Alchemy Academy archive
April 1999

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Subject: ACADEMY: Alchemy academy
From: Adam McLean
Date: 21 Apr 1999

The alchemy academy has now been set up and will be operated
through a new e-mail address
There are initially 60 members.

This is a moderated discussion group for the scholarly and
academic study of alchemy. Due to the problems that seem to be
inherent in discussing alchemy, as many of us will have noted over
the past four years of the various discussion groups I have
organised, this group will be rigorously focussed on an academic
and scholarly approach to alchemy. I, as moderator, will create a
space in which serious discussion of alchemy can take place
without the tedious degeneration into pointless speculation which
has characterised previous incarnations of this group. Of course,
only messages relevant to the scholarly and academic study of
alchemy will be posted out.

In the next few days I will post out the welcome message outlining
the ground rules for this group.

Adam McLean

Subject: ACADEMY : Memoirs of the Asiatic Society of Bengal
From: Adam McLean
Date: 21 Apr 1999

Does anyone have access to an early 20th century journal

The Memoirs of the Asiatic Society of Bengal

This has a number of important articles on alchemy, and
some translations of key arabic alchemical works into

I would very much like to have photocopies made of
articles from this journal.

Adam McLean

Subject: ACADEMY : Article on prolongation of life and alchemy
From: Adam McLean
Date: 20th Apr 1999

I recently found an interesting article in

The Transactions of the American Philosophical Society
Volume 56, Part 9, 1966.

Gerald J. Gruman. A history of ideas about the prolongation of life.
The evolution of prolongevity hypotheses to 1800.

This has a substantial section on alchemy and amongst other matters
discusses various links between Chinese, Arabic and Western

Adam McLean

Subject: ACADEMY : Article on prolongation of life and alchemy
From: Veerle Fraeters
Date: Tue, 20 Apr 1999

A more recent article on the same theme:

A. Paravicini Bagliani, Rajeunir au Moyen Age. Roger Bacon et le
mythe de la prolongation de la vie, in Revue médicale de la
Suisse romande 106 (1986), p.9-23.

Veerle Fraeters

Subject: ACADEMY : 14th/15th century primary documents
From: Jim Luebke
Date: Tue, 20 Apr 1999

I am a university student in the midst of preparing for a thesis
project involving alchemy in the 14th and 15th centuries. I was
wondering if anyone could direct me to useful primary sources
on the subject, or even secondary literature. I am especially
interested in Western Europe, although any sufficiently influential
text from elsewhere in Europe or the Middle East (or earlier in time)
would be useful as well.

Unfortunately, my only languages are English and a depressingly
small amount of German. Also, I'm not sure I have the time to wade
through endless piles of documents.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Jim Luebke
UCI, History / Aero Eng

Subject: ACADEMY : 14th/15th century primary documents
From: Adam McLean
Date: 21 Apr 1999

Jim Luebke wrote:
>I am a university student in the midst of preparing for a thesis
>project involving alchemy in the 14th and 15th centuries. I was
>wondering if anyone could direct me to useful primary sources
>on the subject, or even secondary literature. I am especially
>interested in Western Europe, although any sufficiently influential
>text from elsewhere in Europe or the Middle East (or earlier in time)
>would be useful as well.

A good initial survey will be this article.

Ogrinc, Will H.L. Western society and alchemy from 1200 to 1500.
Journal of Medieval History 6 (1980) p103-132.

You could focus on the influence of a particularly important text on
the alchemy of this period. The obvious candidates for this would
be the 'Turba philosophorum' or the 'Tabula Smaragdina', both
of which shaped the alchemy of the 14th and 15th centuries. There
are many secondary sources dealing with either of these two texts.
The 'Turba' is long and complex but an extremly rich source of ideas.
The Emerald tablet is very short but extremely influential, though it
is not always easy to trace its distinct influence, as its ideas are so
universal in the alchemy of this time, that it can be difficult to tease
out it as a direct source for a particular author.

Adam McLean

Subject: ACADEMY : Memoirs of the Asiatic Society of Bengal
From: Guy Ogilvy
Date: Wed, 21 Apr 1999

Assuming the journal to which you refer was published in India, you
might try Dr Y P Gogia in India at
I recently purchased a book on Indian medicinal alchemy through his
bookfind. He may at least be able to point you closer to a source.

Best regards
Guy Ogilvy

Subject: ACADEMY : Memoirs of the Asiatic Society of Bengal
Date: Wed, 21 Apr 1999
From: Anna Hedigan


Have checked the reference in our Uni Library and found this

Asiatick researches: or transactions of the Society instituted in Bengal,
for inquiring into the history and antiquities, the arts, sciences, and
literature of Asia.
London: Printed by T. Maiden for Vernor, Hood & Sharpe 1806 - 1812. Ten
All are available, and if this is the right resource I am happy to make
copies for you.

Also, a reference for extracted Tibetan Studies from the Society's
publications, by Hungarian scholar Alexander Csoma de Koros - useful??



Subject: ACADEMY : Memoirs of the Asiatic Society of Bengal
From: Robben Hixson
Date: Tue, 20 Apr 1999

Dear Adam

I have a 24 volume set of the Asiatic Society which was formed January
15, 1784 and was published regularly until 1839. Its founder was Sir
William James. This set is a reprint under the title `Asiatic
Researches, History and Antiquities, the Arts, Sciences, Ethnology, and
Literature of Asia'.

Could this be what you are looking for? If it is I would be happy to
send copies of any articles.

Robben Hixson

Subject: ACADEMY : Memoirs of the Asiatic Society of Bengal
From: Adam McLean
Date: 21Apr 1999

Here are the articles in the 'Memoirs of the Asiatic Society
of Bengal' that I would like to locate. These date to the early
decades of this century. These are primarily on Islamic alchemy
and include translations of some key texts into English.

1 (2) Oct 1905, 25-42.
Stapleton, H. E. Sal-ammoniac: a study in primitive chemistry.

1 (2) Oct 1905, 47-71.
Stapleton, H. E. & Azo, R. F. Alchemical Equipment in the eleventh
century, A.D.

3 (2) 1910, 57-94.
Stapleton, H. E. & Azo, R. F. An alchemical compilation of the thirteenth
century, A.D.

8 (6) Jun 1927, 315-418.
Stapleton, H. E., Azo, R. F. & Husain, M. H. Chemistry in 'Iraq and Persia
in the tenth century A.D.

8 (7) 1929, 417-460.
Ahmad, m. & Datta, B. B. A Persian translation of the 11th century Arabic
alchemical treatise 'Ain as-San'ah wa 'Aun as-Sana'ah.

12 (1) 1933 p1-213 H. E. Stapleton and M. Hidayat Husayn. Muhummad
ibn Umail. Three treatises on alchemy.

Subject: ACADEMY : Ibn Bishrun's 'Treatise on alchemy'
From: Adam McLean
Date: 22 April 1999

It never ceases to amaze me that the core processes
of alchemy are described consistently in the texts of
various traditions over a thousand years or more. Today
I found a English translation of a treatise on alchemy by
Ibn Bishrun who lived around about 1000 A.D. [This
can be seen in 'The Muqaddimah', translated from the
Arabic by Franz Rosenthal, RKP, London, 1958.]

From Ibn Bishrun's 'Treatise on alchemy'

With God's blessing, here is the treatment:
Take the noble stone. Deposit it in the cucurbit and alembic.
Separate its four elements, which are water, air, earth, and fire.
They are substance, spirit, soul, and dyeing. When you have
separated the water from the earth and the air from the fire,
keep each one apart in its own vessel. Take the dregs - the
sediment - at the bottom of the vessel. Wash it with hot fire, until
the fire has removed its blackness, and its coarseness and
toughness have disappeared. Blanch it carefully and evaporate
the superfluities of the humidities concealed in it. It will thus
become white water, which contains no darkness, dirt, or
disharmony. Then, turn to those primary elements that are
distilled from it. Cleanse them, too, of blackness and disharmony.
Wash them repeatedly and sublimate them, until they become
fine, subtle, and pure. When you have done this, God has given
you success.

Subject: ACADEMY : Esoterica - The Journal of Esoteric Studies
From: Adam McLean
Date: 22nd Apr 1999

May I take this opportunity of introducing people to a web based
Journal called Esoterica: The Journal of Esoteric Studies. You can
find it at

There are a number of articles which may be of interest and relevance
to alchemy and I was especially interested in a tranlation of part of
Georg von Welling's 'Opus Mago-Cabalisticum et Theosophicum',
made by Arthur Versluis.

Adam McLean

Here is a part of the description of the journal's approach:

Our primary emphasis in Esoterica is the scholarly investigation
of esoteric spiritual traditions, with a special emphasis on
Western esotericism. Western esoteric traditions are of a
remarkable variety, ranging from Gnosticism and Hermeticism
to alchemy, magic, Christian mysticism, Kabbala, Rosicrucianism,
Freemasonry, and other secret or semi-secret societies.
Investigation in this field is by nature transdisciplinary, drawing upon
such diverse disciplines as history, religious studies, and literature,
without belonging solely to any of these.

Esoterica does not endorse any particular methodological approach
to the study of esoteric traditions, but does discourage reductionism
- that is, the denigration rather than the study of esoteric traditions or
figures. The scholarly study of esotericism as a field is still relatively
new, and we at Esoterica encourage a variety of approaches to this
rich field of inquiry as well as open discussion of methodological
differences, while bearing in mind our common aim of broadening
and deepening our understanding of the vast range of esoteric
works and figures.

This is an academic, peer-reviewed journal, and our goals are to
act as a means for communication among existing scholars in the
field, to be a resource for those in academia encountering this
field for the first time and considering introducing their students to it,
to encourage new scholars in this emerging discipline, and to offer
a reliable source of knowledge to all who are interested in esoteric

More than most, this field of inquiry lends itself to electronic media
because it is so replete with illustrations, music, and often enigmatic
writings. We are not simply placing written materials online, but
seeking to offer a new form of scholarship that takes advantage of
technology to present a fuller understanding of the ambience of any
given work or figure. In this way, Esoterica will be of benefit not only
to researchers in this field, but also to those who wish to draw upon
our resources in order to study and teach this field in university
and college classrooms.

Subject: ACADEMY : Ibn Bishrun's 'Treatise on alchemy'
From: Thu, 22 Apr 1999
Date: catherine fox-anderson

Dear Adam,
Where is Ibn Bishrun from? I have seen this text before.
Did you translate from the arabic?

Thank you,



This is included in the 'The Muqaddimah', translated from the
Arabic by Franz Rosenthal, RKP, London, 1958.

You will find some information on Ibn Bushrun in the article by
Professor Ead 'Alchemy in Ibn Khaldun's Muqaddimah' on
the alchemy web site

Adam McLean

Subject: ACADEMY : What did an alchemist earn?
From: Adam McLean
Date: 27th April 1999

I recently found this short article in the Ciba Symposia,
Feb 1942. It gives some information about the earnings
of Thurneysser. Though he was perhaps untypical of
the alchemists of that time, being more an entrepreneur,
this does give us a suggestion about how an entreprising
person like Thurneysser could make a living from

Adam McLean


Information concerning the incomes of alchemists is very scanty,
since they endeavored to hide such facts as much as their
secret arts. However, we do have some knowledge of the
earnings of one of the leading alchemists, Leonhard Thurneysser
zum Thurn, a native of Bile (1530-1596). As physician-in-ordinary to
Georg Wilhelm, Elector of Brandenburg, he received annually
the sum of 1352 thalers, an enormous honorarium at that time.
In addition, he also received feed for his horses, clothing,
emoluments in kind, as well as free lodging. He earned still more,
however, through his alchemistic activities, which were so
extensive that he maintained a staff of 200 people and traveled
to his consultations in a carriage drawn by four teams of horses.
He put together medicine chests for travelers containing 120
medicaments prepared chiefly in his laboratory. For each of these
medicine chests which he sold in large number, he received
386 thalers. Urine specimens that were sent to him from every
country were examined for a fee of 10-15 thalers. One of his
main occupations was the sale of tinctures, mixtures, inunctions,
etc., which he made himself. These he sold at extremely high prices.
Thus he sold a quantity of Spiritus vini, of about 17 grams, for
4 thalers; an equal amount of Spiritus vitrioli cost 6 thalers, Oleum
Cinnamoni 12, Rhubarb extract 2, and of Tinctura Antimonii
16 thalers.

He demanded fantastic prices for his secret remedies such as
amethyst tincture, ruby, sapphire, coral, or emerald tinctures. All
these remedies were sold everywhere in great numbers.
Furthermore, Thurneysser earned enormous sums through the
sale of calendars and horoscopes; thus the Count of Oettingen paid
100 gulden for one. In view of such fees it is not surprising to learn
that in 1580 his fortune amounted to 100,000 gulden, an enormous
sum at that time; in addition, he possessed 12,000 pieces of gold
and nine hundred-weights of silver plate. Ultimately, however, he
lost everything in a lawsuit and died in poverty.