In the article about alchemy in Carniola I tried to present the alchemistic tradition in Carniola in the time of baroque (17th century). I mainly concentrated on the Johannes Frederic von Rain who was undoubtedly the most famous and well-known alchemist of the era. There were other alchemists active in the region as well, to mention only baron Conrad von Ruessenstein, and his son, Heinrich Conrad. The famous historian and ethnologist Johannes Veichardt Valvasor (Janez Vajkard Valvasor) is worth mentioning as well. Author of famous work Die Ehre des Herzogtums Krain (The Glory of Duchy Carniola) and member of English Royal Society (some even claim he had been the first Slovenian speculative freemason) cherished an interest in the art of alchemy as well. He had his own alchemical laboratory on the castle of Bogenšperk but he stayed sceptic at best; his efforts were more in order of practical chemistry.
However, in the 18th century lived a very interesting person, pharmacist from Idrija named Ernest Freyer (1730 - 1790). In the time when enlightenment ideas had taken power he still studied alchemistic texts from medieval, renaissance and baroque period, cherished the strong interest of alchemy as he had been living at the court of Rudolf II. He was even the author of some alchemical writings (still in handwriting) of his own.
Ernest Freyer was born in Satz (Saatz) in Chech Sudets in 1730. He went on to study pharmacy in Ljubljana, somewhere between 1750 and 1753. From this period originate the first indications of his alchemical interest: he bought the works of Johannes de Monte Snyders and transcribed them with handwriting (as he did with most of alchemical works). He also copied the text of Ljubljana less-known alchemist, Johannes Ignatius Seitler, entitled "Lux septuplex astrlis: id est Mercurius Philosoiphorum" (written in 1684).
From 1753 to late 18th century he worked as pharmacist in Idrija which was well known because of its quicksilver mine second only to Almaden in Spain. He devoted his free time to alchemy and natural sciences. He possessed numerous books of 18th century chemists and mineralogists, as well as works of Emanuel Swedenborg. But most interesting is his possession of alchemical and Rosicrucian writings from the 16th and 17th century. Amongst others, he had (and sometimes copied with hand-writing, adding hermetical emblems of his own!) the works of Johann Joachim Becher, Johann Kuckel, Johann de Monte Snyders, Basilius Valentinus (aka John Thölde); and also the works of Rosicrucian writers Franz Ritter (Marcus Friedrich Rosenkreutzer) and Wilhelm von Schröder.
Perhaps most interesting is his possession of the book ascribed to J.C. Vanderbeeg which Freyer had transcribed and had given it a title "Das geheime Buch des langen leben und wolkommenen Reichtum". The book, as most of the writings of Freyer’s are kept in National Archive of Slovenia. I inspected the book and it was revealed that it is in fact a copy of well known 18th century German alchemical text Hermtisches Sonn- und Mond’s Kind. What is unique is that Freyer had hand-copied the illustrations (thirteen emblems with corresponding hermetical canons) and added some hand-written material of his own.
Ernest Freyer was also the author of independent alchemical texts. They are mostly written in Latin or German (gothic script) but they are quite difficult to read.
Regarding that in second half of 18th century Rosicrucians in Habsburg Empire were in quite an ascent it could be possible (although it is only a hypothetical conclusion) that Ernest Freyer was either a member of some Rosicrucian order or a silent sympathizer of them. The thesis is even more plausible because amongst his writings and transcriptions other occult writings can be found: some of them dealing with cabbala and secret writings. However in the absence of more concrete data this remains only a hypothesis.
Nevertheless it shows the fact that alchemical tradition in Carniola was alive well into 18th century.
With best wishes!
Last edited on Wed Feb 25th, 2015 12:05 am by Andraz Zvab