BEINECKE RARE BOOK AND MANUSCRIPT LIBRARY
GENERAL COLLECTION OF RARE BOOKS AND
MEDIEVAL AND RENAISSANCE MANUSCRIPTS
Mellon MS 43
ALCHEMICAL MISCELLANY, in Latin and English
England, unsigned, about 1575
43.1 Anonymous. Alchemy, in Latin.
43.2 Hermes, Merlin, or Rasis. Laudabile sanctum, extracts.
43.3 Anonymous. Alchemical procedures, in Latin and English.
43.4 Anonymous. Alchemical verses, in English.
Paper codex in Latin and English, 4to., 205 x 150, ff. 7 unnumbered, a
fragment lacking one or more additional leaves. No signatures, no catchwords.
Collation uncertain, ff. 1, 4, 7 detached and having no certain conjugates,
but the most likely collation seems to be (1)^^8-1, (f. 5 lacking), with
modern pencil foliation supplied to indicate the order as now stitched into
the binding. Written throughout in dark brown ink by a single hand, very
small (sometimes minute) and mostly very neat, using a good cursive italic
for the Latin passages, and a secretary hand for the English, both sloping
somewhat to the right. Single column (except for part of the last page) ca.
182 x 185, number of lines varies, 52 lines plus headline on f. 1r;
considerable abbreviation, no color, no illustration, unruled except for ink
bordering lines on f. 6r. Paper watermarked with an extended hand with a
five-pointed star extending on a stem from the middle finger, a quatrefoil
(?) at the wrist, which is sharply cut off, the fingers partly articulated,
of the type of Briquet 11341 and following, but more refined.
BINDING: Parchment wrapper made from a bifolium of a late thirteenth-century
French (or possibly English?) canon law manuscript written by two hands, one
of them using a classical Littera parisiensis, the other slightly more
rounded, the writing partly scraped away on what is now the front cover of
the wrapper, the outer side of the lower cover with an inscription in a very
large hand which has not been read.
PROVENANCE: No indication of early ownership; Denis Duveen, with his inked
number 85 on the first flyleaf; Mellon MS 43, acquired with the Duveen
Flyleaves: [Of eighteenth-century paper, one at beginning and one at end,
formerly conjugate but now detached, without writing except for a modern
pencil word and Duveen's number.]
f. 1r, headline: Capitula de regulis totius artis istius Alchimiae | [line 1:]
Lapis noster philosophicus non habet proprium nomen sed diversis nominibus
nuncupate [sic, except that the copyist has also added the abbreviation sign
which would call for the literal reading, "nuncuparate." Ends f. 1r, 52:] sic
fascinate [?] opus in vna die quam aliter in tribus mensibus. |
[43.1: Anonymous, Alchemy, noted by TK 810 from a manuscript at Cambridge;
f. 1v, 1: [Begins imperfectly:] bodyes [word not read] all other bodyes of
metalls be vnperfect bodyes ... [line 4:] Saturne [.] also remember that
Autentick work of Virgil Plato Aristotle Avicenna | Morien Hermes Geber and
Marline and Albert with their verses | Candida si rubeo mulier sit nuptu
[sic] marito | mox complectuntur ... [Two further Latin verses follow, then
an extended passage in English serving as a commentary; then, line 27:]
Versus | Gemma salutaris quae mescitur [sic] orbicularis | Alia Receptio | [a
procedure in Latin and English follows, ending line 41:] ... turne it into |
fine golde. Ffinis. |
[43.2: Hermes, Merlin, Rasis, or one of the other authors cited in the text.
Laudabile sanctum in Latin verse, extracts, here found with other matter in
Latin and English, TK 580, DWS 793.]
f. 2r, 1: [There follows on ff. 1r-7v an extended series of longer and
shorter alchemical recipes and procedures, probably including excerpts from
standard sources, a passage on transmutation, a brief account of the planets,
etc., often with marginal captions, ending f. 7v, 31, not transcribed.]
[43.3: Anonymous, Unidentified alchemical procedures, in Latin and English.]
f. 7v, 32: [The miscellany closes with a poem in English of forty-eight
verses written in two columns oftwenty-six and twenty-two lines in minute
writing at the foot of f. 7v, beginning:] With prayer penance and pity | and
to god ever a lover to be | and in all the workes that you speke | to do good
workes and almes deedes [?] | ... [Ends, line 47:] And a mercury hid full
bright | and a sulphur that is the right. |
[43.4: Anonymous, Alchemical verses, in English, not identified in the
SUMMARY: The interesting mixture in MS 43 of Latin and English texts, largely
in prose but partly in verse also, suggests that this substantial fragment
served as a private notebook for a well-read English student of alchemy in
the later sixteenth century. A full transcription by Denis Duveen of the
unidentified English poem standing at the end of the manuscript has been
preserved with the codex, which may in some respects be compared with the
miscellaneous notes of Isaac Newton preserved in the Mellon collection and
described below, although Newton's jottings in MSS 78 and 79 are more
strictly reading notes, often with citations of printed sources. Extracts
from Laudabile sanctum are also found in MSS 28.3 and in other MSS in this
collection (see Index). The defective beginning of f. 1v, the occurrence of
what may be a quire-signature "1M" at the foot of f. 6r, creasing and
staining of ff. 1 and 7, and other features indicate that the order of the
leaves has been garbled, but it has not been possible to suggest a coherent
order during the cataloguing.