COCHEIM, Johann Heinrich [with] MARTERSTECKEN, Andreas
RARE GERMAN SATIRE ON JOHN DEE
Ein philosophisch und chymischer Tractat: genandt: Errantium in rectam & planam viam reductio [with] Alchymia vera Lapidis Philosophorum1) Basel, Eberhard Zetner, 1626 2) Magdeburg, Andreas Bekel for Levin Brauns, 1609.
8vo, 2 works in 1, pp. (xvi) 118 (ii); 37 (1), plus 15 leaves (pp.65-92) from Paracelsus’s Lapis vegetabilis (Strasbourg, G.A. Dolhoff, 1681). Gothic letter. I: large woodcut arms of Johann Heinrich Cocheim to )?(8, II: t-p in red and black, woodcut vignette with John Dee’s Monas Hieroglyphica, woodcut printer’s device within typographical border on A5 and last verso, woodcut arms of Magdeburg and VDMIA (‘Verbum divinum manet in aeternum’) to C4 verso. Small water stain at upper gutter of first and last few ll., I: t-p dusty, trimmed affecting imprint, uniform light browning, the odd ink splash, small paper flaws to last, II: slight yellowing, heavier to the Paracelsus extract. Good copies in early painted (?) paper boards, worn, spine stitching exposed. Numerous C17 ms. annotations, early ms. ‘constitit 4x’ to first t-p, Assay Office Library Birmingham stamp to front pastedown. In modern slip case.
Two very scarce German alchemical works—the second with an obscure satirical poem on John Dee which has escaped mainstream scholarship. The only mention we have traced come from two essays by J. Telle. ‘It deserves special mention as one of the few witnesses from the early phase of the reception of [Dee’s] “Monas Hieroglyphica” in Germany’ (‘Deutsch. Lit. Lexicon’, 134).
First published in Magdeburg in 1608 (with some differences), ‘Alchymia vera’ is an anonymous poem addressed to those laymen, who, assisted by dubious alchemists, sought to make gold and ended up ruining themselves economically. Reprising the late medieval use of rhyming verse to circulate alchemical secrets, it celebrates ‘the true alchemy of the philosopher’s stone’, decrying the false art of ‘ash blowers’ and ‘blinded gold cookers’, and the gullible ‘idiots’ who believe them. Written c.1600 after the execution of the alchemist Georg Honauer in 1597, it was edited from a ms. in the library of Andreas Martersteck (1566-1608), tutor to the Count of Schwarzburg. This 1609 edition includes a poem, absent from the first, attacking alchemists following the theories of Dee, who died in 1608-9. The t-p bears an intriguing woodcut vignette representing Dee’s mysterious Monas Hieroglyphica, of his own devising. It allegedly represented the unity of the Cosmos, obtained through a juxtaposition of astrological and alchemical symbols, explained thoroughly (but unclearly) in his 1564 work of the same title. The poem explains the meaning of Dee’s Monas and then proceeds to satirise Dee’s theories, presenting a clever potpourri of his thoughts, including his Enochian alphabet. It aligns Dee’s beliefs to the doctrines of ‘ash blowers’, berated in ‘Alchymia vera’, linking his views on alchemy to his millenaristic views on geographical explorations (with mentions of Columbus and Magellan). A subversion of the constituent graphic elements of the Monas gives the word MOLLUCCA, an archipelago which Dee, as government adviser on sea expeditions (including Drake’s) in the 1570s, had put as a reference point in his ambitious plans. Interestingly, this edition predates the earliest occurrence we have traced of the Monas title vignette. The earliest previously recorded is the fourth edition of ‘Chymische Hochzeit Christiani Rosencreutz’ (n.p., c.1616) by Johann Valentin Andreas, described alternatively as a third Rosicrucian manifesto (e.g., Frances Yates) or a misunderstood satire against Rosicrucians (e.g., Brian Vickers). A section on the meaning of the Monas and a similar (specular) line in Enochian alphabet are also present in Andreas’s work. The vignette and small Monas in the fourth edition of ‘Chymische Hochzeit’ are remarkably similar to, and as unusual as, those in our edition.
‘Tractat’, here in its second edition, was written by another obscure alchemist, Johann Heinrich Cocheim von Hollrieden. It is a serious pamphlet on the ‘stone of the wise’ (philosopher’s stone), a legendary substance which could turn ‘base’ metals into silver or gold. With extensive references to authorities like Bernard Trevisan, Paracelsus and Dionisius Zacharius, Cocheim explores the ‘prima materia’ that constitutes the stone—the ‘universal matter’ and ‘highest medicine’. He analyses in detail alchemical processes like the reduction of metals and the transmutations of mercury. The figure of the ‘Philosophus chemicus’, suspended between natural science and hermeticism, is central to Cocheim’s theories.
The annotator of this sammelband was a keen alchemist, who glossed the text with formulae and mentioned the celestial conjunctures for 1624-25.I: No copies recorded in the US.Ferguson I, 165; Wellcome I, 1520; Krivatsy 2528; VD17 23:239300B; Durling 2528.II: No copies recorded in the US.VD17 3:606692C; Ferguson I, 20 (later eds); Roth-Scholtz, Bib. Chemica, p.7. Not in Wellcome or Durling. H. Kopp, Die Alchemie in älterer und neuerer Zeit (1886); Der Frühparacelsismus. Teil 1, ed. W. Külhmann (2001); Deut. Lit. Lexicon, Reihe II, Band 2 (1991), n.134; J. Telle, ‘John Dee im Prag’, in Konzepte des Hermetismus, ed. P.A. Alt et al. (2010), 259-96.