1543).


Henry VIII leads a further expedition against France, capturing Boulogne.


Birth of Thomas Bodley (1545-1613), bibliophile, benefactor and government agent. Publication of Gesner’s Biblioteca Universalis commences.


Dee is awarded his B A degree and is then appointed Fellow & Under-Reader in Greek at Trinity College, Cambridge. Death of Martin Luther (1483-1546). Birth of Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), astronomer.


Dee makes his first visit to the Low Countries. Dee’s Cambridge production of Aristophanes’ “Peace” earn him the reputation of being a magician after the actor playing Trygaeus makes a miraculous ascent onto the roof of Trinity Hall. Henry VIII dies, leaving the crown to his 10 year old son, Edward VI, under the Protectorship of his uncle, the Duke of Somerset. Somerset and Archbishop Cranmer press ahead with the Reformation of the English church. William Cecil enters government service under the patronage of Somerset. Death of Francis I of France and succession of Henri II (reigns 1547-1559). Birth of Nicholas Hilliard (1547-1619), artist. Death of Pietro Bembo (1470-1547), poet. Birth of Cervantes (1547-1616), writer.


Dee is awarded his M A degree. He then travels to Antwerp to study at the University of Louvain (he studies there from 1548 to 1550) - his teachers include Gemma Phrysius, the geographer. Gerard Mercator is a fellow student. Francis Walsingham studies at King’s College, Cambridge (from 1548 to 1550). Mary Queen of Scots is betrothed to the Dauphin. Birth of Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), philosopher. Francis Xavier founds a Jesuit mission in Japan.


The First Act of Uniformity was passed, forbidding the Roman Catholic Mass. Gardiner and Bonner are imprisoned for their protests. Birth of Henry Savile (1549-1622), scholar.


John Dee travels to Paris where he lectures on Euclid’s Elements. Dee meets Oronce Finé (Ortelius) and Antoine Mizauld at about this time. Births of Gabriel Harvey (1550-1631), Latin poet and bibliophile, John Davis (c1550-1605), explorer, and John Napier (1550-1617), mathematician. Publication of Vasari’s Lives of the Artists.


Dee visits Orléans and Melun and then returns to England, despite offers from Henri II of France (to become the King’s Mathematical Reader in Paris), Charles V, Tsar Ivan (the Terrible) and others. He is sent for by William Cecil. As a result of his friendship with Cecil, King Edward VI helps Dee with the purchase of books up until his death in 1553. Birth of William Camden (1551-1623), antiquary. Publication of Gesner’s Historia animalium. Titian paints “Philip II”.


Dee enters the service of the Duke of Pembroke, possibly acting as tutor to Henry Herbert, later second Earl of Pembroke, and patron of drama. Later, or in 1553, he enters the service of the Duke of Northumberland. Dee tutors the future Earl of Essex. Dee meets Cardano in Southwark. The Duke of Northumberland engineers the downfall of the Duke of Somerset, who is executed for treason. Northumberland is made Protector. Cecil survives and serves the new Protector. When Edward VI falls dangerously ill Northumberland persuades him to sign over the succession to Lady Jane Grey so as to uphold the Protestant faith. Births of Edmund Spenser (c1552-1599), poet, Walter Raleigh (c1552-1618), explorer, courtier and poet, and Richard Hakluyt (c1552-1616), geographer, government agent and recorder of voyages. Publication of Ronsard’s Amours. St Andrew’s Golf Club founded.


Dee sets himself up as a teacher of mathematics, astronomy and navigation and acts as an advisor for the Muscovy Company from about this date. From 1553 to 1583, his students include Stephen and William Borough, Richard Chancellor, John Davis, Martin Frobisher, Adrian and Humfrey Gilbert, Christopher Hall, Charles Jackman, Anthony Jenkinson, Arthur Pet, Walter Raleigh, Sir Philip Sidney and, possibly, Francis Drake. Many more consulted him, including William Camden, Leonard and Thomas Digges, Edward Dyer, the Hakluyts, Thomas Harriot, Sir Christopher Hatton, Sir William Pickering and Robert Record. Dee is granted the rectory of Upton upon Severn. Despite Dee’s association with Northumberland he is not persecuted - perhaps because of his reputation as a scholar and due to the influence of Cambridge scholars in government. Edward VI dies and Lady Jane Grey is proclaimed Queen. Northumberland fails to capture Mary who gains favour and deposes Lady Jane Grey. The Roman Catholic religion is restored, Bonner is released and Northumberland is executed. Richard Chancellor travels to Russia. Death of Rabelais (1494-1553), writer.


Dee is offered a post to read the Mathematical Sciences at Oxford by Richard Bruern and Richard Smith. Wyatt’s Rebellion is sparked by Queen Mary’s proposed marriage to Philip II of Spain. The rebellion is crushed, Princess Elizabeth is sent to the Tower and Mary marries Philip II (but he is not allowed by Parliament to be crowned King). Birth of Philip Sidney (1554-1586), poet, soldier and government agent.


Dee is made a Freeman of the Mercers’ Company by patrimony. Dee is arrested, together with the Copernican, John Field, Christopher Carye and Sir Thomas Benger, for conjuring, calculating the nativities of the King and Queen and bewitching children. He is released by order of the Privy Council and placed in the care of Bishop Bonner. He is subsequently released and becomes a great friend of Bonner. Births of Jane Fromond (1555-1605), later to become Dee’s wife, and Edward Kelly (1555-?), the mystic who later turns Dee towards conjuration.This is the time of Bishop Gardiner’s Commission to find and try heretics and to enforce conformity to Roman Catholicism. Ridley and Latimer are burnt at the stake in Oxford. Birth of Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626), scholar and moving force behind the King James Bible. Michalangelo completes his “Pietà”. The Spanish bring tobacco back from America.


Dee’s first printed publication appears - a preface to John Field’s Ephemeris anni 1557. John Dee also writes his Supplication to Queen Mary decrying the dissolution of the monasteries which had caused the destruction and dispersal of monastic libraries and proposing that he be allowed to create a national library by gathering and copying manuscript texts and purchasing books (see Bodleian Ms Ashmole 1788, ff 80-82). His proposal is rejected, but he begins to purchase, borrow and copy manuscripts anyway (examples of his transcripts include Bodleian Mss Ashmole 57 - Norton’s Ordinall of Alchemy - and 440 - Roger Bacon’s - De speculis comburentibus. Dee makes a list of his manuscripts (now Corpus Christi College Ms 191). Persecutions in England contiue and Cranmer is burnt at the stake in Oxford. The death of Charles V, King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor. He is succeeded as King of Spain by Philip II (reigns 1556-1598) and as Holy Roman Emperor by Ferdinand I (reigns 1556-1564). Death of Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556).


Dee lists his books (now BL Add Ms 35213). Philip II persuades Mary to declare war against France. Whilst undertaking diplomatic missions for Queen Mary, William Cecil makes contact with Princess Elizabeth.


Publication of Dee’s Propaedeumata aphoristica, a slim volume containing 120 aphorisms concerning natural philosophy, cosmology and astrology. Dee suffers a brief illness. Queen Mary dies after a disasterous reverse in the war against France, when Calais is recaptured by the French. She is succeeded by Queen Elizabeth I (reigns 1558-1603). William Cecil is made her chief minister (acting as principal Secretary of State from 1558 to 1572). Mary Queen of Scots marries the Dauphin of France. Birth of Thomas Kyd (1558-1594), playwright. Snuff is introduced by the Portugese. Breughel paints “Children’s Games”.


Dee invents the Paradoxal Compass for the Muscovy Company (see Bodleian Ms Ashmole 242 ff 139-153). Despite Dee’s association with the now despised Bishop Bonner, Dee avoids persecution due to his connections with the Dudleys and the Cecils. At Robert Dudley’s request, Dee calculates the most propititious day for the coronation of Elizabeth I - the Queen is crowned on the day recommended and continues to take Dee’s advice during her reign. The Queen’s chief advisors are Sir William Cecil. (later Lord Burleigh), Sir Francis Walsingham (chief secretary) and Sir Nicholas Bacon (Lord Keeper of the Great Seal). Protestant reforms to the Church of England continue. Death of Henri II of France and succession of Francis II (reigns 1559-1560), husband of Mary Queen of Scots.


Birth of Thomas Cavendish (1560-1592), explorer. Jean Nicot begins the import of tobacco.


Dee probably begins to acquire Hebrew books at this date. Henry Savile enters Brasenose College, Oxford, becoming a Fellow at Merton in 1565. Birth of Francis Bacon (1561-1626), writer and statesman. Sir Thomas Hoby publishes his English translations of The Courtier by Castiglione.


Dee travels to Louvain to renew acquaintances and purchase books. Elizabeth I suffers from smallpox. Births of Samuel Daniel (1562-1619), poet, and Isaac Oliver (c1562-1617), artist. John Hawkins commences slave trade between Guinea and the West Indies. Births of Lope de Vega (1562-1635), playwright.


Dee travels from Antwerp to Zurich (where he meets Gesner and is introduced to the ideas of Paracelsus which he helped to spread throughout Europe) and then crosses the Alps to Italy. In Italy he visits Chiavenna, Padua, Venice (where he meets Rangoni) and Urbino (where he meets Commandino). He then travels to Pressburg (Bratislava) to attend the coronation of Maximilian I as King of Hungary. English poor law reforms introduced. Publication of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs in English. Births of Robert Cecil (1563-1612), statesman and Michael Drayton (1563-1631), playwright. Breughel paints “The Tower of Babel”.


Publication of John Dee’s Monas Hieroglyphica in Antwerp. In this opaque metaphysical work Dee manipulates the single symbol (the monad) which he argues reveals the unity of created nature. The work is dedicated to Maximilian I. Dee returns to England, accompanying the Marchioness of Northampton from Antwerp to Greenwich. Dee is granted the Deanery of Gloucester. He establishes his house and library at Mortlake this remains his home for the rest of his life (although he continues to travel widely). At about this date Dee commences buying continental books from Andreas Fremonsheim, the agent for Birckmanns of Cologne. The births of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) and Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593). Philip Sidney and Fulke Greville both enter Shrewsbury School on the same day. John Hawkins continues slave trading voyages, backed by Cecil. The death of Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor, is followed by the succession of Ferdinand II (reigns 1564-1576). Death of Calvin (1509-1564). Death of Michaelangelo (1475-1564). Birth of Galileo (1564-1642).


Dee may have married at this date. Death of Gesner (1516-1565), naturalist. Pencils manufactured in England. Sweet potatoes and tobacco introduced to England. Brueghel paints “A Country Wedding”.


Dee studies at his house in Mortlake on the banks of the Thames. Birth of Robert Devereux (1566-1601), later Earl of Essex. Gabriel Harvey goes to Christ’s College, Cambridge (and remains a central part of Cambridge life, 1566-1584). Henry Savile collects manuscripts in Europe at about this date, whilst acting as a government agent.


Ramus presents Dee with a copy of his Prooemium Mathematicum. Mary Queen of Scots is implicated with Bothwell in the murder of her husband, Lord Darnley. John Whitgift is, successively, Master of Pembroke (1567-1570) and Master of Trinity (1570-1577) in Cambridge. Drake and Hawkins voyage to the West Indies. Typhoid spreads in South America.


Dee presents Queen Elizabeth, Cecil and Pembroke with copies of his Propaedeumata aphoristica. Dee has a further recorded audience with the Queen. Mary Queen of Scots and Bothwell, now her husband, are captured by English troops and imprisoned. Philip Sidney enters Christ Church, Oxford. Robert Smythson works on Longleat House. Mercator’s system of map projection introduced.


A Catholic plot against Elizabeth I is suppressed. Edmund Spenser enters Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, and meets Gabriel Harvey. Publication of Mercator’s Cosmographia. Death of Pieter Breughel (1520-1569).


Publication of Dee’s Mathematicall Praeface to The Elements of Geometry of Euclid of Megara translated by Henry Billingsley. This work had a major influence on the development of mathematics in England, stressing its many practical applications in navigation, architecture, stagecraft and geography. Dee also espoused the virtues of Baconian scientific method and vernacular language. Publication in Pesaro with Commandino of De superficierum divisionubus liber by Abu Bekr Muhammed ben Abdelbagi el-Bagdadi, with a preface by Dee. Queen Elizabeth I is excommunicated by Pope Pius V. Publication of The Schoolmaster by Roger Ascham. Publication of Palladio’s I quattro libri dell’ architettura. Ortelius publishes the first modern atlas. Nagasaki in Japan is opened to foreign trade.


Dee travels to Lorraine to furnish his laboratories and continues to Paris to buy books. Dee suffers a further brief illness. William Cecil is made Baron Burghley. Birth of Robert Cotton (1571-1631), antiquary. Birth of Johann Kepler (1571-1630), astrologer and astronomer. Deaths of Vasari (1512-1517), artist and art historian, and Cellini (1500-1571), goldsmith and sculptor.


Dee notes the appearance of Nova Cassiopeiae. Two further pro-Mary Catholic plots against Elizabeth are suppressed. Birth of Ben Johnson (1572-1637), poet and playwright. In France, more than 20,000 protestants are killed in the Huguenot Massacre on St Bartholomew’s Day. Philip Sidney is active in France as a government agent.


Publication of Dee’s Parallaticae commentationis praxeosque nucleus quidam. Francis Walsingham is made Secretary of State and controls the Queen’s’ intelligence services. Publication of Alae seu Scalae mathematicae by Leonard Digges, describing the Copernican theory. Drake sights the Pacific. The births of John Donne (1573-1631), poet, Robert Dudley (1573-1649), sea-farer, Inigo Jones (1573-1652), architect, and Henry Wriothesley (1573-1624), later Earl of Southampton and patron of Shakespeare. Francis Bacon attends Trinity College, Cambridge.


Dee travels to Chester, Wales and the Marches. Richard Burbage opens a theatre in London. Longleat House is finished (designed by Robert Smythson).


Death of Sir William Pickering (? -1575), biblio-phile and friend of Dee. William Byrd and Thomas Tallis are given a monopoly to print music in England. Publication of Saxton’s Atlas. Edward Dyer and Philip Sidney travel through Europe on government business. Frobisher commences the first of three voyages to find a North-West Passage to China. Tycho Brahe constructs an observatory in Uraniborg.


Dee’s first wife (?) may have died on this date. Martin Frobisher and Christopher Hall were taught by Dee at about this time (c1576-1578). Publication of Prognostication by Leonard Digges, further explaining the Copernican system. The death of Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor, is followed by the succession of Rudolf (reigns 1576-1612). Death of Titian (1477-1576).


Dee commences his diary (entries in Stadius’ Ephemeris and later in Maginus’ Ephemerides coelestium motuum - now Bodleian Mss Ashmole 487 and 488). The diary continues to give an account of his life until 1601. Publication of Dee’s General and Rare Memorials Pertayning to the Perfect Art of Naviation (see Bodleian Ms Ashmole 1789, ff.50-115). This contains the first use of the phrase “British Empire”. Dee meets Leicester, Philip Sidney and Edward Dyer and he may have taught Sidney at this time. Ortelius visits Dee at Mortlake. Drake sets out on his circumnavigation of the world (1577-1580), sponsored by Hatton, aboard the “Golden Hind”. Mary Sidney marries Henry Herbert, the second Earl of Pembroke, moves to Wilton House and becomes an important patron of English poets. Publication of the Chronicles of Raphael Holinshead. Birth of Robert Burton (1577-1640), bibliophile and writer.


Dee marries Jane Fromond (she is 23, Dee is 51). He travels through northern Europe (visiting Hamburg, Berlin and Frankfurt an der Oder amongst other places) at the instigation of Walsingham and Leicester. Dee notes the appearance of a comet. Birth of William Harvey (1578-1657), physician and anatomist. Nicholas Hilliard returns to London from the French Court and becomes a popular miniaturist.


Birth of Dee’s son, Arthur (1579-1651). Dee is reconciled with Adrian Gilbert and John Davis. Birth of John Fletcher (1579-1625), playwright. Publication of The Shepheardes Calendar by Spenser. Robert Devereux enters Trinity College, Cambridge (stays from 1579 to 1581). Francis Drake lands in California.


Dee meets Sir Humfrey Gilbert and is given titles to North America by the Queen. Dee gives Pitt and Jackman directions for a voyage to Cathay. Dee’s mother dies. Dee notes the appearance of a comet. Philip Sidney retires from London to Wilton House in Wiltshire for two years and writes Astrophel and Stella and Arcadia, a prose romance for his sister, the Countess of Pembroke. Edmund Spenser acts as secretary to the Lord Deputy of Ireland and begins to write the Faerie Queen. Publication of Jean Bodin’s Démonomanie des sorciers against witchcraft. Publication of the Essais of Michel do Montaigne. Smythson commences work on Wollaton Hall.


Dee is visited by Sir William Herbert. Dee continues with his (al)chemical experiments (see Bodleian Ms Rawlinson D 241). Dee’s spiritual conferences at Mortlake (1581-1583, some details in Bodleian Ms Ashmole 1790 ff. 34-56) commence. Publication of Positions by Richard Mulcaster, advocating educational reform. Edmund Campion executed for treason. Drake is knighted.


Talbot (Kelly) visits Mortlake and holds his first seance with Dee. Hugh Platt ad Martinus Faber visit Dee. George Peckham visits Dee to discuss the North-West Passage. Publication of the First Part of the Elementary by Richard Mulcaster, who followed Dee in advocating the use of vernacular language in schools. William Shakespeare marries Anne Hathaway.


Walsingham and Gilbert visit Dee at Mortlake. Dee works on a number of maps of North America. Dee undertakes work on calendar reform (see Bodleian Ms Ashmole 1789 ff 1-40). Prince Laski visits Dee (accompanied by Sidney) and encourages Dee and Kelly to accompany him back to Europe where the spiritual conferences continue (Dee visits Briel, Bremen, Lübeck, Rostock and Stettin amongst other places). Prior to his visit, Dee compiles a catalogue of his “outer” Library, listing 2,292 books (excluding duplicates) and 199 manuscripts, and noting c800 books which he intended to take on his travels. Walsingham sends Richard Hakluyt abroad as courier to the English ambassador in Paris (1583-1589). Sir Humfrey Gilbert “the pioneer of English colonization” attempts to form a colony in Newfoundland. Birth of Dudley Digges (1583-1639), eldest son of Leonard Digges, and patron of exploration. Birth of Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), statesman and legal theorist/practioner.


Dee and Kelly visit Poznan, Lasko Cracow and Prague, where he is given an audience by Emperor Rudolf. Sir Walter Raleigh, half-brother to Sir Humfrey Gilbert, founds a colony in Roanoke, Virginia. Francis Bacon becomes a Member of Parliament and serves, off and on, from 1584 to 1598. The birth of Francis Beaumont (1584-1616), playwright. John Donne enters Trinity College, Cambridge (studies there 1584-1590).


Dee continues to oscillate between Cracow and Prague. He is given an audience by King Stephen Batory. Dee is made a Doctor of Medicine at Prague University. Births of Judith and Hamnet Shakespeare. Birth of William Drummond (1585-1649), poet, historian and bibliophile. Gabriel Harvey moves to London to practise Law (active 1585-1593). Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, studies at St John’s College, Cambridge (From 1585 to 1589). John Davis commences the first of three voyages attempting to discover a North-West Passage to China. Drake commences raiding Spanish galleons in the West Indies. Death of Thomas Tallis (1505-1585), composer.


Whilst Dee is abroad his library at Mortlake is vandalised and books are stolen. Ironically, the largest surviving corpus of Dee’s printed books are those stolen by Nicholas Saunder and now at the Royal College of Physicians. John Davis, a fromer pupil of Dee, also steals some books. Dee corresponds with Walsingham. Dee begins to journey through Leipzig, Erfurt, Trebona and Kassel. Walsingham uncovers Babington Conspiracy which aimed to place Mary on the throne. Mary is implicated in the plot and Burghley orders her execution. Sir Philip Sydney (1554-1586), poet, courtier and government agent, is killed at the battle of Zutphen in the Netherlands whilst harassing a Spanish convoy. He presents his sword to his cousin, the Earl of Essex. Thomas Cavendish sets out on an expedition to harry Spanish possessions in South America and ends up becoming the second Englishman to circumnavigate the world (from 1586 to 1589). Publication of Camden’s Britannia.


Dee visits Reichstein. Arthur Dee aids his father in skrying. Dee and Kelly part. Christian Francken visits Dee in Trebona. Burghley is temporarily dismissed from Elizabeth’s court. Essex becomes a court favourite. Drake “singes the King of Spain’s beard” by raiding Cadiz. Gabriel Harvey and others publish a testimonial volume of poetry to honour the late Sir Philip Sydney. First performance of Marlowe’s Tamburlaine.


Birth of Dee’s second son, Theodore. Dee corresponds with Queen Elizabeth. Philip II launches the Spanish Armada in an attempt to crush protestant and piratical England and revenge the death of Mary Queen of Scots. The Armada is defeated by Drake, Frobisher, Hawkins, poor planning and bad weather. Publication of Hariot’s Brief and True Report of the new found land of Virginia.


Dee journeys home through Nuremburg, Frankfurt am Main and Bremen. Pezel prints verses in his honour. When the Dees arrive in England they first stay with Richard Young in Stratford (East of London) before returning to Mortlake. Adrian Gilbert visits Dee at Mortlake. Drake fails to take Lisbon and falls out of favour. Frobisher raids Spanish galleons around the Azores. Sir Thomas Bodley acts as the Queen’s Envoy in the Netherlands (from 1589 to 1596). Publication of Richard Hakluyt’s The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffics, and Discoveries of the English Nation. Marlowe is arrested after a brawl. Death of Andrew Perne (1519-1589), bibliophile and Cambridge University administrator, who left a library of c2,585 books, perhaps the largest collection in England after Dee’s own. Lancelet Andrewes becomes Master of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge (from 1589 to 1605). Caravaggio paints “Bacchus”.


Dee is visited by Harriot and Richard Cavendish. Death of Francis Walsingham (c1532-1590), statesman. Publication of Spenser’s Faerie Queen. Shakespeare’s Henry VI and Titus Andronicus were first performed at about this date.


Some of Dee’s missing manuscripts are returned. John Davis and William Cavendish sail South looking for a passage to China. Davis discovers the Falkland Islands.


Dee’s great sea-compass is returned. Dee visits the Archbishop of Canterbury to discuss books. Dee writes the Compendious Rehearsal of John Dee... made unto the two Honourable Commissioners and presents it to the Queen as an appeal for aid (see Bodleian Ms Ashmole 1788, ff. 7-34). The Queen’s Commissioners visit Dee at Mortlake and he is granted a stipend. Shakespeare is now established as an actor/playwright in London and Richard III was first performed at about this date. Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy and Marlowe’s Jew of Malta are first performed at about this date. Francis Bacon allies himself with the Earl of Essex. Publication of Samuel Daniel’s sonnets Delia. Death of Thomas Cavendish (1560-1592), explorer. The plague devastates London, killing over 15,000 people.


Francis Nicholls pays to study with John Dee. Publication of Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis. Comedy of Errors and Two Gentlemen of Verona are also Marlowe’s Faustus and Edward II were first performed at about this date. Marlowe and Kyd are both arrested and taken before the Privy Council on grounds of blasphemy. Death in a tavern fight of Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593), playwright and poet, in the company of one of Thomas Walsingham’s servants, one of Francis Walsingham’s spies, and one other. Gabriel Harvey leaves London and retires to Saffron Walden.


Dee makes a further appeal to the Queen for money. Death of Dee’s third son, Michael. Publication of Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece. Love’s Labours Lost and The Taming of the Shrew were first performed at about this date. Death of Thomas Kyd (1558-1594), playwright. Publication of Seamen’s Secrets by John Davis. Robert Dudley commences raids on Spanish galleons in the West Indies. Death of Martin Frobisher (c1539-1594), explorer, after helping the French Huguenots to capture Brest. Death of Gerard Mercator (1512-1594), geographer and friend of Dee.


Archbishop Whitgift offers Dee the wardenship of Manchester. the Birckmann’s of Cologne, from whom Dee bought many of his books, press Dee for money. Birth of Dee’s daughter, Margaret. Raleigh sails to Guiana but fails to discover gold. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer Night’s Dream and Richard II were first performed at about this date. Publication of Spenser’s Amoretti and Epithalamium. Publication of Davis’ The World’s Hydrographical Description. Death of John Hawkins (1532-1595), seafarer.


Dee moves to Manchester where he is visited by Christopher Saxton, the map-maker. Dee travels to York and Halifax. Francis Drake (c1540-1596) dies at sea. The Earl of Essex sails to Cadiz (accompanied by Robert Dudley and John Donne amopngst others). Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice was performed at about this date. The death of Hamnet, Shakespeare’s son. The Earl of Essex becomes Spenser’s patron. Robert Cecil is made principal Secretary of State. Love-apples (tomatoes) are introduced into England.


Dee is involved in the Affair of the “Lancashire Seven” - a case of alleged demoniacal possession of children. Dee refuses to treat the children but the man who does is sentenced to death by Justice Hopwood who borrows books on witchcraft and demons from Dee to research the case. Saxton gives Dee a copy of Boethius’ Arithmetica (now Bodleian Ms Savile 20). Shakespeare’s Henry IV (including Glendower who bears some resemblance to Dee) was first performed at about this date. Essex sails for the Azores (again, with John Donne). Publication of Bacon’s Essays. The Aldine Press, Venice closes (active 1494-1597).


Dee returns to London. The University of Oxford accepts Sir Thomas Bodley’s offer to enhance their library - in 7 years the Bodleian Library trebles in size. The death of Philip II of Spain is followed by the succession of Philip III (reigns 1598-1621). Publication of the larger, three volume edition of Hakluyt’s Voyages. Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and Jonson’s Every Man in His Humour are first performed at about this date. Francis Bacon is arrested for debt. Death of William Cecil, Lord Burghley (1520-1598), statesman. John Davis commences a number of voyages to the East Indies.


Publication of Dee’s A Letter, containing a most briefe discourse apologeticall. Sir Henry Bagenal and the Earl of Essex fail successively to suppress the Irish Rebellion led by the Earl of Tyrone. Essex falls from grace. The Globe Theatre is established on the north bank of the Thames with Burbage and Shakespeare as partners. Shakespeare’s Henry V, Julius Caesar and As You Like It were first performed at about this date. Performance of Drayton’s Sir John Oldcastle andJonson’s Every Man Out of his Humuor. The deat of Edmund Spenser (c1552-1599), poet, after witnessing the defeat of his master, Essex, in Ireland. Publication of Samuel Daniel’s’ Poetical Essays.


Dee returns to Manchester. The East India Company is granted a charter. Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor and Twelth Night first performed at about this date. Giordano Bruno is burnt at the stake in Rome for supporting Copernican theories and other heresies. The telescope invented in Holland.


Dee makes the last entry in his Diary. Hamlet is first performed at about this date. Death of Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), astronomer.


Arthur Dee is married. John Dee visits Cowdrey, meeting Anthony Browne, 2nd Viscount Montague. The Irish Rebellion is finally defeated by Lord Mountjoy. Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida is first performed at about this date. Publication of Samuel Daniels’ Defence of Rhyme. The Bodleian Library is opened. Galileo investigates gravity.


Queen Elizabeth dies and Dee addresses a second copy of his A Letter, containing a most briefe discourse apologeticall to the new monarch, King James I (reigns 1603-1625). Sir Walter Raleigh is imprisoned in the Tower after being implicated in one of several plots against James I aimed at getting toleration for catholics. Otherllo is first performed at about this date. James I allows the Lord Chamberlain’s men to become the King’s Men, with Shakespeare as one of their leading actors. There is a further heavy outbreak of the plague in England.


Dee writes the Broadside To the Kings most excellent maiestie petitioning for moneey. Dee also petitions Parliament. The Hampton Court Conference discusses religious affairs. Shakespeare’s All’s Well that Ends Well and Measure for Measure are first performed at about this date. The East India Company sponsors voyages to Java and Molucca.
1605 Death of Jane Dee and children. Dee returns to Mortlake. The Gunpowder Plot to destroy Parliament is foiled. King Lear is first performed at about this date. Publication of Francis Bacon’s Advancement of Learning. Publication of the first part of Don Quixote by Cervantes. Death of John Davis (1550-1605), explorer and pupil of Dee.

Death of Jane Dee and children. Dee returns to Mortlake. The Gunpowder Plot to destroy Parliament is foiled. King Lear is first performed at about this date. Publication of Francis Bacon’s Advancement of Learning. Publication of the first part of Don Quixote by Cervantes. Death of John Davis (1550-1605), explorer and pupil of Dee.


Macbeth is first performed at about this date, as is Jonson’s Volpone. The Virginia Company is established by Royal charter and sends 120 colonists to Virginia.


Dee holds his last recorded angelic conference at Mortlake with Bartholomew Hickman acting as medium. John Dee’s (al)chemical experiments continue (see Bodleian Ms Ashmole 1486 art. 5, noting experiments between 1607 and 1608). Anthony & Cleopatra, Coriolanus and Timon of Athens are first performed at about this date. Beaumont’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle performed. Robert Cecil buys Hatfield House and begins to improve it.


Shakespear’s Pericles is first performed at about this date. Pocahontas, Algoquin princess, saves John Smith of the Virginia Company from being sacrificed. Birth of John Milton (1608-1674).


Death of John Dee (1527-1609) aged 82, bibliophile, mathematician, geographer, government agent, magus, promoter of colonisation, astrologer, (al)chemist, natural philosopher and man of learning. First publication of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. First performance of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. First performance of Jonson’s Epicoene, or the Silent Woman. Hudson explores the Hudson River.


Shakespeare’s Cymbeline and Jonson’s Alchemist are first performed.


Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale and The Tempest (celebrating Prospero’s collection of books) is first performed. Publication of the Authorised Version of the Bible (the King James Bible). Death of Richard Mulcaster (c1530-1611), educational reformer.
1613 The death of Sir Thomas Bodley (1545-1613), bibliophile, benefactor and govrnment agent. Shakespeare’s Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen date from about this period. The Globe theatre burns down.


The deaths of Shakespeare (1564-1616), Francis Beaumont (1584-1616), playwright, and Richard Hakluyt (c1552-1616), geographer, government agent and recorder of maritime exploits.


Deaths of John Napier (1550-1617), mathematician, and Isaac Oliver (c1562-1617), artist.


Death of Sir Walter Raleigh (c1552-1618), explorer.


The First Folio edition of Mr William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories and Tragedies is published. Death of William Camden (1551-1623), antiquary.


Dee’s books begin to appear on the market in large numbers. Death of John Fletcher (1579-1625), playwright and collaborator with Shakespeare.


The deaths of Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626) scholar and a moving force behind the King James Bible, and Francis Bacon (1561-1626), writer and statesman.


The deaths of Gabriel Harvey (1550-1631), Latin poet and bibliophile, Robert Cotton (1571-1631), antiquary, John Donne (1573-1631), poet, and Michael Drayton (1563-1631), playwright.

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