Description

    "The Most Important English Alchemical Text"

    [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. The First Part [All Published]. London: Printed by J. Grismond for Nath[aniel] Brooke, at the Angel in Cornhill, 1652. First edition of this collection of English alchemical poems drawn from manuscript sources, with notes and a Prolegomena by Ashmole. Small quarto (7.375 x 5.625 inches; 190x 143 mm.). [2, title (verso blank)], [14, Prolegomena], 292, 289-486, [8, table of contents and glossary] pages. Signature collation: A-Z4 Aa-Zz4 Aaa-Sss4. This copy lacking Rrr4, possibly a second errata leaf (see Manly Hall). Title-page printed in red and black, with engraved printer's device. Twelve alchemical engravings, including full-page engravings on pages 12, 44, 51, 91, 102, and 210, most by Robert Vaughan (some signed in the plate), six other engravings in the text, including the horoscope of Edward Kelley on page 479. Most of the large engravings are within borders of birds, insects, small animals, and flowers. Large woodcut tail-piece (two-headed dragon with sun and moon) on pages 212 and 379; type-ornament head- and tail-pieces; decorative and historiated woodcut initials. This copy is lacking the folding engraved diagram to face page 117, with title: "Here followeth the figure conteyning all the secrets of the treatise both great & small," signed in the plate: "John Goddard sculpsit."
    Modern antique-style sprinkled calf with covers panelled in blind, spine decoratively tooled in compartments with four raised bands and red leather gilt lettering label. Place and date in gilt at foot. Edges stained red. Some browning and occasional foxing; first and last few leaves with additional browning at the edges from turn-ins of original binding. Ff1 (pages 209/210), with full-page engraving on verso, with short tear from upper edge, entering text on recto and just entering image on verso (no loss); a few additional minor marginal tears or paper flaws. Red ink stamp of the Bibliotheqye Nationale on title-page; additional smaller red ink stamp on pages with engravings. An excellent copy.
    Duveen describes the Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum as "the most important English alchemical text. Complete copies are extremely rare, most copies lacking one or more plates." Ferguson also calls it "very rare, and difficult to get complete."
    Duveen 31. ESTC r205904. Ferguson, Glasgow, 49. Ferguson, Young, I, 52 (note lacking from Young Collection.) Gardner, Rosicruciana, 64. Hazlitt, Handbook, 5. Bolton 952. Neu 146. Newberry 27. Krivatsy/NLM 449. Wellcome II, 63. Pritchard 80. Wing A3987.
    From the Krown & Spellman Collection.


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    Auction Dates
    November, 2015
    4th-5th Wednesday-Thursday
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