Books owned by John Dee

The Elizabethan polymath, humanist and spiritualist John Dee, who studied at St John's, amassed a huge library of at least 3,000 printed volumes, as well as a large number of manuscripts, which he initially housed in his residence at Mortlake. Almost as soon as he departed for Poland to embark on that period of his life which caused most controversy, his communications with spirits, his house was raided and many books were stolen. The perpetrators probably included former pupils such as Nicholas Saunders, by virtue of whose activities the Royal College of Physicians, of which he was a member, now has the largest number of volumes from Dee's library. Dee's collections were further diminished on his return to England, as he sold off books to stave off increasing poverty, and the remainder were finally dispersed on his death. St John's can lay claim to six volumes which originally belonged to Dee. One of these is an introduction to various Middle Eastern languages from 1539, Introductio in Chaldaicam linguam, Syriacam, atque Armenicam, & decem alias linguas, and bears his inscription on the title-page and his annotations. The other is a volume of Plato's works (1532), which has his mark of ownership on the bottom of the textblock. This was donated by Peter Gunning.