John Dee and The History of Understanding

A walk in the intellectual footsteps of the great Tudor magus and man of mystery…

John Dee Performing an Experiment Before Elizabeth I by Henry Gillard Glindoni 1852-1913 copyright Wellcome  Library, Wellcome Collection Large Version - Copy

Mathematician, magician, astronomer, astrologer, explorer, occultist, imperialist, alchemist and spy, John Dee continues to fascinate centuries after he first set foot in the court of Elizabeth I.

He was the man for whom the term ‘polymath’ seems coined, and yet, though he was widely known as ‘Dr Dee’ he was never a member of the Royal College of Physicians. So how does the College come to have the largest collection of his books in existence today? Why did ‘The Virgin Queen’ send him across Europe in search of medical secrets and on what basis did he offer medical assistance to friends, family and acquaintances?

Sketch of Ship, Annotation by John Dee to Volume II of the Collected Works of Cicero large version

To answer all these questions and uncover the interconnected web of medicine, science, faith, magic, mysticism and belief from Tudor times to the present day we set sail on a voyage of discovery. 

Following an escorted visit to the acclaimed exhibition ‘Scholar, courtier, magician: the lost library of John Dee’ we weave our way through the streets of London to explore the Dee’s intellectual influences and unexpected legacy.

Along the way we encounter the Druidic guardians of Britain’s oldest book of pharmacy, the headquarters of modern magic, the unexpected home of faith healing, the first ‘monastery’ built since the reformation and the storehouse of one of the modern world’s greatest collectors. We discover how medicine formed a connective tissue between astronomy and astrology and that mathematics was the most dangerous of all forms of conjuring.

Lost Library of John Dee Books - copyright RCP and John Chase

Fascinated by John Dee? Interested by ideas? Curious about the history of medicine, science and the early modern world? This is the tour for you!

For dates visit Our Calendar page here. To arrange a private group tour any timecontact us by email at 

The walk commences at The Royal College of Physicians  and lasts around 2½ hours including a highlights tour of the Royal College, its museum and collections*. 

The tour costs £10 per person click here to book online  BOOKONLINELOGO_large

A small number of tickets are available on a turn up and pay basis on the day. These places are limited and payment should be made to the guide in cash. 


“John Dee and The History of Understanding” is also available as a private tour at any time by prior arrangement, subject to a minimum charge.

For further details or to make a group booking for a private tour please contact us at 

* On occasion access to the Royal College of Physicians may be limited due to  events or works being carried out.

Click here for a map and directions to the Royal College of Physicians.