1583 · Berlin:
Contemporary vellum, old ink manuscript spine title, edges red; soiled, tears in spine at cords, and head of spine, lacks ties. On first title page, small repaired pieces at bottom of title pages (removing previous owner's stamp?), red eagle stamp at ends and on folding plates (some obscured), light marginal dampstaining on a few leaves, plates reinforced at folds, minor worming in blank inner margin at end, good margins, some marginalia in an old hand. PROVENANCE: Early signature on first title of Andrae Mülleri Greiffen, 1677; previous owner's stamp "Ex Bibl. Germ. Sem." Very good. "A COMPREHENSIVE HISTORY OF ALCHEMY." First editions. Thurneisser (1530-1596) '...began life by learning the trade of his father, who was a goldsmith, but he also picked up some knowledge of botany, medicine, and, possibly, anatomy under Vesalius. In 1548 he left Basel, and went to England, France, and Germany, where he became a soldier. Afterwards he worked as a metallurgist, and again as a goldsmith. . . From 1560 to 1570 he was in the service of the Archduke Ferdinand, and travelled far and near, from the Orkney islands down to Africa, and to the East, everywhere learning medicine and metallurgy. . . From 1570 to 1584 he was physician to John Georg, Churfürst of Brandenburg, and had a laboratory and printing press in the so-called "Grey monastery" at Berlin. By various means he amassed a large fortune, and at one time employed between two and three hundred people. He collected a library, a museum, and a herbarium, kept a menagerie, and encouraged the fine and practical arts, such as the manufacture of saltpetre, alum, glass, paper, and also coloured glass. . . in 1579, he was accused by Joel of magic and of having a devil in a bottle which taught him to write languages he did not know...In 1584 he finally left Berlin, went to Italy, where he tried to practice medicine and alchemy; he was at Rome in 1591, and died in a monastery at Cologne 9 July, 1596, and was buried beside Albertus Magnus, according to his own request.' – Ferguson.
"The works that Thurneysser published at this time were impressive examples of the printer's art, illustrated with woodcuts and etchings, and incorporating Greek, Arabic, Syrian, Hebrew, and Chaldean typefaces. . . His chief alchemical works, Megaln chymia and Melisath, were both published in Berlin in 1583." – DSB.
'The Magna Alchymia is of a more practical character than [Thurneisser's] other works and contains descriptions of preparations of sulphur, salts including sal urinae, mercury and its compounds, and metals, [as well as] a long section on astrology and horoscopes.' – Partington II p. 155.
The Magna alchymia is in fact a comprehensive history of alchemy. It is divided into 9 chapters which are dealing with its substances: sulphur, salts, ammonium chloride, aluminum, saltpeter, and mercury. The seventh book refers to the planets and the sun, chapters eight and nine describe the origin of minerals and metals.
The Melitsah is "...a kind of dictionary directed to clarifying the works and ideas of Paracelsus, whose follower Thurneisser purported to be. But although he frequently quoted from Paracelsus, Thurneysser often invented the passages cited himself; and the Melisath contains citations of some eighty tracts by Paracelsus that never existed outside Thurneysser's own mind." - [DSB].
For linguistic problems Thurneisser turned to the orientalist Elias Hutter (1553-c.1609), and the two Hebraists Valentin Schindler (d.1604) and Jakob Ebert (1549-1614).
"A huge pseudo-epigraphic literature of alchemical books was composed in Arabic, attributed to mostly Greek authors, historical or apocryphal (Plato, Aristotle, Hermes Trismegistus, Apollonios of Tyana, Zosimus). The names of Persian authors also appear (J?m?sb, Ostanes, Mani; cf. Sezgin, pp. 51-54, 59-60; Ullmann, pp. 183-86), testifying that alchemy-like operations on metals and other substances were also practiced in Iran. The great number of Persian technical names (zaybaq = mercury, noš?der = sal-ammoniac) also corroborates the idea of an important Iranian influence. We are still unable however to ascertain precisely whether all these texts are translations or texts written directly in Arabic from a Greek model in the Islamic area, which certainly occurred in several cases (Vereno, 1992, pp. 134-339); nor can we really reconstruct the historical evolution of the rise and development of alchemy in the Islamic world. Several Muslim authors also started writing on alchemy, but we do not know exactly who and when. Even if the texts attributed to ?Ali b. Abi ??leb (Corbin, 1986, Pt. I), the Umayyad Prince ??led b. Walid or Ja?far al-??deq (Ruska, 1924, I and II) are apocryphal, there is no doubt that alchemy was widely practiced from the 8th century (2nd century A.H.) onwards. It was not only translated from Greek into Arabic, but also Islamicized, re-thought within the frame of Islamic conceptions, references, and symbols. This science was generally called al-?an?a al-el?hiyya, the divine art. The name kimi? (Gr. kh?meía, the art of alloying the metals) seems to have been used at first in a rather pejorative way (meaning something like 'trickery'; cf. Sezgin, pp. 3-7)." – Pierre Lory for the Encyclopedia Iranica.
The multi-language typesetting is used because there are Arab and Persian contributions to alchemy that are included. "Traditional symbolism, mentioned above, is meant to include ancient and Arab sources which are of greatest interest here. First of all the colours and their correspondences must be mentioned, as crucial to heraldry and also very important in hermetic theory and art. The basic arrangement of planetary colours is most probably of Babilonian origin and was developed as a part of the system of astrological correspondences. It was later adapted by the Hellenistic astrologers of Ptolemaic Egypt and inherited by the Islamic scholars of the 8th-10th centuries. There cannot be any doubt that the latter new it, as the whole scheme is clearly set out in the treatise on The Perfect Man (Insan-ul-Kamil) by the Sufi mystic Jili. In theoretical texts on European heraldry, the earliest of which are quite late, this system also appears, most notably in Le blason des armoiries by Hyerome de Bara (Lyon, 1581)." Rafal T. Prinke, Hermetic Heraldry, The Hermetic Journal, 1989, 62-78.
The owner of this text seems to know Farsi, based on the reading of some of the marginalia. For this period of the late seventeenth century, there is no understanding of the full language of Arabic or Farsi by western writers, yet in this case the entire first books is full of Arabic, Aramaic, Hebrew, Syrian, Turkish and Farsi words from alchemy, written in a phonetic-style of each language, but not writing the words in a correct structure [Farsi and Arabic words are not written as separate sets of characters, instead they are linked together …]. Thus this text is trying to make Middle Eastern terms understandable to a western audience. The words are all legible and yet they are not correctly written. The writer gives the language of origin and then gives a description in German.
[Example] A black falcon is referred to on p. 137: see "Chamata" … Est colure nigra, Ein geschlecht der schwartzen Falcken Niger genant/deren Volataranus und Albertus gedencten." Albertus Magnus wrote a book about falcons, "De falconibus", in which all aspects of falcons are described.
Megale: VD 16 T1178; Bolton p. 873; BM STC, German, 862; Bruning 555; Duveen 579, "very rare"; Ferguson II, 452 [no index]; Ferchl 536; Schmieder 286, 2; Sudhoff 21(1587?); Wellcome I, 6302.
Melitsah: VD 16 T1170; Bruning 554; Duveen 579 (lacking all 8 tables); Ferguson II, p.454 (Not in Young Coll.); Sudhoff 194; BM STC, German 862; Ackermann IV, 184 (no tables); Durling/NLM 4355(lacking tables); Kopp I, 107; Graesse (Bibl. mag.) 113; Neville II, 553; Wellcome I, 6301. See also: S. H. Nasr, Science and Civilization in Islam, Cambridge, Mass., 1968; Pierre Lory, Alchimie et mystique en terre d'Islam, Paris, 1989, rev. ed. 2003; Rashed, ed., Encyclopaedia of the History of Arabic Sciences, London, 1996. [FULL TITLE: [Hebrew:] Melitsath [Greek:] kai Herme?neia. Das ist ein Onomasticum und Interpretatio oder auszfu?hrliche Erklerung . . . uber etliche frembde unnd . . . unbekante Nomina, Verba, Proverbia, Dicta, Sylben, Caracter, und sonst Reden. Deren nicht allein in . . . Paracelsi von Hohenheim, sondern auch in anderer Authorum Schrifften, hin und wider weitleufftig gedacht, welche hie zusammen, nach dem Alphabet verzeichnet. Das ander Theil. In welchem fast jedes Wort, mit seiner eigenen Schrifft, nach der Vo?lcker Etymologia oder eigenen Art und Weis zureden, beschrieben worden ist.
[bound with:] [Greek title: Megale? chymia], vel Magna alchymia. Das ist ein Lehr und unterweisung von den offenbaren und verborgenlichen Naturen, Arten und eigenschafften, allerhandt wunderlicher erdtgewechssen . . . Und was der dingen zum theil hoch in den lu?fften, zum theil in der tieffe der erden, und zum theil in den wassern . . . zu einer wesentlichen materia digerirt, coagulirt, oder præparirt . . . und wie, oder welcher gestalt, oder auff was weiss vn? wege, deren ein jedes, mit zusatz des andern, durch menschlichen handgriff, oder den usum (dieser sehr alten kunst) eintweders in ein liquorem, oehl, saltz, stein, wasser, schwefel, mercurium oder andere mineren und metall verwandelt, oder sonst zum nutz, gebrauch und wolstandt, menschlichs zeitlichs lebens zugericht und bereitet wird.] (Inventory #: S13125)