Shout-out to Pater for emailing me about this exhibition!
The exhibition is located at the Royal College of Physicians. On their premises they have a library and they carve out an exhibition space. It’s relatively small (a room and along three walls). A little different than the museums with their own specific buildings that I have been mostly writing about.
A WHO conference was actually happening when I was there! Pretty swank actually! I literally rubbed shoulders with fancy doctors.
Scholar, courtier and magician: the lost library of John Dee
The exhibition features about 100 books in the Royal College’s Library that belonged to John Dee!
In his life, Doc Dee collected over 4,000 books during the Tudor Era (think King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I). THAT IS A LOT.
Warning for book lovers- the next sentence is super sad. When John went away on work for the royal court, the person who looked after his house SOLD the BOOKS. ALL THE BOOKS WERE GONE. HE SPENT HIS LIFE COLLECTING THEM.
Wondering how they know which ones were his?
Dee was quite the Doodler! All of the books he owned have annotations and drawings. I mean look at that ship!
Dee’s famous for being a magician and the inspiration for Shakespeare’s character Prospero in The Tempest. But in fact he was mostly a mathematician. Though he did try to talk to angels. So there’s that…
I really liked how they integrated his doodles into the imagery of the exhibition. On the wall were huge panels with combinations of text, images, quotes, maps and timelines. Below in the cases were books from the collection.
For this exhibition they X-rayed a massive painting and found some secrets underneath! Check out the article here!
I couldn’t get a good photo of the painting but when you went up close you could see the under layer of paint making its presence know.
Pros: Detailed and overarching discussion about John Dee, cute interactive, great visuals and use of collection and connections to history, short and sweet, interesting topic, beautiful location.
Cons: The space is quite small and I definitely bumped doctors with my school bag, there were no signs not to use flash photography (a must with books!), needs more signage to get to the other display room.