Alchemy Academy archive
August 2003

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Subject: ACADEMY : Le Cosmopolite
Date: 15 Aug 2003
From: Claude Gagnon

Dear Rafal,

Unfortunatily, the edition of 1976 (Bibliotheca Hermetica)
does not include the letters.

Which author of that period was the first to be "cosmopolitan"?
In my opinion, it would be Guillaume Postel. But we could also apply
the qualification to Bessarion, Cusanus, Zorzi, etc.

Claude Gagnon


Subject: ACADEMY : 12th c. visionary manuscript / Dante / Opus Nigredo
From: Eve Sinaiko
Date: 15 Aug 2003


I have been reading about a text called "The Visions of Tondal,"
written in Regensburg in 1149 by one Frater Marcus, an Irish
monk resident at the convent of St Paul there. This is a precursor
to Dante, in which a noble knight, Tondal, falls sick at dinner and
his soul is taken on a tour of Hell and Paradise by an angel who
warns him to alter his way of life. The ms. was very popular,
was translated many times, and also had many early printed editions
in the 15th and 16th centuries. The most famous copy is a gorgeous
handwritten 1470 French ms. illuminated in Flanders by Simon
Marmion for Margaret of York (wife of Charles the Bold). It is now
owned by the Getty Museum in L.A., where it is currently on display.

I thought one of the descriptions in particular was very striking from an
alchemical perspective. After several other stops in Hell, the angel shows
Tondal's soul "the Valley of Fires, for Those Who Commit Evil upon Evil"
(fol. 27). This is deep in Hell. I transcribe the English translation of the
French text:

"The angel and the soul of Knight Tondal then came to a valley
that is called the Valley of Fires. There they found several forges
and heard much lamentation. As they were approaching, the devils
came to meet them, holding in their hands burning tongs of iron.
Without a word to the angel, they grabbed the soul and threw him
into a blazing furnace and pumped the bellows of the furnace, in
the same way as one melts iron for casting. There, the desolate souls
were cooked and recooked to the point where they were reduced
to nothing. Then the devils would take them with their iron forks and
place them on burning anvils. There they would forge them together
with big hammers, so that twenty or thirty or fifty or a hundred of
them would become one mass. Tormenting them, the devils would
say, one to the other, 'Are they forged enough?' From one devil to the
other, with their burning tongs they would throw and catch the souls.

When the soul of the knight was in that torment, the angel came
forward to meet him as usual, dragged him out of the fire, and asked
him how he was. 'Were the delights and the pleasures of the flesh
ever so sweet that, for their sake, you would have endoured such
torments?' The soul could not utter a word to this because he had
no strength left to speak. The angel continued, 'All the men and
women whom you have seen up til now amidst these torments
await there the forgiveness of Our Lord. But those who are at the
bottom of Hell are judged indeed from the day and hour of their death.' "

(Translated by Madeleine McDermott and Roger S. Wieck in
Thomas Kren and Roger S. Wieck, "The Visions of Tondal from the
Library of Margaret of York, Malibu, Calif.: J. Paul Getty Museum,
1990, p. 50)

While "Tondal" is not directly an alchemical text (so far as I know), I am
struck by the images of the smelting, forging, and casting here, and the
allegorical use of rather precise metallurgy images (the tools: bellows,
anvil, tongs, iron forks, furnace, hammers). Most striking is the phrase
"the desolate souls were cooked and recooked to the point where they
were reduced to nothing," whose associations with the Opus Nigredo
seem quite clear.

There are several medieval visionary texts from the time of the Crusades
that describe visits to Hell and Paradise and that seem to have influenced
Dante. Dante places an alchemist, Capocchio of Siena, deep in the 10th
bolgia of the 8th circle of in Hell (cantos XXIX and XXX), together with
forgers of debased coinage and other metallurgical counterfeiters.
Capocchio's punishment is scrofula or leprosy, a foul degeneration of the
body. He says: "I am the shade of Capocchio, who falsified metals by
alchemy; and if I see you [Dante] right, you musr recall how well I aped
nature [by my art]."

Of course, Dante's use of alchemical imagery is very complicated, but I
don't recall anything in the Divine Comedy that makes such a strong
connection between the "furnace" of hellfire and the "forging" of souls. I
don't know if the Italian verb "forgiare" has the same dual meaning as in
English of "to form" and "to falsify" (which presumably comes from the
forgers of false coin).

In any case, I would be grateful for references to further source material
on medieval connections of Hell with the alchemical forge. I would
especially appreciate good commentaries on alchemy in Dante.

My regards to the Academy.

Eve


Subject: ACADEMY : Le Cosmopolite
Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2003
From: Rafal T. Prinke

Dear Claude,

> Unfortunatily, the edition of 1976 (Bibliotheca Hermetica)
> does not include the letters.

Thanks a lot for clarifying this uncertainty.

> Which author of that period was the first to be "cosmopolitan"?
> In my opinion, it would be Guillaume Postel. But we could also apply
> the qualification to Bessarion, Cusanus, Zorzi, etc.

Yes. I also think that Postel was the first - especially
as he actually used the term as an addition to his name.

Best regards,

Rafal


Subject: ACADEMY : Tobias Schutz, Harmonia Macrocosmi ...
Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2003
From: David Borgmeyer

Dear Academy,

I am trying to discern the quotation above a portrait of
Paracelsus in an image taken from Tobias Schutz's
'Harmonia macrocosmi cum microcosmi' (1654) that flanks
an image of the Macrocosmas as a woman (Hermes Trismegistus
is on the other side). It is closely elated to Fludd's much better
known image on the same topic. The smallish reproduction
I have, from Allen Debus' Man and Nature in the Renaissance, and
my quite poor Latin do not allow me to transcribe what Paracelsus
says.

Could I trouble someone to help me out if they have this image
to hand?

With much gratitude,

David Borgmeyer


Subject: ACADEMY : 12th c. visionary manuscript / Dante / Opus Nigredo
From: Stanislas Klossowski de Rola
Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2003

Dear Eve,

There is nothing whatsoever in the quoted text that has the slightest
connection with alchemy. Whereas all mythological allegories can be
interpreted thus, the passage you translate - while fascinating - cannot, by
any stretch of the imagination, relate to the secret art. It is not because
Hellish fires, bellows, hammers and anvils are invoked that one can jump to
such conclusions. As for the nigredo stage that would not be an apt
symbolism rather darkness, death, decay the dark or setting sun
indicate such things. As for Dante I cannot immediately come up with the
references but there are studies along those lines. However alchemy so
called then was often the art of the forger, the desperate swindling puffer
and not the royal art of the adept.

Thank you for mentioning this otherwise extremely interesting manuscript
that I shall not fail to examine when I am back in California.

With very best wishes,

Stanislas Klossowski de Rola


Subject: ACADEMY : 12th c. visionary manuscript / Dante / Opus Nigredo
From: Adam McLean
Date: 19 August 2003

There is an article on the chemical and technological
terms used by Dante.

Lippmann, Edmund O. von.
Chemisches und technologisches bei Dante.
Archivo di Storio della Scienza (later Archeion) 3, 1922. p45-56.

Adam McLean


Subject: ACADEMY : Le Cosmopolite
From: Louis Bourbonnais
Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2003

Dear Rafal,

The Letters of Sendivogius seems to be published in the Sebastiani
collection of Achè-Edidit.

It is a very little book (80 pages) which is based on the translation by
Antoine du Val (1671?).
You can have a look
http://www.contrepoints.com/arche/alchimie/pages/ar-sendivoge.htm

I do not know if it is the complete edition of the one found bound with the
1691 edition of "Le Cosmopolite ou Nouvelle lumière chymique".

Best regards,
Louis Bourbonnais


Subject: ACADEMY : Le Cosmopolite
Date: Tue, 19 Aug 2003
From: Rafal T. Prinke

Dear Louis,

> The Letters of Sendivogius seems to be published in the Sebastiani
> collection of Achè-Edidit.
>
> It is a very little book (80 pages) which is based on the translation by
> Antoine du Val (1671?).

Thank you for the information. Actually, I have that book
but it is a different "letter", often confused with the 55 letters.

> I do not know if it is the complete edition of the one found bound with the
> 1691 edition of "Le Cosmopolite ou Nouvelle lumière chymique".

No, it is different. The 55 letters first published in the 1691
edition in French were later included in Manget's _Bibliotheca
chemica curiosa_ in Latin translation, and from that Latin
version translated into German. I believe they were not

republished in French in any of the later editions of
_Le Cosmopolite_.

Best regards,

Rafal


Subject: ACADEMY : 12th c. visionary manuscript / Dante / Opus Nigredo
From: Eve Sinaiko
Date: Tue, 19 Aug 2003

Dear Stanislas,

I did not intend to suggest that the Tondal ms. is itself an alchemical
text. Apologies for the misrepresentation!

What I do think is possible is that the image of Hell in the text
was influenced by alchemical texts--or perhaps it would be more
accurate to say that the author may have been influenced by a
misreading of alchemical material.

There are quite a few medieval visionary and cautionary texts
in which a narrator or pilgrim or other such character visits Hell
and Paradise (and sometimes a kind of proto-Purgatory) and
returns to recount what he has seen. The model for them is
classical (particularly the Aeneid) and they in turn influenced
authors such as Dante. I am intrigued by these tales of a soul's
journey through the terrors of damnation to enlightenment, and in
particular by the conception of Hell as a place of darkness and
decay, but also of transformation.

Perhaps I would do better to ask if some of the alchemical texts
of the 15th and 16th centuries might be read (in a symbolic key) as
having been influenced by the earlier visionary tales such as Tondal.
But I admit that this is no more than mere speculation.

Adam, I am delighted to know of the 1922 article on Dante and
shall track it down. Thank you.

Regards,

Eve


Subject: ACADEMY : Manget's 'Bibliotheca chemica curiosa'
From: Beat Krummenacher
Date: Tue, 19 Aug 2003

Hi Rafael,

You mentioned Manget's "Bibliotheca chemica curiosa". Though
there is a reprint by the "Olms-Verlag" - if I remember correctly -
I want to ask, if somebody knows whether there is somewhere
an electronic version of this book. I would appreciate any hint.

Regards

Beat


Subject: ACADEMY : 12th c. visionary manuscript / Dante / Opus Nigredo
From: Eve Sinaiko
Date: Tue, 19 Aug 2003

Dear Stanislas,

I did not intend to suggest that the Tondal ms. is itself an alchemical
text. Apologies for the misrepresentation!


What I do think is possible is that the image of Hell in the text
was influenced by alchemical texts--or perhaps it would be more
accurate to say that the author may have been influenced by a
misreading of alchemical material.

There are quite a few medieval visionary and cautionary texts
in which a narrator or pilgrim or other such character visits Hell
and Paradise (and sometimes a kind of proto-Purgatory) and
returns to recount what he has seen. The model for them is
classical (particularly the Aeneid) and they in turn influenced
authors such as Dante. I am intrigued by these tales of a soul's
journey through the terrors of damnation to enlightenment, and in
particular by the conception of Hell as a place of darkness and
decay, but also of transformation.

Perhaps I would do better to ask if some of the alchemical texts
of the 15th and 16th centuries might be read (in a symbolic key) as
having been influenced by the earlier visionary tales such as Tondal.
But I admit that this is no more than mere speculation.

Adam, I am delighted to know of the 1922 article on Dante and
shall track it down. Thank you.

Regards,

Eve


Subject: ACADEMY : Tobias Schutz, Harmonia Macrocosmi ...
Date: Wed 20 Aug 2003
From: Adam McLean

Dear David Borgmeyer,

>I am trying to discern the quotation above a portrait of
>Paracelsus in an image taken from Tobias Schutz's
>'Harmonia macrocosmi cum microcosmi' (1654)

I attach an image of the engraving.


That above Hermes says

Quod est superius, est sicut id quod est inferius

"That which is above is as that which is below"

and that above Paracelsus is

Separate et ad maturitatem perducite

"Separate and bring to ripeness"

With best wishes,

Adam McLean


Subject: ACADEMY : Manget's 'Bibliotheca chemica curiosa'
Date: Mon, 25 Aug 2003
From: Rafal T. Prinke

Dear Beat,

> You mentioned Manget's "Bibliotheca chemica curiosa". Though
> there is a reprint by the "Olms-Verlag" - if I remember correctly -
> I want to ask, if somebody knows whether there is somewhere
> an electronic version of this book. I would appreciate any hint.

Yes, the reprint was by Olms and is no longer available but
they say it will be republished this year.


The on-line edition is available at Dioscorides electronic
library in Spain (José Rodríguez Guerrero brought it to
our attention not so long ago - it has quite a number of
alchemical books):

http://alfama.sim.ucm.es/dioscorides/consulta_libro.asp?ref=X532981935&idioma=0

The links goes to the beginning of vol. 2 but you can
navigate to any page once there. On entering for the first
time you are required to register (just a formality).

Unfortunately, the BCC is almost entirely illegible because
the library uses a fixed image size so books in large
original format have very low resolution.

They do have high resolution scans which can be ordered
at 0,20 Euro per page if you order the whole book or
at 0,70 Euro if only selected pages.


http://www.ucm.es/BUCM/imagenes-dig_eng.htm

I have seen a sample of those high resolution pages
and can confirm they are of very good quality.

Best regards,

Rafal


Subject: ACADEMY : Manget's 'Bibliotheca chemica curiosa'
From: Beat Krummenacher
Date: Mon, 25 Aug 2003

Dear Rafal,

Thanks a lot for the info. I shall look for the reprint by the "Olms-Verlag"
in a library nearby. Because it is out of print for the moment I could make
a personal copy. Otherwise I shall contact the electronic library in Spain
for getting high resolution scans.

Regards

Beat