ALCHEMY IN HANDSOME GUZMAN BINDING

Testamentum Raymundi…duobus libris universam artem chymicam complectens.

Cologne, apud vid. Johann Birckmann, 1573.

£2,950

8vo. ff. (iv) 231 (viii), last bank missing as in most, 2 double-page fold-outs. Roman letter, with Italic. c.10 woodcuts with diagrams of the four elements; decorated initials. Intermittent mostly light age browning, slight foxing. A good copy in C17 Spanish crimson morocco, a.e.g. Bordered with blind-tooled single fillet, gilt single rule inner border with rosettes and curvy leaves, centre panel with large fleurons to each corner and arms of Don Ramiro Núñez de Guzmán to upper and lower covers. Spine in four compartments, double-ruled dentelle border and large fleuron to three, gilt author and title, raised bands, a few minor cracks and tiny holes at head and foot. Early autograph ‘Guil. Godolphin’ [William Godolphin], the odd pencil marginalia.

The handsome armorial binding was made for the Spanish aristocrat Ramiro Núñez de Guzmán (1600-88), viceroy of Naples under King Philip IV of Spain and, through his first wife, son-in-law of Gaspar de Guzmán, Count of Olivares. Whilst Guzmán’s arms are impaled with those of his second wife, Anna Carafa, duchess of Stigliano, the acronym around the shield replicates that of Olivares, to Ramiro succeeded after his death in 1645. The binding was made after this date in Spain (Oldham, ‘Shrewsbury School Library Bindings’, 120-21), where Ramiro had returned from Naples in 1644. William Godolphin (1635-96) was English ambassador in Spain in 1671-78, where he purchased part of Guzman’s library.

A very attractive copy of an enormously influential medieval alchemical text attributed to Ramón Llull. Born in the Kingdom of Majorca, Llull (or Raymond Lully or Raimundus Lullus, c.1232-c.1315) was a Franciscan tertiary, philosopher, and author of over 200 works on theology, philosophy, astronomy and computation in Catalan, Latin and Arabic. Although his theories were firmly rooted in the principles of logic and reason and quite critical of alchemy, over 100 esoteric works, known as ‘Pseudo-Llull’, circulated under his name during the late medieval and early modern period. The most important, the ‘Testamentum’, was first recorded in 1332 and probably written in Catalan. First printed in 1566, Birckmann’s edition was a collation of several C15 mss seeking to improve on the incomplete Frankfurt editio princeps. The first part, ‘Theorica’, introduces the Aristotelian principles of the corruption and transmutations of bodies according to the four constitutive elements, and how these may affect the relationship between microcosm and macrocosm. The ‘Practica’ illustrates with schemas the proper alchemical ‘modus operandi’, its procedures and processes, and is followed by a ‘Compendium’ on the transmutation and composition of metals. Fundamental, as in many alchemical texts, is the manipulation of the Philosopher’s Stone to create elixirs, precious metals and gems, to which is added the theorisation of a powerful ‘substantia gummosa’ derived from a quintessence of sulphur and ‘argentum vivum’ (mercury). Whilst throughout the ‘Testamentum’ alchemy is presented as ‘scientia’, the alchemist is very often called ‘Artista’—the knowledgeable practitioner of an occult, quasi divine art.

USTC 696254; Palau y Dulcet (2 ed.) 143896; Rogent & Duràn 119; Graesse IV, 296. Not in BM STC Ger. A. Miola, ‘Una ignota biblioteca di un Vicerè di Napoli, rintracciata nei suoi sparsi avanzi’, Bollettino del bibliofilo 1 (1918-19), pp. 81-93; M. Pereira, ‘Lullian Alchemy: Aspects and Problems of the Corpus of Alchemical Works Attributed to Ramon Llull (XIV-XVII Centuries)’,Catalan Review 4 (1990), pp. 41-54.

L2824

Print This Item Print This Item