LLULL, Ramon, AQUINAS, Thomas (and) ALVETANUS, Cornelius


LLULL, Ramon, AQUINAS, Thomas (and) ALVETANUS, Cornelius Secreta secretorum Raymundi Lullii…de Esse et Essentia Mineralium…de conficiendo divino Elixire

Cologne, apud Gosuinum Cholinum, 1592


Three parts in one, separate t-p to third, FIRST EDITIONS of first and third. 8vo, pp. (iv) 157 (i). Roman and Italic letter, woodcut floriated initials and typographical ornaments. Light age browning, rare early underlinings. A good, clean copy, in contemporary vellum, dyed green, yapp edges, missing ties, outer edges and joints a bit worn, tiny hole to lower cover. Bookplate of Edward Sandford Burgess (1855-1928) to front paste-down, “ex libris Johannis Caspari Reittuuiseij (?) Aschaffenburgensis Anno 1596. 4 octob” to t-p. Two loosely inserted articles from the New York Times (9th Feb. 1907) and The New York Tribune (8th Feb. 1912) concerning Don Fabrizio Colonna and Vittoria Colonna.


Rare fascinating collection of medical and alchemical treatises, two in first edition.

The obscure ‘Secreta secretorum’, here printed for the first time, was traditionally but wrongly attributed to the famous philosopher Ramon Llull, and the name of its real author is unknown. This treatise is a curious pharmaceutical formulary in three books. The first deals with remedies that can “slow down ageing and rejuvenate”: for example, it describes a plant “similar to majoram” that can be used to make hair regrow thick and black. The second presents seven curative herbs, and remedies against fever. The third is perhaps the most interesting, as it contains different recipes to prepare the ‘elixir vitae’ or ‘aqua vitae’, described as a substance with extraordinary healing properties which “burns like a candle”. In addition, this section teaches how to make other types of therapeutic ‘aquae’ (waters), e.g. one that can cure headache, and another one for all eye diseases.

Second in the collection is “De esse et lixiral mineralium”, first published in 1488 and attributed to the theologian Thomas Aquinas, although this authorship is now mostly rejected. In this work, the author briefly discusses the nature of minerals, stones and metals, as well as their alchemical manufacturing. For example, a passage describes how to prepare artificial topaz using the smoke obtained from a piece of aloe-wood placed over a pot in which glass was melted; another is concerned with the transmutation of copper into silver.

 Finally, ‘De conficiendo divino elixir’ is a treatise on the ‘divine elixir’ and on the philosopher’s stone dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I. Cornelius Alvetanus (also known as Cornelius de Lannoy), was a Dutch alchemist. “In 1565, Lannoy offered his services to the queen, claiming to be able to transmute base metals into gold (at a rate of 50,000 marks a year), manufacture precious stones, and distil the elixir of eternal youth. To prove his claim Lannoy was granted a room in Somerset House where he produced a short alchemical treatise in Latin, ‘De conficiendo’ (…). The treatise features rather commonplace recipes for a number of distilled waters and oils (…). On the basis of this work, Lannoy was granted enough money to establish his laboratory in Somerset House, together with a regular allowance.” (Connolly and Hopkins). Lannoy is the first alchemical philosopher known to have received such a generous royal support. Unfortunately, however, he was unsuccessful in providing the crown with the gold he promised and was imprisoned in the Tower of London for his deception.

From the library of Edward Sandford Burgess (1855-1928), American botanist, professor, and collector of rare books and manuscripts.

Ferguson II, p. 54; Durling 2876; BM STC Ger. C16, p. 533; Bibliografia de les impressions lullianes 139. Not in USTC, Brunet, Graesse, Bibliotheca Chemico-Mathematica or Duveen. A. Connolly and L. Hopkins, Goddesses and Queens: The iconography of Elizabeth I (2021). Worldcat records only two copies in the US (National Library of Medicine, University of California)
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