Practical alchemy which encompasses performing laboratory experiments cannot be separated from the mysticism of alchemy. Alchemists were expected to have a high level of piety and reverence. Science and religion were one and the same, interwoven principles in which one could not exists without the other. In order for the alchemists to succeed in their scientific work, they must succeed internally on the mystical plane.
A true & faithful relation of what passed for many yeers between Dr. John Dee (A mathematician of great fame in Q. Eliz. and King James their reignes) and some spirits: tending (had it succeeded) to a general alteration of most states and kingdomes in the world: his private conferences with Rodolphe, Emperor of Germany, Stephen, K. of Poland, and divers other princes about it ... as also the letters of sundry great men and princes (some whereof were present at some of these conferences and apparitions of spirits) to the said D. Dee: out of the original copy, written with Dr. Dees own hand: kept in the library of Sir Tho. Cotton ... with a preface confirming the reality (as to the point of spirits) of this relation. Casaubon. London: Printed by D. Maxwell, for T. Garthwait ..., 1659.
John Dee (1527–1608) was an English alchemist, mathematician, philosopher, astronomer and astrologer. He was a counselor to Queen Elizabeth I, whose friendship benefited him several times when he was accused of sorcery and murdering children. The Queen also compensated him for his losses when his house was ransacked by his enemies and in 1595 made him Warden of Christ’s College in Manchester. Dee was dedicated to communicating with the spirit world, specifically angels. He hoped spirits would be able to assist him in finding the Philosopher’s Stone. From 1582–1588 Dee had a curious and tumultuous friendship with occultist Edward Kelly (1555–1597). Kelly, a charlatan and a forger was able to impress Dee with his mystical abilities, specifically his ability to communicate with spirits. The two argued frequently but worked together as partners until their friendship ended after several violent arguments. The frontispiece engraving depicts: Mahomet, Apolloni Tyaneu, Edward Kelly – prophet to Dr. Dee, Roger Bacon, Paracelsus and Dr. Dee himself.
Magnesia catholica philosophorvm: das ist, höheste Nothwendigkeit in Alchymia, auch mügliche Vberkommung augenscheinliche Weisung, vnd gnugsame Erweisung catholischer verborgener Magnesiae; des geheimen wunderthetigen vniversal Steins naturgemess–chymischer philosophorum Rechten vnd allein wahren pri–materialischen Svbiecti. Gedruckt zu Magdeburg: Bey Johan. Bötcher, 1599.
Heinrich Khunrath (c.1560–1605) was a German physician, philosopher and influential alchemist who worked in the court of Emperor Rudolph II. In this work he states that the Philosopher’s Stone could be found through Christ and uses alchemy to interpret the bible. His philosophy is considered to be the link between John Dee and the Rosicrucian philosophies. The illustration of the owl, with glasses in between two candle sticks is seen in many alchemical publications. The motto “Was helfen Fackeln, Licht oder Briln so die leut nicht sehen wollen” roughly translates to “What good are torches, light or glasses, if people do not want to see.”
Medulla destillatoria & medica: das ist, warhafftiger, eigentlicher, gründlicher Bericht, wie man den Spiritum Vini, durch Mittel seines hinterihm verlassenen Saltzes, item die Perlen, Corallen, dessgleichen alle andere Oliteten aus den Crescentibus. Leipzig: [s.n., 159–?]
Alchemist Heinrich Khunrath’s older brother Conrad Khunrath (d.1614) was a physician and chemist in Leipzig, Germany, and authored this treatise on alchemical medicine. He is regarded as a follower of Paracelsus (1493–1541) the great alchemical physician. He believed in the transmutation of metals as well as the existence of an elixir of life. This work contains many recipes and instructions for the manufacture of medicines and a detailed chapter on wine.
Opvscvle tres–eccellent, de la vraye philosophie natvrelle des metaulx: traictant de l’augmentation – parfection d’iceulx: auec aduertissement d’euiter les folles despe[n]ces qui se font ordinairement par faulte de vraye science. En Anvers: Par Guillaume Siluius, 1568.
Denis Zacaire (1510–1556) is a pseudonym for a French alchemist whose real identity is unknown. Opvscvle tres–eccellent is an autobiographical account of Zacaire’s alchemical practices that led him to the discovery of the Philosopher's Stone. Little else is known about Zacaire beyond this work which was first published in 1567.
Edouardi Kellæi Angli tractatus duo egregii, de lapide philosophorum: una cum theatro astronomiæ terrestri, cum figuris, in gratiamfiliorum hermetis. Hamburgi: Apud Gothofredum Schultzen, 1676.
Edward Kelly (1555–1595) was a fraud and a charlatan who at a fairly young age had both his ears cut off for making forgeries. He knew enough about chemistry to use it to his advantage. Kelly was familiar with alchemist and philosopher John Dee (1527–1608) prior to meeting him in 1582. Playing upon Dee’s desire to communicate with the spirit realm and discover the Philosopher’s Stone, Kelly proclaimed himself a medium and eventually convinced Dee of his alchemical abilities to turn base metals into gold. Dee and Kelly traveled around Europe together performing mediumistic services to various royalty and nobility, including Emperor Rudolf II in Prague. Their efforts were not successful and they were sent from place to place. After their friendship ended in 1588, Dee returned to England and Kelly returned to the court of Emperor Rudolf II. The Emperor was again suspicious of Kelly and in time sentenced him to prison. Kelly died from injuries he sustained from his escape attempt from prison. This work contains two of Kelly’s alchemical tracts The Stone of the Philosopher’s and The Theatre of Terrestrial Astronomy.
Ramon Llull (c.1232–1316) was a Catalan mystic, author, philosopher and Franciscan martyr. He worked as a teacher for the royal family of King James I of Aragon. Later he worked as a missionary in the Muslim world. As an alchemist he developed a complex schema consisting of numerical principles involving the Hebrew alphabet, as each Hebrew letter has a numeric value. He inscribed concentric disks with Hebrew letters to make various combinations. These were considered to be beautiful works of art in addition to being an alchemical system to assist in achieving the Philosopher's Stone. According to legend, Llull had the ability to transmute base metals into gold.
Le testamant de Raymont Lulle, tres doite et tres célebre philosophe / mis en francois par le sieur P.F.P.E.T., a La Rochelle, 1661. Le compend e l’art de la transmutation de l’ame des metaux / par Raymond Lulle ... Le codicille vademecum, ou, La chansonnette de Raymond Lulle ... Cosmopolite, ou, Nouuelle lumiere de la phisique naturelle ... Dialogue de Mercure, de l’alchymiste, a de nature. La philosophie naturelle ... avec un traitté de l’ouvrage secret de la philosophie d'Hermes ... Le troisieme principe ... / par Sandinvyini; mis en françoise de l’Allemand en 1659.
MSS 095 Item 021
This manuscript is a collection of alchemical works or fragments, chiefly attributed to Ramon Llull and alchemist Michael Sedziwój (1566–1636). It was copied by an unknown scribe and includes figures and drawings.
Raimondo Lvllo maiorico filosofo acvtissimo, et celebre medico De’ secreti di natura, ò della quinta essentia: libri dve: Alberto Magno ... De cose minerali, & metalliche. Libri cinqve. In Vinegia: Per Gioambattista & Marchio Sessa fratelli, 1557.
Seen here is the Italian version of the Latin edition which was first published in Strasbourg in 1541, then in Venice in 1542 under title: De Secretis Naturae. The work is opened to woodcuts of two alchemical apparatus; the top image is the “Vessel of Hermes” and the bottom image is a “Circulatory Vessel.”
Testamentum Raymundi Lulli doctissimi et celeberrimi philosophi: duobus libris vniuersam artem chymicam complectens, & eiusdem Compendium anima transmutationis artis metalloru: item, Testamentum nouissimum, cum caeteris omnibus operibus quae in secunda parte libri continentur. Rothomagi: Sumpt. Dauidis Berthelin, 1663.
This compendium contains Llull’s works related to the transmutation of metals.
Raymvndi Lvlli doctissimi et celeberrimi philosophi De secretis natvræ, sev, De quinta essentia liber vnus: adiecta est eivsdem Epistola ad Regem Robertum de accurtatione lapidis philosophorum: cui adiunctus est tractatusde aquis ex scriptis Raymundi super accurtationis epistolam ab artis studioso collectus. Coloniæ: Apud Iohannem Birckmannum, 1567.
Seen here is a woodcut of an alchemical furnace. The header on the following page is addressing students of alchemy.
Raimvndi Lvllii Maioricani De alchimia opuscula quæ sequuntur.: Apertorivm. Item. Magica natvralis. Item. De secretis natvræ, seu, De quinta essentia liber unus. Iam non mutilus, ut in prioribus editionibus omnibus. Adiecimus enim tertiam distinctionem de transmutatione metallorum, quæ plusquàm dimidia pars est totius libri. Norimbergæ: Apud Iohan. Petreium, 1546.
This collection of works is “concerning the secrets of nature” as they relate to mineralogy and the transmutation of metals.