Mortlake: and the bizarre but true story of Doctor Dee’s precious book

Back in February, we were asked to do some storytelling in a private members club and hotel which is also a Library.

I had been reading about the Elizabethan magician and royal astronomer Doctor Dee and his obsession with books and so the story seemed an obvious one to tell.

George and I dived deep into the research. Here is George’s fantastic and readable blog about him.

The problem was he had lived for so long and had so many adventures- he was a spy, an adventurer, an inquisitor, a courtier, a genius, a survivor… he made a giant scarab beetle which climbed up the wall of Trinity College Cambridge …on the command of the angels, he swapped wives with his young skryer Edward Kelly… and yet he was the most devoutly honest and deeply religious seeker of truth-at-all-costs who was ever born. How on earth could I tell just one story?

I decided to follow the absolutely mind-boggling story of the”book” he created from his many angelic communications. Over the course of five years he worked with his skryer Edward Kelly to transcribe and collect the words of God and compile an “angelic language” and many mathematical tables and other communications which -when decoded- would reveal the ultimate truth of the universe. He said that if you added up the value of all the gold in all the storehouses in all the world, their value would be nothing compared to this book he was making. There were no copies– and Dee was continually adding to it and refining it even as he travelled across land and sea to hide out and seek a patron in Poland and Bohemia.

The book ended up being burned to a cinder and mysteriously bought back into being, parts were buried in his garden after his death and dug up 11 years later. Other pages spent 60 years locked in a secret drawer of a wooden chest… before being found by someone who did not recognise its value and ended up using parts of the paper to line pie dishes and write shopping lists!

We told the story as a walk in Mortlake which is where John Dee lived for most of his life- what a beautiful and fascinating corner of London!

If you want to experience the story (and the area) virtually… we filmed it in Mortlake are are going live with the story and an information-packed Zoom on Sunday.

tickets here

Here’s a couple of photos to whet your appetite:

Meanwhile here are some photos from our previous live event, posted on social media by @perfectlyvague and @alexandra_p_hobson thanks to them and to the other folks who made it along… a wonderful time was had by all.

(above: we stopped to look inside Richard Burtons tomb with a glass panel in the roof.)

(Below: George playing… me telling a story in the wind)