BEINECKE RARE BOOK AND MANUSCRIPT LIBRARY
GENERAL COLLECTION OF RARE BOOKS AND
MEDIEVAL AND RENAISSANCE MANUSCRIPTS
Mellon MS 33
ALCHEMICAL MISCELLANY, in English
England (London?), unsigned, about 1550
33.1 Anonymous. Alchemy, in English.
33.2 Jean de Meung. Liber Lapidis mineralis, Book II only,
translated into English by Robert Freelove, 1522.
33.3 Anonymous. The Practys of Lyghtes, in English.
33.4 Roger Bacon or Johannes Sawtre. Radix mundi, translated
into English by Robert Freelove, 1550.
33.5 Rudianus. Liber trium verborum, translated into English.
33.6 Khalid ibn Yazid. Liber secretorum philosophorum,
translated into English, 1542.
33.7 Anonymous. Alchemy, in English.
Paper codex in English, 4to., 191 x 145, f. 128, ff. 2-4 foliated 1-3 and
19-53 foliated 1-33 in early hands, inaccurate modern foliation in pencil; no
signatures. Collation: (flyleaves)^^6; (1)^^18, (2-14)^^8, (15)^^8-2, the
last 2 ff. torn away; catchwords each page except at ends of separate texts.
Single columns throughout 135-160 x 90-115, with different type of ruling in
each section, outlines only in the first and last sections; numbers of lines
vary greatly throughout from 20 to 38. At least three scribes writing English
cursive vernacular hands; the first, whose initials were probably "T.R." as
written on f. 18r, 20, wrote ff. 1-18; the second wrote ff. 19-53, 67-94, and
perhaps ff. 115-128; the third wrote ff. 54-65. Infrequent standard
abbreviation; inks shading from light brown to nearly black, no color or
rubrication; occasional headlines or headings in large writing; some
correction and frequent marginal notes by early readers. Three papers
noticed, one with a pot watermark similar to Briquet 12801, a similar one
with a gothic "3" on the pot, and the third of a hand with flower like
Briquet 11347, all datable about 1550.
BINDING: Sixteenth-century English binding of brown calf over pasteboards,
the covers paneled in blind fillets, much deteriorated and the backstrip
missing, preserved in a cloth case.
PROVENANCE: Belonged in 1601 to John Cooper, Surgeon; in (1)783 (?) to George
and Charles Morgan, who received it as a gift from Nathaniel Morgan; to J. or
T.G., 1850; to E. H. W. Meyerstein, 1922; Mellon MS 157=T, acquired from C.
A. Stonehill, Inc. (bookseller), New Haven. De Ricci-Bond 41.
Front cover: [On exposed inside board of front cover, in ink:] T.G. [or
Flyleaf, f. 1r: [Two early pen trials, pencil notes K-668 and 10407, circled;
also traces of offsetting from the original parchment lining of the binding
cut from a manuscript, now removed, including two large initials in blue.]
Flyleaf; f. 1v: [In an early seventeenth-century hand, brown ink, written
laterally:] Johannes Cooper. chirurgus [flourish] | [in a modern hand, blue
ink:] Liber E. H. W. Meyerstein. Empt. pret. XXXVIII s. Non. Nov. MCMXXII.
Flyleaf; f. 2r: Anno 160i. [in different ink and perhaps by a different hand,
the same which wrote the same inscription on the preceding page:] Johannes
Cooper chirurgus [then, in paler ink, most like the hand of line 3:] rumha
[i.e., the conventional sign for "-rum" followed by the letters "ha"?] | .20.
maij die [in Cooper's hand] | within these bookes bee cantained folowething |
as these. [this in a sixteenth-century hand, pale brown ink] | [below, notes
in blue ink by E. H. W. Meyerstein setting forth the contents of the codex
with transcriptions of the three dated colophons and notes concerning other
manuscripts by Robert Freelove, or containing his translations. At the foot
of the page a paraph in a sixteenth-to-seventeenth-century hand, possibly the
letters "h m."] Flyleaves, ff. 2v-4v: [Blank.]
Flyleaf; f. 5r: [In a crude eighteenth-century hand, brown ink:] George
Morgans & Charles morgan | is Book by the gift of nathaniel | Morgans.
Flyleaves, ff. 5v-6v: [Blank.]
f.1r, 1: [Probably in the hand of the copyist of the first text:] Vide, aude,
Lege, intellige, Et Tace ab Improbis. [The same is repeated immediately below
in another sixteenth-century English hand, probably the same which wrote the
fragment "within these bookes bee cantained ..." on flyleaf 2r. F. 1v blank.]
f. 2r, 1: [Large writing:] Right trustie and welbe- | lovyd Childe I shall
informe the of | this gracious scyence and blessyde | secret which is hidd of
olde men that | sumtyme were philosophors and had yt | by grace and good
lyving withe | Devoute praiers to almightie god | and our blessid Ladye, and
in his name | here I shall begynne | Chylde thou | shalt understonde that our
matter | ys the lowyst thing in the earthe and lest sett by ...
f. 18r, 17: Bud [?] yf you understonde not--| what I have sayde I ffere not |
but thou shalt kepe yt in Counsaill. | [lower margin:] T ffinis R |
[33.1: Anonymous, Alchemy in English, DWS 758. citing only B.M. Harley 2407,
ff. 93v-105v, a fifteenth-century copy.]
f. 18v: [Blank.]
f. 19r, 1: [Large writing:] here Begynnyth the [small writing:] seconde |
Boke of master John Mehn in the which het Is | Treatyd of thy vegetable stonn
and first of which het ys drawyne | [one- line space, large writing:] The
blessyd vegetable stone ys | made of one thing to which no straunge thyng |
ys put to but only superflue thyngs be put ...
f. 53v, 5: ... they attayne | more to them than comune water | This may be do
when they be. | [canceled word] sotylyd and preparat in dewe wyse | Here
endyth the boke of alkymy | drawyn out and abrevyal by master | John of Mehn
wrytyn and fyneshyd | to the lawde and prassing of the maker | and former of
all thyngs and to the worship | of his blessyd mother mary the | ijd daye of
maye the yere of our | savor Jhesu cryst the 1522 betwyxt | thre and fower
of the cloke by me | Robert Frelove an propitietur deus | hac nova est quida
[word(s) not read] | ad hanc artem |
[33.2: Jean de Meung, Liber lapidis mineralis, Liber II (only), translated
from French into English by Robert Freelove, 2 May 1522; DWS 301, "Another
Version," cites the Latin of this text from B.M. Sloane 976, which gives
authorship to Jean de Meung, but contains Bk. I as well. Ze III, pp. 53-76,
also prints a Latin version, which "differs considerably from" the Sloane
manuscript text, according to DWS. Robert Freelove's translation appears to
be unrecorded, as does the French version from which he states he made his
f. 54r, 1: [Large writing:] The practys of Lyghtes. | Suerly [smaller
writing:] withouwte any falsed the scyence of | alkemy is trewe and not to be
mocked nor skorned | as manye blynde asses dothe. | Many men | blunderithe
aboute this blyssed tyncture whiche | have nether learninge nor no sighte of
philosophy | which cawsethe greate sklaunder and mockynge | to the greate
rebuke ofthis noble and gloryus scyence ...
f. 65r, 18: ... [Large hand:] And | [small hand:] thowe that arte the fynder
of this boke, I praye | the as thowe wilte annswere to God, that | thowe
never shewe this but to vertuowse, | [f. 65v, 1:] wyse, discrete and well
dysposed people which | is ever glad to helpe the porer and nedy people. |
For with this gloryus scyence. ye may procure | many gloryus gyftes of the
blyssed trynytie. | bothe in ryches, in Sowle, and bodie whiche I shall never
fayle yowe everlastinge | Amen.
[33.3: Anonymous, The practys of Lyghtes. Unidentified.]
f. 66: [Blank.]
f. 67r, 1: [Large hand:] the bodys of all thyngs | [small:] beyng aswell
perfect as ynperfight from | The beginnyng of the creation ben compounnd | of
the 4. elements and theyse be callyd other | wyse fower naturs That ys ayer
fyer erthe | and water whiche god omnypotente hathe | congeylyd commyxyd and
fullye conpelyd in peace | ...
f. 91r, 11: ... but the fyrste | two proiections set a parte yt ys somwhat |
brevely to speake of the medycyne of the 3d | order [.] Iet the medycyne
perfight be cast uppon a | thowsande or more accordyng as the medycyne ys |
dyssolvyd sublymed and made subtile and yf ther be cast | one parte to a
great proition [sic] yt must be holpyn | with a quantite more before the
vertu therof be | made perfight + | Serch the better in lilium sicut spinas
in | the ende therof and in the ende of arnold | proiections | Laudes deo per
me Robertum ffrelove | Translatyd owt of latyn int englyshe the | 16 daye of
februarij Anno 1550 | [f. 91v, blank.]
[33.4: Johannes Sawtre or Roger Bacon, Radix mundi, translated into
English, 16 February 1550, by Robert Freelove. See DWS 217, "Another
Version"; Little 55. Another copy of Freelove's translation is found in
Oxford, Bodleian Library, Digby 133, in which Bacon is cited as author and
Freelove is said to be a London mercer.]
f. 92r, headline: Here beginethe the boke of the 3e words | [line 1, large
writing:] This stone of whome this | [smaller writing:] worke is made hath in
it all colorus ffor | it is white redde moste redde Citryne most | citrynist
celestyne or of the coloure of heven | grene . .
f. 96r, 20: ... like [canceled word] leves of | golde and this is the
rectification of Mercury which is oyle | fixed wich dothe rectifie all
[cancellation] corupt metalls | and bryngeth furthe them to helpe and to
better nature | let therfor god be lawded that did creat so excellent | a
thing of so vile a thing |
[33.5: Rudianus, Liber trium verborum, translated into English, perhaps in
1542 like the next- following work which succeeds it without a break in this
manuscript. The Latin version which is the origin for this translation has
not been identified, but see Corbett I, pp. 31-32, which is similar in some
respects.] f. 96v, 1: [Large writing:] The boke of the secret of [small
writing:] alkemi | made and cormpilid bi Calidore Son of laithi tran-l slated
out of hebrew into Arabi tonge and out of | Arabi tonge into latyne [.] The
preface ofthe difficole | of this science [large:] Thankes [small:] be to god
maker | of all thyngs ... [f. 97r, 9:] ye shall understande that one of my
scolers na- | med Musa studied with me more then any o- | ther in boks of
this science ...
f. 114v, 7: ... put not the secret of | all secrets geven of god to the [word
omitted] in the handes | of ignoraunt persons which ar un worthi to knowe |
suche a thing to be presentyd or geven to | synnefull usuars covetus and
myschevos nether | intendyng goodnes to do any good dede to the | powcr nedy
sorte [.] Thus endythe the secret | boke of hali the philosopher translatyd |
owt of latyn in to englyshe An[n]o Domini 1542 |
[33.6: Khalid ibn Yazid, Liber secretorum philosophorum, also ascribed to
"Haly" and "Alithy" in differing forms, translated into English in 1542,
probably by Robert Freelove. For different Latin versions of the text, see
Corbett I, p. 31, the Latin of which is close to the present English version;
Manget II, pp. 183-189; Artis auriferae I, pp. 325-351; DWS 111.]
f. 115r, 1: [In smaller writing, blacker ink, thirty-nine lines to the page,
without heading:] Fore as much gentle Reader as hit is not lawfull for mee
open- | lye to discover what the antient philosophers have written, | wryte
and | happely by my wrytinges thou shalt not eare and having soe | maney
other philosophers bokes under thyne handes Yet Credit mee | hit is
necessarey that | showld wryte allso yet [or het?] nether for pr- | ofit nor
vaine ostentation that I doe like nor to geeve thee | knoledg whome I am will
I show and becawse I must now | publish and deliver thinges profittable and
wsefull more | then semith sofitient unto mee [.] the Rest I leave unto the
harmony | wherin wee purpose copiously to wryte of thinges naturall ... [The
text is divided into chapters; f. 115v:] Of the secund principle which is
sulphur ... [f. 116r:] of the ellament of the earth ... [f. 116v:] of the
ellament of the watar ... [f. 120r:] of the ellament of the ayer ... [f.
121v:] of the ellament of the fyar ... [f. 125r:] of the three principales of
all thinges ... f. 128r, 39: ... But of the mattar owt of which the
philosophers | doe create the Sulphur and Mercury Becawse the Mercury of
philosophers is not had above the | earth by hit sellfe but hit is browght
forth of Sulphur and Mercury conioyned together | arte [?] ynodureth hit not
to lighte for hit is Cloaud but is nature involved | in a wonderfull [text
ends abruptly; some readings not certain; f. 128v blank, inside board of
lower cover exposed and blank.]
[33.7: Anonymous, Alchemy, in English, incomplete at the end and not
SUMMARY: All of the texts in MS 33, mainly older Latin works in contemporary
English translation together with some English originals, relate to cryptic,
speculative alchemy. The codex may be thought of as representing a
sixteenth-century English interest in vernacular, "literary" alchemy
preoccupied with the cryptic and supernatural, which led in the latter part
of this century and the next to a proliferation of cryptic writings on the
subject, often associated with contemporary but shadowy English alchemists
who wrote at great length in riddles, always promising to reveal the ultimate
secret in the next line. A similar phenomenon is to be observed in
continental alchemy, but there was a far greater taste on the Continent for
pictorial symbolism, cryptography, and code-signs, whereas in England
verbiage, language unadorned, appears to be the focus of interest.
Simultaneously, it is certain, work progressed in the field of practical
chemistry, leading to accelerating discoveries in this field in the
seventeenth and later centuries. All of the later manuscripts in the Mellon
collection may be compared from these standpoints.
Robert Freelove's translation of a version of Radix mundi beginning on f.
67r has been recorded in another copy as noted, but the translation beginning
on f. 19r, 1, made in 1522 by Freelove, who was a London mercer, is not
recorded. These two portions of the codex are almost unquestionably in the
same hand; both have full colophons, using the expressions "by me Robert
ffrelove" and "per me Robertum ffrelove," whereas Digby 133, cited by Little
and Mrs. Singer, does not have the personal pronoun, though it supplies
information about Freelove. Also in the same hand is the translation of
Khalid ibn Yazid beginning on f. 96v, dated 1542, but not signed. These
passages have been compared with ff. 30v and 290v of Sloane MS B.M. Add.
3604, containing the colophons of transcripts in Latin of works by Ramon
Lull, facsimiles of which were made available by kind permission of the
Trustees of the British Museum. Though some differences in the hands and
signatures may be remarked, perhaps chiefly because the former is a Latin
manuscript and the latter English, and B.M. Add. 3604 has the spelling
"Frelove" twice, while MS 33 has "Ffrelove" twice, there yet seems a high
degree of probability that the translations signed by Freelove and the
unsigned translation of Khalid ibn Yazid are in Freelove's hand. The codex
appears to have been made up out of components written by several different
hands as noted, and the watermarks suggest a date not far from 1550 for the