The books contain a strange medley of borrowings and lendings, births and deaths, illnesses, lawsuits, dreams and bickerings; observations of stars, eclipses and comets, above all of the weather (for Dee was a great meteorologist), of horoscopes, experiments in alchemy and topographical notes. Here are some of the earliest entries: -
Then he speaks of a visitor, Alexander Simon, who comes from persia, and has promised his "service" on his return, probably to assist with information on Eastern lore and wisdom. His friend and neighbour, William Herbert, sends him notes upon his already published Monas. Another work is ready for press, and he is constrained to raise money, whether for the printing or other expenses. In June he borrowed £40 from one, £20 from another, and £27 upon "the chayn of gold." On August 19, his new book is put to printing (one hundred copies) at John Day's press in Aldersgate.
This was another of those works, so pithy and so alive in their remarkable application to the future, which have fallen with their author into undeserved neglect. Dee had made suggestions about supplying officers of the army with perspective glasses as part of their equipment. Now his friendship with the Gilberts, Davis, Hawkins, Frobisher, and others off the great sea-captains, drew his attention to the sister service and the sea power of "this blessed isle of Albion." He had spent most of the previous year (1576) in writing a series of volumes to be entitled "General and Rare Memorials pertayning to the perfect art of Navigation." The first volume, The British Monarchy, or Hexameron Brytannicum, was finished in August. It was dedicated to Christopher Hatton in some verses beginning: -
"If privat wealth be leef and deere
To any wight on British soyl,
Ought public weale have any peere?
To that is due all wealth and toyle.
Whereof such lore as I of late
Have lern'd, and for security,
By godly means to Garde this state,
To you I now send carefully."
The intention is better than the lines. Dee was no poet, and even a bad versifier, but he would not have been a true Elizabethan had he not on special occasions dropped into rhyme, like the rest of his peers.
The second volume, The British Complement, "larger
in bulk than the English Bible," was written in the next
four months and finished in December. It was never published;
its author tells us it would cost many hundreds of pounds to print,
because of the tables and figures requisite, and he must first
have a "comfortable and sufficient opportunity or supply
thereto." The necessary funds were never forthcoming, and
the book remained in manuscript. A considerable part of it is
devoted to an exposition of the "paradoxall" compass
which its author had invented in 1557.
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