Why obverse side is upside down - Interesting story

Elias Ashmole's copy of Dee's 'Spiritual Diaries'

Postby John J. Coughlin » Wed May 19, 2004 12:45 pm

This is from http://members.aol.com/AJRoberti/cotton.htm:

The Cotton Manuscript
CB and Patricia Shaffer

This conversation took place on enochian-l, and is presented here with permission of both parties.


While I was doing the initial work on the concordance of the calls (which can be seen in draft at http://freepages.misc.rootsweb.com/~cgb143/ ) I noticed, as many others have, that the versions of the calls given in Casuabon's "True and Faithful Relation ..." (TFR) appear mixed up when compared with published versions by Crowley or from Golden Dawn sources.

In answer to questions about those inconsistencies here and elsewhere, it was suggested I might have a look at the "Cotton Manuscript" with reference given as "Royal Appendix XLVI (Sloane Ms 5007)".

During a swift-passing drop in at the British Library (BL) in St Pancras back in the summer, an enquiry confirmed that the reference indicated an item which was part of their collection, so I resolved to call back when I had more time and check it out.

This week I managed to get most of a day in the BL. A preliminary browse through their MSS catalogue on the 'net couldn't find "Royal Appendix XLVI" or "Sloane Ms 5007", so I wasn't 100% optimistic that the reference was correct, but I made the appropriate enquiries in the Manuscripts room and found myself a seat in the laptop-friendly section (they even allow you to plug into a mains electricity socket provided for each readers place). Eventually someone came across and said that they had found the document I had requested, that it was in process of being re-classified, and that it was one of those which required special permission from the Library Superindendant before it could be viewed.

I explained my interest in it, and by this time had already got the laptop set up with the enochian concordance and supporting raw data on the screen. The guy said he could see that I had a specific interest and he appreciated that I had travelled some distance, but that normally such requests would need to be made with advance notice - he would see what he could do.

About 20 minutes later back he came - the volumes were there for me - sign for them at the desk.

I collected two sumptuous leather-bound folios, each I'd say a bit larger in all dimensions than the facsimile TFR I have. The title on the spines "John Dee | Mysteriorum Libri 1583-1607 | Bibl Cotton Append XLVI". I laid the first on the manuscript cradle and experienced quite a tingle as I opened it, realising almost immediately that I appeared to be looking at the handwritten original of what Casaubon transcribed as the TFR. The actual notebooks in Dee's and Kelley's own handscript.

The bad news (as far as the object of the search was concerned) is that this particular manuscript doesn't appear to contain any substantially more complete version of the calls than does TFR. Indeed the confusion of the ordering of the calls in TFR is largely accounted for in the way the manuscript sheets are ordered and bound.

It looks as if Dee and Kelley ran short of paper during the seance of Saturday 14th May 1584, when most of the enochian text of Calls 5-18 was received. What is at first confusing is that both sides of each manuscript sheet are written on, but that the text on the obverse is upside down. It looks as if they began writing on a single side of each sheet, with each being laid face down on top of its predecessor when completed. Then they ran out of paper, so they just carried on using the backs of the already used sheets after turning the pile round so the new text was upside-down on the back of each sheet.

Casaubon has to some extent managed to untangle this for TFR, but it does look as if the sheets which contained the text of calls 14 and 15 are missing entirely, and were when Casaubon worked on them. It also looks as if the then un-numbered original sheets may have become muddled at some point during the actual skrying session, accounting for the fragmentation and misordering of portions of the text of Calls 13, 16 and 17.

The MS sheets as they are now bound are numbered on the front-sheet only, but it is clear that several previous owners have attempted alternative orderings. None of the relevant sheet numberings appears to me to be in Dee's or Kelley's own hand.

The questions remain then: (1) what is the source of the Crowley/GD text of calls 14 and 15? (2) did Dee or Kelley make a transcript of the notes of the session of 14th May 1584 before two or three of the sheets were lost and while they could still remember exactly how to re-order any sheets which had become muddled? (3) if yes to (2), does anyone know where that version of the calls might be?

Apologies for rambling on - any constructive suggestions much appreciated as always.

John J. Coughlin
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