Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Magic Circle of Rudolf II: Alchemy and Astrology in Renaissance Prague” as Want to Read:
The Magic Circle of Rudolf II: Alchemy and Astrology in Renaissance Prague
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Magic Circle of Rudolf II: Alchemy and Astrology in Renaissance Prague

3.66  ·  Rating Details  ·  112 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
Rudolf II—Habsburg heir, Holy Roman Emperor, king of Hungary, Germany, and the
Romans—is one of history's great characters, and yet he remains largely an unknown figure. His reign (1576–1612) roughly mirrored that of Queen Elizabeth I of England, and while her famous court is widely recognized as a sixteenth century Who's Who, Rudolf 's collection of mathematicians, alchemi
...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published August 22nd 2006 by Walker Books (first published May 25th 2006)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Magic Circle of Rudolf II, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Magic Circle of Rudolf II

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 331)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Alex Sarll
I've been aware of Rudolf II for a long time; as host to John Dee and Giordano Bruno he looms large in one of the key books which shaped me, John Crowley's Aegypt. And Prague is the only city outside Britain to which I've ever felt the need for a return visit. But until now I'd never read a whole book on the man, and there are layers to him. Yes, he was the reclusive monarch distracted from his realm and responsibilities by higher, madder dreams. Yes, we all know by now that in the early modern ...more
Chris Feldman
Aug 01, 2009 Chris Feldman rated it did not like it
Highly flawed, with a number of factual errors followed by unsupported hypotheses. Not recommended.
Emily
Sep 16, 2009 Emily rated it liked it
I gave this book three stars because it had enough meat to get me through it but the writing is definitely a two star effort and GoodReads doesn't allow me to assign a half-star.

I was very disappointed in this book. The writing is dry and technical with little love or verve on the subject. Some of the chapters were fantastic, as was the one on John Dee, but the latter part of the book focuses on Rudolf's decline and it reads like a rendition of a list of facts.

I wanted more. More on the alchem
...more
Liam
Aug 08, 2007 Liam rated it liked it
I give this book three stars because its subject matter is fascinating and the writing is not bad. The author, however, is not a historian and often falls into old-fashioned and misleading generalizations about what he sees as the enlightened Renaissance, the superstitious Middle Ages,fanatical Spain, obscurantist Catholicism, and tolerant Protestantism. He also is guilty of errors subtle (the meaning of the term "Utraquist") and obvious (he says that Carlos V expelled the Jews from Spain in 149 ...more
Matthew
Sep 17, 2007 Matthew rated it it was ok
It's very interesting to learn about all of the people associated with Rudoplh, such as Johannes Kepler, John Dee, Guiseppe Arcimboldo, et al, but Peter Marshall repeats whole sentences multiple times in the book and makes the strangest word choices throughout. This book could be about half its length and there wouldn't be any information missing. I'm glad that I learned about this intriguing and enigmatic figure, but a much better book is either still to be written or, at least, yet to be trans ...more
Mila
Mar 24, 2016 Mila rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
How could I resist a book with this title? The illustrations on the jacket are also enticing.

This is the story of Rudolf II (1552-1612), the Holy Roman Emperor who lived in Hradcany aka Prague Castle. One of his ancestors was Charles IV who built the Charles Bridge.

Peter Marshall brings medieval Prague to life and allows one to step back in time to "see the hordes of alchemists, astrologers and magicians, soothsayers, fortune-tellers, charlatans, swarming on the gloomy streets of Old Town."

Mar
...more
Lauren Albert
I found it surprisingly bland. It was a straight-forward narrative though it picked up a bit at the end when Marshall discusses the connection between the alchemists and later science.
Ben
Jan 11, 2015 Ben rated it did not like it
Having read Peter Marshall's book about Alchemy, 'The Philosophers Stone', which was bursting with factual inaccuracies and wildly credulous, unreferenced assertions, I did not have the highest hopes for this, but I attempted it because I wanted to read a biography of the eccentric Holy Roman emperor Rudolf ii. Where at least his 'Philosophers Stone' book had a certain amount of verve despite its many flaws, 'The Magic Circle' (my copy was titled the Theatre of the World), felt like it had been ...more
Lysergius
Jan 22, 2016 Lysergius rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Oh what a time to have been alive! When Prague was a bigger city than London or Paris, filled with interesting people. Arguably the concentration of talent that Rudolf collected in Prague during his reign sparked the Scientific revolution as well as a revolution in art.

Peter Marshall's book does justice to this extraordinary character, painting him in the larger than life colours he deserves. A must read for anyone interested in the period.
Ron
Jan 04, 2013 Ron rated it it was ok
As I wrote for my Amazon review: If the reader expects to learn much about "Alchemy and Astrology in Renaissance Prague" that reader is in for a disappointing read! As another reviewer noted, each chapter seems to be written to stand alone and there is much repetition from chapter to chapter and the story seemed to loop back onto itself much too much. The reader, for example, is REPEATEDLY REPEATEDLY AND REPEATEDLY told what "Kunstkammer" means and REPEATEDLY REPEATEDLY AND REPEATEDLY told who t ...more
Laura Jordan
Nov 26, 2014 Laura Jordan rated it liked it
So I did find at least two chronological errors -- "Sunday, 13 February 1592," could not have been "the centenary of the great expulsion of the Jews from Spain by Rudolf's grandfather, Charles V" (95) as Charles V wasn't born until 1500, and "the Edict of Nantes of 1608" (220) was, in fact, in 1598 -- which means there were probably a bunch more I didn't catch. But on the whole, I did enjoy this book -- lot of fun tidbits about Tycho Brahe's metal nose made of electrum and the supposed powers of ...more
Juliet
Aug 26, 2012 Juliet rated it liked it
A good explanation of Prague's diversity, why the Holy Roman Emperor lived in Prague rather than Vienna, how Rudolf provided a welcoming environment for scientists (and "scientists") and artists. How, in fact, he helped usher in the Age of Reason. All while juggling the pressures of the Vatican, various branches of Protestants, and the increasing threats from the Ottoman Empire.
Celeste
May 15, 2012 Celeste rated it it was ok
I agree with some of the other reviews here. Fairly bland read for such an interesting time in history, with such interesting people. It started off stronger than it finished. Some chapters felt more like a listing of people involved, not a lot of depth. Oh well!
AphroPhantasmal
Apr 24, 2016 AphroPhantasmal rated it it was amazing
Overall I liked the book. I thought the writing had a nice flow to it and found learning about an eccentric slice of Holy Roman Empire history to be engaging and worthwhile in and of itself. There were, however, certain points that were driven home to the point of being repetitive. How many times do we really need to be told that Rudolf II was melancholic and may well have suffered from manic depression? How often do we need to be reminded that he was more concerned with his curiosities than his ...more
James Mclallen
Jan 04, 2014 James Mclallen rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I read it for pleasure and it delivers the goods. It's a fine jumping off point for a larger set of ideas. The bibliography is quite valuable in that respect. The negative comments here seem to expect more than the book is capable of delivering.
Umberto Tosi
Mar 07, 2015 Umberto Tosi rated it it was amazing
Marshall brings Rudolf II and his circle alive in this assiduously researched, well written history of Rudolf's complex, obsessive visionary reign that presaged modernity - little known among English speaking readers, yet formative of our own history.
Mike
Dec 30, 2013 Mike rated it really liked it
Absorbing look at how the strange, insular Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II laid the foundations for modern science.
Charlene Mason Gallego
Being in Prague, I wanted to educate myself on the history of the place, without getting buried in a tome. This was the perfect history read. It was interesting and entertaining and has given my visit to Prague much more depth.
Haleth
Apr 25, 2008 Haleth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Peter Kolesnikov
Aug 26, 2014 Peter Kolesnikov rated it it was amazing
Very well written. Moves fast and covers interesting topics. The works cited are very useful for further research. Loved it.
Shane Hall
An engaging look at one of history's more tragic and misunderstood monarchs. To Rudolf II we owe so much.
Aaron
Mar 22, 2010 Aaron rated it really liked it
Not well written, but a good portrait of the time and place.
Peter Larsson
Aug 23, 2012 Peter Larsson rated it did not like it
Full av irriterande småfel, träaktigt skriven...
James Erickson
James Erickson rated it it was amazing
Jul 26, 2016
Vigdis Hølen
Vigdis Hølen is currently reading it
Jul 25, 2016
Linda
Linda marked it as to-read
Jul 19, 2016
Meril
Meril rated it it was ok
Jul 11, 2016
Fivewincs
Fivewincs marked it as to-read
Jun 26, 2016
Carl Lew
Carl Lew marked it as to-read
Jun 15, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • نيوتن مقدمة قصيرة جداً
  • Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition
  • Giordano Bruno: Philosopher/Heretic
  • Deciphering the Cosmic Number: The Strange Friendship of Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung
  • The Pope and the Heretic: The True Story of Giordano Bruno, the Man Who Dared to Defy the Roman Inquisition
  • The Elizabethan World Picture
  • The Queen's Conjurer: The Science and Magic of Dr. John Dee, Advisor to Queen Elizabeth I
  • Budapest 1900: A Historical Portrait of a City and Its Culture
  • The Music of Pythagoras: How an Ancient Brotherhood Cracked the Code of the Universe and Lit the Path From Antiquity to Outer Space
  • The Age of Reform, 1250-1550: An Intellectual and Religious History of Late Medieval and Reformation Europe
  • Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance
  • Universe of Stone: A Biography of Chartres Cathedral
  • Kafka's Other Trial: The Letters to Felice
  • Element Encyclopedia Of Secret Signs And Symbols The Ultimate A Z Guide From Alchemy To The Zodiac
  • Sacred Geometry: Deciphering the Code
  • The Last Alchemist: Count Cagliostro, Master of Magic in the Age of Reason
  • Hitler's Art Thief: Hildebrand Gurlitt, the Nazis, and the Looting of Europe's Treasures
  • The Night Battles: Witchcraft & Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth & Seventeenth Centuries
Peter Marshall (born 23 August 1946, Bognor Regis, England) is an English philosopher, historian, biographer, travel writer and poet. He has written fifteen books which are being translated into fourteen different languages. He wrote, presented and partly filmed the 6-part HTV series 'Voyage Around Africa', first shown in 1994. He also wrote and presented the two-part series 'Celtic Gold: A Voyage ...more
More about Peter Marshall...

Share This Book