History of Science Museum: Collection Database Search

Record Details

Marble Copy of John Dee's Holy Table of 1582, English, Mid 17th Century

preview image for Marble Copy of John Dee's Holy Table of 1582, English, Mid 17th Century
Object is on display.
Inventory Number: 15449
Object Type:
Place Created: England United Kingdom Europe
Accession Number: 1963-163
Brief Description: Engraved marble, with the incised lines filled with mastic. Note that the large hexagram is not a regular Star of David.
The 'holy table' records the 'Enochian' alphabet, in which the language of the angels was written. This language was believed to have been the original language of humanity (before the Fall), so that the idea (common in the Renaissance) of recovering lost knowledge as part of the progress of scientific learning included communicating with angels. The idea was that the angels would communicate lost wisdom or texts by indicating letters on a table, somewhat in the manner of the later ouija board of Victorian spiritualists. John Dee's project, amidst his greatly respected mathematical work, has been described as an attempted "short-cut to enlightenment".
The 17th-century marble copy was probably made after an engraving published by Merric Casaubon in 1659, and is said to have belonged to the astrologer William Lilly.
Primary Inscriptions:
Provenance: Transferred from the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, in November 1963. Said to have been owned by the atrologer William Lilly (1602-1681). Presented to the Bodleian Library in 1750 by Dr Richard Rawlinson [see MS Rawl. C. 989, f. 137]. Transferred from the Bodleian to the Ashmolean Museum before 1863.
Collection Group:
Material(s): Alabaster
mastic resin

Narratives

Image with multimedia irn 46391Image with multimedia irn 47904

File 15449-audio (audio/mpeg) with multimedia irn 47801

Permalink: http://www.mhs.ox.ac.uk/object/inv/15449