PARACELSUS, Theophrastus [with] [SENDIVOGIUS, Michael]


PARACELSUS, Theophrastus [with] [SENDIVOGIUS, Michael]


PARACELSUS, Theophrastus. De Lapide Philosophorum.

Strasbourg, Niclaus Wyriot, 1572. [with]

PARACELSUS, Theophrastus. Schreiben von tribus Principiis aller Generaten.

[Basel, Samuel Apiario,] 1574. [and]

[SENDIVOGIUS, Michael.] Von dem Rechten wahren Philosophischen Stein.

Strasbourg, Lazar Zesner, 1606.

FIRST EDITION of third. 8vo. 3 works in 1, ff. (vii) 55, lacking blanks; pp. (viii) lxvii [i.e., 68] (ii), lacking final blank e2; pp. (xvi) 73 (i). Gothic letter, occasional Roman or Italic. First and second t-ps with few words, initials or decorations heightened in red, two initials painted gold, some heightened in red and green throughout second work, printer’s device to last verso, decorated initials and ornaments. T-ps dusty, first two laid down, usual light browning, outer margin a bit short, touching couple of ms. notes, II: small repair to outer blank margin of b2, III: light water stain extending from upper edge, few ll. yellowed, lower blank margin of F4 cut off. A good copy in early C17 vellum, a little dusty, all edges speckled blue, C18 bibliographical notes and casemark to front and C19 pencil notes to rear pastedown, C16 ms. ‘Emptus 2g Bind lase(?) 2 1/2 g’ (book and binding price) and ‘Emptus 2 ½ g’ (book price) to first and second t-p, C16 and C17 ms. notes or underlining in black, red and green throughout and on rear fep.

An interesting sammelband of scarce German Paracelsiana. The Swiss Theophrastus von Hohenheim (1493/4-1541) used the pseudonym Paracelsus for most of his successful career as an alchemist, philosopher and physician. He was very influential in the development of empirical observation and the use of chemistry (embracing toxicology) in medical practice, though associated with Hermetic and occult philosophies. After his death, many spurious alchemical texts were attributed to him for marketing purposes and printed individually or in collections, as here. Hence their complex bibliographical history and his increasing reputation as a magician. ‘De lapide’ gathers three treatises connected with the philosopher’s stone, with references to the false ‘metalworkers’ or ‘cacomedici’, i.e., physicians and alchemists who err in theory and practice. ‘De lapide medicinali’ is concerned with the medical properties of the philosopher’s stone as ‘the perfect balm’, its nature (‘Electrum’), preparation and use. ‘Tinctura physicarum’ and ‘Tinctura planetarum’ include references to the Tabula Smaragdina, reputed to contain the Hermetic secrets of the prima materia, and discuss metal transmutations, the alchemy of the body and the retention of planetary influence. The second work—‘Schreiben’—comprises two treatises. ‘Liber vexationum’ discusses bodily ailments and treatments based on transmutation, including the therapeutic properties of sulphur and mercury, as well as gems. ‘Thesaurus alchemistarum’ includes, among many, a hair-raising transmutation involving corrosive aqua fortis, and very explosive saltpetre and ammonium salts. The third work is attributed to the Polish alchemist and pioneer chemist Sendivogius (Michał Sedziwój, 1566-1636). It focuses on the philosopher’s stone, its properties and making.

The early annotators of this copy were two German alchemists. The C16 one devised a system associating specific ink colours with alchemical signs for metals, better to understand his own underlining, according to a ‘legenda’ he wrote at the beginning of ‘Liber vexationum’. Though not always consistent, yellow was for gold and red for mercury. He was also interested in the medical virtues of gems. The C17 annotator copied a few obscure alchemical poems—a much-used didactic genre in early modern Germany—one by the Lutheran theologian and mystic Johann Arndt (1555-1621). He glossed passages on the philosopher’s stone and Electrum with quotations from ‘Rosarium Philosophorum’ and Arnaldus de Villa Nova, highlighted lines on spagyric chemistry and ‘vulgar’ (base) metals, and glossed Hermes Trismegistus as ‘father of the wise’. He was also interested in astrological questions, and underlined passages in ‘Tinctura Planetarum’. He drew a diagram summarising the four elements, the basic chemical elements and the resulting tincture.

I: Only Washington copy recorded in the US. Sudhoff, Bib. Paracelsica, 140; Ferguson, Bib. Paracelsica, 65f. Not in Ferguson, Bib Chemica, Durling or Duveen. II: Only Washington and Lloyd Library recorded in the US. Sudhoff, Bib. Paracelsica, 153; Ferguson, Bib. Paracelsica, 111; Wellcome I, 4790; Not in Duveen, Durling or Ferguson, Bib. Chemica. III: Only NYSL copy recorded in the US. Not in Duveen, Durling or Ferguson, Bib. Chemica.
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