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    [Alchemy]. [Elias Ashmole, editor]. Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum. Containing Severall Poeticall Pieces of our Famous English Philosophers, who have written the Hermetique Mysteries in their owne Ancient Language. Faithfully Collected into one Volume, with Annotations thereon, by Elias Ashmole, Esq. Qui est Mercuriophilus Anglicus. The First Part [All Published]. London: Printed by J. Grismond for Nath: Brooke, at the Angel in Cornhill, 1652. First edition this collection of English alchemical poems drawn from manuscript sources, with an introduction and notes by Elias Ashmole. Quarto (6.9375 x 5.375 inches; 176 x 138 mm). [16], 280, 285-292, 289-486, [10, index and errata leaf] pages. Signatures: A-Z4 Aa-Zz4 Aaa-Sss4. Title-page printed in red and black with engraved printer's device; twelve fine alchemical engravings in the text, including six full-page (on pages 12, 44, 51, 91, 102, and 210); dragon woodcut on pages 212 and 379. Folding plate between pages 436 and 437 in facsimile. Ornamental head- and tail-pieces; decorative woodcut initials.

    Contains the "Ordinall of alchemie" by Thomas Norton, the "Compound of alchemie" by George Ripley, the Chanon's yeoman's tale by Chaucer, Sir Edward Kelley's "Worke", Doctor John Dee's Testament, "Secreta secretorum" by John Lydgate, and other works.

    Contemporary calf, rebacked. Covers bordered with double blind fillets, and two sets of double blind fillets near joints. Spine ruled in blind with four raised bands, lettered in gilt in one compartment and dated in gilt at foot. An original free endleaf is bound in. Binding rubbed, with some areas of surface loss, especially along the edges of the covers; a few scuffs and scratch marks. Title leaf with horizontal tear from the gutter, not affecting text or engraving, repaired on the verso; horizontal creasing to leaf O2 (pages [91]/92), affecting a few letters on page 92 (not affecting engraving on page [91]); two horizontal creases from the gutter into the text throughout. Over-opened between gatherings Y and Z (pages 160 and 161). Folded plate between pages 116 and 117 repaired and backed. Some browning and wear to edges. Intermittent staining and dampstaining, the dampstaining heavy in places. This copy appears to have been referred to quite often. Now protected in a clamshell case covered with black and white cloth with alchemical motif. Early ink signature on title-page: "Joan. Hopeus;" early ink signature at head on page 227: "Mr. Latham;" small paper label on rear pastedown: "Nicholas Wall / Sometime his Book."

    References: Duveen, p. 31; ESTC R205904; Ferguson I, p. 52; Krivatsy 449; Wellcome II, p. 63; Wing (2nd ed.) A3987.


    More Information: With pencil notes on front free endpaper(?): "It is curious that this book is not in the Ashmole Library." Below that: "Freemasons. / The very first initiation into Freemasonry / was Elias Ashmole, founder of Ashmolean / Museum Oxford, who was made a Mason / in 1646. / Librarian of the United Grand Lodge of England." Finally: "The following is confirmed by the Bodleian Library— / The original collation of the Theatrum Chemicum / 1652, did not include the folding plate facing / R3 nor the engraved plate facing Lll3. / These were inserted at a later date. / Both are present in this copy but the plate facing / Lll3 is represented in facsimile / on contemporary paper. Not [illegible]."

    "The engraved emblem on the lower half of this title page was made after a 15th-century illuminated manuscript (now preserved in the British Library) and depicts an eagle, snake, and toad against a solar and lunar backdrop surrounded by droplets. Underneath, in Latin, is the phrase 'Serpens et Bufo gradiens sup terrá, Aquila volans, est nostrú Magisteriú.' In alchemical symbolism, the toad and serpent may represent fixed and volatile elements, respectively, with the flying eagle representing sublimation." (Science History Institute, at https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/mp48sd52q).


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2020
    15th-16th Thursday-Friday
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