“Praesentem monstrat quaelibet herba Deum” (Any blade of grass points to the presence of God). This quote from poet Johannes Stigelius (1515-1562) begins this alchemical manuscript from 1585 (see “anno MDLXXXV” fol. 1r). The quote possibly served as a reminder to the reader that the various (al)chemical recipes in this manuscript should be used to honor God and not for personal profit (see also VCF 11). Not every text in this manuscript is about alchemy, though. The manuscript starts with a dialogue between Prometheus and Zeus written by Lucian of Samosata (c. 125 AD – 180 AD), a Syrian satirist and rhetorician. Another text Lucian is known for is his Dialogues of the Gods, in which he mocks the Greek gods. Dialogues was translated into Latin in 1518.
The annotations in this manuscript are minimal. Someone, either the scribe or one of the readers, tipped in a small piece of paper (now fol. 330) in order to add a diagram to a text on the practica abbatis (The monk’s practica) by pseudo-Aquinas.1 Fols. 253r - 255v contains a text on a formula that was used by king Philip IV of France.
- Mistakes are made in a split-second. Even scribes who carefully copied their text, a few words at the time, would ultimately make mistakes. Can you give three examples in this manuscript where a part of the text was corrected? Note how the mistakes were corrected.
- Some manuscripts were produced by one individual that undertook all production stages, including designing the page, copying the text, adding rubrication, and correcting the book. Many others, however, are the product of two or more individuals. How many people worked on this manuscript and how can you tell? Use any observation for your verdict, including how the letters were executed. Can you for example see any notable differences in the execution of the script?
- Boeren, P. C. (1975). Codices vossiani chymici. Universitaire Pers Leiden.