LA CHASTRE, René de.
Le Prototype ou très parfait et analogique exemplaire de l\'art chimique,...Paris, Jean-Antoine Joallin, 1620
FIRST EDITION. 8vo. pp. [viii] 136 [xiv]. A4, A-H8, I4, â8. (without last blank â8). Roman letter, some Italic. Small woodcut initials, headpieces, typographical ornaments, mss note in C19th hand tipped in on fly. Age yellowing, uniform browning from quire G to the end. A good copy in eighteenth century cats-paw sheep, covers bordered with a single blind rule, spine triple gilt ruled in compartments, central fleurons gilt, red morocco label, marbled endpapers, a.e.r. corners a little worn, small chip at tail of spine.
First edition of one of the rarest of the early French alchemical works, composed by the Berrichon Gentleman, Rene de la Chastre, containing a description of the fundamental principals of the “Great Work” of the alchemists. By the end of the sixteenth century the academies in France were beginning to take an interest in alchemy. As early as 1568, Gérard Dorn had deplored that the Paracelsians did not have the power to create academies of alchemy and empirical medicine capable of also conferring degrees and diplomas, which would have allow doctors of those schools to fight on equal terms against university doctors in the context of public and official disputes. In France, voices began to be heard from 1620, most notably that of Mersenne, so that the activities of alchemists could be channeled and controlled within such a framework. La Chastre’s work was a response to the call for texts establishing the fundamentals of Alchemical practice. Frank Grenier. ‘Le Verbe et l’alambic’. “Alchemy, chemistry and Paraclesian medicine were attracting increasing interest in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Neither the 1566 decree prohibiting the internal use of antimony nor the legal defeat of Le Baillif in 1579 had reduced the flow f books of chemical medicine from the printer’s shops. Traditional alchemical texts on transmutation remained popular, and living authors turned to this subject as interest in all things chemical spread … Rene De La Chastre, a gentlemen of Berroyen, offered the reader a ‘Prototype ou très parfait et analogique exemplaire de l’art chimique’. .. the words in the title might make the modern reader think that this work is indeed an experimental chemical treatise leading to an overall philosophy of natural science, but this is not the case. La Chastre’s text is a traditional alchemical description of nature’s perfection of gold and how the operator might duplicate its process in his laboratory”. Debus. ‘The French Paracelsians.’
The work contains, tipped in on the front fly, a very interesting short text in an early nineteenth century hand concerning the life of the author with a short discussion of the rarity and interest of the work, clearly by a knowledgeable collector of Alchemy, though unfortunately there is no indication of its author.