Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill Collection
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This item is located in the Great North Bedchamber.

Dr. Dee's Mirror
Speculum of kennel coal

Strawberry Hill ID: sh-000210
14th-16th century AD

Obsidian, in an 18th century wooden case covered with tooled leather
22 (height) x 18.4 (diameter) x 1.3 (width) cm [mirror]; 25.5 (length) x 21 (diameter) x 3 (width) cm [case]
British Museum, Department of Prehistory and Europe. 1966,1001.1

Strawberry Hill History

Location: Great North Bedchamber

1774 Description: A speculum of kennel-coal, in a leathern-case. It is curious for having been used to deceive the mob by Dr. Dee, the conjurer, in the reign of queen Elizabeth. It was in the collection of the Mordaunts earls of Peterborough, in whose catalogue it is called, the black stone into which Dr. Dee used to call his spirits. From the Mordaunts it passed to lady Elizabeth Germayne, and from her to John last duke of Argyll, whose son lord Frederic Cambell, gave it to Mr. Walpole. (110)

1784 Description: Text same as 1774 Description (77)

Sale Text: A singularly interesting and curious relic of the superstition of our ancestors--the celebrated Speculum of Kennel Coal, highly polished, in a leathern case. It is remarkable for having been used to deceive the mob, by the celebrated Dr. Dee, the conjurer, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. It was originally in the collection of the Mordaunts, Earls of Peterborough, in whose catalogue it is called the black stone, into which Dr. Dee used to call his spirits. From the Mordaunts it passed to Lady Elizabeth Germaine, and from her to John, last Duke of Argyle, whose son, Lord Frederick Campbell, presented it to Mr. Walpole.

Object History

Provenance: Dr John Dee; The Morduant family, earls of Peterborough; Lady Elizabeth Germain, widow of Henry Morduant , 2nd Earl of Peterborough; John, Duke of Argyll; 1771, given by Lord Frederic Campbell to Horace Walpole, 1771; 1842, Strawberry Hill Sale, day 16, lot 84 bt Strong, Bristol, £12.12.0; 1848 October 8, (C.J.H.Smyth-Pigott, Esq, Sale), lot 238 bt Edwards; 1853 December 19, Sotheby's, J.H.Smyth-Pigott Sale, lot 2033 bt T. Wright, £13.0.0; 1888 July 10, Christie's, Earl of Londesborough Sale, lot 694, £73.10 bt Magniac; 1892 July 15, Christie's, Collection of the late Hollingworth Magniac, lot 1534 bt. R. Williams, £81.18.0; 1906 March 14, Sotheby's Sale, lot 103, (withdrawn); 1966, purchased from Rev R W Stannard by The British Museum.

Exhibition History: "Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill." Orleans House Gallery. Twickenham, England. 9/20/1980-12/7/1980.
"Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill," Yale Center for British Art, 15 October 2009 - 3 January 2010; Victoria and Albert Museum, 5 March 2010 - 4 July 2010, cat. no. 108.

Bibliography: HW Corres 12:262, 23:286-7, 301, 33:323-4, 43:355, 389
H.Tait, “The Devil’s Looking Glass,” in Warren Hunting Smith, ed., Horace Walpole, Writer, Politician, and Connoisseur (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967), 195-212.
OHG, 151
N.H. Clulee, John Dee's natural philosophy: between science and religion (London; New York: Routledge, 1988).
Kim Sloan and Andre Burnet, eds., Enlightenment. Discovering the World in the Eighteenth-Century (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books, 2003), 18, fig. 7.