Visualization in Medieval Alchemy
Abstract: This paper explores major trends in visualization
of medieval theories of natural and artificial transformation of substances
in relation to their philosophical and theological bases. The function
of pictorial forms is analyzed in terms of the prevailing conceptions of
science and methods of transmitting knowledge. The documents under examination
date from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century. In these, pictorial
representations include lists and tables, geometrical figures, depictions
of furnaces and apparatus, and figurative elements mainly from the vegetable
and animal realms. An effort is made to trace the earliest evidence of
these differing pictorial types.
Keywords: visualization in alchemy, science and craft,
Visualization in medieval alchemy is a relatively late phenomenon. Documents
dating from the introduction of alchemy into the Latin West around 1140
up to the mid-thirteenth century are almost devoid of pictorial elements.
During the next century and a half, the primary mode of representation
remained linguistic and propositional; pictorial forms developed neither
rapidly nor in any continuous way. This state of affairs changed in the
early fifteenth century when illustrations no longer merely punctuated
alchemical texts but were organized into whole series and into synthetic
pictorial representations of the principles governing the discipline. The
rapidly growing number of illustrations made texts recede to the point
where they were reduced to picture labels, as is the case with the Scrowle
by the very successful alchemist George Ripley (d. about 1490). The Silent
Book (Mutus Liber, La Rochelle, 1677) is entirely composed of
pictures. However, medieval alchemical literature was not monolithic. Differing
literary genres and types of illustrations coexisted, and texts dealing
with the transformation of metals and other substances were indebted to
diverging philosophical traditions. Therefore, rather than attempting to
establish an exhaustive inventory of visual forms in medieval alchemy or
a premature synthesis, the purpose of this article is to sketch major trends
in visualization and to exemplify them by their earliest appearance so
The notion of visualization includes a large spectrum of possible pictorial
forms, both verbal and non-verbal. On the level of verbal expression, all
derivations from discursive language may be considered to fall into the
category of pictorial representation insofar as the setting apart of groups
of linguistic signs corresponds to a specific intention at formalization.
The main form of these are lists and tables which may or may not be combined
with linear, diagrammatic constructs. Occasionally, discursive language
is also used to construe figures or parts of figures and sometimes they
include portions of texts (Figures 1 & 2).
Figure 1: Venise, Biblioteca nazionale Marciana, ms. gr. 299, fol.
188v (tenth to eleventh century). Zosimos of Panopolis, Authentic Memoirs,
V (ca. 300). Symbols of cosmic principles, of substances and illustration
Figure 2: Nürnberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, ms. 80 061,
p. 158 (ca 1420). Book of the Holy Trinity. Letter symbolism designating
metals and alchemical operations (following Ganzenmüller, 1939, p.
Whether they are composed of words or of lines, the basic forms
of diagrammatic figures of alchemical documents are rectangular and circular.
When used independently of specific philosophical systems, the rectangular
or square forms tend to be neutral from a semantic point of view, while
the circular form is invested with an intrinsic mimetic dimension in relation
to fundamental cosmological systems. In the Platonic and neo-Platonic philosophical
and theological traditions it expresses perfection; in the Aristotelian
context of natural philosophy it refers to cyclical processes within the
spherical cosmos. Figurative representations, anthropomorphic or non-anthropomorphic,
may be added subsequently just as they may stand alone and form complete
In connexion with alchemical texts, pictorial representation relates
either to observable or to unobservable objects and processes, and to conceptual
schemes. The category of visible and observable things comprises, above
all, apparatus, furnaces and vessels, characteristics of substances, and
stages of transformation. While furnaces and vessels are depicted by direct
imitation, observable characteristics and their alterations are visualized
either diagrammatically or by way of similes previously developed on the
discursive level. The category of the invisible and unobservable includes
the so-called occult or hidden qualities of substances and change of qualities
supposed to be either latent and interior to a given substance or subterranean.
Above all, it comprises that of substantial change, which was understood,
following Aristotle, as the passage from generation to corruption and vice
versa (Ganzenmüller 1939) . All of these are also visualized by diagrammatic
figures and by verbal similes that have been transposed onto the pictorial
level. In this case, tables and more elaborate diagrammatic figures tend
to relate categories of the visible to categories of the invisible, for
instance lists of observable celestial data to processes of subterranean
natural generation and to the transformation of substances produced by
human art. As to conceptual schemes, they are visualized, above all, by
geometrical figures and by diagrams to which may be added personifications
and other figurative elements, and which occasionally develop into figurative
Verbal and pictorial similes in alchemical documents may be divided
into two main groups: analogies, on the one hand, and diverse rhetorical
forms of figurative speech – allegory, metaphor, enigma – on the other.
While the basic function of analogies is to help finding unknown terms
and to name them, the other category of similes relates to persuasion,
clarification, and simple comparison. This division, however, merely indicates
major tendencies. Hybrid forms are frequent and even the rule as literary
genres of alchemical writings diversify in the later Middle Ages. Moreover,
similes taken from the macrocosmic, microcosmic, animal, and vegetal realms
do not only have a heuristic function but they are also intended to conceal
and to mislead. Following a recurrent complaint, the ensuing confusion
was one of the many problems alchemists encountered when choosing the ingredients
for their work. Indeed, from its very beginnings in Alexandrian Egypt,
alchemy was the only scientific discipline to systematically resort to
However, the use of symbolic signs, which were an integral part of Greek
alchemical documents (Figure 1), remained sporadic
in the Latin West between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries. One of the
few instances of symbolic notation for metals, which were partly derived
from planetary pictograms as well as for sulphur and arsenic, occurs in
a late thirteenth-century copy of (pseudo) Albertus Magnus, De alchimia
(also entitled Semita recta). And in the early
fifteenth century the richly illustrated Book of the Holy Trinity
used, besides planetary symbols, diverse signs similar to those found in
magical texts, such as configurations made of dots and small circles, the
swastika, and also letters from the alphabet.
The presence of pictorial forms in medieval alchemy raises, above all,
the problem of their function in medieval scientific texts as well as in
texts that deviate from contemporary criteria of scientificity. Medieval
alchemy defined itself as scientia and as ars. That is, alchemy
was not merely a contemplative discipline – the proper concern of ancient
and medieval science –, but it was also aimed at efficiency, at bringing
about change in the realm of corporeal substances. Its operations resulted
in innovations – especially in the era of distillation products – in need
of explanation. Accordingly, medieval alchemy made a continuous, always
renewed effort to become part of an universally approved and institutionally
transmitted cosmological system. But although is was occasionally acknowledged
as a science, its scientific status was frequently put into question and
even denied, it being considered either a mere craft or the activity of
charlatans. Indeed, the problems alchemists encountered highlight a specific
medieval reality, namely the gulf between science and the crafts. While
science was considered to be an intellectual, rational activity based on
true principles, crafts were defined as being based merely on empirically
acquired knowledge, on experience. Thus, due to its claim to adopt scientific
principles as guidelines for operating, alchemy deviated from standard
conceptions of science, just as it stood in sharp contrast to most medieval
crafts. Not only did the elaboration and the transmission of its general
theories of natural and artificial formation and transformation of substances
hinge on literacy, but even the knowledge of its recipes was ultimately
based on the written word.
Despite the fact that medieval alchemy defined itself as a science,
it cannot be termed ‘chemistry’, nor can it be considered to represent
a stage in the history of chemistry and of experimental science. Its general
theories of natural and artificial formation of substances were cast in
terms of the prevailing Aristotelian and neo-Platonic philosophical frameworks.
As long as the conception of the universe as an organic whole prevailed,
its dismembering and the experimental reproduction of natural mechanisms
were neither thinkable nor realizable. Despite multiple
attempts at all-embracing explanations of substantial change, natural and
artificial, as well as at systematization of operational procedures, theory
remained divorced from experimental data. Despite its claim to universality
through unifying theory and widely circulating texts, particularism prevailed
in alchemy in the same way it did in all traditional crafts of pre-industrial
societies due to specific local working traditions, vocabulary, and the
practice of secrecy. Lastly, minerals, metals, salts, and other substances
used by alchemists varied widely from one geographical area to another
in terms of composition and impurities.
On the grounds of these considerations, the analysis of visualization
will be based on a historical evaluation of alchemy following the then
prevailing philosophical and theological conceptions. Reasons for the absence
or presence of pictorial forms is best evaluated with respect to contemporary
criteria of scientificity and forms of conveying knowledge, and to the
corresponding epistemological issues.
2. Alchemy as scientia naturalis and ars: the analogical
argument and visualization
In Arabic classifications of science and philosophy, which were adapted
in the twelfth century, alchemy was defined as a sub-branch of natural
philosophy (scientia naturalis), sharing this definition, above
all, with medicine. Thus, about ten years after the first translation of
an alchemical text into Latin (Morienus, De compositione alchimie),
Dominic Gundissalinus described alchemy as belonging to physics in his
divisione philosophiae (ca. 1150). It was a science
and an art aimed at the transformation of species.
Subsequently, by the mid-thirteenth century, Aristotelian philosophy
of nature had become the framework for all physical studies in medieval
universities. And, since at that time the general attitude was rather favorable
toward the teknai, discussions of the artificial production of metals
and other mineral substances took place in the context of the study of
Aristotle’s Meteorologica. Together with its frequently unacknowledged
Avicennian appendix on the formation of metals and minerals (also transmitted
under the title De congelatione et conglutinatione lapidum),
the Meteorologica served, from 1200 onward, as a theoretical basis
for the alchemist’s manipulation of substances.
In order to integrate alchemy into generally accepted theories of scientianaturalis
(or physica), use was made of an analogical argument, analogy being
understood in the sense of a principle of scientific explanation where,
as Shmuel Sambursky put it, "one phenomenon is explained in terms of the
functioning of another we are acquainted with or have got used to".
The argument links three levels: the level of general cosmologic theories,
the level of particular areas and substances, and the level of art imitating
(1) The overall cosmological level was cast in Aristotelian categories
of qualitative physics and its neo-Platonic elaborations.
Aristotle explained change in the sub-lunar, corporeal part of the world
in terms of the cyclical association and dissociation of two pairs of opposites,
the cold and the hot, the wet and the dry. From this process result the
elemental constituents of fire, air, water, and earth. The annual local
movement of the sun is the cause of the continuous change of one element
into another and of all natural cycles of generation and corruption.
As to the neo-Platonic philosophical tradition in its Western form, it
allowed, above all, to introduce the sphere of the divine; in its diverse
Arabic elaborations, it helped account for a more diversified celestial
influence made in terms of astrology and of celestial virtues.
(2) The general theory of the natural formation of subterranean substances
was based on Aristotle’s final part of the third book of the Meteorologica
where the Philosopher puts forward that metals are formed from compressed
humid exhalations, and on the fourth book where the active, formative principle
of metals is said to be the cold. The more specific
theory of the generation of metals in terms of their basic material and
formal constituents, namely quicksilver and sulphur, was set out in Avicenna’s
congelatione et conglutinatione lapidum. Here, the active, formative
principle was supposed to be heat, the duration and intensity of coction
being responsible for the differentiation among metals.
(3) The relation between nature and art was conceived in Aristotelian
terms of mimesis: art imitates and completes but never replaces
nature. The idea of the inferiority of art (ars) was intrinsically
linked to the conception of nature as an organic whole and of nature as
an intelligent artisan. As an artisan, nature induces movement internally,
thereby producing essential change, namely generation. By imitating nature,
the human artist merely brings about external, ‘mechanical’ change while
the substance remains identical.
In principle, the Aristotelian physical system prevailed in medieval
natural philosophy. Nevertheless, Platonic and neo-Platonic philosophical
positions were adopted by major thirteenth-century philosophers, and alchemical
texts usually combine these differing philosophical traditions.
In the Aristotelian physical tradition, analogies function in relation
to identical causal schemes; either nature or the human artisan induces
movement in the sense of qualitative change. Thus
Aristotle explained the formation of the foetus by analogical inference
from the art of cooking: it is a kind of coction due to the action of heat
deriving from sperm. Adopting the Aristotelian scientific
method, Albert the Great (d. 1280) gave, in his mid-thirteenth-century
an account of the natural formation of metals and minerals by analogy from
the cooking of the alchemists – in his estimation the best imitators of
nature – and from current scholastic medical theories on the formation
of the foetus.
Those major thirteenth and fourteenth-century alchemical texts that
were concerned with establishing a physical theory – in the sense of scientia
naturalis –, or at least with transmitting it, reversed the analogical
relation: alchemical theory and practice were based on the model of natural
macrocosmic and microcosmic processes. Artificial generation of metals
and minerals was, among others, explained with reference to the biological
model of animal (human) generation. In these, the rhetorical use of similes
for the purpose of either clarifying and illustrating abstract principles
or for avoiding to name certain substances and procedures are absent or
at the best very limited. As pointed out by Albert the Great with respect
to those alchemical writings which do not conform to the scholastic Aristotelian
concept of science, they conceal their meaning in metaphorical language,
"which has never been the custom in philosophy".
In Platonic and neo-Platonic theories of knowledge, the analogical argument
hinges on the assumption of an essential link between the intelligible
model and its visible copy, between intelligible realities and mental constructs.
The corporeal world is thought of as a visible (and tangible) manifestation
of intelligible mathematical patterns and in particular of the spherical
form, the most perfect one. Due to the divine part of his mind, the human
artist is able to apprehend and to reproduce these patterns.
The divine – divinity and the cosmos in its divine dimension – and things
of great spirituality were thought of as being beyond comprehension and
as being conceivable only with the help of corporeal similes. Thus, in
both the Platonic and neo-Platonic medieval philosophical traditions, similes
– verbal or pictorial – were considered essential to help conceive and
to represent first principles.
Pictorial forms occur in Aristotelian and in Platonically or neo-Platonically
oriented thirteenth-century and subsequent discussions of the natural formation
and artificial production of metals. However, while figures were rarely
used in the context of Aristotelian natural philosophy, things were different
with Platonic cosmology. Here their function was intrinsically linked to
the physical system, since Plato had conceived of the elementary parts
of the world in terms of geometrical configurations.
In thirteenth-century Aristotelian natural philosophy are to be found
some instances of the use of geometrical figures. Yet, just as Aristotle
himself did not make frequent use of geometrical demonstration, his medieval
followers never developed it into a widely used method of proof in either
medieval Aristotelian natural philosophy or alchemy. As far as the classification
of sciences goes, Albert the Great, for instance, rejected Plato’s subordination
of physics to mathematics and to divine realities: the physicist may prove
things geometrically, but by doing so he merely establishes the fact (quia),
not the reason for the fact (propter quid).
In order to conceive of the natural formation of metals and also to
explain it, Albert the Great himself made use of two figures in his Mineralogy
(1250-1252), the one work that established a theory
of mineral and metal formation then deemed worthy of Aristotle. Both occur
in a context of analogical inference from the visible procedures of human
art to the invisible workings of nature. Being the best imitators of nature,
alchemists construe vessels which reduplicate natural conditions under
which metals are generated (Figure 3):
When they [the alchemists] wish to make the elixir which is to have
the color and tincture of gold, first they take a lower vessel big enough
to hold the materials of well-purified sulphur and quicksilver or other
things which they put into the elixir. Next they arrange it so that on
the top of this there may be a vessel having a long, narrow neck; and over
the opening of this neck is a cover of clay in which is a very small, narrow
opening [¼ ] The better operators make
the vessels of glass; and the character of the first vessel is like a urinal,
and the second stands on top of it and receives all the vapour which rises
from it. And the contact of the two glasses or vessels is well sealed with
lute so that nothing can escape [¼ ]
The figure of the vessel is like this: the lower vessel is a b c d,
the upper vessel e f g, and the cover h. It will be the same
Figure 3: London, British Library, ms. Ashmole 1471, fol. 33v
(fourteenth century) (from Albertus Magnus 1967, plate II). The lower vessel
a b c d, the upper vessel e f g and the cover h reduplicate
natural, subterranean conditions under which metals are generated.
Figure 4: Glasgow, University Library, ms. Ferg. 104, fol.
45v (1361). Constantine of Pisa, The Book of the Secrets of Alchemy.
The creation of metals.
Albert used another geometrical figure marked by letters when setting
forth his theory of metal formation in different places in the ground,
porous or non-porous. According to Albert, vapor mixed with earthy parts
penetrates into the pores of the earth before solidifying into a metal,
which he exemplifies by pouring liquid metal onto the ground. He then gives
instructions for drawing a circle a b c which is to represent the
metal spread on the ground; two lines, c d and a g, represent
the way the metal penetrates into the earth, namely through veins. This
type of geometrical demonstration follows Aristotle’s method for proving
the sphericity of the elemental layers of the world.
In the thirteenth century, representatives of Platonically-oriented
cosmology and natural science such as Robert Grosseteste (1175-1253) defended
a systematic use of geometrical representation. Following Grosseteste,
"all causes of natural effects must be expressed by means of lines, angles,
and figures, for otherwise it is impossible to grasp their explanation".
The corresponding theory of knowledge was neo-Platonic and Augustinian.
The intelligible order underlying the physical, corporeal world was thought
to be apprehensible by the divine part of the soul, by the ‘eye of the
soul’, and geometrical figures (as well as number patterns) were used as
‘ladders’ leading to eternal truths.
In this respect, John Scottus Eriugena’s ninth-century Periphyseon
exercised considerable influence on thirteenth-century philosophers such
as, above all, Ramon Lull (about 1232-1315) and on the authors of the pseudo-Lullian
fourteenth-century alchemical corpus. In order to explain first causes
and their progression into multiplicity, the teacher of Eriugena’s dialogue
makes use of a "visible and corporeal figure", namely of a circle with
lines radiating from its centre to the circumference. Learning "outwardly
by sense" and apprehending on geometrical grounds is being both opposed
and paralleled with "understanding inwardly, by imagination". In one way
or another, geometrical figures were mental constructs made for the purpose
of meditation and contemplation, but without being in a mimetic relation
to anything. Thus, adopting this kind of theory
of knowledge did not necessarily imply that of Platonic cosmology with
its geometric elementary shapes, which do reflect pre-existing patterns.
From the thirteenth century on, the combination of Aristotelian physical
principles with neo-Platonic epistemology was quite common in alchemical
texts. But only very few instances are to be found where geometrical figures
are used in terms of the Timaean theory of elementary shapes.
In alchemy, the earliest so-far known Western document to use pictorial
forms in a neo-Platonically oriented epistemological context is the Book
of the Secrets of Alchemy compiled in 1257 by a student of medicine,
Constantine of Pisa. The corresponding theory of
knowledge is set forth in a few topoi. Concerning the etymology
of the letter ‘L’, the author notes: "According to etymology, it [‘L’]
is so called from lucidando and from illuminando; illuminando,
making clear that which is obscure, and throwing a greater light on that
which is intelligible [¼ ] for the intellect
is the eye of the mind". Being "beyond understanding",
God and his eternity can be grasped neither "by reason nor by working".
Essentially a set of lecture notes, this document gives precious insight
into current mid-thirteenth discussion on natural formation of metals and
it sheds light on the effort to deal both verbally and pictorially with
alchemy as a novel discipline. On the level of cosmology, it juxtaposes
the physical theory of Aristotle’s Meteorology and its Avicennian
prolongation with Platonic and neo-Platonic traditions. More specifically,
Constantine – or rather his unknown teacher – tried to provide alchemy
with not only a physical but also a theological basis. The overall cosmological
model is still that of the Biblical creation in its Platonically oriented
twelfth-century interpretation. In order to achieve this particular goal,
use was made of an analogical argument and of corresponding figures, above
all, of what may be called the ‘creation diagram’.
With respect to the creation of metals, the argument is that God brought
forth the six metals within the six days of creation by differentiating
homeomerous bodies. The corresponding diagram is
composed of a vertically laid-out sequence of seven circle segments bearing
the names of the planets and their corresponding metals. At the bottom
the series is terminated by segments with inscriptions naming earth, air,
and the Dead Sea (Figure 4). In a Flemish fourteenth-century versified
adaptation of this document (The Book of the Secrets of My Lady Alchemy),
the ‘creation diagram’ has been considerably developed through additions
and modifications. At the top is added a circle enclosing the hand of the
creator; below, personifications (heads) of the planets and of the earth;
and the circle segments that refer to the sublunary world contain birds,
land-animals, fish and a mask as the origin of waters. In both instances,
the arrangement of semi-circular and circular segments of the diagrammatic
structure is determined by the hexaemeral leitmotif "In principio creavit
Deus celum et terram". This is made explicit in the more developed
figure where the divine creator and ordinator is named and symbolized at
the top of the series (Figure 5).
Following this, the motif of the Platonic Biblical Divine Artisan, who
brings order into previously created matter, is interpreted in terms of
alchemical operation and the separation of the four elements out of chaos,
which serves as an analogous model for the solidification of quicksilver
brought about by the alchemist. Here, the alchemist does not imitate the
art of nature but the art of divinity:
All strength and operation rest upon mercury, it being the mother
and matter of all metals, just as hyle is the first cause [¼
] the material cause comes about through congealing as in the first hyle,
the mother of all creatures, as established by the Supreme Artisan [¼
] And just as primordial matter was intermingled and without form, so it
is with the congelation of mercury, which is like thick water, fluid and
invisible. And just as it is told of the Spirit of the Lord moving upon
the waters as the first cause, so this work consists of twelve waters [¼
In the Book of the Secrets of Alchemy, astrology plays a major role
in helping understand alchemy as a science and also in guiding its operations.
The corresponding tables serve as a tool for causally relating heavenly
phenomena to natural generation and to artificial transformation of metals;
they also help establish analogical relations between the visible and the
invisible. As is the case with the other figures of this text, their specific
function is made explicit. A first set of astrological tables depict the
physical theory in its astrological extension according to which not only
the sun but also the other planets cause generation in the sub-lunar realm.
The respective tables are announced thus: "It is necessary to know the
order of the planets with respect to homomereous things, i.e. metals,
as given in this table [¼ ]."
"In order, therefore, to gain knowledge of the science, one must understand
the motion of the upper bodies with respect to homomereous bodies by means
of this table, called the House of the planets, as they are in their signs"
Figure 5: Wien, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, ms. 2372,
fol. 46vb-47ra (second half of the fourteenth century). The Secrets
of My Lady Alchemy (Adaptation of Constantine of Pisa, The Book
of the Secrets of Alchemy). The creation of metals.
Figure 6: Wien, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, ms. 2372,
fol. 35r (second half of the fourteenth century). The Secrets of My
Lady Alchemy (Adaptation of Constantine of Pisa, The Book of the
Secrets of Alchemy). Table listing the qualities common to planets
and to metals.
Two further astrological tables which serve as guides to the operating
alchemist are part of the following argument:
Congealing, according to Aristotle, is the uniting of parts that can
be liquefied, or the thickening of parts that are liable to be fluid. And
it is as impossible to lick heaven with one’s tongue as it is impossible
to enter upon the practice of alchemy other than through the congealing
of mercury, of which many are ignorant and which cannot be taught reliably
except through the motion of the upper bodies, especially the orbit of
the moon, as first shown in this table.
Good and bad lunations, or effects, can be seen in the preceding table;
here and now, the following table will give abundant information about
good and bad quarters and their corresponding effects.
To conclude the discussion of the selected figures of the Book of the
Secrets of alchemy, it may be stated that their general function is
to enhance the analogical argument of the text in relation to theological,
ontological, and physical conceptual schemes. Both the ‘creation diagram’
and astrological charts are construed on the principle of visual substitution:
older pictorial forms are altered to express theories of the formation
and transformation of metals, as well as to give instruction for the alchemist’s
operations. Astrological tables traditionally used in a medical context
for listing the moon-microcosm correspondences have become invested with
the names of metals. Likewise, in the ‘creation diagram’ references to
stellar causality and metals are inserted into the combined pictorial schemes
of Genesis illustrations and of the elementary and stellar orbits that
have been reduced to segments spread out in a row.
In the vernacular fourteenth-century version of the Book of the Secrets
of Alchemy (The Book of My Lady Alchemy), figurative
elements such as the hand of God and personifications of planets are added
to the basic structure of circle segments.
3. The observation of accidental qualities: visualization and metaphor
Albert the Great’s and Constantine’s treatises represent the few thirteenth-century
documents to include figures visualizing conceptual schemes relating to
the natural formation and to the divine creation of metals. Subsequently,
within the all-pervasive system of Aristotelian natural philosophy, emphasis
was laid on observable accidental qualities. However, despite the recurrent
urge to view the characteristics and behavior of substances, the transition
to their pictorial representation took place merely in alchemical documents
dating from the second half of the fourteenth century. Moreover, these
observable characteristics and stages of transformation were visualized
by transposition of verbal metaphors onto the pictorial level, ‘metaphor’
being understood in its classical Quintilian definition as alieniloquium.
Thus, although the conceptual basis for putting observational data to the
fore was thoroughly Aristotelian, visualization of these by way of metaphors
did not agree with the standards of the scholastic scientific method and
its syllogistically conduced arguments. It should be noted that not only
authors and compilers of derivative literary products favored the use of
similes for comparison and for didactic purposes, but that in the 1330s
even a scholastically trained theoretician like Petrus Bonus justified
and recommended the use metaphorical language in alchemical writings.
The scholastic Aristotelian method adopted by all major alchemical treatises
from the mid-thirteenth century on was that of combined deduction from
general principles and induction based on sense data, that is, on the observation
of accidental qualities of substances. In metals, these were, in Albert
the Great’s words, "their being liquefiable and malleable, their colors,
tastes and odors and their ability to be consumed by fire".
In his Mineralogy, Albert explains that
When dealing with many particulars we must first understand the natures
from the signs and effects [observed] [ex signis et effectibus]
and proceed from these signs to their causes and compositions; for the
end effects are more obvious to us. But in dealing with the nature of universals
[¼ ] we have to proceed in the opposite
way, [reasoning] from the cause to the effects and powers and signs.
Examples from the Mineralogy for reasoning in terms of experience
and signs are:
The production of metals is cyclical, from each other. Experience
shows that this is the case [probat autem hoc experta], both in
the operations of nature and in the techniques of art. As to natural processes,
I have learned, by what I have seen with my own eyes [visu proprio didici],
that a vein flowing from a single source was in one part pure gold, and
in another silver having a stony calx mixed with it [¼
Elsewhere, Albert states that
iron is subject to rust, the cause of this being that it contains
burnt earth; for what putrefaction is to moist things, rust is to iron.
For when the moisture is removed, what is left behind is parched, dry,
and burnt, and is reduced to ashes. Evidence [signum] of this is
that iron is especially affected by rust if something burning is thrown
upon it – such as salt, sulphur orpiment, and the like.
Albert’s Mineralogy set the standards for a rich tradition of alchemical
writings in which expressions such as ‘to see with one’s own eyes’, ‘observation’,
‘signs’, ‘experimental evidence’ and ‘experience’ were extensively used.
On a theoretical level, reference to observational data, experimenta,
helped confirm previously reached conclusions.
The main document of this tradition was alternately entitled Semita
recta and De alchimia. In this widely read and often varied-upon
pseudo-Albertian treatise, the expression ‘I have seen’ (vidi) is
systematically used in theoretical discussions, as the following instances
We see different species receive different forms at different times;
this is evident by decoction, and constant contact: what is red in arsenic
will become black and then will become white by sublimation [¼
] If, by any chance, someone should say that such species can easily be
transmuted from color to color, but that in metals it is impossible, I
will reply by citing the evident cause through evident indications and
proofs [¼ ] For we see that azure [¼
] is produced from silver [¼ ] We see,
furthermore, that copper receives a yellow color from calamine stone [¼
Alchemical treatises that adopted the Aristotelian scientific method all
agree that observation leads nowhere unless it be guided by the knowledge
of principles, divine or natural. The pseudo-Lullian fourteenth-century
for instance, asserts that
The art is nothing unless the artisan starts out with certain and
determinate principles; and he must regulate himself on demonstrative signs,
namely the colors which appear in the process of working.
Roger Bacon’s theory of experimental science also exercised considerable
influence on alchemical texts, especially on the fourteenth-century pseudo-Lullian
alchemical corpus where one finds expressions, such as "sicut ostendit
ratio naturalis et experientia nobis certificat", as has recently been
shown by Michela Pereira. Given the impact of this
scientific tradition the main points of Bacon’s theory may be recalled
in his own words.
There are two modes of acquiring knowledge, namely, by reasoning and
experience. Reasoning draws a conclusion and makes us grant the conclusion
but does not make the conclusion certain [¼
Bacon exemplifies his assertion that "authors write many statements and
people believe them through reasoning which they formulate without experience"
with a reference to the belief that diamonds cannot be broken except by
But fracture by means of blood of this kind has never been verified
[¼ ] and without that blood it can be
broken easily. For I have seen this with my own eyes, and this is necessary,
because gems cannot be carved except by fragments of this stone [¼
] Therefore, all things must be verified by experience.
On the level of alchemical operation which were exposed in sections concerned
with practica, the main accidental qualities of substances to be
observed were colors. Their appearance and disappearance increasingly helped
mark stages of transformation and the number four was to become canonical
in fourteenth-century alchemical texts such as the pseudo-Lullian Codicillus.
In a Rosarius attributed to John Dastin (first half of the fourteenth
century), the author writes:
There are four principal colors: black, white, yellow, and red [¼
] Colors will then teach you how to handle fire, for they show how long
and when the first, the second, and the third fire are to be made. Thence,
if you are a conscientious workman, colors will teach you what to do.
Here it is stressed that the alchemical process is to be performed entirely
in one vessel of thick hermetically sealed glass so that the operator may
observe the changes.
In alchemical treatises where scholastic Aristotelian principles of
natural philosophy prevailed, the first step toward visualization was made
in relation to instructions for construing apparatus, furnaces, and vessels.
These are given in those sections of thirteenth-century treatises that
are concerned with practica, with instructions for operating and
recipes. Frequently the practica is preceded by a theorica,
but practical instructions alone were also circulated.
The major alchemical document of the thirteenth-century scholastic Aristotelian
alchemical literature, the Summa perfectionis magisterii
of (pseudo)-Geber, systematically describes apparatus
used in diverse alchemical operations (sublimation, descension, distillation,
calcination, solving, coagulation, fixation, ceration). However, the
text does not yet refer to figures. In the oldest manuscripts of the Summa,
these are drawn in the margins, as is the case with the late thirteenth-century
copy bearing the title Summa collectionis complementi occulte secretorum
nature (Bibliothèque nationale de France ms. lat. 6514, fol.
68r-71r). The fourteen figures of this manuscript copy were first analysed
and reproduced by Marcellin Berthelot (Figure 7).
A contemporary Paris manuscript includes a Practica of Alchemy by
Jacob the German (Practica alchimiae Jacobi Theutonici, quod ipse operatus
est). Eleven marginal figures accompany the text where instructions
for fabricating apparatus alternate with recipes (fol. 139r-141v). That
is, whenever a specific vessel is necessary for a given operation, Jacob
the German includes instructions for its construction. But again, in the
text the author does not refer to figures.
Figure 7: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, ms. lat.
6514, fol. 70r (end of the thirteenth century) (Berthelot 1893 [reimpr.,
1967], vol. 1, p. 151, fig. IV). An alembic.
Reference to figures of furnaces and vessels are to be found in the pseudo-Albertian
alchimia or Semita recta that circulated in the second half
of the thirteenth century and enjoyed an enormous success, whence it was
subjected to many variations. Here, descriptions of apparatus are concluded
by calling the reader’s attention to accompanying figures: "And this is
the plan for the furnace" (Et haec est forma furni).
Concerning the distillation oven, the text reads:
Distillation ovens are to be made in the following way: they are construed
like those [described] above, of clay [¼
] the oven should be wider at the top than at the bottom, as this figure
Two folios of a manuscript of the Semita recta now in Glasgow
(University Library, ms. Hunt. 110, fol. 27r-35v, fourteenth century)
may serve as an example for the relation between descriptions and drawings
of vessels and furnaces. On folio 33r there is a description of a pot (olla)
covered by a lid, which is provided with a narrow neck into which a stick
is introduced. The corresponding illustration is in the margin. Next is
another pot with a narrow neck, announced in the same way as the preceding
figure by the formula "cuius hec est figura". The small drawing
follows in the text itself (fol. 33r). It depicts the lower part of one
of the most frequently used vessels for distillatio per descensum.
Mercury has to be poured into this vessel. The description of the furnace
to be used for this operation follows: "Then take a round furnace [¼
] with an opening for the vessel and for the fire, this being its figure
[cuius hec est figura]. Heat this furnace to redness",
and so on (Figure 8).
Figure 8: Glasgow, University Library, ms. Hunt. 110, fol. 27r-35v;
fol. 33v (fourteenth century). Semita recta domini Alberti.
Drawings of vessels and a furnace.
The first depictions of diverse processes and stages of transformation
in glass vessels are included in a highly original vernacular verse from
the region of the lower Rhine, possibly Brabant, dating from the second
half of the fourteenth century. The author of this text without title identifies
himself as Gratheus. He was obviously a craftsman
and aimed at a popular public without knowledge of Latin.
The absence of philosophic discussion of transmutation is counter-balanced
by a theme that should become increasingly important toward the end of
the Middle Ages and in the sixteenth-century: bookish learning and textual
parables lead to errors. In order to avoid these,
Gratheus recommends reading the book of heaven, a "manifest mirror and
examplar of alchemy". There, one may perceive with
one’s own eyes the whole work of alchemy and all types of vessels.
This argument applies and old exegetical topos to alchemy. As pointed out
by Augustine, the book of nature may be read even by the illiterate (idiota).
Emphasis is laid on technical aspects of the work, the fabrication of
vessels appropriate for different operations and of apparatus such as an
oil press made of steel (stal) and wood.
In the first part of the treatise a wide range of differing vessels are
described and depicted. Instructions for their fabrication are interspersed
with recipes. Artificially created names for vessels (bima, alpha,
fumera, etc.) clearly have a mnemonic function, and the same
applies to stars and their unusual depictions (some hundred and fifty stars
are provided with faces), which play a major role in the text. The author
heavily insists on the pedagogical function of figures: "I wish to teach
you the vessels which are useful to work with by way of figures".
Figure 9: Wien, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, cod. Vind.
2372, fol. 59 ra (second half of the fourteenth century) (Birkhan 1992,
vol. II, fig. p. 66). Gratheus, Introduction to Alchemy. Ylarius,
Multipos and Virgo in the glass vessel named ‘samimas’.
The description of alchemical transformation is cast in terms of personified
roles acting in violent amorous and wary dramas. At that point a literary
tradition of alchemical texts comes in that differs widely from those of
mainstream scholastic alchemical texts in that the ultimate philosophical
background is an amalgam of pre-Socratic and Gnostic traditions. Gratheus
assimilated particularly allegorical alchemical texts of Greek and Arabic
origin, such as Zosimos’ Dream Vision, where personifications of
metals are dismembered; and Ibn Umail’s Tabula
chemica, which describes the courtship and the wedding of the sun and
moon and which had an enormous impact on late medieval
alchemy. In the fourteenth-century document, these are the main dramatis
personae appearing as king and queen and named Ylarius and Virgo. One
of the many actors, a figure provided with a stick and called Multipos,
molests and separates them in a vessel called "samimas".
The corresponding illustration (see Figure 9) is introduced by the following
line: "Multipos it is named [and] should you wish to know, this is his
[Multipos’] aspect [tekin, literally: sign]".
Next, the couple is shown in embrace, with Multipos standing outside of
the vessel. As a result, a first child appears,
now in a "samimas" that has taken on the form of a matrix
(Figure 10). The second child, "secundus puer", is a dragon, and
the author invites the reader – or listener – to have this almost unbelievable
sight: "Now look at that child".
Figure 10: Wien, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, cod.
Vind. 2372, fol. 60 rb (second half of the fourteenth century) (Birkhan
ed. 1992, vol. II, p. 78). Gratheus, Introduction to Alchemy. Primus
puer, the first offspring from Ylarius and Virgo.
Gratheus’ text emerged as a major – and possibly first – document testifying
to the transformation of analogical relations, particularly between animal
generation and the formation of metals, into metaphors. Both linguistic
and pictorial metaphors were used for comparison, persuasion, and the conveying
of knowledge in the most efficient manner. Analogical relations disappeared
together with the corresponding philosophical context and their terms were
no longer made explicit. Depicted within glass vessels, the principal metaphorical
motif became the union of opposite principles, male and female, in the
form of a queen and a king and their subsequent procreation. The purpose
of this derivative type of literature was not the elaboration of theories
and knowledge, but the transmission of theoretical principles, which were
progressively reduced to ‘sayings of philosophers’, of principles relating
to practica, and of recipes. In order to make sure that these were
understood and memorized, authors such as Gratheus condensed them into
striking phrases. Rhyme, an artificial and apparently arbitrary nomenclature,
and personifications behaving in the most extravagant manner, were employed
as mnemonic devices. Corresponding pictures punctuated
crucial points and, as if this were not sufficient, Gratheus frequently
made verbal statements concerning their presence and invited the reader
(or the audience) to look at them.
This type of document does not develop philosophical arguments in order
to demonstrate the veracity of alchemy. Instead, striking pictorial forms
reinforce the persuasiveness of the written word, itself centerd on rhetorical
effectiveness. Moreover, in order to ground pictorial representations in
the order of natural (and divine) things and to distinguish them from arbitrary
linguistic signs, Gratheus resorted to the fiction of their heavenly appearance.
Obvious to everyone, on the firmament there are not only objects to be
copied by human art in drawings and fabrication, but also visible forms
relating to Christ as both a human and a god, namely the cross, the Holy
Sepulcher, and the judge of the Last Day. Of these
christological motifs, only that of Christ’s haloed head surrounded by
glass vessels and that of the holy grave (Figure 14) are pictorially represented.
The early fifteenth-century Aurora consurgens marks a further
step in the elaboration of pictorial metaphors combined with glass vessels.
The oldest and most spectacular copy of this document dates from the 1420s
(Zürich, Zentralbibliothek, ms. Rh. 172). On a purely pictorial level,
an inventive and high-quality artist developed a core of recurrent alchemical
metaphors that relate to human and animal procreation, the dismemberment
of bodies (symbolizing calcinations and putrefaction) and motifs such as
the eagle and the dragon, which denote mercury as a volatile and as a solidified
substance, respectively. In and around glass vessels,
the artist metaphorically depicted stages of operation relating to the
alchemical art of transformation as well as cosmological and philosophical
principles of the art, such as "two are one" and "nature vanquishes nature".
Two or more principal metaphors are frequently combined within a single
picture, reflecting the increasing use of chains of metaphors. For instance,
one of the illustration combines the motifs of Mercury decapitating the
sun and the moon with a vase filled with silver and gold flowers (Figure
Figure 11: Zürich, Zentralbibliothek, ms. Rh. 172, fol. 27v.
consurgens (ca 1420-30). Mercury in the form of a serpent decapitating
the Sun and the Moon. Gold and silver flowers in a vessel on the fire.
The thirty-seven illustrations of the Aurora consurgens provide
a wide range of comparisons taken from nature, whereas practical considerations
are pushed into the background. This shift might be explained by the intended
readership, since the richly illuminated text was clearly addressed to
a milieu of princely patrons. However, these patrons
were not merely interested in aesthetic and poetic contemplation but also
in personally exercising the art of alchemy, as apparently were the margrave
of Brandenburg and Barbara of Cilli, the wife of the emperor Sigismund
to whom the author of the Book of the Holy Trinity offered his services
during the Council of Constance.
The Aurora Consurgens is also an important testimony to another
late medieval pictorial evolution, namely that of synthetic representations
of the principles governing alchemy. The document transposes onto the pictorial
level an ekphrasis in all probability of late antique origin, which
has been transmitted to the West by a treatise of Ibn Umail, the Tabula
chemica (tenth century). This description
of wall paintings of a subterranean chamber in a pyramid is combined with
that of the purportedly hieroglyphic signs carved into a marble (or emerald)
slab resting on the knees of the statue of Hermes, the mythical founder
of alchemy. Then follows the interpretation of the
pictograms. Two birds holding one another and appearing like a circle symbolize
the topos of ‘two in one’; these birds also take on the form of
one of the oldest metaphorical designation for a cosmic principle of unity,
namely the dragon biting its tail. Further, the unification of the opposite
principles female/male, passive/active, cold/hot, moist/dry finds expression
in the coupling of the sun and the moon, a cosmologic motif of central
importance since it symbolizes the generation of all things (Figure 12).
Figure 12: Pandora, das ist die edelste Gab Gottes, (Anonymous,
1582, p. 241). Hermes with his emerald table, following the description
by Ibn Umail (Senior), Tabula chemica.
In fact, these pictograms are elaborations of the earliest symbols of Greek
alchemy as they appear in Zosimos’ of Panopolis Authentic Memoirs
(Figure 1). In medieval manucripts, the ouroboros biting its tail
has been stylized into a medallion of three concentric circles with inscriptions
referring to the unity of everything and two natures attracting and dominating
each other. It is associated with the symbols of the sun, moon, mercury,
According to the narrative of the Tabula chemica, the pictures
that had been hidden in a pyramid were not only discovered and described
but also copied. Thus, the author guaranteed the integrity and truthfulness
of the learning deposited by Hermes himself. It
may be stated that the Aurora consurgens gives a first forceful
visual expression of a myth that should become a major theme in the Renaissance
period, i.e. the myth of the recovery of original knowledge and
its methods of deciphering and interpretation. Indeed, the pictorial representation
of the discovery of Hermes and his testament dates from the very period
of the 1419 recovery of the late antique Hieroglyphica by Horapollo.
Regarded as the script of divine order, visual hieroglyphic expression
became a guarantee for the preservation of original knowledge and of its
faultless transmission. Deformation by arbitrary human (verbal) interpretation
could not affect the veracity of divinely instituted pictorial signs.
Subsequently, the principal pictorial forms of the Aurora consurgens
were divided into many branches, but the chronology of this evolution is
yet to be established. Major documents of these are a Rosarius printed
in Francfurt in 1550 and its variants, sometimes bearing the title Donum
dei. The adaptors maintained that everything
depicted has previously been observed, including the appearance of the
dragon, thus suggesting a strong relation between observation, truthful
imagination, and pictorial representation (Figure 13).
On the pictorial as well as on the verbal level, a limited number of topoi
were subject to continuously varying combinations. Increasingly, alchemical
texts and their illustrations became mosaics of already existing documents,
which were elaborated in a more or less original manner. They all have
in common that the principal operations were codified in a series of stages
of transformation where color and structure change. As long as observable
accidental qualities were discussed on a philosophical level, color remained
associated with abstract designations for stages of transformation, such
as had been codified by the Summa perfectionis of pseudo-Gabir.
Now, on the metaphorical level, colors were associated with specific shapes
of the ingredients, which were described and depicted in the form of allegorised
Figure 13: Pandora, das ist die edelste Gab Gottes (Anonymous,
1582, p. 42-43). The dragon (the philosopher’s sulphur) and flowers in
The first part of the early fifteenth-century Aurora Consurgens
interprets the Old Testament in terms of alchemical operation;
but, except the figure of Solomon, there are no
corresponding pictorial motifs. The aforementioned late fourteenth-century
treatise by Gratheus appears to be among the oldest known alchemical documents
that include religious pictorial motifs. However, these are exclusively
of a christological character: the head of Christ surrounded by a ring
of vessels and the resurrection of Christ (Figure
14). Following Gratheus, the tomb of Christ appears on the firmament in
the form of a constellation. Here, the cosmic exemplar functions
not only as a general model for operation, but also as a didactic exemplum.
The repeated use of the term ‘exemplum’ by the author clearly indicates
a fusion between these levels.
4. Spiritual Fransciscans, alchemy, and visualization
Figure 14: Wien, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, cod.
Vind. 2372, fol. 57va (second half of the fourteenth century) (Birkhan
1992, vol. II, p. 54). Gratheus, Introduction to Alchemy. The resurrection
of Christ as an example for the process of sublimation.
The origins of textual and subsequent pictorial christological motifs in
alchemical texts point back, once again, to the thirteenth and early fourteenth
centuries. Here too, in its original doctrinal context, the relation between
alchemical theory and operation, on the one hand, and the overall cosmological
model, on the other, was one of analogy: the figure of Christ served as
a prototype for the relations between the realm of nature and the realm
of the supra-natural, the celestial and the earthly, the divine and the
human. Afterwards, the earthly life of Christ should become a particularly
welcome illustration of diverse operations with the metals. As pointed
out by Gratheus, the "experimenta iudeorum are exempla" for
the treatment of mercury, which has to be "captured, tortured, beaten and
deprived of its soul".
In the thirteenth-century doctrinal context, Aristotelian natural philosophy
was, as a rule, not supposed to deal with revealed, supra-natural truths,
such as Creation, the Trinity, Christology, the sacraments, or the end
of the world. Instead, these were the subject matter of theology.
With very few exceptions – Constantine’s On the secrets of alchemy
being a point in case – Western alchemical texts written in the thirteenth
and early fourteenth centuries conform to that rule.
Differing, anti-scholastic views were put forth in circles of Franciscan
spirituals, such as Arnald of Villanova (1240-1311) and John of Rupescissa
(d. after 1356). Alchemical documents belonging to this orientation related
supra-natural phenomena to the realm of nature and declared artificial
transformations achieved by alchemist as being natural to a certain point.
Beyond this, namely on the level of substantial transformation, they considered
changes miraculous and therefore not apprehensible by rational scientific
investigation but only by experiment and illumination.
As a consequence, explicit parallels were established between alchemical
transmutation and the Eucharistic transformation.
The development of the pharmaceutical branch of alchemy was a major
factor for adopting a cosmological model that combined the realms of nature
and the supra-natural. This branch specialized in the preservation of the
human body and the prolongation of life due to a
major innovation, namely the distilling of alcohol.
Alcohol (aqua ardens, quinta essentia, aqua vita) was considered
incorruptible and rendering the human body unalterable. In his authoritative
mid-fourteenth-century treatise on distillation, John of Rupescissa argued
that this substance could not be explained in terms of the association
and dissociation of elementary qualities (cold/hot, dry/moist). He further
promised to demonstrate experimentally (demonstrabo ex experimenta assumpta)
how a bird, a fish, or a piece of meat once immersed in this liquid is
no longer subject to decay. Rupescissa tried to
account for the presence of something unalterable within nature by analogy
with the Aristotelian first (fifth) essence. However,
this theoretical effort proved to be insufficient due to an essential feature
of Aristotelian cosmology, namely its strict division between the divine,
heavenly and the infra-lunar spheres. As a consequence, the mediator-figure
of Christ became the center of a complementary explanatory model.
The distinctive doctrinal features of the corresponding alchemical literature
were derived from the theology of the Catalan physician Arnald of Villanova.
Briefly outlined, the Arnaldian views, which served as a basis for major
developments of late medieval trends in alchemy, are the following. Being
the exemplum of all things, Christ is the supreme physician (Summusmedicus),
while the human physician acts as God’s instrument
(Ecclesiasticus 38. 1-11). In turn, in their
conforming to Christ’s life, the "little ones of Christ" (parvuliChristi)
become exempla of evangelic perfection and,
as the last times approach, they help regenerate nature and man both on
the corporeal and spiritual level. Their knowledge is acquired by revelation
or experiment (revelatione vel experimento),
by way of signs in nature and in the Holy Scripture.
In his Parabolae medicae, Arnald made use of the exegetical method
of distinguishing between the literal and the spiritual meaning. Parables,
similes, and examples of visible things refer to invisible spiritual entities.
In this respect, Arnaldus was particularly fond of the Wisdom of Salomon.
This hermeneutic principle was adopted in late medieval alchemical textual
and pictorial documents, where Biblical texts were systematically interpreted
in terms of alchemical work.
The introductory words of the Tractatus parabolicus – the main
pseudo-Arnaldian text that served as a source for writings and for illustrations
referring to the incarnation, the passion, and the resurrection of Christ
– quite clearly sets the tone:
This art [alchemy] may be comprehended through His coming [¼
] for He is the example of all things. And our elixir may be understood
according to the conception and generation and nativity and passion of
Christ, and be compared to the predictions of the prophets [¼
] And on earth he suffered passion and underwent resurrection, and he visibly
ascended from earth to heaven where he rested [¼
]. Do understand how to deal with mercury following the example of Christ.
Christ had suffered four passions, and so does mercury. Among others, mercury
had to be put into to a coffin and it had to stay there just as Christ
did, and so on.
Regarding the passion of Christ, the Tractatus parabolicus is
a perfect example of the late medieval tendency to describe Christ’s earthly
sufferings in the crudest possible way and to exhibit them for viewing
in paintings and in sculpture. Moreover, the story of Christ was amalgamated
with metaphors taken from human procreation. The operating alchemist had
to follow instructions such as:
Take the pure mother, put it to bed with her son, then subject them
to the strictest penitence until they are cleansed from their sins. Then
the son will be captured, flagellated, and turned over to the Jews. The
son is put back to bed, captured again, and crucified. The sun and the
moon will then be darkened. Then the resurrection of the Son will soon
take place and you will have to increase the fire.
The Franciscan spiritual movements with their distinctly eschatological
outlook conferred a particular social dignity to alchemy: the products
of alchemical transformation helped poor and pure Franciscans to fight
the impious. This tradition culminated in The
Book of the Holy Trinity where means provided by alchemy were offered
to help establish the reign of a last emperor. In this document from the
period of the Council of Constance, which was dedicated to Frederic, margrave
of Brandenburg, in 1419, pictorial motifs
relating to political views, theological doctrines, and alchemical transformation
of metals were all combined and fused into a single iconographical program.
Diverse tortures inflicted on Christ, which had first been described in
pseudo-Arnaldian texts and by Gratheus, were now depicted. Christ is shown
as a tortured human – mercury – as well as the resurrected god – gold.
5. Geometrical figures as cognitive tools: the Lullian alchemical corpus
The pseudo-Lullian corpus of alchemical writings represent a major late-medieval
instance of visualization in so far as figures are no longer a posteriori
additions, but the very basis of the doctrinal system as well as instruments
for organizing its elements, ranging from the most abstract principles
to ingredients for recipes. The Catalan philosopher and theologian Ramon
Lull (about 1232-1315) made use of figures in the context of neo-Platonic
emanantism. Progression from the divine principle down to matter and retrogression
from matter up to divinity are graphically represented by way of geometrical
figures, above all the circle, together with letters of the alphabet.
Lull had intended his Ars generalis to be applicable to all sciences;
he himself applied it only to astrology and medicine.
In the first half of the fourteenth century, followers of Lull formulated
alchemical theory and practice along the lines of his categories. Michela
Pereira, to whom we owe the groundbreaking work in the field of pseudo-Lullian
alchemy, has identified as a main document the Testamentum (ca.
1330-32). She has also reproduced the corresponding
figures in drawings, thus laying the ground for further analysis. Since
it is impossible to convey an accurate idea of the multiple functions that
these figures fulfil within the highly formalized system of pseudo-Lullian
alchemy, the following is merely a note intended to draw further attention
to this corpus.
Following a by then well-established tradition, (pseudo)-Lullian alchemy
combined neo-Platonic theories of knowledge with tenets of Aristotelian
natural philosophy and scientific method. For instance, the unknown author
of the Codicillus pointed out that for apprehending intelligible
principles the alchemist must use the eyes of his soul, whereas in relation
to signs, i.e. the qualities of the means and of the extremes, he
has to take his senses for a guide. In this corpus, neo-Platonic emanantism
also appears on the cosmological level, divinity being the beginning and
the end of all things. Three principles underlie the physical world: an
artificial one, God the creator; an exemplary principle, wisdom; and created
matter. Regarding the functioning of the world,
the Aristotelian theory of contraries became a central explanatory device
and a rule for operating. On the level of general physical principles,
hot and cold combined through the medium of dry and moist; on the level
of the theory of the formation of metals, the two extremes of quicksilver
and sulphur were linked with each other by the chain of intermediate metallic
bodies. These means were gradually transformed into extremes either naturally
In the corpus of pseudo-Lullian alchemy, the entire body of cosmological,
physical, and operational theories were cast into the form of tables, circular
diagrams, and geometric figures, such as the square, the triangle, and
letter symbolism. Typically, the basic figure of the pseudo-Lullian alchemical
the circle, symbolized perfection in a neo-Platonic doctrinal context,
just as it stood for the Aristotelian concept of the cyclical transformation
of the four elements, which in turn determined the natural and artificial
transformation of metals. Combined with geometrical configurations, the
letters of the alphabet allowed the alchemist to perceive infra-cosmic
relations in an evident way and to know how to perform corresponding operations.
Nature rotated the world and its elementary parts,
and the alchemist faithfully imitated her: figures
both visualized natural mechanisms and indicated how the operator had to
proceed (figura sequens ostendit quomodo )
Figure 15: Oxford, Corpus Christi College, ms. 244, fol. 58vb (fifteenth
century). Ps. Lull, Testamentum. The rotation of elements (Pereira
& Spaggiari 1999, fig. 30, drawing F. Di Pietro).
The diversity of pictorial forms in major documents of medieval alchemy
sheds significant light on the discipline itself. Indeed, alchemy was unique
in continually adopting various cosmological models and philosophical theories
for justifying artificial transformation of substances and in abandoning
them again as quickly. Theory and practice, especially in its innovative
aspect, never complemented one another for any length of time.
Only toward the end of the Middle Ages, a somewhat codified pictorial
tradition emerged out of very diverse tendencies in visualization. It had
an impact that went beyond restricted circles of alchemists, which was
in part due to printing, and it consisted of pictorial metaphors associated
with glass vessels. These metaphors related to observable accidental qualities
of substances, to their effects, to stages of transformation, and also
to philosophical principles governing the discipline. The principal theme
of these pictorial (and corresponding textual) metaphors was human procreation.
Its underlying biological model, which had once been used for analogical
inference to mechanisms of the natural and artificial formation of metals
and minerals, was no longer made explicit. However, literary documents
with this type of visual forms increasingly divorced from practice.
The second major tendency in late medieval alchemical imagery consisted
in presenting synthetic tables of the theoretical principles that governed
the discipline. Here, pictorial units were combined with corresponding
doxographic verbal units. These tables were intended to convey the essence
of the art, based on the the idea that, unlike the arbitrariness of linguistic
signs, pictorial forms can preserve original knowledge.
The third category of late medieval alchemical documents where pictorial
forms played a central role was pseudo-Lullian alchemy. Unlike the didactically
oriented documents, they continued to carry the body of scholastic Aristotelian
natural philosophy along with tenets of the neo-Platonic philosophical
tradition regarding the cognitive function of visual figures.
Ultimately, however, the bulk of practice oriented alchemical writings,
which tended to be centred on distillation, was devoid of pictorial forms
other than those of apparatus.
 The supposedly first translation of an alchemical
work is Morienus 1974. Generally, the work is quoted by a somewhat briefer
title, De compositione alchimie, or it is simply referred to as
‘the Morienus’ (see Lemay 1990-91).
 Berthelot 1889, pp. 92-126; Berthelot 1887,
vol. 1, fig. p. 132; Zosimos of Panopolis 1995, pl. II, p. 241 (the illustrations
are taken from Berthelot); Partington 1937.
 Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana,
ms. Pal. lat. 978, fol. 33r-41v (additions: fol. 43v-46v): Dominus Albertus
Magnus super alkimiam; cf. ch. 2 (fol. 34r). For instance, the
symbol for metals is an Y with a transversal stroke on the stem
and the symbol for sulphur is S. These symbols are used in the text
and they are also listed in the lower margin of the folio. For the manuscript,
see Thorndike 1936 and Kibre 1959. The Semita recta in this manuscript
is similar to but not identical with Albertus Magnus 1890 and Heines 1958.
For variant texts, see Kibre 1944 and Paneth 1929.
 See the signs reproduced in Ganzenmüller
1939, pp. 120-121.
 On these issues, see the essays by R. Hooykaas,
particularly Hooykaas 1983.
 Dominicus Gundissalinus 1903, p. 20.
 Ibidem: "Scientia alquimia […]
scientia de conversione rerum in alias species." Vincent of Beauvais,
naturale, VII. 6: "Per artem alchymiae transmutantur corpora mineralia
a propriis speciebus ad alias, praecipue metalla" (Douai, 1624).
 Avicenna 1929, English translation in Grant
1974, pp. 572 sq. A partial edition is also included in Newman 1991, appendix
I, pp. 49-51.
 Sambursky 1956, p. 14. For Aristotle’s use
of this principle and for a bibliography, see Obrist 1993.
 Obrist 1996, pp. 236 sq.
 Aristotle 1965, II. 10-11.
 Aristotle 1962, IV. 6, 8.
 Aristotle 1990, 734b 22 sq.; Obrist 1996,
 Lloyd 1966, pp. 378 sq.
 Aristotle 1990, 743a 29; Vuillemin 1967,
pp. 17 sq.
 Albertus Magnus 1890, IV. Tract. unic.
1; Albertus Magnus 1967. For quotations, see Obrist 1993, pp. 50-51; Obrist
1996, p. 266.
 Albertus Magnus 1890, III. 1. 7.
 On the history of this idea, see Panofsky
1989, pp. 27 sq.
 Lindberg 1982, pp. 14-16.
 Riddle & Mulholland 1980, p. 220. The
on Aristotles’ Meteorologica is dated 1250-1254.
 "Horum autem vasorum est figura talis,
quod inferius vas sit abcd, superius autem efg, et operculum sit figura
h: sic igitur etiam erit in natura" (Albertus Magnus 1890, III. 1.
10; Albertus Magnus 1967, p. 183-184). Wyckoff reproduces the figures in
a manuscript of the Bodleian Library in Oxford, Ashmole 1471, fol. 33v
 Aristotle 1971, II. 4, 287b 4-14 (fig.
 Robert Grosseteste, De lineis, angulis,
et figuris. For the quotation, see Lindberg 1982, p. 12.
 John Scot Eriugena, 1978-1981, III, 625
A-626 A; Jeauneau 1996-2000; Yates 1960, p. 43.
 Singer 1946.
 The author identifies himself as follows,
ch. 7: "I compiled this work; I Constantine of the Pisan nation, not Constantine
the African, who wrote a book on medicine which he entitled Pantegni
Constantini – from pan meaning ‘all’ and tegni, meaning
‘art’, that is ‘all the art of medicine’. Similarly, this work is called
Constantini on the Whole Art of Alchemy, but it is unknown to
most people" (Constantine of Pisa 1990, pp. 83, 247). See also Obrist 1993.
 Constantine of Pisa 1990, ch. 15, pp. 91-92/256.
 Constantine of Pisa 1990, ch. 15, pp. 93/256.
 Constantine of Pisa 1990, Prologue, pp.
70/232. The definition of metals as homeomerous substances is based on
Aristotle’s Meteorologica, IV. 8, 384b 31-35. Constantine explains
that they are "unius generis" (Prologue, pp. 65/227; comm., p. 162).
 Obrist 1982, pp. 67-116; Obrist 1993, pp.
 Constantine of Pisa 1990, ch. 7, pp. 84/79-80;
Obrist 1993, p. 135.
 Constantine of Pisa 1990, ch. 2, pp. 73/235-6:
"Sed necesse est scire ordinem planetarum in omiomeris, id est in metallis,
ut habetur in hac tabula."
 Constantine of Pisa 1990, ch. 2, pp. 74-75/237:
"Quo idcirco ut sciatur huius scientie plenitudo, debet sciri motus
superiorum in omiomeris, et per hanc tabulam que dicitur domus planetarum
in signis." Tables from Glasgow, University Library, ms. Ferg. 104
(fol. 43v, 36v, 44v, 45r, 45v, 46r, 46v, and Vienna (fol. 35 rb, 44rb,
45rb, 46va, 47ra, 47vb, 50r) are reproduced on p. 321-327.
 Constantine of Pisa 1990, ch. 2, pp. 75-76/238-9:
"[…] ut habetur in primis in hac tabula."
 Constantine of Pisa 1990, ch. 3, pp. 77-78/240-241:
"De bonis lunationibus, sive malis, aut de operationibus, videndis habetur
in hac tabula precedenti et per abundantiam in subsequenti de quadraturis
bonis et malis, et de operationibus in eisdem tabula docebit nunc et in
 For this type of illustration, see Obrist
1993, fig. 1d. For the spheres as a memory system, see Yates 1966, p. 111,
fig. 1 and p. 116, fig. 1.
 Petrus Bonus 1660, ch. 9, p. 592; Crisciani
 Albertus Magnus 1890 & 1967, III. II.
1 sq. For the color, see III. II. 3.
 Albertus Magnus 1890 & 1967, I. I.
1.: "Cum autem in multis de particularibus fiat tractatus, oportet nos
prius ex signis et effectibus cognoscere naturas istorum, et ex illis devenire
in causas eorum et compositiones: eo quod ex signa et effectus nobis sunt
magis manifesta. In universalium autem natura […] erat procedenum
e converso, a causa videlicet ad effectus et ad virtutes et signa."
Wyckoff translates ‘signa’ by ‘evidences’.
 Albertus Magnus, 1890, III. II. 6 (Albertus
Magnus 1967, p. 200).
 Albertus Magnus, 1890, III. II. 3 (Albertus
Magnus 1967, p. 192). In the sections devoted to Aristotelian physics and
method, Constantine even explains the meaning of the letter ‘O’ as being
"so called from seeing (oculando) through effects, for often what
the eye sees, the heart believes, especially by experience" ("Sequitur
litera O, ab oculando dicta per operationes, quia sepe quod oculus videt
cor credit, maxime per experientiam" [Constantine of Pisa 1990, pp.
 Crisciani 1998; for a discussion of various
alchemical texts which are not mentioned here, including Petrus Bonus,
see pp 88 sq. The notions of ‘experience’ and ‘experiment’ conform to an
epistemological frame that is shared by alchemy and medicine, see also
Agrimi & Crisciani 1990, pp.9-49.
 "Quod scimus loquimur, et quod vidimus
testamur: videmus species diversas recipere formas diversas diversis temporibus:
sicut patet in arsenico, quod est rubeum, et per decoctionem et assiduitatem
erit nigrum, per subimationem erit album, semper tale. Et forte aliquis
diceret, quod tales species de facili possunt transmutari de colore in
colorem, sed in metallis impossibile. Quibus respondeo ex evidenti causa
per diversas probationes et evidentias, eorum errorem penitus destruens:
Videmus enim ex argento generari azurum, quod dicitur transmarinum: quod
tamen cum natura sit perfectum, carens omni corruptione, facilius videtur,
et est destruere accidentale quam essentiale: videmus enim cuprum recipere
colorem citrinum ex lapide calaminari […] Videmus et ferrum converti
in argentum vivum […]" (Pseudo-Albertus Magnus 1890, pp. 548-549; Heines
1958, pp. 10-11; Halleux 1982, pp. 75-8).
 "Et hoc ideo, quia ars esse non potest
nisi a certis et determinatis principiis inchoat artifex; et regulare se
debet per signa demonstrativa, quae sunt colores in opere apparentes"
(Anonymous 1702, ch. 53, p. 899). For this and other similar quotations,
see Pereira 1992, p. 141, n. 50. For a modern French adaptation of the
see Anonymous 1953.
 Ibidem, p. 139.
 Roger Bacon 1962, pp. 583-4.
 "Demonstrativa principia generalia,
quibus artifex signis praecognitis insignitus, veritatem postulantem artificialiter
informat, sunt illa signa quae magis habitu infixa materialibus principiis
successive in decoctionibus emittitur, ut sunt 4 principales colores […]
Per illorum notitiam administrare sciat cautus artista id de quo a natura
per signa demonstrativa cognoscet in practica" (Pereira 1992, p. 142,
 John Dastin, Rosarius: "Quatuor
tamen sunt colores principales: niger, albus, citrinus et rubeus […]
Colores itaque te docebunt quid facias de igne, ipse namque ostendent quot
tempore, et quando ignis primus, secundus et tertius est faciendus; unde
si diligens fueris administrator, colores te docebut quid fieri oporteat."
Quoted in Pereira 1992, p. 142, n. 55 (Manget, vol. II, 309-324; cf. p.
320-1). On John Dastin, see Thorndike 1934, vol. 3, pp. 85-102.
 Thorndike 1934, vol. 3, pp. 91-92.
 Newman 1991.
 Berthelot 1893, vol. 1, pp. 68 sq., 149-162.
 Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de
France, ms. lat. 7156, fol. 138r-142v. Berthelot 1889, vol. 1, pp. 71,
 Pseudo-Albertus Magnus 1890, p. 551; Heines
1958, p. 16.
 "Furnelli distillatorii sic faciendi
sunt: fiant ut supra de argilla […] furnus vero sit amplior superius
quam subtus id hunc modum, ut eius figura demonstrat" (Pseudo-Albertus
Magnus 1890, p. 551; Heines 1958, pp. 16-17).
 Singer 1928-31, vol. 1, n. 177.
 Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de
France, ms. lat. 7156, fol. 141r (late thirteenth century). Reproduction
in Berthelot 1893, vol. 1, p. 161.
 Glasgow, University Library, ms. Hunt.
110, fol. 33v: "Tunc habeas fornellum rotundum […] habens foramen
ubi vas et ignis imponuntur cuius haec est figura. Istum furnum caleficias
 Birkhan (1992) provides it with the title
 Gratheus 1992, ll. 55-8.
 Gratheus 1992, ll. 20-54.
 Gratheus 1992, ll. 703 sq., 719-720, 736-739:
"Hets spiegel ende exemplare/ van alkemien openbare; Hier beghint dat
men mach scouwen/ an tfirmament in goeder trouwen/ enen spiegel die es
scone […]". See also ll. 1405-15.
 Gratheus 1992, ll. 1395-1416: "Alle
dese vate siet men wet/ inden troon met sterren beset […] Siet hier
na den trone/ ene figure scone/ dar an moghen leren/ vrouwen ende heren/
alkemie kinnen/ […] siet up desen cyrkel." For the immediately
following illustration of Christ’s head and the heavenly round of vessels,
see Birkhan 1992, p. 86. Augustine 1956, Enarrationes in psalmos,
 For the latter, see Gratheus 1992, figs.
on pp. 32, 36.
 Gratheus 1992, ll. 63-5: "Bi figuren
willic v toghen/ die vate die ten werken doghen/ die suldi van glase doen
 Zosimos of Panopolis 1995.
 Stapleton 1933.
 Gratheus 1992, ll. 400-18, fig. on p. 30.
 Gratheus 1992, ll. 1073-4, fig. on p. 66:
"Multipos eist gheheten/ dat es sijn tekin wildijt weten".
 Gratheus 1992, fig. on p. 70.
 Gratheus 1992, fig. on p. 78.
 Gratheus 1992, l. 1352, fig. on p. 82:
"Nu siet hier tkint ane".
 The classic on these issues remains F.
A. Yates, The Art of Memory, London, 1966.
 For the presence of christological motifs,
see infra, Notes 85-87.
 For the textual sources, see Obrist 1982,
pp. 210, 213.
 Obrist 1982, pp. 188-9.
 Obrist 1982, pp. 119 sq.; Obrist 1986,
pp. 50 sq.
 Zürich, Zentralbibliothek, ms. Rh.
172, fol. 3v. Obrist 1982, pp. 190-208, plate 49.
 Ibn Umail, Tabula chemica: "I saw
on the roof of the galleries a picture of nine eagles with out-spread wings
[…] On the left side were pictures of people standing ... having their
hands stretched out towards a figure seated inside the Pyramid, near the
pillar of the gate of the hall. The image was seated in a chair, like those
used by the physicians. In his lab was a stone slab. The fingers behind
the slab were bent as if holding it, an open book. On the side viz. in
the Hall where the image was situated were different pictures, and inscriptions
in hieroglyphic writing [birbawi]" (Stapleton 1933). The Latin (very
corrupt) text is in Theatrum chemicum, Strasbourg, 1660, vol. 5,
192-239: Senioris antiquissimi philosophi Libellus; cf. 193-194).
It is preceded by the illustrations of the statue with its table in the
midst of a crowd of philosophers and the eagles. On the problem of translation,
see Ruska 1935-36.
 Zosimos of Panopolis 1995, pl. II, p. 241
(for an extensive commentary by M. Mertens, see pp. 180-184); Berthelot
1887, vol. 1, fig. on p. 132.
 Senior, Tabula chemica (Theatrum
chemicum, 1660, vol. 5, 193-194).
 Telle 1980; Telle 1992; Thorndike 1934,
pp. 88 sq. The German translation and adaptation is entitled Pandora,
das ist die edelste Gab Gottes (Anonymous 1582).
 Anonymous 1582, pp. 18-9.
 Obrist 1982, p. 240, ill. 43.
 Gratheus 1992, ll. 1407-15, fig. on p.
 Gratheus 1992, ll. 737-742, 815-847: "Vanden
sterren die hier sijn bleuen/ willic noch exempel geuen/ dat tekin es na
thelich graf/ dat ons god te kenne gaf/ oostwaert andt firmament/[…]
westwaert ant firmament/ heft ment dicken ooch bekent/ […] Hier
willic hu ghewaerlike/ alle die wareit toghen/ dat ghijt siet metten oghen/
als het state ant firmament/ sone suldijs niet wesen blent/ alst regneert
suldijt wel/ verstaen an desen cyerkel." This last passage about truthful
visible things on the firmament is concluded by an invitation to look at
the image of a circle representing the Resurrection of Christ (Birkhan
1992, p. 54).
 Gratheus 1992, ll. 793-802: "Al seidic
hu hiert to uoren/ experimenta iudeorum/ het was exempel al/ als ic noch
wel tonen sal/ die joden vinghen onsen here/ dien si pijnden harde zere/
anede tormenten ende Aldus/ so wert geuaen Mercurius/ ende wert gepijint
ande geslagen/ ande sine siele vut ghedragen".
 Dales 1984; Bianchi & Rand 1990, pp.
 For a detailed discussion of these theories,
see Petrus Bonus 1660, pp. 580 sq.
 Paravicini Bagliani 1991, Getz 1997, Calvet
1990-1991, Pereira 1993, Pereira 1995.
 For one of the crucial medical texts, see
Taddeo Alderotti 1913-1914, Forbes 1970. For archaeological evidence, see
 John of Rupescissa, 1572, vol. 2, p. 368.
 Obrist 1993, pp. 60-3; Obrist 1996, pp.
 On the Arnaldian alchemical corpus, see
Thorndike 1934, pp. 52-84. In recent times, this subject has been treated,
above all, by Calvet 1993, pp. 101-2; Calvet 1991.
 This is based on Crisciani 1978, pp. 274,
 Crisciani 1978, pp. 270, 281, 284.
 Crisciani 1978, p. 251; Calvet 1995.
 Crisciani 1978, pp. 272-3.
 Crisciani 1978, p. 250.
 Arnaldus of Villanova, Commentum magistri
Arnaldi de Villa nova super suis parabolis (Arnaldi de Villanova
medici acutissimi Opera nuperrime revisa: una cum ipsius vita recenter
hic apposita. Additus est etiam Tractatus de philosophorum lapide intitulatus,
Lyon, 1520), fol. 272ra – 272vb. Inc.: "Omnis medela procedit a summo
bono. Medela est beneficium sanationis […]". Cf. fol. 272 va: "Nam
invisibilia per visibila designantur et ab ista consideratione vocaverunt
supra in titulo canones his descriptos parabolas […] Parabola enim
similitudo interpretatur, et unusquisque istorum canonum medicationis corporalis
est similitudo vel exemplar canonis particularis ad medicationem spiritualem
quia vivens est commune nomen tam corpori quam spiritui." Diepgen 1922,
 (Pseudo-)Arnaldus of Villanova, Tractatus
parabolicus (Venise, Biblioteca Nazionale S. Marco, cod. lat. VI. 214,
fol. 164v-168v, dated 1472); cf. fol. 164v. The text has been edited
by Calvet (see References) but we have not been able to consult it.
 Venise, Biblioteca nazionale Marciana,
ms. VI 214, fol. 165v-166r.
 John of Rupescissa 1572, vol. 2, ch.
2, p. 368.
 Obrist 1982, pp. 117, 266-268,
 Numerous manuscript copies were made
in Germanic lands. For these, see Ganzenmüller 1939, pp. 93 sq.; Obrist
1982, pp. 261 sq.
 Yates 1960.
 Yates 1954, pp. 118 sq.
 Pereira 1989; Pereira & Spaggiari
1999; Pereira 1992, pp. 87 sq.
 The diagrams of the Oxford manuscript,
Corpus Christi College, ms. 244, have been drawn by F. di Pietro in Pereira
& Spaggiari 1999, pp. cxxxix-clxiv. Pereira 1995.
 Pseudo Lull 1707, p. 710. For the corresponding
figure, a trisected circle enclosed within a triangle, see ch. 5, p. 712.
 See Pereira 1992, pp. 180-191. "Haec
est cathena deaurata et rota circularis totius mundi, per quam natura sagax
omnia sua regit instrumenta rotanda et circulando, transeundo in circuitu
(Pseudo Lull, 1707, ch. 79, p. 755); for an extensive quotation, see Pereira
1992, p. 180.
 "[…] dictus lapis oportet ut creetur
ex 4 elementis rotatis in 4 circulis sphericis ligatis cum ligamentis cathenarum
deauratarum, sicut sua actio tibi potest manifestare cum clara experientia"
(Pseudo Lull, 1707, ch. 7, p. 809; Pereira 1992, p. 182, n. 60). "Totum
autem secretum et modus operandi in rotatione elementorum consistit, verum
nisi circulum naturae propriae prius perfecte cognoveris, illorum circulationis
notitiam non poteris […]" (Anonymous 1702, ch. 71, p. 910; Pereira
1992, p. 182, n. 62).
 Ibidem: "Figura sequens ostendit,
quomodo elementa per artificium constituunt unum elementum rotundum […]"
(quoted by Pereira 1992, pp. 190-1, n. 83).
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Magnus, Opera omnia, Paris, vol. 5.
(Pseudo-)Albertus Magnus: 1890, Semita recta, in: A. Borgnet
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Albertus Magnus: 1967, Book of Minerals, ed. and trans. by D.
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Anonymous: 1702, ‘Codicillus’, in: J. Manget, Bibliotheca chemica
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de Philosophes, (Rouen, 1651), modern French adaptation by L. Bonysson,
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Harvard UP, London & Cambridge, MA.
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