Alchemiae Gebri Arabis philosophi solertissimi, Libri, cum Reliquis…
by GEBER (or JABIR ibn HAYYAN)
Elaborate woodcut title-page border & 16 fine woodcuts of alchemical apparatus & alchemists at work. 8 p.l., 302 pp., one leaf (with Apiarius's "Bear" device on verso). Small 4to, cont. blind-tooled alum-tawed pigskin-backed wooden boards, catches & one clasp (of two). Bern: [M. Apiarius (Biener)] for Johann Petreius, 1545. [bound with]: -. De Alchemia Dialogi II. Quorum prior, Genuinam libroru[m] Gebri sententiam, de industria ab authore celatam, & figurato sermone inuolutam retegit, & certis argumentis probat. Alter Raimundi Lullij Maioricani, Mysteria in lucem producit. Quibus praemittuntur, propositiones centum uiginti nouem, idem argumentum compendiosa brevitate complectentes. 64 unnumbered leaves. Small 4to. Nuremberg: J. Petreius, 1548. A most attractive sammelband of Geber's most important writings in a handsome contemporary binding, with an important provenance. This volume has two magnificent woodcut bookplates on the front and rear pastedowns. The first is of that of the mint-master and apothecary Michael Aschenbrenner (1549-1605); the second is that of his wife Christiana. His is dated 1588 and bears the monogram "MCB." These are the oldest known Berlin bookplates and Michael's is the oldest bookplate of a German pharmacist. I. Second edition (1st ed.: 1541) of this extremely important and early collection of alchemical writings. The identity of Geber with the eighth-century alchemist Jabir ibn Hayyan is still a matter of dispute. "Even on the slender basis of our present knowledge, Jabir appears already as a very great personality, one of the greatest in mediaeval science."-Sarton, I, p. 532. Certainly, De Alchimia and the other works of the Geber corpus were of the greatest influence on Western chemistry, and "whether they be translations or elaborations, they represent the amount of Arabic chemical knowledge made available to Latin reading people toward the end of the thirteenth century…they represent the best Latin knowledge on chemistry in that period."-Sarton, II, p. 1044. The present collection contains four treatises by Geber/Jabir ibn Hayyan: 1. Summa perfectionis. 2. Liber de investigatione perfectionis (the earliest description of the preparation of nitric acid and aqua regia). 3. Liber de inventione veritatis sive perfectionis. 4. Liber fornacum (a practical text on chemical operations). "We find in them remarkably sound views on methods of chemical research; a theory on the geologic formation of metals; the so-called sulphur-mercury theory of metals (the six metals differ essentially because of different proportions of sulphur and mercury in them); preparation of various substances (e.g., basic lead carbonate; arsenic and antimony from their sulphides). Jabir deals also with various applications, e.g., refinement of metals, preparation of steel, dyeing of cloth and leather, varnishes to water-proof cloth and protect iron, use of manganese dioxide in glass-making, use of iron pyrites for writing in gold, distillation of vinegar to concentrate acetic acid. He observed the imponderability of magnetic force."-Sarton, I, p. 532. This collection also contains the following texts of which at least four are printed for the first time: 5. Roger Bacon's Speculum Alchemiae. 6. Richard of Wendover's Correctorium Alchemiae. 7. Rosarius minor, de Alchemia by an unknown author. 8. Khalid ibn Yazid's Liber Secretorum Alchemiae. 9. Hermes Trismegistus' Tabula Smaragdina. 10. Hortolanus' commentary on the Tabula Smaragdina. The fine woodcuts, in the manner of Wechtlin, are highly interesting as they show furnaces, distilling apparatus, and other laboratory equipment used at the beginning of the 16th century. A contemporary note in a copy of this edition once offered for sale by E.P. Goldschimdt (Cat. 165, item 19) stated that the manuscript used by the printer Petri for this edition came from the library of Conrad Gesner. II. First edition in Latin of this collection of texts. This is the first combined edition of these two texts, both translated from the Italian by Guglielmo Grataroli. The prefatory "propositiones" are headed: "Expositio librorum Gebri et Raimundi [Lulli]." The first dialogue, written by the Brescian Giovanni Braccesco, "Dialogus primus, veram et genuinam librorum Gebri sententiam explicans, Demogorgon Geber" (p. [11-112]) was first published in Venice in 1544 under title La Espositione di Geber Philosopho. The second work, "Lignum Vitae, Demogorgon Rymundus" (p. [113-127]) was first published in Rome in 1542 under title: Il legno della vità. Although various components of these works are ascribed to Raymond Llull, "the ascription is improbable."-Mellon. Very fine copies. Old stamp on margin of title of the Courland Society for Literature and Art. ❧ D.S.B., VII, p. 42-His "importance for the history not only of alchemy but also of science in general, and for the intellectual history of Islam, has by no means been sufficiently examined"-(& see the full article for more on his individual writings).
(Inventory #: 6105)
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