BEINECKE RARE BOOK AND MANUSCRIPT LIBRARY
GENERAL COLLECTION OF RARE BOOKS AND
MEDIEVAL AND RENAISSANCE MANUSCRIPTS
Mellon MS 10
ALCHEMICAL MISCELLANY, in Latin
South Italy or Sicily, unsigned, about 1450
10.1 Anonymous. Lilium de spinis evulsum (sometimes attributed to
"Sarne" or William of Tunis).
10.2 Gratianus (?). Liber secundus, or Lilium.
10.3 Arnold of Villanova. Perfectum magisterium.
10.4 Anonymous. Drawings of alchemical apparatus.
Parchment codex in Latin, 162 x 116, ff. 59 of 60 originally, foliation in a
sixteenth-century Italian hand omits 2 ff. after f. 27. No signatures.
Collation: (1-5)^^10, (6)^^10-1, the last leaf, perhaps originally a blank,
cut away. Catchwords at quire-endings, except for the fourth, where one of
the texts ends. One column, 18-23 lines, written space 122 x 68 with some
variation, mostly bordered by ruling in blind, but sometimes in ink, and
mostly from the inner side of the membrane. One scribe has written the text
in an irregular and primitive-looking humanistic hand using a very thick
stylus. The drawings and their legends, as well as much of the correction and
marginalia in the codex, are probably in the same hand, though usually
written with a much thinner stylus, often with cursive letter-forms, and
mostly in pale brown ink. Inks of the text vary from brown to nearly black.
Plain, large capitals in the inks of the text and by the scribe; no other
decoration of the text and no coloration. Drawings of alchemical apparatus on
ff. 58r-59r, in pale brown ink and with legends in the same ink. Many
corrections, insertions of omitted text, and marginal comments, particularly
in the first text, possibly all by the scribe writing in different styles, or
by contemporaries, except for a note at the foot of f. 40v, identifying the
text which follows on f. 41r. Parchment of good quality and with few
imperfections, the hair side often strongly marked.
BINDING: Eighteenth-century French (?) binding of paper-covered pasteboard,
brown morocco label on backstrip, eighteenth-century French paper flyleaves
PROVENANCE: No marks of early ownership; L'Art Ancien (booksellers), Zuerich,
Catalogue XIX, no.3; acquired by Mrs. Mary Mellon from William Gannon
(bookseller), New York, 1941; Mellon MS M=150. De Ricci-Bond 38.
Flyleaves: [Three each at beginning and end, plus a conjugate pastedown.
Pencil scribbling on these leaves, mostly erased and possibly all by
f. 1r, 1: Naturam circa solem et lunam ce- | terosque planetas atque circa |
medicinam exaltare inten- | dentibus salutem. [Ends f. 39r, 16:] ... Ma- |
gister aput quem operatus fui perfecit | hoc opus divinum in .80. diebus. hoc
si | prestante quod etiam nobis prestare | dignetur qui cum patre &
Spiritu sancto | vivit et regnat deus per omnia secula | seculorum Amen: - |
[one line-space] Explicit Lilium evulsum de spinis super | operatione lapidis
[10.1: Anonymous, Lilium de spinis evulsum, attributed to "Sarne" in an
Oxford manuscript and elsewhere to William of Tunis, according to TK 904; DWS
335; Corbett I, p. 78, etc. TK cites this manuscript from L'Art Ancien,
Catalogue XIX, no. 3.]
f. 39v, 1: Deus in adiutorium meum intende domine | ad adiuvandum me festina.
Adnuntio | vobis gaudium magnum... [f. 39v, 13:] Accipe Acetum acerrimum
philosophorum in | multa quantitate... [ends f. 40v, 17:] Totum | vero
aggrega et pone insepul- | cro suo. et habebis album et rubeum.: - | deo
gratias | [one-line space] Sancti gratiani liber secundus quod lilium dicitur
| liber [the preceding word erased] explicit |
[10.2 Gratianus, Liber secundus, or Lilium. This is not the text with the
same incipit printed in Ze IV, pp. 579-584, cited by TK 409, and discussed by
Thorndike IV, p. 341. TK cites this manuscript from the Art Ancien
f. 40r, 1: [The opening initial has been omitted by the scribe:] [S]Cias
karissime quod in omni re... [ends f. 57v, 4:] Cuius utilitas maior est quam
possit per- | cipi ratione | [space, about three lines] .deo gratias. | [The
lower, outer corners of f. 57-58 defective, perhaps nibbled by mice.]
[10.3: Arnold of Villanova, Perfectum magisterium: TK 1385; Thorndike III,
pp. 664-665, etc. At the foot of f. 41v the work is correctly identified in a
seventeenth-century hand as follows:] Incipit | Perfectum magisterium et
gaudium Arnal- | di de Villa nova quod vocatur Flos Florum. Ad regem Aragonum
sub compendio | Declaratum.
ff. 58r-59r: [Drawings of alchemical apparatus in pale brown ink, very
possibly by the scribe of the manuscript, whose hand seems to have provided
the legends. Four drawings on f. 58r, four on f. 58v, and two on f. 59r all
show various types of vessels on furnaces. Below the two drawings on f. 59r
are the following lines:] di alkimia non sarai guidenti | si non farai
lusulfuri blancu non [?] adurenti | Et pinitranti fixu et fundenti | [below,
a drawing of the quarter-moon, labeled:] media luna | [f. 59v blank.]
[10.4: Anonymous, Drawings of alchemical apparatus, with legends in Latin
and verses in Italian. The source of the drawings has not been identified,
but the apparatus is of typical design, quite accurately drawn, and more
clearly labeled than is usual.]
SUMMARY: The three verses in Italian vernacular at the end of the codex,
quoted above and very likely in the hand of the scribe of the whole, suggest
a point of origin in the south of Italy or in Sicily, which might also
account for the extreme and startling primitiveness of the handwriting, which
has so many archaic features as to suggest at first sight a date much earlier
than that which has been attributed. If MS 10 did in fact originate in
southern Italy or Sicily, it represents the extreme southernmost distribution
of European alchemy in the fifteenth century. It is interesting to note that
despite its provincial origin the codex exhibits the same juxtaposition of
the speculative and the practical--in this case, standard mystical texts
together with a good display of practical laboratory apparatus--which is
found in so many European alchemical manuscripts of the later Middle Ages and
the Renaissance. This undifferentiated mixture of the two aspects of alchemy
may be observed repeatedly in the Mellon collection.