Alchemy Academy archive
April 2004

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Subject: Help with Zoroastrian context for 18th C alchemy
From: Adam McLean
Date: 3 Apr 2004

I am at the moment trying to grasp some of the ideas
that helped shape the late 18th century alchemical
allegory the 'Most Holy Trinosophia', usually attributed
to the Comte de Saint-Germain though his authorship seems
very tenuous.

What one finds in this text is a fascination with Persian
and what appears to be aspects of Zoroastrianism.

The question I need answered is - what sources for
Zoroastrian ideas would someone writing this work
have had access to in the last half of the 18th century ?

Possibly it would be best to restrict this further to sources
in French.

Did Cagliostro, another contender for the authorship of
the 'Trinosophia', have access to Zoroastrian material,
however imperfectly understood ?

Adam McLean

Subject: Help with Zoroastrian context for 18th C alchemy
From: Eugene Beshenkovsky
Date: Sat, 3 Apr 2004

Dear Adam,

It was most probably Du Perron:

Anquetil-Duperron, Abraham Hyacinthe *1731-1805*
Zend-Avesta : ouvrage de Zoroastre; contenant les idées théologiques,
physiques et morales de ce législateur, les cérémonies du culte religieux
qu'il a établi, et plusieurs traits importans relatifs à l'ancienne histoire
des Perses; traduit en François sur l'original zend, avec des remarques; et
accompagné de plusieurs traités propres à éclaircir les matières qui en sont
l'objet / par Anquetil du Perron
Teil: T. 1,2: ; qui comprend le vendidad sadé ( c'est-à-dire, l'izeschné,
le vispered & le vendidad proprement dit), précédé des notices de manuscrits
Zends, Pehlvis, Persans & Indiens ... ; & des sommaires raisonnés des
articles ... & de la vie de Zoroastre
Paris : Tilliard, 1771. CXX, 432 p.

Eugene Beshenkovsky

Subject: Help with Zoroastrian context for 18th C alchemy
From: N J Mann
Date : 6 Apr 2004

Dear Adam,

Athanasius Kircher uses Zoroastrian ideas, particularly in *Oedipus
Aegyptiacus* and *Obeliscus Pamphilius*. These are often linked to
Orphism and Pythagoreanism, as well as Egyptian and Hermetic
ideas, and linked to his demonstration of an imperfect pagan
understanding of the Christian Trinity, along with his interest in the
dualism of light and dark.

(See for example Oed. Aeg. Vol. 2, Tom. 1, Cap. 3, [p. 150] which
concludes:

"Atque ex his omnibus patet, dicta symbola Zoroastris nihil aliud
esse, quàm hieroglyphicam quandam symbolorum texturam.
Verùm eùm de hisce suis locis fusius simus desserturi,
superuacaneum esse ratus sum, ijs diutiùs inhærere;
quare ad Orphei symbola procedamus."

- From all these it is clear that the symbols of Zoroaster are nothing
other than a kind of hieroglyphic web of symbols. Since we shall
go into these more fully in their own place, I have judged it redundant
to dwell on them further, so we shall go on to the symbols of Orpheus.)

I don't have a reference to hand for the fuller treatment referred to.

In Obeliscus Pamphilius and Turris Babel, Kircher identifies Zoroaster
with Noah's son Ham, and therefore very close to the pristine true
religion preserved by Noah, while Zoroaster/Ham's grandson
Nimrod and his Tower of Babel were largely responsible for the
descent into polytheism.

Since these works are in Latin, they would have been accessible
to most educated people of the period, including presumably either
the Comte or Cagliostro.

Best regards,

Neil Mann.

Subject: Franciscan and Dominican friars
From: Viktoria Persdotter
Date: Wed, 7 Apr 2004

Hello All,

Does anyone know where I can get information (preferably in English,
German or Scandinavian languages) on the practising of alchemy
among Franciscan and Dominican friars in the Middle Ages?

V. Persdotter

Subject: Franciscan and Dominican friars
From: Adam Mclean
Date: Wed, 7 Apr 2004

Try this article :

Theisen, Wilfrid.
The attraction of alchemy for monks and friars in the 13th-14th centuries.
The American Benedictine Review, 1995, 46:3, p239-253.

Adam McLean

Subject: Meaning of an alchemical symbol
From: Viktoria Persdotter
Date: Wed, 7 Apr 2004

Hello All,

Does anyone know the origin and meaning of this
attached symbol?

Viktoria Persdotter

Subject: Meaning of an alchemical symbol
From: Adam McLean
Date: Wed, 7 Apr 2004

Dear Viktoria Persdotter,

This is from Rudolf Kock's 'Book of Signs'.

He labels it Copper saffron.

He probably took it from the comprehensive list of
alchemical symbols in

'Medicinisch-Chymisch- und Alchemistisches Oraculum', Ulm, 1755.

where it appears as 'Crocus veneris'.

This is probably the oxide of copper Cuprous Oxide, Cu2O
made by calcinining copper in air. It is an insoluble red powder
and was used to impart a deep red colour to glass.

Adam McLean

Subject: Alumphume
From: Adam McLean
Date: 8 Apr 2004

I have been contacted by someone who is trying to decipher
the recipe for the 'Everburning lights of Trithemius'.

One ingredient is proving difficult to identify. It is called
"alumphume" in the manuscript.

Now 'Alum' is easy identified, but what is 'Alumphume' ?

The suffix '-fume' or '-phume' I think refers to something taken
from the chimney of a furnace, thus a substance which is
deposited in the cooler area of a furnace when some material
is calcined. I seem to recall this is how Zinc was originally
collected - from the chimneys of lead and tin smelters.

'Alum', however, when heated does not give rise to a product
that could condense in the chimney.

Does anyone know what 'alumphume' could be ?

Adam McLean

Subject: Alumphume
From: Chris Pickering
Date: Thu, 8 Apr 2004

Perhaps you could take "fume" to mean airborne particles.
I assume that alum (aluminium sulphate) decomposed by
heating forms aluminium, aluminium oxides, sulphur and
sulphur oxides. The fumes could be sulphur.
Alternatively the fumes could be sulphur oxides, which form
sulphuric acid on reaction with water.

Do any of these fit the context ?

Chris Pickering

Subject: Alumphume
Date: Fri, 09 Apr 2004
From: Pierre Stibia

Dear Adam

"Alumphume" sounds like "alum de plume". A reading mistake perhaps ?

Best regards.

Joël "Pierre Stibia"

Subject: Alumphume
From: Hereward Tilton
Date: Fri, 9 Apr 2004

Dear Adam,

The only idea I can come up with is that it is a corrupted rendition
of Alum Plumeum, which according to Schneider's Lexikon
alchemistisch-pharmazeutischer Symbole is "originally a form
of alum crystallised in very fine threads, which nevertheless
was always substituted by the 16th century with asbestos
(chiefly magnesium silicate), which is similarly crystallised in
white fibres." Resistance to fire is of course one of the chief
properties of asbestos, so perhaps one could make a 'top' (i.e.
a kind of wick?) with it which could draw up the flowing sulphur
preparation described.

Hereward

Subject: Alumphume
Date: Fri, 09 Apr 2004
From: Anke Timmermann

Dear Adam,

You will find a similar quotable definition to the one Hereward
just sent in the OED, s.v. alum.

Anke

Subject: Alumphume
From: Mike Dickman
Date: Fri, 9 Apr 2004

I'm afraid the French word for alum is generally alun and not alum.
According to Pernetty, for example (he does not have an entry for
alumphume, unfortunately), alumboti is calcined lead and
alumonodig sal armoniac, which he follows with a list of various
aluns, which are salts of various description.

Sorry for the cat among the pigeons!

m

Subject: Alumphume
From: Adam McLean
Date: Fri, 9 Apr 2004

Having taken up Hereward Tilton's suggestion for the
identification of 'alumphume' which makes complete sense
in the context of the recipe for the 'Everburning lights of Trithemius',
Sam Van Oort has now written up a description of the original
recipe in modern laboratory terms.

http://www.levity.com/alchemy/lights_of_trithemius.html
I find this really interesting and I hope that other alchemical
recipes might be amenable to such investigations.

Adam McLean

Subject: Alumphume
From: J. Plattner
Date: Fri, 9 Apr 2004

Dear Adam,

There is a similar expression in G.W. Gessmann's "Die
Geheimsymbole der Alchymie, Arzneikunde und Astrologie
des Mittelalters", plate XVI:

German: Federweiß
Latin: Alumen plumosum
French: Craie Briancon
Spanish: Soap Stone
Italian: Allumo di piuma

Figala and Priesner (Alchemie - Lexikon einer hermetischen
Wissenschaft, pag. 19) supposed that the expression "Alumen
plumeum" is referring to mineral asbestos, at least this should
has been the case since the 16th
century.

Arthur Edward Waite in his "The Hermetic and Alchemical
Writings of Paracelsus", Appendix III, A short lexicon of Alchemy,
writes at page 352:

(...) ALUMEN ENTALI is identical with Alumen de Pluma or
Alumen Scariola. It is said to be Gypsum and Asbestos.

I hope this will help for a better idenditfication.

Regards
J. Plattner

Subject: Alumphume
From: Guy Ogilvy
Date: Fri, 9 Apr 2004

As-Salaam 'Alaikum,

Rather than 'alum', it's possible that the suffix could be the
Arabic 'al', as in 'al-kali', 'al-khem', 'al-kohl' etc. Then we
would be looking for, probably, an Arabic word that sounds
something like 'umphume'. I have only just started learning
Arabic and my 50 word vocabulary does not include anything
remotely similar I fear.

Guy Ogilvy

Subject: Paracelsian Sword
From: Hereward Tilton
Date: Fri, 16 Apr 2004

Dear Academy,

I've heard it said (by Franz Hartmann amongst others) that
Paracelsus described cutting an anvil in two with a sword.

Does anyone know _where_ in Paracelsus' work this description
might be?

Hereward Tilton

Subject: ACADEMY : Albertus Magnus quote
Date: Sat, 17 Apr 2004
From: Rafal T. Prinke

Dear Academy,

There is a reference to Albertus Magnus in the Treatise on
Sulphur by Sendivogius. At the very end he says:

Albertus Magnus says that gold was once found to have developed
in the teeth of a dead man

in Waite's translation/edition - which is abdridged in this place,
as the original mentions that Albertus quotes Morienus as his
authority for explaining that phenomenon.

Does anyone know which genuine or spurious text by Albertus
contains that statement? Unfortunately, I do not have access
to the English edition of:

Albertus Magnus. Book of Minerals Translated by Dorothy
Wyckoff. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967.

so would be grateful for checking the index (if there is one)
whether it lists Morienus and thus the "gold in teeth"
phenomenon.

Best regards,

Rafal

Subject: Paracelsian Sword
Date: Sat, 17 Apr 2004
From: Rafal T. Prinke

Dear Hereward,

> I've heard it said (by Franz Hartmann amongst others) that
> Paracelsus described cutting an anvil in two with a sword.
>
> Does anyone know _where_ in Paracelsus' work this description
> might be?

It is in _Astronomia Magna_ where he says:

such virtues produce knives and swords which can hew
an anvil in two and cut through any metal as if it were wax;
this art is called _gladialis_ or _incusiva_

[from: _Paracelsus. Essential Readings_, ed. by Nicholas
Goodrick-Clarke, p. 132]

Best regards,

Rafal

Subject: Albertus Magnus quote
From: Mike Bispham
Date: Sat, 17 Apr 2004

Dear Rafal

From a complicated discussion on the origin of gold, and the
'mineral power' in human hair...

"... in my own time a human skull was found and seen to have
many bits of gold dust embedded between the teeth of the
suture in the tops of the cranium."

Book of Minerals p.232:

The translator suggests that Albertus "believing that all gold grows
in situ, seems to suppose that the material in the sutures, which
in life would have grown into hair, was here converted into gold."

From the bibliography:

Morienus: Liber de compositione achemiae quam edidit Morienus Romanus Calid
regi Aegyptiorum ..., see Magnet, Vol 1, pp. 509-19

That is:

Magnet, J.J., Bibliotheca Chemica Curiosa, Geneva 1702, 2 vols

Best wishes

Mike Bispham

Subject: Paracelsian Sword
From: Hereward Tilton
Date: Sat, 17 Apr 2004

Dear Rafal,

Thanks so much for the information. I ordered the Astronomia
Magna but unfortunately my copy doesn't include an index...
is there any indication in Goodrick-Clarke's book of which chapter
or page of the Astronomia Magna it might be?

Hereward

Subject: Albertus Magnus quote
From: Rafal T. Prinke
Date: Sat, 17 Apr 2004

Dear Mike,

> >From a complicated discussion on the origin of gold, and the
> 'mineral power' in human hair...
>
> "... in my own time a human skull was found and seen to have
> many bits of gold dust embedded between the teeth of the
> suture in the tops of the cranium."
>
> Book of Minerals p.232:

Thank you so much! Could you also tell me if Morienus is
indeed quoted by Albertus as an authority for explaining
of this?

Best regards,

Rafal

Subject: Albertus Magnus quote
From: Mike Bispham
Date: Sat, 17 Apr 2004

>Could you also tell me if Morienus is
>indeed quoted by Albertus as an authority for explaining
>of this?

Dear Rafal,

Not as far as I could see - from a quick skim. I stopped at the
first sight of 'teeth' in the context of gold. It seems likely to me
that your reference is a misreading of the paragraph I posted -
but you'd need to read the whole book carefully to be certain.
The index contains 22 instances of gold, several covering a
number of pages.

Morienus is not listed in the index - though its not a huge index
for that book, and he could have been missed.

There is a further complication; Albertus says (immediately
prior to the paragraph I quoted)

[the mineral power of hair] "...is to be explained in the science of
Animals."

But, the translator notes;

"This curious statement is not, so far as I can discover, elucidated
in any of Albert's books on animals..."

Regards,

Mike

Subject: Paracelsian Sword
From: Rafal T. Prinke
Date: Sat, 17 Apr 2004

Dear Hereward,

> is there any indication in Goodrick-Clarke's book of which chapter
> or page of the Astronomia Magna it might be?

I have not got the book but checked it on Amazon - they now have
a nice feature where you can search in the text (uncorrected OCR)
actually see scanned images of a few pages of a book. But because
of the limit, I cannot see the editorial explanations etc.
Anyway, this section ends two pages later (134) and is signed
I.12.75-101 which I guess refers to some (which?) canonical
pagination.

But I remembered there is Sudhoff's edition now available
on line in Digitale Bibliothek Braunschweig - and I have
found this quotation! It is in vol. 12, p. 98, the bottom
paragraph. Here is the direct link to the page image:

http://www.digibib.tu-bs.de/Ac-9068(1_12)/00000123.gif

Sudhoff's canonical pagination seems to be X,84 - so not
the same as in Goodrick-Clarke's book.

Best regards,

Rafal

Subject: Scotti Catalogue of manuscripts
From: Adam McLean
Date: 18 Apr 2004

Some years ago while in the Wellcome Institute library I met
by chance an Italian scholar who was going round various
libraries in Eastern Europe looking at alchemical and
magical manuscripts. I lost touch with him, but now I found a
reference in an article by Joachim Telle in Aries to a typescript.

Scotti, Andrea, Catalogo dei Manoscritti alchemici, occultistici
e magici delle Biblioteche della Boemia e della Moravia,
Mailand/Prag 1988/89 (Typescript).

Has anyone seen this ?

It could be an invaluable source of bibliographic information.

Adam McLean

Subject: Paracelsian Sword
From: Guy Ogilvy
Date: Sun, 18 Apr 2004

Dear Hereward,

I have a copy of Goodrick-Clarke's 'Paracelsus. Essential Readings'.
The reference that Rafal gave you relates to the part, volume
and page numbers in the Sudhoff-Matthiessen edition of
'Paracelsus. Saemtliche Werke' (Munich & Berlin, 1922-33).
This particular passage appears to come from Chapter 4
of Astronomia Magna.

Best wishes,

Guy

Subject: Paracelsian Sword
From: Hereward Tilton
Date: Sun, 18 Apr 2004

Dear Rafal,

Absolutely brilliant! I've been hunting this blasted quote
for a while, so you've saved me quite some trouble.

Thanks.

Hereward

Subject: Albertus Magnus quote
Date: Sun, 18 Apr 2004
From: Rafal T. Prinke

Dear Mike,

> Morienus is not listed in the index - though its not a huge index
> for that book, and he could have been missed.

Thanks a lot once again. I will have to find the original Latin
text, anyway, to compare the two. But at least I know it
is genuine Albertus rather than one of the many alchemical
texts ascribed to him.

Best regards,

Rafal