Adam's Alchemy Weblog 2017|
I have decided to start a weblog of my activities related to my work with alchemy and the alchemy website. The Alchemy Website now at www.alchemywebsite.com was established in 1996 and is the longest surviving and most authoritative site devoted to alchemy on the internet.
The weblog provides a continual update on my work with alchemy as well as providing tidbits of news and information relevant to alchemy.
Art weblog Tarot weblog Archived weblog 2006-2013
14th July 2017
I have now purchased a high quality giclée printer to replace my old one which had totally died during my move to Kilbirnie. I am going to use this for two purposes. Firstly, I will revive my selling of large format A2 and A3 prints of my coloured emblems and secondly, I will use this in conjunction with my Weekend Gallery to produce prints of paintings for artists. With this in mind I am locating the printer in the gallery. I have begun setting up a website to sell my esoteric prints. It will take a few days to set up the printer and finish the website, but I hope to have this service running by the 21st of July. I will aim to keep prices low and very affordable, as I want people to be able to acquire these wonderful images and show them in their home or office. The imagery of alchemy and esotericism is such a delight.
20th June 2017
Today I am setting up an exhibition of my own oil paintings in the Weekend Gallery. This is primarily for me to video the paintings in situ under good lighting conditions, however, I will open the exhibition for public view this coming weekend, the 24th and 25th June. This exhibition provides a summary of my paintngs, from some early alchemical ones through to my exact facsimilies of some well known paintings.
When I have put the video up on YouTube I will post a link here.
12th June 2017
At the weekend while working on the computer in my gallery, which I do when there is a lull in the visitors, by serendipity I chanced on some coloured images of the Testamentum manuscript, when previously I only had some rather poor quality monotone ones. As if that wasn't enough, by sheer luck I then found images for the Vienna manuscript of the Lambspring. I was also able to sort out the sequence of the manuscript versions of the Lambspring. So a rather good weekend's work. Researching alchemical manuscripts is often frustrating as one finds conflicting information, poor descriptions as well as no images! So Saturday and Sunday were a pleasant exception. I have updated these pages and you can see them through
10th June 2017
There is one project I would really like to complete before I have to give up publishing alchemical works. I have tried for many years to find some way of publishing a translation of the Buch der heiligen Dreifaltigkeit, the 'Book of the Holy Trinity'. This early work has a series of emblematic images that were very influential on the emergence of alchemical imagery. Unfortunately, the text is in early 15th century German and consequently would need a German translator with some experience of the German language of this period. I failed to find someone willing to undertake this. I then decided to that as a second option I could use an 18th century translation of the work into French. The language is sufficiently modern that a competent French translator could easily tackle it. Unfortunately, most translators would not want to work from a translation but rather go back to the original source, so that option failed too.
Time does rush on, and with no appearance of a translation of the work, I wonder if I could inspire someone to work from the 18th Century Franch translation. I feel the Buch der heiligen Dreifaltigkeit is so important that I want to publish a translation, however imperfect.
I have a microfilm of the French translation and can print it out so that someone can work on it.
7th June 2017
This week I have begun creating a section on the imagery in alchemical manuscripts. Recently I have become frustrated and deeply concerned by the misrepresentation of alchemical imagery on various websites, particularly the image-sharing sites such as Pinterest, Tumblr, et al. People, with no understanding of alchemy or indeed of emblematic imagery, post up a confused mass of pictures on their pages supposedly devoted to alchemy, completely decontextualising them, with no indication of their dating or sources, even adding in imagery that has absoutely no connection to alchemy. Other people then raid these pages and further confound matters, so that it is now becoming almost impossible for people to have any idea of what is or what is not an alchemical image.
My website will now have a section on alchemical manuscripts in which I will present the material in a well-researched manner, so that people can use this as a resource for exploring alchemical manuscript material in a coherent way, being able to see the various versions, and the historical sequence of images. Unfortunately, so much imagery in manuscripts is still unavailable to me. Libraries seem willing to share pdf's of printed books, but stubbornly hold on to imagery in their manuscript holdings, perhaps believing it to be a source of funds. Sadly this means that scholars such as myself, have great difficulties in presenting this material. The page for entering this section is
Of course, the image collecting buffoons, will merely mine these pages for even more images to add to their bloated, nonsensical collections of muddled up material, but perhaps a few people, with a more scholarly soul will turn to my pages for a coherent, well-researched analysis of this material. The Internet today is a nightmare. No one cares any more about contextualising or historical sequence. People's brains now accept a fussy melange of imagery, and have no way of analysing or making sense of it. Without a coherent historical sequence, this becomes a muddle of nonsense. I do not expect to reverse this madness, but I will try and provide a little island of sense in the babble and ocean of confused imagery that we find now on the Internet.
It is hard and exacting work setting up these pages and progress will be slow. I have so many other projects on which to work, but I will try and give some time to it over the coming months. Perhaps by the end of the year we will have the foundation for a significant scholarly resource on the imagery in alchemical manuscripts.
2nd June 2017
I have now created a section where people can view the my coloured engravings and woodcuts of witches. This has little to do with alchemy, but is part of my work on the iconography of European magical and spiritual traditions. The first 20 images are now available. More will be added as I find the time to create the web pages.
2nd June 2017
One aspect of alchemy that I have neglected to promote over the years are the many alchemical allegories. I have managed to produce detailed commentaries on a few of these, the Chymical Wedding, the Trinosophia, Metamorphosis of the Planets among others, but I have not yet found a format to work with these amazing items. I did think of creating a study course on alchemical allegories, but a problem immediately arises from the fact that many of these are lengthy texts in themselves and once a layer of commentary is added this becomes a substantial amount of reading. Some allegories require a whole study course to themselves, and as the response to my Metamorphosis of the Planets course was rather poor, this means I could work for weeks or months to create a course that only a handful of people will read. I am still puzzling over what to do.
1st June 2017
This morning I managed to resolve the problem of the navigation buttons internal to each section of the site. This had made finding items rather difficult for users. It meant updating some 1700 html files. I may have missed some but will try and catch up on these over the next few weeks. The initial problem was caused by the new rules for HTML5 which most browsers have now adopted. The changes I have made will be backwardly compatible with earlier versions of HTML. Keeping a website going can be a hard task.
I have decided to abandon producing prints of my coloured emblems. There has been little response and it is pointless my considering purchasing a new printer in the present circumstances.
In checking through the Bosch part of the website which I set up in 2010-13, I was rather astounded to see that of the eight links to other websites, only three were still active. My website seems to outlive many others.
29th May 2017
A year or so ago I set up a discussion group on alchemical symbolism. It was short lived. I am now converting my postings into a section analysing various examples of alchemical symbolism. There are eleven entries with the rest to follow in a few days. Doubtless, people will mine out the graphics without bothering even to read my text and post them onto image sharing sites without any context, but that seems to be the mindset of people nowadays. They want pretty pictures, but don't want to stress their minds trying to understand them.
19th May 2017
In the last few days I noticed that the top menubar on the website was not working. Clicking on items did not open the relevant page. I initially thought it was some problem with my browser and that it would sort itself out when I rebooted the computer, but when I tried to access this on one of my other computers and had the same problem I realised I would need to urgently diagnose and fix this.
After some consideration I came to the conclusion that the old (and simple) code I had implemented for the top menus had been superseded by some new unnecessarily complex implementation of HTML which had propagated to the browsers, perhaps something to do with HTML5 or whatever. The only was to resolve this was to create a new menu system. It took me about four hours to rework the code in the 2554 html files in the primary section of the website - the others, the database files, will have to wait till I have a free afternoon. It was a bit of a nightmare as these 2554 pages were written and rewritten over many years and so doing an automatic search and replace of the menu code was not straightforward, there being quite a few variations to take into account. But is is now done and I expect I will have to tweak the various pages that are not formatting correctly. Unfortunately the different sections also have internal menus in the old code and I will have to gradually replace these when time permits. All the pages are still there it is just that navigation to pages is not as simple as it was before. Hopefully, the CSS3 (Cascading Style Sheets version 3) menus will have a long life. I don't fancy having to keep doing this every time some HTML committee decides to make programmers work a bit harder.
18th May 2017
In the last few days I have finalised two projects - the video presentation of my exhibition on the Witch figure at my Weekend Gallery and my book of the images from that exhibition. The video is avaliable now on Youtube and the book on amazon.com Click below to view
Now I move on to other projects that have built up in my in-tray. A great deal to do! and what to choose next.
12th May 2017
A few days ago a colleague of mine, who is especially interested in Fantastic art, posted an image of this painting by Joseph Heintz the Younger (1600-1678) entitled The Alchemist (1650).
He clearly draws from some of the pictorical devices of Bosch and his followers. I was especially drawn to the flying sphere above the skull, somewhat like the snitch in Harry Potter's Quiddich game. I have seen a similar image in a 16th century engraving, possibly Italian, but my memory has let me down and I cannot immediately find this. Here the sphere appears to emanate three transparent glass globes. I wish I could get a higher quality scan of this painting as there are details I cannot make out due to the relatively low resolution. I managed to find another work by this artist, an allegory of the Apocalypse, using similar emblematic imagery.
This painting clearly quotes from a number of Baroque paintings.
5th May 2017
A few days ago I received a rather strange request from a person who wanted to buy one of my study courses anonymously, without revealing his name and address. As, in order to counter pirating, I incorporate the name and address of the purchaser into the pdf files I send, I had to tell him that for security reasons I could not accede to his request.
His rather annoyed reply was indicative of his attitude:
"I am instead looking at places on the internet where I may download the same illegally. In fact I have downloaded your painted emblems from a torrent...Anyway, I'll consume your work without paying you for it"It is this sort of attitude that crippled my work. I began producing my study courses back in 1999 and by 2004 had created a suite of seven courses, however, these were being pirated and the sales slumped to single figures each month. This meant I had to abandon creating any more of these courses. Each course took about three to six months of work and to have this stolen from me made it impossible to continue. One attrocious individual even went so far as to erase my name from a course and market it as his own.
Back in 2005 I had pencilled in a number of study courses for me to work on, especially a second one on alchemical symbolism, and some others focused on particular aspects of alchemy. I had to abandon this because of pirating. It is precisely the attitude of such people as the one above that has effectively halted my work in some areas. I could have created a much more substantial suite of such courses had I not had the little income I received from sales eroded and stolen from me. I do not know how people with such selfish attitudes can remain oblivious to the effect they have on creative people, but I know how much my own work was damaged by piracy and the projects I was forced to abandon. I could have achieved much more if it were not for pirates and those individuals who, for the sake of a few pounds, euros or dollars preferred to go to pirate sites and steal my work. The pirates are merely parasitic, they do not actually create any material, but by going to their sites people starve creative individuals of the income they need to do their work. I know this only too well.
4th May 2017
Now that my exhibition in my Weekend Gallery on The Witch Figure is set up, I have started work on the art book that is associated with it. This larger format book in full high-quality colour included all my coloured woodcut and engravings in the exhibition, with a few others which it proved impossible to fit in. The images are from the late 15th through to the 18th century. As with my other books of imagery, this will be printed by the fine quality art publisher Blurb, and will be sold on Amazon. It should be ready towards the end of May. I may buy in a small stock and sell these direct to customers. It will be issued in hardback and paperback editions.
26th April 2017
Back in 2002 when I was creating my study course on the Ripley Scroll, I made a half size version based primarily on the Fitzwilliam version which I redrew and coloured using indications from the Yale copy. I exhibited this at my alchemy exhibition in 2007. I had a few prints made and sold some of these after the exhibition. During my moving address a year and a half ago I found one still in the packaging tube. I remember one customer pulled out of his promise to purchase. I had entirely forgotten about this, so I still have this for sale, should anyone wish to buy it.
26th April 2017
As our first exhibition is closing this coming weekend, so I made a quick walkthrough video. Later I will make an extended video with a commentary for our archives.
16th March 2017
My art gallery is on schedule to open in April.
The first exhibition will be entitled 'Astronomy in pictures'.
Humanity has, from the earliest times, looked at the stars and planets and puzzled over their movements across the heavens. In European culture from the 15th century onwards, artists have tried to illustrate the mysteries of astronomy, astrology and cosmology, using woodcuts and engravings in many hundreds of books. Adam McLean has coloured a selection of over one hundred of these emblems to provide a survey of how our ancestors depicted astronomers, their astronomical instruments, the zodiac and astrology as well as the different theories of how the universe came into being. By researching this material and sensitively colouring these images, McLean has breathed new life into these neglected woodcuts and engravings.
13th March 2017
A great deal has happened with my work over the last few months, but this has not found its way onto this weblog. Perhaps the main development is that I have purchased a shop only 200 yards from my home which I am now converting into an art gallery. This will enable me to give some exposure to alchemical and related material, and to some extent embed it within the world of fine art. Sadly, the wonderful emblematic imagery that we find in the alchemical tradition is either totally neglected by the world of fine art, or entirely unknown to them.
I will only be able to open my gallery at the weekends as I have so much to do in my workshop during the week, so I have named it the Weekend Gallery. You can view it on
I hope to open on the 1st of April with an exhibition on astronomy, astrology and cosmology in the emblematic tradition.
1st September 2016
I have just noticed that it has been two months since I last posted a message on this weblog. I have been rather busy constructing a new website on surrealist painting. I expect some of my alchemical audience will raise a tired sigh and inwardly say "what on earth has that to do with alchemy". Well, I do see surrealism as a sort of continuation of the emblem tradition and indirectly related to alchemy. However, I have just put up on my new surrealism website the works of a 20th century Mexican artist whose paintings are full of alchemical imagery. If you are interested do go to
28th June 2016
I have now reduced the dollar price of my dowloadable study courses. This price had been getting out of sync with the trend in the dollar - pound exchange rates for a few months. See this page listing my various courses for details. I am also planning to set up a page devoted to my video presentations and these (including the Bosch Garden of Earthly Delights and the Exploring Alchemical Emblems series) will then be supplied free, but this will take a few weeks.
27th June 2016
In my recent series of Youtube videos on How to Explore alchemical Symbolism I pointed to the fact that the creators of illustrations for alchemical printed books were often engravers who worked on other emblematic material and were very aware of what was going on in the art of their time, often drawing from sources outside of alchemy when devising an alchemical image. My colleague Carl Lavoie has recently discovered a clear example of this in a late 16th century painting of Simon de Myle L'Arche de Noé sur le mont Ararat (1570) which was included in the Paris branch of the auctioneers Sotheby and sold through their catalogue Tableaux et Dessins Anciens et du XIXè siècle, June 2011.
When we look at the depiction of the elephant in the first engraving of Michael Maier's Viatorium, 1618, we see it is clearly taken from this painting. The mirror reversal occurs when one copies an image directly in a copperplate engraving. :-
Another possibility, of course, is that both drew from an earlier source.
21st June 2016
I have now made a start to adding many examples of emblematic imagery in alchemical printed books. I hope to make this as comprehensive as possible, but this will take many month of work to even get close to such a goal. This is a key part of my plan to make the alchemy website an online library of alchemical imagery. This imagery has been badly served by 20th century writers who, for the most part, decontextualise alchemical emblems and strip them of their place in the historical sequence - so I have decided it will be best to present the imagery from a historical perspective. Patitioning them into centuries seems the best way forward. There remains a mass of material to add, but you can view the initial material through
Much more, hopefully, will appear over the coming weeks.
16th June 2016
I am afraid I got a bit diverted for two months from upgrading the website. This was because I felt it important to create the three part audio visual on How to Explore alchemical Symbolism which I have made available on Youtube, however, yesterday I returned to working on material for the website and have managed to put up eight new pages of emblematic material. These can be accessed through www.alchemywebsite.com/Emblems_printed_books.html I hope to be able to continue with this for at least the coming few weeks. I have so many half-finished projects to which I have to give my time.
14th June 2016
I have now uploaded the final part of my three part audio visual presentation on How to explore alchemical symbolism. While creating this I realised that some aspects of my critique of the metanarratives that have developed particularly in the 20th century were difficult to compress into a short section of the video, and consequently I plan to create some further audio visuals dealing in more depth with these concerns. I am, however, going to have to take a break while going back to working on making the website more comprehensive, so these will not be ready for some months.
In the meantime you can see the final part at www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9K4oHQbDac where it is available in all resolutions up to 1080p HD.
19th May 2016
I have now uploaded the second in my series of three Youtube videos with the title 'How to explore alchemical symbolism'.
This series will provide, for those sufficiently interested, an overview of how I understand we should approach alchemical symbolism. The first video has received 325 views in about three weeks, which sounds rather a good response, but one should not be too self-congratulatory. A glance at the Youtube analytics for the first video shows that the average viewing time is 9.20 minutes for this 25 minute video, so I am clearly losing many people's attention. This is probably because the videos are challenging and do not present the viewer with what they want to hear. The best way to keep an audience nowadays is to give them what they expect. I am, unfortunately, in my constitution, quite unable to do this, as I am more concerned with trying to give insights into the true nature of the subject, rather than courting an audience. Perhaps, I should take comfort in the thought that people are digesting my videos in chunks, but I think this could be a self-delusional approach.
The third part of this series will, I expect, be rather more controversial than the first two and lead many people to see me to be an antagonist of their belief systems, and no friend to the sort of alchemy they espouse. So be it. I base my perspective entirely on trying to grasp what the original alchemists were actually saying and showing in the imagery. It is the work of the original alchemists that I value not the contrived and invented perspectives of some modern day authors. So I do expect some vitriol and adverse criticism for this. Happily, I have a nature that is not easily offended.
26 April 2016
I have today uploaded the first in a series of three Youtube videos with the title 'How to explore alchemical symbolism'.
Part one deals with what alchemical symbolism is, how it appears in the historical sequence, its various forms and the components of its structure.
Part two will look at the ways in which alchemical symbolism arose, the influences upon it and the sources from which it drew.
The third part will show how alchemical imagery has now become embedded, subsumed, almost swallowed up, by various extraneous cultural traditions of our time.
22 April 2016
I have decided to take a short break from the work of updating the imagery section of the website. Not that I have abandoned alchemical imagery, but rather during the adding of this material, I came to realise that what was needed was some way for people to appreciate alchemical imagery and come to see it in its proper context. I have become so aware that in our time seeing things in a straightforward and rational way has been so disrupted by the virus of Postmodernism that it is very difficult for people immersed in modern culture to come to a clear picturing of the unique place of alchemical imagery. Instead, people view this imagery as they would an image created today. When I was immersed in my self-appointed task of making more and more examples of the emblematic material of alchemy available through the website, I suddenly realised that I was probably merely adding to the confusion. It came to me a few days ago that what was needed was a clear statement of how we should view alchemical imagery. I thought of writing an extended essay for the website, but it became obvious to me that a more appropriate medium would be the audio visual format I have used on Youtube for my presentations Exploring alchemical Emblems, Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights and the Study course on Surrealism (sadly put on the back burner for now).
So early this week I began to work on such a presentation. It has been quite intensive, as one has not only to create the intellectual analysis, but also to find appropriate images to fully illustrate the ideas. It started out as a single presentation which would address a number of facets, but yesterday I realised, that, as I had now created some twenty minutes of audio visual and was less than one third of the way through the material I wished to present, if I were to complete the task in a single presentation this would be well over an hour in length. I suspect this would challenge even the most committed of viewers, so I am now minded to produce it in three parts, each of around 25 minutes in length. I expect this will demand at least another two weeks of full time work. Twenty minutes of video in three days! That may seem rather slow, but I am not the sort of person to merely throw a few nice pictures onto the screen and waffle on about them out of the top of my head. I do consider and research intensively and then try and find appropriate images and ways to present the textual content. It can take hours to create a section lasting only a minute on screen.
So, watch this space! Or check my Youtube page.
This will be the first video I have created in full HD 1920 x 1080, so I am hoping the quality of the mp4 on Youtube will match the material. I have, to a great extent solved some of the problems with sound on the videos. This came about on some videos I produced when I was in Glasgow, due to the digital sound recording and the need to clean up each recorded piece of text as there was so much background street noise. The software that removed noise also distorted some of the frequency spectrum. This played back quite acceptably on my computer but when it was run through the Youtube processor, which probably compressed this, the sound was, in some parts of a video, a little bit distorted. Things are a bit easier since I moved to Kilbirnie but as I still live beside a main road and there is still background noise that has to be removed, but not as bad as it was in the centre of Glasgow.
4 March 2016
I have continued adding more material to the website. I have also decided to update the style of the site. I am aware now that the number of people accessing the site using tablets rather than computers is growing, and the manner of presenting information that I devised some 20 years ago needs adapting. The old idea of clicking on text based links in order to navigate through the complex mass of pages, is not really suitable to tablet based viewing. Instead I am beginning to develop graphical buttons which cue the user to the different sections. I will not be removing or significantly altering the material on the pages, but making this somewhat more accessible. So the content will remain mostly as it was.
You can see some of my efforts on the pages accessed through www.alchemywebsite.com/images_apparatus.html and www.alchemywebsite.com/images_s.html. This is a work in progress and not all the links are active, but this will give you an idea of how I intend to work in future. Undertaking this upgrade is very intensive work, as I have to sort out the structure, originate new material, create the buttons and rewrite a great deal of the html code for the pages. It will take a number of months to apply it across the site. Just these two small sections have taken me almost a full week to partially implement and will likely require another two weeks to complete. It is intensive work needing considerable concentration and far too many cups of tea. People often think that websites can be designed using simple templates that automatically input material. Were it that simple! It actually needs a creative idea and lots of abstract thought and problem solving.
I am now using the flipbook software to show images and texts. This is well suited to tablets, as it creates special pages for Android and Ipads, which speeds up the loading as most of these are using quite slow wifi. This software allows me to view how these pages will display on the different platforms. The files are enormous, however, and the 48 items I have recently added in this format are taking up 1.7 gigabytes on the server. Luckily I now have a package which allows me unlimited web space. I suspect in a few months the website will have grown to ten or so gigabytes or more.
You can check the new material I have added by going to the recent page.
16 February 2016
I have begun adding a mass of new material to the alchemy website. Over the last few days I have uploaded two of my study courses. One of these, the detailed analysis of the emblems in Robert Fludd books attracted almost no interest at all. Creating it back in 2010 took me many months, but very few people valued it or even recognised the work that had gone into it. It is the first detailed survey of the amazing large folio volumes written by Robert Fludd and illustrated with some truly astounding engravings, but there was almost no response. I have given up any hope of selling any further copies and today spend six hours reformatting it for the web site. Now it is free, I expect other web sites will just grab the material, strip my name out of it, and issue it as their own work, but what else can I do - I don't want all my work merely to lie unread on one of my hard discs.
I have had similar concerns with my Study course on the Trinosophia, which I created in 2004. There is just no interest in my approach to this work. Instead the rather pathetic MP Hall "explanation" of the work just muddies and makes it impossible for people to appreciate the wonderful structure of this allegory. I truly take delight in alchemical emblems and allegories and I find it very sad that so few people share my enthusiasm. Had people supported my work I could have done much more. Now at the age of 67 I know that it is unlikely that I will have the energy to create such things again.
Anyway I have now added:
Study course on the Trinosophia an in-depth analysis of this 18th century manuscript.
Study course on the imagery of Robert Fludd a detailed analysis in 547 pages of the emblems in Robert Fludd books.
Franz Kieser's Cabala Chymica an early 17th century allegorical and philosophical work on alchemy.
Aqua Vitae, Non Vitis A Notebook of Thomas Vaughan. to the texts section.
Thomas Vaughan's Anthroposophia Theomagica to the texts section.
Transcript made by Franco Dognini of a manuscript version of the famous Bernard of Treviso allegory.
25 January 2016
After three weeks the Alchemy symbolism discussion group appears to have been reasonably successful. There are 37 registered members and there have already been 1167 unregistered visitors, making 4405 visits to the site. There have been 12487 page views and 51 posts to date.
I see this as a sort of extension to my study courses enabling me to post up various examples of alchemical symbols or themes and give some analysis without my having to create another integrated study course. It also allows members to discuss points with me and ask for amplification or further explanation. The internet seems awash with a mess of symbolism going under the title "alchemical". Pinterest, Tumblr et al, just allow people with little understanding of what is, and what is not, alchemy, to post up a melange of images they believe to be alchemical, so the true nature of alchemical symbolism is becoming more and more lost as people get completely confused and confounded by this wild sea of imagery masquerading as alchemical. So this Alchemy symbolism group provides the opportunity to look at and analyse what is the true nature of alchemical symbolism. Jungianism, esotericism and Postmodernism have broken any historical or alchemical context to alchemical imagery and completely muddied the waters. Since I was in my teens some 50 years ago I have been fascinated by the enigmatic yet beautiful imagery of alchemy. I have devoted the last 35 years to exploring this material, and trying to share it with people through my publications and in the last two decades through the Internet. Apart from a few scholars, most people appear to have little grasp of the nature of alchemical symbolism, nor have they researched the material in any depth, so it seems to have been left to me to try and give alchemical symbolism its due place, and provide a space where it can be explored in its pure form. Over the last few years I have been rather despairing of what was happening to alchemy and its symbolism, and was trying to find some way of helping to promote and sustain interest. I did toy with the idea of creating more study courses, but I realised these would only reach a very few people. I considered creating more pages on my website, and other possibilities, but late in 2015 I suddenly had the idea of creating a discussion forum. Hopefully it will grow its membership, but even without a substantial membership the postings do get quickly indexed (within a few days) by Google et al., so that people searching for an idea will find the site and can read through the posts. Of course in time people will merely raid the discussion group and rework the imagery to suit their own agendas, but at least it will survive as the primary record. In a years time it should have grown into a major source for the understanding of alchemical symbolism. It will always be heavily moderated by myself in order to remove any spurious or nonsense postings, and I will not let it become a freewheeling, speculative group.
3 January 2016
Today I set up a new discussion group on alchemical symbolism. I intend this as a place where people can discuss all aspects of alchemical symbolism. This has arisen partly as a result of the growing interest in my study courses on alchemical symbolism and the wish that some people have expressed to me to have some way of pursuing their interest further. Initially I will put up each week or so, an image that has impressed itself upon me, and invite people to add their comments, raise questions, or share their views on the symbolism. Later, I would hope that members of the discusion group will post up alchemical images they have found and open these up for discusion. I would however prefer to restrict the group to discussing images from the manuscripts and printed books of the alchemical tradition, rather than merely symbolism in general. There are many groups that have free ranging discussions on all sorts of symbolism, but I would like us here to focus on that which is relevant to alchemy. You can look at the entries as a guest or register if you wish by going to www.alchemysymbolism.com
31 December 2015
This morning I started researching some intriguing images that I had downloaded from the Internet some time ago. I then discovered that this was a hoax. Someone had constructed a "book" and had it uploaded onto an Internet archive site. I decided to fully document this and you can view it on my page devoted to this alchemical hoax.
10 November 2015
A year or so ago I bought a Samsung tablet. I found the Android tablet extremely useful for researching and browsing web pages. The screen quality on many such tablets is outstanding. This made me aware how far the Alchemy web site interface was falling behind. The facilty on touch screen tablets to swipe through pages is so useful. Regrettably this is not implemented in HTML code so one has to do a bit of programming to make swiping pages work. So I bought some java code that assists me in doing this. The first section I have updated are the galleries of my coloured emblems. Up till now I was only able to show the images as smallish thumbnails, twenty to a page, which resulted in the user having to page through sixteen pages to see all 300 emblems. I have now set these up in only eight pages each with forty images. As the images can be swiped or mouse-clicked through, I have also been able to massively increase the size of the images presented to the viewer. This makes for much more detail to be seen and studied - a major improvement. Recoding the pages, however, proved to be extremely time consuming, requiring much cut-and-pasting with total concentration, as missing out some html code character completely messed up the page structure. I will gradually work through the other galleries of my coloured emblems over the coming weeks. You can see my efforts through this page www.alchemywebsite.com/amclglr1.html
20 October 2015
I am sorry but with my move and the consequential upheaval I have neglected to update the weblog regularly. I have created a Facebook page just for the alchemy website and this being to some extent interactive, seems to be rather more popular with my readership. You can see this Facebook page on www.facebook.com/alchemywebsite or click on this icon.
I will try and update this weblog more regularly.
New book in Magnum Opus series
I have now decided to set up a Facebook page for the alchemy website. Earlier this year I had a problem with a personal web page on Facebook, as people were adding me to groups with which I did not want to be associated. This new Facebook page is a business page and does not allow people to add me as a friend. I had a great problem with adding people to my friends list whom I did not personally know. So many people have agendas and want to use other peoples' Facebook pages as platforms for their idiosyncratic views. This business page does not allow friends but it does allow people to 'like' the page, and then they get emailed when new material is added. People can add comments, but thankfully I can remove any spurious or inappropriate ones - I expect to get a few of those ! The Facebook page is now up and running on www.facebook.com/alchemywebsite
I have posted up some photos of my new premises in Kilbirnie where I finally moved to on the 8th of this month.
29 April 2015
Today I have managed to complete the next lesson, number 16, for my Youtube study course on Surrealist art. This one is on the Dutch Meta-Realists. You can see it on
Even although a deal of my time has to be directed to the move, I have been able to work on a number of new titles for the Magnum Opus series. These will appear over the coming months. The first of these is now available for purchase.
The Virga Aurea
Translated by Ingrid Walton with an Introduction by Adam McLean
In 1620 the Scottish Catholic scholar of languages, James Bonaventure Hepburn (1573-1621), created a large engraving which was published in Rome. It was essentially an attempt to document the alphabets of all the then known languages. Hepburn includes many familiar languages but also references some magical and invented ones, such as the Hieroglyphic, Apollonian, Mystical, Seraphic, Supercelestial, Celestial, Angelic, Enochian and Arcanum. Ingrid Walton has translated the Latin text on the engraving and provided some notes on the work. Included with this book is a reproduction of the entire plate in two sections, each A3 size approximately 12 by 16.5 inches (30 x 42cm), printed on thick 160 gsm paper, which would make a rather fine wall chart.
Limited edition of 100 signed and numbered hardbound copies. 23 illustrations. A5. 63 pages. Supplied with large two part chart.
8 April 2015
Although much of my time is currently being taken up with organising my move to my new property in July - I am beginning to pack up my books so am surrounded by boxes - I am hoping to be able to announce a new publication in the Magnum Opus next week. I have already bound up ten copies but need at least twenty to meet the initial orders.
There is much to do at the new property. I have to get builders to make a few modifications, and get the essential services turned on, but although there are some minor problems I expect the move will go smoothly enough.
In March I was able to get a Dutch colleague to work on editing a translation of a well known 18th century alchemical work. I am now working on the rather complex layout and would hope to find time to complete this in April. I suspect this will sell quite quickly as I have now reduced the edition size of the new Magnum Opus titles to only 100, as there is no way I will be able to continue indefinitely with the task of bookbinding.
24 March 2015
I have now been able to purchase a ground floor flat in the small village of Kilbirnie which is about 23 miles west of my present situation in Glasgow. Being in a rather deprived and run down area I was able to buy it at an incredibly modest price. The flat is large enough to hold all my books and equipment. I will not be moving immediately, but will take my time arranging the move. I have many thousands of books, three or four hundred paintings, computers, printers and binding equipment, masses of printouts of articles, images and an extensive archive of alchemy related material, as well as my collection of over 2000 tarot decks. So moving all this and getting it installed in this new property will take some time. Of course I will get this done by a professional removal company.
So I will be staying at my present address for at least the next three months, thus there will be no change in my address and I will continue working as always. Indeed, I am currently finalising the production of two new titles for the Magnum Opus which will appear over the next month or so. I will try and keep a seamless transition so there will be no interruption to the posting out of orders.
Having a ground floor flat will benefit me greatly as I have continuing back problems and climbing up two high flights of stairs a number of times every day would become problematic for me in a few years time. Also I will be pleased to be away from inner city life in Glasgow. I have been at my present address since 1996 and am rather tired of the problems of living in a run down area of South Glasgow.
Once I sell my present flat in Glasgow this will release a reasonable amount of capital which will enable me to slow down a bit from the treadmill of continuing to produce books to sell, so I should be able to devote more time to research and producing study course material, and perhaps I might even be able to do some painting again.
I will probably begin selling off some of my personal collection of alchemy related books. I could do this in Amazon or ABEbooks but as their charges are rather high, I will probably try and do this through my website. I have collected some rare and now probably quite valuable items over the years, and now feel I can part with these and slim my personal collection down to a few core items. This sale of material will no doubt have to wait till after I move, as I will have to build a database, provide some descriptions and price the items - all of which takes hour and hours of ones time.
21 February 2015
This week has been rather a bit of a change for me. Sadly, I have not been able to undertake any significant amount of work. Much of my time has been taken up with exploring the possibilities of moving address. I have decided that I will have to relocate sometime soon, though not as an emergency. In looking through the list of available properties, it became obvious that I could not afford to buy anything in Glasgow or its immediate environs, so I scanned a bit further afield into places within a 20 mile radius. I came across a disused public bar, which was being sold at a knock down price. I thought a bit about this and realised that I could use the upstairs rooms for my living and work space, which would leave the ground floor bar as a large open space. I considered the possibilities of using this as a art gallery, where I could set up an exhibition on alchemy, and even mount occasional exhibitions of local artists. It all seemed quite possible and I thought it might be a rather neat change of work environment for me. So I went to view the property. Unfortunately, there was a reason why it was priced so low, apart from its location in a run down West of Scotland village - it had a serious roof problem. There was an ongoing leak and there was likely to be rot in the roof beams, so that is the end of that project. I have also looked at some other more conventional flats and houses also in this down on its heels village, so perhaps something will come of this, as property prices are low and within my means.
14 February 2015
I find myself approaching a crossroads in my life where I cannot merely continue on the path I have been on for the last 40 years or so. This arises partly from my age and a growing awareness that two things will have to change as I approach my 70s. Firstly, my present living situation, which is in a large top floor apartment, will become increasing difficult for me, as I find my mobility is presently being compromised by my back problem. I cannot expect to be able to climb up and down two long flights of stairs carrying objects for years to come. So I will have to begin looking for another property preferably on the ground floor. Of course, as I have little money there may be a problem with buying a better property. I expect I will have to relocate outside of the city of Glasgow and go downmarket.
The other problem I need to address is my work situation. For decades I have worked long hours researching, bookbinding, painting and all the tasks I need to do in order to sustain my publishing and website. As I age more I will have to cut back from working long hours. At 67 it is folly to think that one might have another ten years or more of productive life ahead, so I now have to be more reasonable and think instead of only having five or so years when I can work relatively intensively.
Being self-employed I don't have a quality workplace pension to look forward to, so I expect I will need to substantially support myself through the years to come. If I cannot continue to produce material to sell, then I will have to look to selling off the various assets that I own. These are quite substantial but not easy to turn into cash quickly. I have a very fine collection of tarot decks (about 2500) and last year I began gradually to sell these off. So far, I have managed to sell about 250 of these, so it is a slow process, often frustrating and very hard work. I also have a very fine collection of some thousands of 20th century books on alchemy, some of which are of considerably rarity. I will have to think about gradually selling these off over the coming years. I will begin soon to sell off some of the less important (to me) magical and esoteric books that I have collected over the years. I have almost a thousand of my coloured emblems paintings, but few people seem interested in these and they have sold very slowly. I will have to think seriously about how I can sell these items off. I also have a number of my oil paintings of alchemical emblems and my copies of old Masters paintings. I have sold quite a few of these over recent years, but I have a number sitting there that need finished, before I can think of selling them. So, I am beginning to enter into a new phase when I will be essentially supporting myself through selling off the various assets I have accumulated over my close to 50 years devoted to the study of alchemy.
There remains the problem of what to do with the rest of my creative life - produce more books - devote myself to painting while I still have good eyesight - undertake more research. It is unclear to me as to what I should do. During the last six months I have been producing a study course of audio-visual lessons on surrealist painting which I place for free on Youtube. I have found this needed intense hard work in researching the material, in providing some insights into this challenging art style and in the work necessary to piece together all the components and create the MP4 videos, but I also found it very fulfilling. Unfortunately it makes no money, so I have had to subsidise it out of my savings. I am minded to continue working with these audio visual presentations, and could do more courses on alchemy, esoteric or emblematic imagery. At least with these, there would be no deadlines and customers packets to take to the Post Office every day, but they generate no money and instead burn up my capital. So I will have to see how things stands once I complete the Surrealism course.
4 February 2015
Late last week I uncovered a number of printed covers for my book Alchemy: A Treasure House of Symbolism. I thought I had run out of the covers and that is why I have not been able to sell any for a year or more. It would not have been economic to reprint the covers, but happily I have managed to find this pile mixed up with other items. So now I have a batch of 20 copies made up for sale. The book is a good survey of alchemical symbolism using many of my coloured emblems. It was originally produced in conjunction with my exhibition at the Edinburgh Festival back in 2007. You can buy one of these copies through:-
3 February 2015
Over the last weekend I had to leave Facebook. Some of my customers had encouraged me to join Facebook as they thought it might help promote my work. I soon had about 500 Facebook 'Friends'. Initially some of these were people I knew quite well, though in most cases not met personally. Some were customers who had bought items and others were people whom I had corresponded with on occasions. A problem arose when adding new 'Friends' in that some of these potential 'Friends' had 20 or even more mutual 'Friends' with myself but I did not actually know them. It seemed churlish not to add them.
Thus a problem arose for me. I noticed that I had been added to some Facebook groups. I was surprised at this because I had no interest in these groups nor had I given my permission. I came to realise that as other people could see that I was a member of such groups they might think that I had an interest in the subject of these groups, or be an adherent to the mindset of the people who had set up these groups. I found I had been added to a group of nutters who believed that aliens were behind all the evils of the world, a religious organisation, a group of environmental activists, a tarot reading group, and a male homosexual group. Now I am not a homosexual, I am not religious, I am not politically active, I don't read tarot cards and I don't believe in little green aliens from the planet Zog, but there was the possibility that people now might think I fell into these categories.
I thought I must have missed something and that I could turn this feature off in Facebook, so I could not be press-ganged into a group. After I bit of discussion on my page I discovered that this was a long term issue that many people disliked, and that Facebook were unwilling to address users concerns and give them control over that feature of the system. I thought about this for a hour or so and realised that anyone can set up a Facebook group on any subject, then, if they were in your facebook Friends list, they could add you without asking your permission. I could then be labelled as anything - an Anti-semite, a political activist, a Satanist, a member of an ISIS supporters club - I can imagine almost anything being attached to my name by this mechanism. I would be crazy to allow this to continue. I would be laying myself open essentially to being a hostage to any crank or mischievous person on Facebook, and there will be many of them. Ones reputation earned over years and years of treating people correctly and honestly could be destroyed by this ridiculous Facebook mechanism. Though you can remove yourself from a group, before this happens anyone in the group can take a snapshot of the Facebook group page with me listed as a member, complete with photograph. This could be held against me for years.
So I had no alternative but to quit Facebook. Even that is not easy. It took me nearly twenty minutes to find the way to close my Facebook account - they don't seem to let you do this from within your page. I had to do a Google search to find an independent third party page explaining how to do it. Also Facebook tells me it will take two weeks to remove my page. TWO WEEKS !!! What is that about? I can opt to leave almost anything on the Internet instantly. I could close my memberships to forums, commercial sites and so on instantly, but not Facebook. They need two weeks! Why! What is behind that? Probably something sinister. Take care with Facebook. Be aware that it does not give you control over how people see you. It takes this out of your hands, and puts your reputation in the hands of nutters and mischievous people. People could lose their job, or the possibility of a job interview, because an employer checks their employee's or potential employee's Facebook page and did not like the sound of the groups to which they were associated. One day someone will sue Facebook for reputational damage, then they will change their policy.
3 February 2015
I have just discovered that my local Post Office, only two minutes walk away, is to close shortly. This means that the nearest will then be over one mile away. There is no way I can take items to that office. As I get older I cannot walk that distance easily and it also would take up a considerable amount of time, at least half an hour, to take items to that office and get back to my workshop. So I think I will have to pay for the items to be uplifted from my premises. The cost of this service is very high - at least £1000 ($1600) a year - so with regret I will have to pass it on to my customers by increasing my shipping charges. I will start implementing this in the next few weeks.
22 January 2015
I have just uploaded the latest part, number 13, of my study course on surrealism onto my youtube page.
www.youtube.com/c/AdamMcLeanThe course now amounts to over five hours of video and is about one third complete.
I find this way of working using audio video presentations, at the moment, quite a useful addition to my publishing efforts. It does, however, take up masses of my time. I don't think people have any idea of the effort one has to put into producing this material. There are many, many videos on YouTube with the title surrealism, but most of them are just a slide show of the creator's favourite images set against an audio background of a piece of music they happen to like - a pointless waste of megabytes. A few people have attempted to give a spoken commentary, but these are often merely their personal impressions of the works they are showing - again pointless. A few others have attempted some analytical commentary, but often this is flawed by their lack of insight into the material. Sadly, this leaves only a few dozens of perceptive meaningful YouTube videos, usually by professional gallery personnel or art historians. So I don't expect my offering to receive much attention against the mass of YouTube babble.
Each of the lessons requires many hours of research and also a clear plan of what I am intending to present. Only when I have this can I choose which images to show. It is not just a matter of showing the images I like best, as I am trying to represent the various phases of an artist's work and the influences upon them from other artists. I have adopted a historical perspective and try to identify the sources for the imagery in specific paintings and the influences on an artist.
People often have the naive idea that surrealist painting is about dreams, and the spontaneous eruption of unconscious contents onto the canvas. This is just nonsense. Carrington, Dali, Ernst, Brauner, Varo, Seligmann et al, were intelligent, well read people who had a deep grasp of western art history. They were not painting in a vacuum, but their work is informed by many references. They sat and thought deeply as they created their paintings. If you need convincing of this just take a look at my recent upload on the Temptation of St Anthony Competition.
I have now covered the initial period up till the late 1940s in some detail and I will now move on to look at the ways in which surrealist painting evolved through many different artists and groups up to the present day. The surrealist style of painting is still vital and active in our time.
11 January 2015
Yesterday I was thinking about the prices of my Magnum Opus books, and recalled that when I first began selling these back in 1979 through into the 1980s I set the price at £12 for the smaller sized books and £18 for the ones with more pages.
Currently my prices are around £50 for smaller items and about £75 for the thicker books.
I decided to compare these taking inflation into account and found a web site with an inflation calculator. When I put the prices in 1980 into this I got a bit of a shock.
£12 in 1980 = £53 today
£18 in 1980 = £80 Today
Effectively I have not increased my prices in real terms in 35 years !
6 December 2014
I have now made up a small batch of Jane Leade's Revelation of Revelations, which is missing from a number of my customer's collections. There are quite a few copies left to sell, as it has not been available since the mid 1980s, so it is priced at the normal price not as one from my personal collection. www.alchemywebsite.com/bookshop/mohs10.html
8 October 2014
I have now made some progress with the Study Course on Surrealism, created two of the lessons and sketched in quite a few others. I have decided to issue it for free on Youtube and will upload the various lessons over the coming months. The first six are available at:-
Lesson One - Introduction www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJUmFr54TZE
Lesson Two - The formative years of Surrealism in the 1920s www.youtube.com/watch?v=FngpGW1cvMw
Lesson Three - The evolution of Surrealism through the 1930s www.youtube.com/watch?v=kg0MS3jEFPY
Lesson Four - Lesser known early Surrealists www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_p4SUdh32g
Lesson Five - The Early British Surrealists www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z24Dc6O_mms
Lesson Six - The Early American Surrealists www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFaLKY57p3s
4 October 2014
I am afraid I have developed a new preoccupation. For many years I have been attracted to surrealist painting. A few weeks ago the idea came to me that I should create a study course on the subject. I have over the years read such nonsense written about surrealism. My own approach to this art style is to see it in much the same way as I view emblematic art - I look for the common elements and the evolution and passing on of symbols and pictorial structures. Surrealism, under different names, continues today and one clearly sees artists quoting from one anothers works. Thus we need not seek meaning in a surrealist painting but instead ask how it is structured and from what pre-existing pictorial elements it is derived. This approach will be the core of my course, which I expect to run to about 25 lessons, similar to my courses on Alchemical Symbolism and the Artwork of Modern Tarot. These will be audio visual presentations using the same methodology as my Exploring Alchemical Emblems and course on Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights, that is a spoken commentary with images. I have already fully created the first lesson, and though I have written the second part I have yet to create the presentation. When I have a bunch of lessons prepared I will begin issuing the course. I expect it will take six months to a year to complete. I am sure that few people will understand or respect my approach. Most people like to speculate in a meaningless but opinionated way about modern art, and they won't be entirely comfortable with my more objective, scholarly, and rather detached view. They will not see the point of looking at art in the way I do. The same applies to the way I look both at alchemy and tarot and I have learnt to live with this. Being in the closing arc of ones life, the last 15 or 20 years, means one is free from courting popularity or even acknowledgement. I now see this as a good place to be.
Unfortunately, this investment of my time will inevitably detract from my other projects.
16 September 2014
I have now bound up a small batch of the next volume in the Magnum Opus series. This will be made available at a special discounted price to those who have bought books from me over the course of this year. In a few weeks I will open the sales page at the regular price.
People should note that there is only one copy left to sell of the Freher Paradoxical Emblems. This adds to the growing number of my books that are becoming out of print. The Solidonius, Mystical Heart Emblems, Atalanta Fugiens coloured and Goethe's Fairy Tale may shortly follow.
Here in Scotland my fellow citizens have become infected with a kind of madness and want to become a parochial, inward looking, small country. If these people sleepwalk into voting for independence in the next few days I will lose my UK citizenship with all that means. I am not sure what the implications will be for me, but as my income is from sales internationally, I expect there will be little immediate impact. Problems will doubtless arise for me as I get older and need the support of pensions, health provision, social services and benefits. It seems unlikely that Scotland, cut off from UK funds, will be able to continue to provide good services to the elderly. It is a complete nightmare, seeing my fellow countrymen taken up emotionally in some fantasy, driven by a sour and irrational dislike of people south of the border. If these buffoons vote for independence it will probably mean I will have no alternative but to work well into my 70s - just when I was hoping to devote the latter years of my life to studying and researching. I am hoping that there are enough rational people in Scotland to vote against this nonsense.
12 September 2014
This week I completed work on the next volume in the Magnum Opus series. I have now printed out a batch of 20 copies and will begin binding them early next week. I have decided that from now on I will limit any editions to at most 100 copies, and in some cases to only 60 copies. This will make the volumes even more collectable.
My regular customers will receive an email next week with information about the new volume.
31 August 2014
Yesterday I made some interesting discoveries. While reseaching a particular manuscript I came to realise its clear relationship to another alchemical work of the period, and then to a further group of manuscripts. This did not really require any great insight on my part but as no one seems to be looking at this material except myself, I am the one to discover things. This has made me determined to publish these interesting emblematic works, which will probably make three new titles for the Magnum Opus! No doubt only a handful of my regular customers will see the value of these pieces. So many publishers in dealing with alchemy merely churn out the same old material that has been around since the end of the 19th century. No one ever seems enthused by the sort of material I am uncovering. I sell only a handful of books. I will be long dead before people catch up with my output and way of working with alchemy. It is a great problem for me - should I just give up and spend the rest of my life studying and investigating or give my remaining active years up to making material available to others through publishing? When I discover something like I have just uncovered, I am faced with more work making this available to others, or should I merely just keep this to myself? If I put it up on my website freely, other people will merely steal it and claim it as their own work. Yesterday I even found that someone had put all my oil paintings into a file on one of these file sharing systems - of course they had removed my name so I get no credit for the thousands of hours I struggled to make these paintings. I will now have to go and fill in a load of forms to establish my ownership of this material and get this taken down. The person that put it up did not have to establish that he owned the copyright! It is the injured party that must do all the work to establish that it is his original material. The file sharing system through its clever well paid lawyers excuse themselves of any responsibility. The owners of these systems don't care one jot as they make their money by drawing large numbers of people to their site and extracting advertising revenues. I feel sick of the Internet and the license it gives for parasites to steal other peoples' material and masquerade it as their own. I enthusiastically embraced the Internet when it started some twenty years ago, now it is a hostile environment within which I have to struggle to avoid being taken advantage of and erased. I was once a generous sharer of information with others, now I have learnt to trust no one. The parasites and cut and paste buffoons with not one gram of creativity in their being have ruined my easy going relationship with others.
24 August 2014
I have been able to make considerable progress on writing a commentary on the series of alchemical emblems that will be the subject for my next book in the Magnum Opus series. In recent times I have not felt it necessary to provide much in the way of explanatory commentary but this series with its complex layers really needed some way into exploring its structure. There is still a good bit to do to finalise the text but I expect to be able to publish this in September.
5 August 2014
There have been quite a few changes I have had to make in my work over the last months. My attempt to extend the Hermetic Studies series by issuing five new volumes in inexpensive paperback editions has entirely failed to generate any enthusiasm - most only selling around ten copies. This has totally shocked me especially the lack of interest in the 'Little Work' which is the source for the Rosarium series. As always I am so far ahead, or is that out of line with, the current alchemical community. The scholarly community don't rate my work as I have no scholarly credentials - while the speculative, esoteric, Jungian people find me too scholarly and critical of their perspective. I find myself also in much the same situation regarding my interest in tarot art. The art historians dismiss tarot as ephemera, while the bulk of people involved in tarot are doing fortune telling with tarot cards and find it inexplicable that someone focusses only on the artwork. Somehow I always find myself abandoned in the middle. That seems to be my place.
So what to do next ? I am tempted to give up up publishing. I will make a few more attempts with items for the Magnum Opus series, even though this needs me to do much more bookbinding. Unfortunately as I am getting older, this is becoming an increasingly difficult task, one which I was hoping to be able to phase out, so I have decided I will have to increase the prices for my books. I have substantially increased the prices for the Hermetic studies paperbacks as only 50 copies will ever be issued, making them a collectors item in the decades ahead. The price will further increase as the stock level falls.
I am currently working on one of the few series of alchemical emblems that I have not yet published in the Magnum Opus. It is still a few more weeks away from publication, as I am still writing the introduction, and trying to provide some description and explanation of its complex and dense layers of symbolism.
Whether anyone outside the small band of my regular customers will have any interest in this at all, remains to be seen. My regular customers will get a discount, as without them over the last few years the Magnum Opus project would already have been wound up.
10 June 2014
My new fibre optic broadband with its relatively fast upload speed has meant that over the last two weekends I have managed to backup most of my files onto online storage. This now amounts to 800 gigabytes. There is a little more to do but this means that I now feel that my work and archives are protected against a fire at my workshop, some unrecoverable hard disc failure, or a virus that wiped one of my hard discs. No longer will I have to rely on carrying around in my pocket a hard disc backup. Years, indeed decades, of work is now protected.
5 June 2014
I now have five items available in the re-invigorated Hermetic Studies series.
Response to this series has been rather thin. Producing these books has taken a great deal out of me and I feel I now will have to slow down somewhat. It is no longer easy for me to undertake this work. If I were in my 30s or 40s it would be easy for me to push on, but being 66 this takes its toll. I have no one to help me with the publications and as sales are slow, I am effectively subsiding these sales with the many hundreds of hours I put into them. There seem to be only a handful of people who share my enthusiasm for original alchemical material, and these are insufficent to make the project viable financially. I have decided to only ever issue fifty copies of each title publicly. Once they are out of print I will sell a batch of twenty copies privately at a premium price as they will then have become collectors items. For years people have said to me that they would like to be able to afford to buy my books, but when I issue some at a reasonable price then they still do not buy them. If this series does not sell quickly then it is unlikely I will be able to continue it without a subsidy. Much the same thing happened with the Opuscula Alchemica series of paperbacks which have sold abysmally, only about 10 or so copies of each having been bought in over a year. This I have had to abandon. I will sell off the remaining few copies at a premium price. These will become quite rare with only 20 or so copies of each printed. The specialist bookdealers of the future will make a killing from selling off such small editions. It seems increasingly likely that I will later this year have to go down the same road with the Hermetic Studies paperbacks as well.
I will now have to reduce the time I spend on book production and instead devote most of my time selling off my extensive collection of Modern Tarot decks which will provide a more stable income for the time involved.
3 June 2014
Uploads and downloads. With my higher speed fibre optic broadband I have begun to backup all my archived data onto an online storage facility. For years I have carried around with me a small portable hard disc with a backup of my files in case there were some disasterous fire at my workshop. My archives in many ways documents late 20th century alchemy, and I feel the need to preserve this. Backing up to online storage seems quite a slow process and it will probably be a week or so before the entire upload is completed. Rather timely with the Cryptolocker randsomware threatening users computer files. Then I will be able to relax about this problem. Now I only have to find some solution to the piles of papers I have in my workshop!
I have decided to finally abandon providing material on CD-Roms in favour of downloads. There are ways in which one can protect files against being copied and pirated, methods which up till recently were only available to large software companies are now affordable by the likes of myself. So I will see how this goes over the next few months. It took me about six hours yesterday editing the relevant pages on my web site, so now all the study courses etc., are accessible through a download page.
29 May 2014
I have another two books in the reborn Hermetic Studies series nearing completion. I should have the proof copies back from the printer in a few days time so I can make any corrections and send these off to be printed next week. Expect an announcement in a week or so when I will have copies for sale.
29 May 2014
I have done some provisional work on my coloured alchemical emblems files, which I used to provide on a set of four CD-Roms. I am now going to issue these as downloadable files. It appears I have about 1100 coloured emblems from alchemical, astronomical and emblematic sources. I have compiled these into one large file which is in the form of a Windows exe reader. This allows the user to zoom in to see all the details. This file will be protected. If I did not protect it then it would be instantly pirated. This means that the user cannot print these files directly from the viewer program, so I am providing some printable copies which have my copyright notice embossed into the image which will allow users to print these out if they wish. The total size of the files needed appears to be going to be about 750 Megabytes. That is why I needed the fast fibre optic upload speed.
These image files will only be available for the Windows operating system - I cannot create protected files for Apple as I don't have an Apple computer. I hope to finalise work on this project in the next few days and be able to begin selling these next week.
28 May 2014
Today I had fibre optic broadband installed. This is what is termed "Fibre to the Cabinet" which means the last 200 yards are not on fibre but use the existing copper wires. However this does give me a massive increase in speed, especially for uploading files. My old ADSL managed (on a good day) an upload speed of about 350-500 Kilobits per second, while the new system promises to give 18-19 Megabits per second upload. I have been waiting for this for some years. I have been supplying some of my study courses in the form of downloads for some months. I was hoping to have the fibre optic in place earlier, as it took over two hours to upload my Study Course on Alchemical Symbolism to a customer. Of course it would take only take the customer about 10 minutes to download on a standard broadband, but during the uploading my computer was stressed by the multitasking and everything worked very slowly. So now it should take about ten minutes for me to upload the file. It also means that I can get offline backup for my computer files. This has always been available but it was just too slow on standard broadband. I have many thousand of files, images and texts, amounting to about a terabyte. Apparently using old broadband it was estimated it would take about three months to create an initial backup and my computer would be slowed down as the files were backed up. Now with the faster upload the inital backup could probably be done over a weekend.
This does mean that I can develop more material that can be supplied to customers as downloads. One of the first will be my coloured alchemical emblems. I hope to rework the files and make my complete suite of emblems available in a few weeks time.
13 May 2014
The Rosarium Philosophorum must be one of the best known of alchemical works. It was printed at Frankfurt in 1550 in the compendium De Alchimia opuscula complura veterum philosophorum. It is essentially a fusion of two separate works. A Latin rosary, that is, a gathering of quotations from various ancient alchemical authorities under various themes, together with twenty woodcuts with short German verses. The woodcuts have now become well known as they present a coherent sequence involving a King and Queen, the sexual union of a male and female, death, descent into a tomb, rising and falling of spirits, fusion into an hermaphrodite, and a resurrection scene. The source of these images was unclear until the publication in 1989 of a French version of a German manuscript dated 1549 a year before the printing of the Rosarium. When I decided to make an edition of this in order to draw peoples' attention to this source for the imagery, I was rather disappointed by the fact that it was very difficult to see the full sequence. The French version has 24 illustrations and although some of these linked directly to the Rosarium it seemed that the manuscript from which this was taken did not present the full set of imagery. I decided to check into this and this weekend managed to obtain a facsimile of the original German manuscript. Imagine my delight as I found it actually had 40 images, part of which had the complete Rosarium sequence. The French book was flawed. So this means I can now issue a English translation of this work, which is undoubtedly the source for the Rosarium images. I know few people will care a jot about this, but it is an important discovery and perhaps in time it will be recognised by others. In the meantime I will print this in my Hermetic Studies series, which will sell a handful of copies, then doubtless disappear.
13 May 2014
I have now published another title in the Hermetic Studies Series. This is number 11 The Pandora Woodcut series. It provides a translation of the text describing each of the eighteen famous woodcuts.
7 May 2014
I have today added a further seven pages of sources for alchemical symbols to the website page of graphic symbols. When I have time I will add some links to woodcuts and engravings of alchemical apparatus. I have also split this weblog as it was getting too large at 500k of text, so was taking a long time to load on some systems. So if you want to see entries previous to 2014 you will have to look at the archive page.
6 May 2014
Having made the decision a few months ago to re-enliven the Hermetic Research Series, I have had a burst of creativity. I have been able to make some abandoned publishing projects, languishing on my hard discs merely as magnetised patterns, into actual real physical books. There is a great deal of work involved in this, however, and some other projects have had to give way to this new publishing momentum. As I am having these books printed, this means I do not have the ongoing commitment of my time to bookbinding. It also means I can issue these at very modest prices.
I intend to limit the edition to only 100 copies. I will buy a batch of 100 copies from the printer and sell these direct to customers. I have three items now in book form, with a further six in preparation over the coming months. Sales of the first two items have been extremely slow, but I always expect that, as it takes people time to adapt to a new project. I always have much more enthusiasm for alchemical material than my potential customers appear to have!
As I am now 66 I have to be realistic and cannot expect to be actively publishing for much longer. I have set a deadline of 2018, when I will be 70, to cease my publishing business, sell my apartment and move into a smaller place where I will be unable to undertake bookbinding. Then I hope to have some years to devote myself to research, painting and studying mathematics. This also means that I will have to find some way of disposing of my extensive collection of alchemical books. This will be no easy task and I will have to try and find someone here in Glasgow I can train up to undertake this. It will need first a full catalogue of my book collection. To help pay for this I will sell off some of my personal copies of now out of print Magnum Opus books to some of my regular customers who missed out on these.
I am aware that I cannot merely continue as I have been and just hope that things will work out. At 66 have to be realistic about my life expectancy. I have seen a number of writer and artist colleagues die in their 60s, and it is always sad to see that they left many projects incomplete. I also want to avoid leaving the problem to my partner Franzeska and my sister, of what to do with my collections of books, paintings, tarot cards etc., should I die or become incapacitated in some way through illness. There remains so much to do, but sadly my time is now rationed.
A colleague has suggested I create a Facebook page in order to keep people in the wider community other than this little weblog, informed about my work.
15 April 2014
The first two titles in my revived Hermetic Studies series are now ready for sale. These are available direct from myself in the form of paperback books at a relatively low price. This avoids my having to bind these up in leather which was taking up so much of my time. I will have to reserve binding in leather to my Magnum Opus series. For those few people who would like to have these in hardback, they can buy these from Blurb - a link is shown on the pages. I have a number of items lined up for publication in the Hermetic Studies series, so more will be announced next month. This has given me the opportunity to revive old projects which I had worked on some years ago but had not been found relevant to the Magnum Opus series. Please click on the covers below to see more details of these books.
14 April 2014
Yesterday I had a rather neat idea that sorted out a problem I had not been able to resolve. As people will know, I have always been very interested in alchemical allegories, those little stories in which the alchemical process is explained using a sequence of dramatised events. I had thought of creating a large book of these allegories to accompany a study course, but when I worked out how much material needed to be included, the book became so large and consequently expensive that I could see no way I could publish it. The idea that came to me was to issue a series of three or four shorter volumes in the Hermetic Studies series, now in paperback editions. This would mean people wishing to study this material could purchase these at a reasonable cost. So I will, when time permits, begin to layout the material into book form.
8 April 2014
My Hermetic Studies Series has rather languished with no new titles being issued since 2005, whereas the Magnum Opus series has continued to flourish with three or four new titles appearing each year. The idea for the Hermetic Studies Series was that it would provide a vehicle for research material, or editions of works which were not necessarily up to the high standards set by the Magnum Opus series.
I have now decided to revive this series, but cannot follow the original binding in leather. I am getting too old to be able to undertake a new round of binding up items - the Magnum Opus is challenging enough ! So I have decided to issue some new titles to be printed and bound in paperback format. This means these books will be considerably cheaper than the classic hardbound leather editions - prices will be around £12 ($20). I have two items currently in preparation and will post information about these in about two weeks time.
26 March 2014
A few months ago a student of alchemy contacted me about the Samuel Norton Key of Alchemy manuscript which I and some colleagues had transcribed back in 1996 for my alchemy web site. There was one section missing and he offered to make a transcription. Apparently there are a group of modern practical alchemists intrigued by this manuscript. This led me to taking a more focussed look at the entire transcription and I realised that there were some lacunas and in any case the language and spelling made this work difficult to understand. I decided to edit the language into modern English and resolve some of the problems. So I have now completed this and intend publishing it in printed form. As I cannot undertake substantially more bookbinding, I have decided to issue this in the Hermetic Studies series and have copies printed by Blurb, and reserve the leather hardback bindings exclusively for the Magnum Opus series. My skin problems on my hands, particularly the fingertips, now make it uncomfortable to undertake long periods of bookbinding.
It will take a few weeks to get copies set up on Blurb. I have decided also to issue another book in the Hermetic Studies series shortly.
11 March 2014
This morning I posted out the initial orders for the Teletes. This leaves ten copies to sell at the special rate for my regular customers. I am not sure what I will be working on next. There are a number of half completed projects that will need my attention.
10 March 2014
I have now completed the production of number 49 in the Magnum Opus series. This is a remarkable and rather obscure item, the Teletes, a set of five large format engravings. I am providing a standard format book which contains my analysis of the imagery and a large portfolio 12 by 17 inches in size. Because of the portfolio and the additional postage costs this will be an expensive item. I have decided to make 20 copies available at a discounted price to my regular customers. I expect this offer should be totally taken up within a couple of weeks. After this the price will have to rise.
You can see details on this page
6 March 2014
I have almost completed work on the next book in the Magnum Opus series. This will be quite an exceptional production as apart from the usual book there is provided a portfolio of prints of the complex diagrams. When I started out editing the book I thought to issue this in A4 format, but as I proceeded with it I realised it would be best if the readers were provided with large format reproductions of the five tables, and thus the solution of the standard format book with an additional portfolio presented itself. I have now made up a batch of these portfolios and will bind up the books early next week. This is rather a fine production, but as with most of my books I do not expect it to sell well. As always it will be the second hand book dealers twenty years from now who will make the profit from my books.
On a more negative side, I have had to decide to abandon selling the large format A2 prints. These sell very slowly and recently two prints went missing in the post to the USA. The economics of running the printer means that I have found I cannot make any profit from selling these. The large format printer has to clean itself every time I turn it on, and it uses up ink to undertake this cleaning process. A complete set of twelve inks for the printer costs about £1000 and it exhausts these up in about six months of cleaning. These printers are only economic if they are working hard every day. Just running off the occasional print every week or so is totally uneconomic. So I have been making a loss and the recent problems of nondelivery led me to reassessing this. It is a great pity as the prints are astounding and were reasonably priced.
20 February 2014
I am currently working on number 49 in the Magnum Opus series. This is a large complex diagram with many component parts. I first came across it back in 1981 and I have long wanted to create an edition of this obscure item. The book requires a rather intricate layout which is requiring a great deal of my concentration, but it should be completed in a few weeks time.
As the Magnum Opus series has spanned many years - 35 years in fact - I have often wondered how many people hold a complete run. Many of those buying copies I issued in the 1980s have not been able to continue buying the post 2000 issues, and of course many of the younger collectors who have bought all the recent issues have not been able to find (or afford) some of the copies from the early period. I only know of three individuals who definitely hold complete runs. I would be interested to know of any others. My books do hold their value and I expect in the longer term that might be a good investment.
It is becoming more and more obvious to me that I will not be able to continue working at my present pace for much longer, so I intend over the next two years to push the various publishing projects on which I have been working into printed form, then run down the production.
Those who know my work will have realised that one of my main interests lies in alchemical and hermetic manuscripts and some printed books with series of images. I have published editions of most of these:-
The Crowning of NatureThere still remain a few series of images that I want to edit into books, and once this is done I feel I will have provided an almost exhaustive survey of this material. Then I may feel it is time to cease actively publishing and devote the little time left to me to research and documentation. Running the publishing business does not always allow me much time for reading and research.
The Rosicrucian Emblems of Cramer
Hermetic Garden of Stolcius
The Rosary of the Philosophers
Amphitheatre Engravings of Khunrath
The Key of Boehme
Fludd - Origin and Structure of Cosmos
The Paradoxical Emblems of Freher
Alchemical Engravings of Mylius
The Hermaphrodite Child of the Sun and Moon
The Three Tables of D.A. Freher
The Viatorium of Michael Maier
The Pneumo-Cosmic manuscript
The Three Tables of Man - coloured
Seven Keys of Honoratus Marinier
The Solidonius Manuscript
On the Music of the Spheres by Robert Fludd
Bonacina. The Preparation of Potable Gold
The Allegory of Palombara
Gualdi Philosophia hermetica
17 February 2014
The Gualdi is now for sale - see this page.
12 February 2014
I have just completed work on a new volume in the Magnum Opus series. This is the Philosophia Hermetica by Frederico Gualdi, a series of thirteen emblematic coloured drawings illustrating a set of fifty one verses. I first became aware of this at the Alchemy conference at El Escorial in 2008 when one of the speakers, showed illustrations from one of the manuscripts.
I was delighted in 2012 to find that an American publisher was issuing a translation of this work and immediately bought a copy. My delight turned to dismay when I read the translation. In places it was incomprehensible. I looked at the original Italian and it did not seem incomprehensible at all. I was saddened that such a wonderful little book was being made so impenetrable.
How can one make sense of "...and homogenei living, and not dead, and of full spirit otherwise the nature multiply, or Generare not will it less the art to nature assister could the mineral kingdom there is a recommended method..."
So I decided to try and rescue poor Gualdi's little work. My edition is at least comprehensible and coherent.
I will be binding up copies over the weekend and should have them for sale early next week.
27 January 2014
In the last few days I have found at the bottom of a box of papers a small number of copies of a book I produced back in 1985 which has long been out of print. This is the Compendium on the Rosicrucian Vault, number 4 in the Hermetic Research Series. I took a look for the price of secondhand copies on AbeBooks and found one copy at GBP 75 ($125) and another at GBP125 ($206). The lower priced item was missing the two fold out plates. The copies I have to sell are in perfect condition, as they have not been handled for nearly 30 years. I will sell these for GBP 75 ($125) plus postage GBP 4 ($12).
If you want a copy email me at email@example.com and I will send you a Paypal invoice. Remember to tell me your country of residence so I can invoice you in pounds, dollars or euros and apply the correct postage. First come first served !