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Edward Kelley, Booked

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


During the 1580s, John Dee and his scryer, Edward Kelley, pursued patronage in East Central Europe. While Dee struggled to secure lasting support, Kelley successfully reinvented himself as an alchemical adept at the center of a circle of readers and practitioners. This paper explores the role played by books—particularly books from Dee’s own library—in Kelley’s subsequent rise and fall. Previously unexamined manuscripts reveal not only how the English alchemists read their sources, but also how Kelley used alchemical books to design experiments, impress Bohemian and Silesian colleagues, and seek to win his freedom. When Kelley was imprisoned in Pürglitz Castle in 1589, he continued to manipulate both texts and people, constructing new treatises designed to persuade Emperor Rudolf II of his good intentions. These works would in turn be closely read and annotated by the Englishman’s alchemical admirers, contributing to later legends of Dee’s and Kelley’s Bohemian exploits.