Books for professional use
VCF 21 (Germany, 1572-1600): Lapide Philosophorum (Philosopher's stone), paper, 388 fols., 310 x 193 mm, 1 col., 16-18 lines.

In the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period, the disciplines of alchemy and astrology were closely connected. When you look at the titles of the alchemical texts in this manuscript you see that many of them concern planets and the moon, clearly illustrating this connection. It was believed that the zodiac signs, planets, metals, and elements were all inter-related. Aries was, for example, believed to be ruled by Mars, and was associated with the metal iron and the element fire. The symbols of the planets were often used to denote chemical processes (see also VCF 17).

This manuscript also contains a treatise on the Philosopher’s Stone (fols. 1 - 17), texts by Paracelsus (fols. 96-131) and many alchemical and medicinal recipes (fols. 133 - 354). The scribe of this manuscript was Hans Meissel, who also copied VCF 6, VCF 13 and VCF 14. The readers’ annotations are very minimal, and the manuscript does not look heavily used. The original binding has, however, suffered some damage. The leather strips on the binding were used to tie the book closed.

(Boeren, 1975, pp. 66-68)


  1. Medieval scribes recognized that readers may need some help finding their way throughout the book or within the texts they contained. Over time, a number of tools were invented to this end. What type of reading-aids can you find in this manuscript? Give three examples.
  2. Producing manuscripts was expensive. Some readers preferred to own expensive books, for example for conspicuous consumption, while others preferred to economize and cut costs wherever possible. Observing such features as materials (parchment, paper, binding), preparation of the page (the care with which the page was designed), and the execution of the letter forms, speculate what the intentions of the first reader will have been: to economize or not?


  1. Boeren, P. C. (1975). Codices vossiani chymici. Universitaire Pers Leiden.