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Richard Eden (c. 1520–1576) was an English alchemist and translator. His translations of the geographical works of other writers helped to foster enthusiasm for overseas exploration in Tudor England.[1]


Early lifeEdit

His father was a cloth merchant. He attended Christ's College, Cambridge and subsequently Queens' College, graduating BA in 1538 and MA in 1544.[2] As a protégé of Sir Thomas Smith, Eden associated with intellectuals such as John Cheke and Roger Ascham and was given a minor position in the treasury from 1544 to 1546.[1]

From the late 1540s Eden worked for Richard Whalley, who had been Sheriff of Nottinghamshire in 1595. He was salaried at £20 per annum as he sought the secret of turning base metal into gold.[1] He intended to translate Vannoccio Biringuccio's De la pirotechnia into English, and had completed the first 22 chapters in 1552, but made the mistake of lending the manuscript out and was unable to get it back. However, he did include a translation of the first three chapters of De la pirotechnia in his Decades of the new worlde of 1555, but omitted Biringuccio's attack on alchemists.[3]

Overseas explorationEdit

The new protector, the earl of Northumberland, wished to challenge Spain's global empire and open up the Far East to European trade; he encouraged publications that would help encourage such enterprise and, under his direction, in 1552 Eden became secretary to Sir William Cecil and, in 1553, published A Treatyse of the Newe India, a translation of part of Sebastian Muenster's Cosmographia.[1]

In 1555 Eden's The Decades of the Newe Worlde or West India translated the works of others including parts of Pietro Martire d'Anghiera's De orbe novo decades, Gonzalo Oviedo's Natural hystoria de las Indias.[1]

In 1561 he translated Martín Cortés de Albacar's Arte de navigar as The Arte of Navigation which became the first English manual of navigation.[1]

In 1562 he entered the service of Jean de Ferrieres, the Vidame of Chartres, as a secretary. He remained in de Ferrieres' service until 1572, and travelled extensively with him in France and Germany.[4][1]

In September 1573 de Ferrieres wrote to the Queen requesting that Eden be admitted as one of her Poor Knights of Windsor.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Hadfield 2004.
  2. ^ "Eden, Richard (EDN521R)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  3. ^ Introduction to The Pirotechnia of Vannoccio Biringuccio, translated from the Italian with an introduction and notes by Cyril Stanley Smith and Martha Teach Gnudi, New York: The American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, 1942, pp. xxi-xxii.
  4. ^ Arber 1885, p. xliv.
  5. ^ Lemon 1856, p. 467.


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