Readers from a while ago will remember our discussions of Doctor Rudd. In some of Stephen Skinner and David Rankine’s works, they have suggested that a collection of magical manuscripts ultimately derive from the library of Thomas Rudd (1584-1656), a military engineer and the reprinter of Dee’s Mathematical Preface to Euclid. My view, as summed up here, is that this identification came about in two stages:
- The eighteenth-century manuscripts of Peter Smart, who often attributed works to one “Dr. Rudd,” and
- The twentieth-century educated guesses of scholars, starting with Frances Yates, that this “Dr. Rudd” was in fact Thomas.
The latest piece of evidence brought forward is in Rankine’s Book of Treasure Spirits, reprinting material from Sloane 3824 dated to circa 1650. This includes two new pieces of evidence, to wit:
- A reference to a “Dr. R.” being the origin for material elsewhere, likely in Sloane 3825, which is part of the same collection; and
- An illustration of a lead plate for recovering stolen goods, bearing the name of John Rudd.
Is this evidence of Thomas Rudd being a magician?
One point in the favor of the new evidence, I think, is that it pushes back a possible mention of a Rudd associated with magic to the time when Thomas Rudd was alive. Nonetheless, there is no guarantee that Thomas Rudd was the “Dr. R.” that the manuscript mentions, nor that he was ever called Doctor.
We can now turn to the mention of “John Rudd” on the plate, which raises a number of questions. Is this the author of the original manuscript? Is this a client of his for whom an actual plate it was? Or is it an individual invented for the sake of this example? At this time, there is no way to tell, and the relation of John Rudd to Thomas remains uncertain.
The plate does contain one other piece of information – where John Rudd supposedly lived. My reading of the page of Sloane 3824 that someone was kind enough to send my way seems to read “Bed in Kent,” with some later scribe adding a “ford” after the “Bed.” I can find no signs of a Bed-in-Kent or Bedford-in-Kent, though the name has possibly changed. No matter how you look at it, though, Kent is quite a distance away from Higham Ferrers where Thomas Rudd lived.
Now, Thomas did visit Dover to inspect the fortifications there, so the plate could have been made then, or possibly John Rudd visited Thomas to get the plate made. Nonetheless, the more likely explanation would seem to be that John Rudd lived in Kent, and that either he made the plate or that the plate was made for him by a cunning man from Kent.
Nonetheless, much of this is still speculative, so research into this mysterious town, a man named John Rudd, or more examination of Renaissance-era magical manuscripts might turn up more.
UPDATE: In the comments below, Phil provides some other possible readings for John Rudd’s home.
I should address one other point, which is David’s assertion that this inclusion of a Rudd in this earlier manuscript is not a coincidence. I’d agree with him, though I don’t share his conclusions. It might have been that Peter Smart or another transcriber was reading Sloane 3824, came across the references to “John Rudd” and “Dr. R.,” and decided to combine them into a “Dr. Rudd.”