One of the most influential scholars who wrote about alchemy was Roger Bacon, also known as “Doctor Mirabilis” (the marvelous doctor). Bacon was an English philosopher and a Franciscan friar. He was the first in Europe to record the formula for gunpowder, and he is sometimes credited for finding the formula for the Philosopher’s Stone (see also VCF 6). This manuscript contains his text De mirabili potestate artis et naturae (On the Wonderful Powers of Art and Nature). It is composed as a letter to an unknown William of Paris and contains several alchemical formulas. One of the owners of this manuscript was Petrus Vok, a Czech nobleman of the House of Rosenberg, a significant Bohemian noble family. In 1609 he added an ex-libris to the first flyleaf of the manuscript to indicate his ownership. Other notable owners of this manuscript were lay alchemist Lorentz Zatzer (whose initials are slightly visible on the cover of the manuscript) and Isaac Vossius (fol. 1r). There is an additional name that was crossed out on fol. 195v. These owners – and perhaps others – added several notes in the margins. From fol. 131v onwards you can see many maniculae1; drawings of tiny hands used to point to relevant passages in the text.
- Users often modified the manuscript post-production, bringing it even more in tune with their needs. How did the readers of this manuscript interact with the texts? Clue: take a look at the margins and the flyleaves.
- Manuscripts were made for specific purposes and how a manuscript was going to be used is often reflected by its material design. Can you infer for what purpose this book was made? How is your verdict reflected by the book’s material features?
- Boeren, P. C. (1975). Codices vossiani chymici. Universitaire Pers Leiden.