On Arthur Dee

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Source Bibl. Bodleian MS No. 1788 edited with modernized spelling

Dr Browne to Mr Elias Ashmole 25 January 1658

Most worthy Sir, I return you humble thanks for your courteous letter and the good news of the hopeful recovery or Mr Dugdale, unto whom I shall be ready in any farther service, and shall god willing send unto him concerning the fish bone, which I have not forgot. It can hardly fall into my apprehension how I can afford any addition unto your worthy endeavors, notwithstanding I have enclosed a list of such tracts of that subject which I have by me, most whereof I received from Dr Arthur Dee, my familiar friend, son unto old Dr Dee the mathematician; he lived many years and died in Norwich, from whom I have heard many accounts agreeable unto those which you have set down in your annotations, concerning his father and Kelley; he was a persevering student in Hermetical philosophy and had no small encouragement, having seen projection made; And with the highest asseverations he confirmed unto his death, that he had ocularly, undeceivably, and frequently beheld it in Bohemia, and to my knowledge, had not an accident prevented, he had not many years before his death retired beyond sea and fallen upon the solemn process of the great work. Sir, if you shall desire a view of any of these books or all, I shall find some way to send them, and you may peruse or transcribe them, but I shall entreat the favor to have them returned. Mr Stanley gave me the honour of a visit some few years past, and if he signified my mind unto you, you might have received them long ago.

Sir I think myself much honored in your worthy acquaintance and shall ever rest,
Your respectful friend and servant,
Thomas Browne

Enclosed Alchemical manuscripts.


Source Bibl. Bodleian Ashmole MS 1788

Sir Thomas Browne to Elias Ashmole March 1674

I was very well acquainted with Dr. Arthur Dee, and at one time or another he has given me some account of the whole course of his life. I have heard the doctor say that he lived in Bohemia with his father, both at Prague and in other parts. That Prince or Count Rosenberg was their great patron, who delighted much in alchemie. I have often heard him affirme, and sometimes with oaths, that he had seen projection made, and transmutation of pewter dishes and flagons into silver, which the goldsmiths at Prague bought of them. And that Count Rosenberg played at quoits with silver quoits made by projection as before. That this transmutation was made by a powder they had, which was found in some old place, and a book lying by it containing nothing but hieroglyphics; which book his father bestowed much time upon, but I could not hear that he could make it out. He said also that Kelly dealt not justly by his father, and that he went away with the greatest part of the powder, and was afterwards imprisoned by the Emperor in a castle, from whence attempting to escape down the wall, he fell and broke his leg, and was imprisoned again. That his father, Dr. John Dee, presented Queen Elizabeth with a little of the powder, who having made trial thereof, attempted to get Kelly out of prison, and sent some [persons] to that purpose, who, giving opium in drink unto the keepers, laid them so fast asleep that Kelly found opportunity to attempt an escape; and there were horses ready to carry him away; but the business unhappily succeeded as is before declared. Dr. Arthur Dee was a young man (aged 8) when he saw this projection made in Bohemia, but he was so inflamed therewith that he fell early upon that study, and read not much all his life but books of that subject; and two years before his death, contracted with one Hunniades, or Hans Hanyar, in London, to be his operator. This Hans Hanyar having lived long in London and growing in years, resolved to return into Hungary. He went first to Amsterdam, where he was to remain ten weeks, till Dr. Arthur came to him. The Dr. to my knowledge was serious in this business and had provided all in readiness to go, but suddenly he heard that Hans Hanyar was dead.