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Frontispitz in Le Mystere Des Cathedrales
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Johann Plattner
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 Posted: Fri Nov 14th, 2008 07:29 pm
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At the upper left corner of the frontispitz (signed by J. Champagne, 1910) of Le Mystere Des Cathedrales one may recognize a rather unusual symbol similar to the letter B which is attached below the symbol for the crescent. Some interprete it as symbol for the metal Bi or the ore of Bi.

I was not able to find any references for that symbol neither in classical literature (Medicinisch-Chymisch und Alchemistisches Oraculum) nor in modern works (G.W. Gessmann) up to now.

Attached Image (viewed 2021 times):

Symbol-B.jpg

Last edited on Fri Nov 14th, 2008 07:37 pm by Johann Plattner

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Sat Nov 15th, 2008 02:00 am
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Johann,

I think it is an R not a B, and is the symbol for a Retrograde planet.

In the image here:

http://www.alchemylab.com/AJ7-2.htm

it seems to be clearly a retrograde symbol,

Paul

Johann Plattner
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 Posted: Sat Nov 15th, 2008 11:40 am
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Paul,

you probably are right with your interpretation provided the symbol really represents a R instead of a B, but I doubt that it's a R respectively the symbol for a retrograde planet. In addition to this it isn't quite logic if you compare the symbolism by the upper right corner, where the symbol for antimony is attached to the symbol of the sun or gold.

Johann

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Sat Nov 15th, 2008 01:11 pm
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Johann,

I see what you mean, but in strict order from left to right we have the symbols for:

Fire
Silver/Moon
Unknown symbol - B? or R? with a diagonal stroke
Lead/Saturn
Salt (base matter)
Tin/Jupiter
Quicksilver/Mercury
Iron/Mars
Sulfur
Copper/Venus
Antimony
Gold/Sun
Air

(The symbols for the other two elements are at the bottom left and right of the illustration).

1. I did not think, when I looked at the illustration, that the lines connecting some of these symbols imply that the substances represented by the symbols are also connected - I assumed that the connecting lines are just part of the design. What, for example, is the chemical or alchemical 'link' between antimony and gold?

2. I also felt that the artist had just taken a random assortment of astrological/alchemical symbols and 'sprinkled' them onto his drawing.

3. If I was designing a symbol in which the letter B was crossed through with a diagonal stroke I think I would cross through the whole letter and not just the lower right-hand part, which is one of the things that makes me think it is an R.

4. If retrograde does not really fit into this basically alchemical series, then how about 'Recipe' (Take), also symbolized by an R with a diagonal stroke?

adammclean
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 Posted: Sat Nov 15th, 2008 03:42 pm
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As this frontispiece is just a modern invention, probably devised in the 1930's, the individual symbols could be almost anything. It should not be seen as limited to the context of early graphical alchemical symbols, but rather as a creation of its time. No doubt it will be explicable within the mindset of Champagne.

adammclean
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 Posted: Sat Nov 15th, 2008 03:42 pm
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As this frontispiece is just a modern invention, probably devised in the 1930's, the individual symbols could be almost anything. It should not be seen as limited to the context of early graphical alchemical symbols, but rather as a creation of its time. No doubt it will be explicable within the mindset of Champagne.

Johann Plattner
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 Posted: Sun Nov 16th, 2008 05:17 pm
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1. I did not think, when I looked at the illustration, that the lines connecting some of these symbols imply that the substances represented by the symbols are also connected -
meanwhile I could retrieve the probable origine of that symbol. You may find it in Jean-Henry Hassenfratz' ( French mineralogist and chemist, * Paris 20. 12. 1755, †  26. 2. 1827) attempt to create a quasi modern nomenclature of chemical elements and compounds. Somehow it's comprehensible that J. Champagne, also beeing a Frenchman, might have used it for his own purposes.

http://books.google.de/books?id=kwQQaltqByAC

I assumed that the connecting lines are just part of the design. What, for example, is the chemical or alchemical 'link' between antimony and gold?
There is a whole group of 18th century alchemists (Heinrich von Battsdorff, Johann Neidholt - Ehrd von Naxagoras, Johann Ludolph Jäger, D. Schrey, J.F. Henckel, J. H. Pott) who offered within their writings certain theories about the elemental qualities of  unripe metals.
For example, for gold they propose, it might be contained in antimony, however in a premature state. According them, antimony should be considered as the one and only matter for the philosophical stone and further think that it is of an entire golden character. Now, for silver, they consider Marcasita argentea (Lunariam, Magnesiam), which probably is nothing else than the mineral bismuth, beeing its unripe precursor.

At least two of the authors, viz. Naxagoras and Battsdorff,  are  referenced within Le Mystere Des Cathedrales.

Johann



Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Tue Nov 10th, 2009 09:41 am
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This site shows a similar symbol as meaning 'recipe' = 'take', e.g. 'take 3 grams':

http://www.alchemylab.com/download_fonts.htm

See bottom of that page.

Carl Lavoie
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 Posted: Wed Nov 11th, 2009 04:53 am
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I took a close look at the frontispice made in 1910 (?) for Le Mystère des Cathédrales, and the symbol, in my humble opinion, is a ‘B’, with a diagonal bar. Paul, you wrote that if “the letter B was crossed through with a diagonal stroke I think I would cross through the whole letter and not just the lower right-hand part”, but such a symbol, the ‘bismuth’, as Johann allude to, is to be found, for example, in an appendix of R. Alleau, Aspects de l’alchimie traditionnelle, Paris, 1953 (here is the ―modern― French connection again!) :




Now apparently the term 'bismuth' comes into print for the first time with Agricola. How come about 200 years later, the Medicinisch-Chymisch- und Alchemistisches Oraculum still doesn’t have a symbol for it?

The ‘Recipe’ symbol is listed:

http://www.alchemywebsite.com/alchemical_symbols12.html

And so it is, too, in J. C. Barchusen, Elementa chemiae of 1718 ( image taken from G. Roberts, The Mirror of Alchemy, UofT Press, 1994, p. 67) :




 I was wondering, for those who have access to Barchusen’s Elementa: does the list of [al]chemical symbols goes on, and include a symbol for bismuth too?

(I could only find his famous 'laboratory' & his ‘vials’ engravings.)

.

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Wed Nov 11th, 2009 08:58 am
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The Bismuth symbol would certainly be appropriate for the frontispiece as the discovery of this element is one of the alchemists' great contributions to science.

But surely this is not the most usual alchemical symbol for Bismuth? A circle surmounted by a broken circle is much more common.


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