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To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

More information about how we have ‘runified’ this site

 

Dr Dee's magic


Dr Dees magic

Dr Dee's Magic

Large wax disc

Large wax disc


Diameter: 23.000 cm (large wax disc)
Diameter: 23.000 cm (large wax disc)
Diameter: 23.000 cm (large wax disc)
Diameter: 23.000 cm (large wax disc)
Diameter: 23.000 cm (large wax disc)

P&E MLA 1942,5-6,1 (gold disc);P&E MLA OA 232 (quartz sphere);P&E MLA OA 105-7 (wax discs);P&E MLA 1966,10-1,1 (mirror)


The British Museum has six objects with magical connotations associated with the name of John Dee (1527-1608/9). Dee was one of the most learned figures of his time, bringing together what was to be a unique library and being well versed in the foremost sciences of his day, particularly mathematics and astronomy (including astrology). Typical for his time, he was also interested in occult matters, which he believed to be just another means of gaining knowledge about the universe. It is with this interest in the occult that the magical objects are connected and it is purely the connection with Dee which made the objects interesting to antiquarians of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, such as Sir Robert Cotton (1571-1631) and Sir Horace Walpole (1717-1797) respectively.

The two smaller wax discs engraved with magical signs, symbols and names are all what remains of originally four discs allegedly used to support Dee's 'table of practice', which Sir Robert Cotton, whose collection was one of the founding collection of the British Museum, had acquired together with some of Dee's manuscripts. The larger disc, engraved in a similar way and used to support one of Dee's 'shew-stones', corresponds exactly with a drawing in one of Dee's manuscripts. A 'shew-stone' could be a translucent or reflecting object used for occult practice, and both the spherical crystal ball and the black obsidian mirror of Aztec origin have been connected with Dee's occult practices. The case made to fit the mirror has a label in Walpole's hand associating the object with Dee and his medium Edward Kelly, but the provenance of the spherical crystal is less clear, although there is evidence in the manuscripts that Dee had such a spherical crystal. The gold disc is engraved with the 'vision of the four castles' as experienced by Dee while in Krakow in 1584. It was acquired for the museum in 1942 to join the group of magical objects associated with the name of one of the foremost Renaissance scientist.

On display: Enlightenment: Religion