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Greg Marcus

Mellon MS.12 - previously owned by Ripley and John Dee

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Source: Mellon MS. 12: A collection of alchemical texts attributed to Lull, with some additional matter

The first page of the manuscript has the following information added in modern times:

"This ms. was formerly the property of the famous mathemetician, astrologer, and alchemist (?) John Dee. It figures in the list of (? ?) mss. published by the Bibliographical Society of London in 1921 and edited by (?) James (Ms. No. T.66) and under the same number in the original list edited by Halliwell and published by the Camden Soceity in 1862"

"It is said to have been written in St. Bartholomews Priory London; to have belonged to Sir George Ripley (1473), passed from him to Sir Robert Greene of Welbe, another famous alchemist, and from him to Dee. When the latter's house was sacked his mss. were thrown in the mud - of which treatment this ms. may bear evidence!"
"When the latter's house was sacked" refers to events that transpired when Dee and Kelley left England, first accompanying Count Laski to Krakow, and later travelled to Prague where they had an audience with Rudolph II. They travelled between Bohemia, Germany, and Poland for 6 years. After correspondence with Elizabeth, he was invited back to England. "On his arrival in England he had an audience of the Queen, who received him kindly as far as words went, and gave orders that he should not be molested in his pursuits of chemistry and philosophy." But upon returning to to Mortlake, he found that shortly after leaving England:

"the mob had pillaged his house at Mortlake, accusing him of being a necromancer and a wizard; and had broken all his furniture, burned his library, consisting of four thousand rare volumes, and destroyed all the philosophical instruments and curiosities in his museum."
This is a very abridged account of some of the more interesting times in Dee's life. If it sounds interesting, I'd recommend looking for a biography on him. According to some accounts, the destruction of his library is at least somewhat exaggerated, since he was still known for his collection up til his death, and people sought to access it.

This manuscript is thought to have been started around 1450, with material added in the 16th Century. It's 670 pages, mostly works of Ramon Lull (or pseudo-Lullian). For a full description of the included texts, see here: https://pre1600ms.beinecke.library.y...00.mell012.htm

There are only a handful of images, consisting mostly of wheels and charts related to Lull's "Great Art":

(If you aren't familiar with Llull's Art, here are a few links to image albums: Ramon Lull - Ars inventiva veritatis (1290), Ramon Lull - Ars magna generalis et ultima (1305), Opusculum Raymundinum de auditu kabbalistico sive ad omnes sciencias introductorium (1518))

There are a couple of images that stand out however. Like this one from the "Testamentum, Theorica" section:

It vaguely reminds me of Dee's Monas Hieroglyphica. Also, it has a number of points labelled with letters of the alphabet, which is common in the purely geometric diagrams of Lull and Giordano Bruno.

...and this other one from the "Compendium abbreviatum artis magice" section":

This seems be be a combination of Lull's diagrams from his "Art", and his "Trees" from Arbor Scientiae (1295/6)

'Then he: You must know that the envious have described this arcanum in the shade; in physical reasoning and astronomy, and the art of images; they have also likened it to trees;'
- Turba Philosophorum

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  1. Schmuldvich's Avatar
    Schmuldvich -
    This is awesome! Keep 'em coming!