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Vide Historiam Illam: John Dee's Reading and Annotating of Historical Texts

Fri, March 23, 9:00 to 10:30am, Hilton Riverside, 3rd Level - Jefferson Ballroom


Although John Dee (1527–1609) has earned posthumous fame for many exploits, his reading of history is not often counted among them. Yet Dee—who assembled one of sixteenth-century England’s largest libraries—was a tireless acquirer, voracious reader, and frequent annotator of historical texts, ranging from canonical Greco-Roman histories to the latest antiquarian research on medieval Britain. Drawing upon a wide array of Dee’s annotations, this paper examines the significance of Dee’s approach to historia within the larger history of early modern historical thought. It places Dee within an international network of humanists—including Conrad Gessner, Josias Simler, John Bale, and others—who sought to fill in lacunae in the past and create a “universal” record of historical works. Specifically, it examines how Dee approached issues of textual authenticity and historical periodization, arguing that he played a central role in pan-European humanist debates over historical method.