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    [Alchemy] Donato d'Eremita. Dell'elixir vitae...Libri quattro... Naples: Per Secondino Roncagliolo con licenza de superiori, 1624. First and only edition. Folio (11.8125 x 8.25 inches; 300 x 208 mm). [12], 182, [2, blank] pp. Signatures: [maltese cross]6 A-H2 I-V4 X2 Y-Z4 Aa-Bb4 Cc-Gg2 (Gg2 blank). Roman and italic letter. Text printed within double frame of rules; side notes. Errata on p. 182. Engraved title (included in foliation) within a full decorative border, and nineteen beautiful and highly detailed numbered engraved plates. Typographic head- and tail-pieces; decorative woodcut tail-pieces; decorative and historiated woodcut initials. Complete title reads: Dell' elixir vitae di frà Donato D'Eremita di Rocca d'Euandro dell' Ord. de Pred. Libri quattro. Al Serenissimo Ferdinando Secondo gran Duca di Toscana. Includes: "Tavola delle varie infirmata, secondo il linguaggio Arabica, Greco, e Latina," pp. 133-166; "Tavola de gli scrittori di medicina e di chirugia Arabi, Greco, Latini, e Italiani," pp. 166-168; and "Osservazioni intorno a' semplici della ricetta dell' elixir vitae," pp. 169-181.

    Each of the nineteen plates, bound before the text rather than at the end, as in some copies, consists of an engraving depicting alchemical processes and experiments, an engraved description below, and one of five different elaborately engraved architectural frames on the other three sides. The border on Plates 2, 5, 9, 13, and 17 contains the author's name and device in the upper right corner, giving rise to the speculation that he may have executed the illustrations himself. In this copy, Plate 16 appears to be lettered "L" rather than being numbered, and has a variant caption, "Primo Grado De Calore In Bagno," in the banner at the top of the image and in the engraved key beneath the image, which appears to have been re-engraved. The caption for Plate 16 in other copies examined is "Forno Et Istromenti D'Acqua Vita" in the banner above the image, and "Forno Et Instrumenti D'Acqua Vita" in the key below the image.

    Contemporary limp vellum with spine lettered by hand in black ink. Front free endpaper lacking. The binding is rubbed, with a few areas of discoloration and some additional staining or soiling. Over-opened in a few places. Small burn hole in [maltese cross]4, resulting in partial loss of three letters on verso; five-eighths-inch tear to outer margin of Z3 (pp. 145/146); three-quarter-inch diagonal tear in the upper margin of Y4 (pp. 139/140); paper flaw in the upper portion of Q4 (pp. 95/96), with the paper very thin and a small hole (measuring approximately five-eighths by one-quarter inch) in the upper corner; one-and-one-eighths-inch split (paper flaw) in lower margin of V2 (pp. 123/124). Small dark stain to the lower edge of p. 57; faint staining to N1 (pp. 65/66) and N4 (pp. 71/72); a few small stains to O4 (pp. 79/80); small gray stain (or repair?) in the lower gutter of S1 (pp. 105/106) and S4 (pp. 111/112). Some browning and soiling; occasional foxing and mostly marginal faint dampstaining. An excellent copy, with beautiful plates.

    "The author remains an obscure personality: he would appear to have belonged to the Dominicans and to have lived in the neighbourhood of Naples. His substantial treatise on the Elixir of Life shows that he was thoroughly conversant with alchemical processes and practices: the first three books on the Elixir are followed by the long fourth book which deals with the great number of substances used in its preparation and the necessary recipes. One of the most noteworthy features of the book is the engraved title and the series of 19 plates which show furnaces, retorts and various alchemical experiments in progress. Each plate has an engraved description beneath, and surrounding the whole is an engraved border with flowers, fruit, amoretti, etc. of which there are five different varieties. They may be the work of the author himself: one of them bears his name surrounding his device of a hermit's cell. The fact that this striking book has escaped the researches of most of the bibliographers must be due to its rarity" (Duveen).

    Duveen, p. 176; Krivatsy 3672; Wellcome 2096.

    Auction Info

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