Books for professional use
VCQ 37 (Netherlands?, 1500-1550?): Isaac Hollandus, Elixer philosophorum oft lapis compositus (Elixer of the philosopher's stone), paper, 73 fols., 207 x 144 mm, 1 col., 30-34 lines.

This manuscript contains several treatises in Middle Dutch supposedly written by Isaac Hollandus, considered to be one of the most influential authors of alchemical texts from the sixteenth century. There is not much known about this author, though there are several theories. One theory is that he was a Flemish alchemist who worked together with his son, Johannes Isaac Hollandus. Another theory is that Isaac and Johannes Isaac were brothers, while still another says that the two names belonged to the same person. It’s also possible that “Isaac Hollandus” was a pseudonym used by another alchemist. The first two treatises in the manuscript concern the Philosopher’s Stone (see also VCF 6). The third is about the properties of wine, which many believed could be used for medicinal purposes, such as healing dementia or sinusitis.

The top of each page of this manuscript contains running titles1 in red ink, which made it much easier for the reader to see which treatise he or she was reading. From fol. 22v onwards the manuscript contains several drawings of various laboratory glassware items. There is an empty space on fol. 68v, which was probably meant for a more elaborate drawing that was never completed.

(Boeren, 1975, pp. 193-194)


  1. 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.
  2. Some manuscripts were made for institutional use, for example for a monastery, a nunnery, or a school. Others were made for one specific reader, who may even have made the book for him- or herself. While it is not easy to deduce whether the scribe made the manuscript for a community or a specific individual (or even for personal use), material features can sometimes provide clues to this end. Study this manuscript in search for such clues. Look for ownership inscriptions (often in the front or back of the book), the number of different individuals who added information into the margins (the script may help you here), and the number of entries added by these individuals. If you had to speculate, for what scenario would you opt and why: community or individual use?


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