German Alchemical Manuscript, 17th century

  • German
  • Latin
1 volume 20 x 17 cm (86 pages)


Getty AAT genre
17th century
Summary note
Unpublished manuscript illustrating alchemical studies. The 86-page work was most likely completed c.1600 in Bohemia. Written in German and Latin, it has multiple references to “Theophrastus” - which show that the author was a devotee of the Swiss physician and alchemist Paracelsus (1493/4-1541), born Theophrastus von Hohenheim. The manuscript's first heading is “a genuine technique, six or seven lots of gold from a pound of lead in all procedures”. The author repeats his interest in making gold in a three-page section in Latin called 'Principium atque finis' ('the beginning and the end') (61-63) here setting out again a method for making this precious metal, and also silver. Other chemical interests include (60) how to prepare burnt copper for experimental purposes. There are sections, (30-32) on 'luna fixa' (a metal with gold's properties but not colour), and antimony (37). A distilling apparatus is drawn at p.57. In medicine, the author is interested in the concoction 'oil of the sun' (64-65), which can be sourced in Paracelsus. Tables near end (85-87) include one with planets and days of the week. A final receipt is for the making of ink. The manuscript was previously owned by Johann Adalbert, Prince of Buchau (see p. 1), who had acquired in 1735 a rosicrucian manuscript from the earlier eighteenth century that has since been studied, published and digitised, “Testamentum der fraternitet roseae et aureae crucis” (testament of the fraternity of the rosy and gold cross) (Austrian National Library, Cod. Ser. n. 2897) (see e.g. McIntosh). By or after 1751 the manuscript was in the hands of another person with alchemical interests, who annotated the original manuscript and filled the many blank sheets in the book. This second writer adds four illustrations (a pendant with esoteric design at p. 24, further chemical apparatus at p. 172, and two small drawings of apparatus to final pastedown). The writer collects reports of experiments, which date from the 1710s to 1751. With the reports that are copied in come names of experimenters and correspondents, such as Herr Reissman von Risenburg (90); Herr Johann Stuerzi and Johann Georg Printz (94); J.C.S. of Cologne, and Herr Doktor Balthasar Albino Beinhart, Councillor of the same city (140). Besides also adding notes to the original text, this second writer, who works mostly in German, with some Greek, (and less Latin), binds the different components together with an index (three pages and one page-extension) that covers both the old and new parts of the book.
Binding note
Bound in 17th-cent. vellum boards, decorated in gilt, armorial of Holy Roman Emperor to front cover and of Kingdom of Bohemia to back.
Ownership note of Johann Adalbert, Prince of Buchau, 1743.
Source acquisition
Purchased from Leo Cadogan Rare Books in March, 2019. AM 2019-92
Statement on language in description
Princeton University Library aims to describe library materials in a manner that is respectful to the individuals and communities who create, use, and are represented in the collections we manage. Read more...
Other views
Staff view

Supplementary Information