Adam's Alchemy Weblog 2014|
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 !
Alchemical, astrological and
emblematic art prints
Alchemy and art
Art books Series
Study course on Bosch's
Garden of Earthly Delights
New Hieronymus Bosch Website