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    "A Comprehensive History of Alchemy"

    [Alchemy]. Leonhart Thurneisser [Thurneysser] zum Thurn. [Greek:] Megale chymia. Vel Magna Alchymia... [bound after:] [Hebrew:] Melitsah. [Greek:] Kai Hermaeneia Das ist ein Onomasticum und Interpretatio oder außführliche Erklerung... Berlin: Nikolaus Voltz, 1583. First editions. Two volumes in one. Folio. 368 x 238 millimeters. Megale: *2, )(2, ()2, A-2N2. [Lacks the six index leaves at the end, as usual.] Melitsah: ¹2, )(2, *2, A-2Z2, a2. [12],188. [12],144 pages. Both titles in red and black in fine woodcut borders, two woodcut portraits of Thurneysser, and numerous woodcuts, figures and tables in the texts. The Melitsah has the two folding woodcut plates "Tabula Quarundam Syllabarum" & Tafel etlicher Sylben" which are symbolic illustrations of the four continents but lacks, as usual, the six plates of scripture tables, which Sudoff conjectures were available separately and thus often lacking. Contemporary vellum, soiled, tears in spine at cords, and head of spine, lacks ties, edges red; previous owner's stamp "Ex Bibl. Germ. Sem." on first title page, small repaired pieces at bottom of title pages (removing previous owner's stamp?), red eagle stamp at ends and on folding plates (some obscured), light marginal dampstaining on a few leaves, plates reinforced at folds, minor worming in blank inner margin at end, good margins, some marginalia in an old hand. Very good. From the Krown & Spellman Collection.
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    Thurneisser (1530-1596) '...began life by learning the trade of his father, who was a goldsmith, but he also picked up some knowledge of botany, medicine, and, possibly, anatomy under Vesalius. In 1548 he left Basel, and went to England, France, and Germany, where he became a soldier. Afterwards he worked as a metallurgist, and again as a goldsmith... From 1560 to 1570 he was in the service of the Archduke Ferdinand, and travelled far and near, from the Orkney islands down to Africa, and to the East, everywhere learning medicine and metallurgy... From 1570 to 1584 he was physician to John Georg, Churfürst of Brandenburg, and had a laboratory and printing press in the so-called "Grey monastery" at Berlin. By various means he amassed a large fortune, and at one time employed between two and three hundred people. He collected a library, a museum, and a herbarium, kept a menagerie, and encouraged the fine and practical arts, such as the manufacture of saltpetre, alum, glass, paper, and also coloured glass... in 1579, he was accused by Joel of magic and of having a devil in a bottle which taught him to write languages he did not know...In 1584 he finally left Berlin, went to Italy, where he tried to practice medicine and alchemy; he was at Rome in 1591, and died in a monastery at Cologne 9 July, 1596, and was buried beside Albertus Magnus, according to his own request' [Ferguson].

    "The works that Thurneysser published at this time were impressive examples of the printer's art, illustrated with woodcuts and etchings, and incorporating Greek, Arabic, Syrian, Hebrew, and Chaldean typefaces... His chief alchemical works, Megaln chymia and Melisath, were both published in Berlin in 1583." [DSB]

    'The Magna Alchymia is of a more practical character than [Thurneisser's] other works and contains descriptions of preparations of sulphur, salts including sal urinae, mercury and its compounds, and metals, [as well as] a long section on astrology and horoscopes' (Partington II p. 155).

    The Magna alchymia is in fact a comprehensive history of alchemy. It is divided into 9 chapters which are dealing with its substances: sulphur, salts, ammonium chloride, aluminium, salpetre, and mercury. The seventh book refers to the planets and the sun, chapters eight and nine describe the origin of minerals and metals.

    The Melitsah is "...a kind of dictionary directed to clarifying the works and ideas of Paracelsus, whose follower Thurneisser purported to be. But although he frequently quoted from Paracelsus, Thurneysser often invented the passages cited himself; and the Melisath contains citations of some eighty tracts by Paracelsus that never existed outside Thurneysser's own mind."[DSB.]

     For linguistic problems Thurneisser turned to the orientalist Elias Hutter (1553-c.1609), and the two hebraists Valentin Schindler (d.1604) and Jakob Ebert (1549-1614).

    Megale: VD 16 T1178. Bruning 555. Duveen 579 "very rare."Ferguson II, 452 [no index]. Ferchl  536. Sudhoff 21(1587?). Wellcome I, 6302. Schmieder 286,2. BM STC, German, 862.Bolton p. 873. Melitsah:VD 16 T1170. Bruning 554. Duveen 579 (lacking all 8 tables). Ferguson II, 454  (Not in Young Coll.) Sudhoff 194. Wellcome I, 6301. BM STC, German 862. Ackermann IV, 184 (no tables). Durling/NLM 4355(lacking tables). Kopp I, 107. Graesse (Bibl. mag.) 113. Neville II,553 Occult. Alchemy. Science. Chemistry. Judaica. Language. Linguistics. Medicine. Paracelsus. Astrology. Hebrew.



    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2015
    5th Wednesday
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