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Margarita Preciosa Novella
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Carl Lavoie
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 Posted: Mon Sep 21st, 2009 06:56 am
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The title Petrus Bonus gave its treatise has always been a little enigmatic. One would think that with an early text found in so many manuscripts and printed time and time again, the pearl, as a material substance or as a metaphor, would be referred to more often in the alchemical literature. Why not so?

But also, why the (new precious) pearl?

Maybe this? The oyster (‘mermecoleon’) is described so, in a medieval bestiary (Aberdeen bestiary, c.1200) :

Of the stone called mermecoleon

[...] The stone lies at the bottom of the sea and comes to life early in the morning. When it rises from its resting-place to the surface of the sea, it opens its mouth and takes in some heavenly dew, and the rays of the sun shine around it; thus there grows within the stone a most precious, shining pearl indeed, conceived from the heavenly dew and given lustre by the rays of the sun.


http://aberdeen.ac.uk/bestiary/translat/96r.hti

 

Anybody remember something alike in Pline/Aristote/Isidore de Seville, etc.?

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Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Mon Sep 21st, 2009 04:51 pm
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"A beautifully poetic ancient Arab narrative suggests that pearls are created by the oyster sipping the moonlight dew off the surface of the water."

http://theoysterman.blogspot.com/2008/05/plinys-misconceit.html

I think the
ancient Arab narrative referred to in this blog is Geber's Kitab al-Durra al-Maknuna. The Arabs seemed to consider this a very ancient Greek idea; there may be a connection with Aphrodite and the birth of Eros? The Leyden and Stockholm papyri also mention pearls extensively and I dare say this is another link between the Ancient Egyptians and the early Islamic alchemists as adumbrated by Professor El Daly.

Some interesting comments on the sources here:

http://www.lib.rochester.edu/CAMELOT/TEAMS/uskapp1.htm

Pearls also feature very strongly in the Chinese taoist tradition:

http://eng.taoism.org.hk/religious-activities-rituals/inner-alchemy/pg4-10-31.htm

See also Martinus Rulandus under 'Margarita'.

An interesting general book is Donkin:

http://books.google.com/books?id=bwYNAAAAIAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Last edited on Mon Sep 21st, 2009 05:16 pm by Paul Ferguson

Rafal T. Prinke
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 Posted: Mon Sep 21st, 2009 05:15 pm
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I would rather interpret the title as a reference to the topos in the Gospel parable in Matthew 13:45-46.
45 Iterum simile est regnum cælorum homini negotiatori, quærenti bonas margaritas.
46 Inventa autem una pretiosa margarita, abiit, et vendidit omnia quæ habuit, et emit eam.


Carl Lavoie
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 Posted: Mon Sep 21st, 2009 05:45 pm
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Possible Rafal, as Petrus Bonus has a perception of alchemy that is in part a "gift from God ", a grace to the elect.

And note that it is the very same phrasing in the original text of the bestiary, at the bottom left of the link :

et sic fit intra eum margarita preciosa et splen\dida valde, quippe que rore celi concepta est, et radio solis\ clarificata.

 

Paul, are the oysters in your references considered animals (I almost put "living", but that wouldn’t have necessarily exclude the minerals), or stones, like in the bestiary?

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Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Mon Sep 21st, 2009 06:30 pm
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Carl Lavoie wrote: .

Possible Rafal, as Petrus Bonus has a perception of alchemy that is in part a "gift from God ", a grace to the elect.

And note that it is the very same phrasing in the original text of the bestiary, at the bottom left of the link :

et sic fit intra eum margarita preciosa et splendida valde, quippe que rore celi concepta est, et radio solis clarificata.

 

Paul, are the oysters in your references considered animals (I almost put "living", but that wouldn’t have necessarily exclude the minerals), or stones, like in the bestiary?


Animals, but I am completely puzzled by this, as a mermecoleon is actually an 'ant-lion', see here:

http://bestiary.ca/beasts/beast145.htm

But see the footnote to page 214 of this book for a possible explanation:

http://books.google.com/books?id=7egVUaj2oyUC&dq=The+book+of+beasts:+being+a+translation+from+a+Latin+bestiary+of+the+twelfth&printsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=q8SoQU08zM&sig=OEpQ3Hg8TyNsGWFTYLN_h9FgvMQ&hl=en&ei=K7m3SvKkFcuM4gbvkJx8&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2#v=onepage&q=&f=false


Last edited on Mon Sep 21st, 2009 06:36 pm by Paul Ferguson

Carl Lavoie
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 Posted: Mon Sep 21st, 2009 08:28 pm
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Yes, it could be a flawed translation, as the author suggest at the end of the footnote, or a slip of the quill.

But as for the Margarita, I skimmed the pruned ‘London 1894' edition, which is stated, candidly, to be the digest of an abridgment, the Lacinius edition having been judged too prolix (this is coming from A. E. Waite!!) :


The abridgment of the Preciosa Margarita, made by Janus Lacinius [...]. It is, however, of unmanagable lenghy, and abounds, after the fashion of the period, in prolix disquisitions upon side issues, so that in the present translation it has been found necessary to abridge the abridgment,

http://www.archive.org/stream/newpearlofgreatp00laciiala#page/x/mode/2up



No reference on the pearl to be found in the text. Maybe in the earlier, less edited printings?

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Last edited on Mon Sep 21st, 2009 08:30 pm by Carl Lavoie

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Tue Sep 22nd, 2009 12:20 am
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Does Crisciani's translation into Italian have the pearl sections?

http://www.francoangeli.it/Ricerca/Scheda_Libro.asp?ID=1794&Tipo=Libro&titolo=Preziosa+Margarita.+Novella.+Edizione+del+volgarizzamento

Carl Lavoie
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 Posted: Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 03:22 am
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I’m suspecting now that this pearl formed from heavenly dew and sunrays, as it was conceived in the XIVth century, might not have much to do with the title Petrus Bonus gave his work. His convictions wouldn’t square with it; as I read here that he denies flatly that celestial emanations have anything to do with the success of the 'Great Work':

To operations of this kind (e.g. diffuse an equable warmth to hatch eggs of the hen) the heavenly influences appear to be always favourable; and all Sages are unanimous in saying that our Magistery belongs to this class, because it may be performed at any time or any period of the year. It is only indispensable, says Rhasis, that all other necessary conditions should be properly fulfilled, and then the stellar influences will not be wanting. And this dictum is substantially confirmed by Lilium and others. So also Plato states that the celestial influences are poured down according to the value of the matter.

 

And he sums up by this syllogism:

 

The generation of earthly things depends on the influence of heavenly bodies;

But then, the Art of Alchemy is not concerned with generation;

Therefore, the Art of Alchemy doesn’t have to take into consideration the celestial influences.

 

http://www.archive.org/stream/newpearlofgreatp00laciiala#page/158/mode/2up

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Carl Lavoie
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 Posted: Sun Oct 11th, 2009 05:28 am
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Salut Paul,

About the oddness of the title of Petrus Bonus’ Margarita preciosa novella, you provide links of Arabic texts dealing with “pearl-lore”.

I just wanted to bring to your attention a passage of this study by E.J. Holmyard (Paris, 1927) about the text of De congelatione et conglutinatione lapidum from the Kitâb Al-Shifâ d’Avicenne.

He [Holmyard] mentions, in his introduction, another author whose work, maybe actually dealing with alchemy (and not only its controversies), also uses the ‘pearl’ in its title. That would make two, but the only ones as far as I know (and certainly unrelated).

Here is the excerpt, of pages 6 and 7:

 

The evidence does not end here, however. Hâjjî  Khalifa states that Ibn Sînâ denied the truth of alchemy in the Prolegomena to his Book of the Remedy (Kitâb Al-Shifâ), while Al-Jildakî (†circa 1360 A.D.) has the following passage in his book entitled The Guarded Pearl (Al-Durr al-Maknûn) : ―“  ‘Alî  ibn Sînâ denied the existence of alchemy in the Shifâ, and so did Al-Bîrûnî in his Lapidary (Kitâb Al-Ahjâr);   Abû Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakarîya al-Râzî, however, in his Book of the Twelve (Kitâb Al-Athnầ ‘ Ashrîyât), and Ibn Arfa ‘Ra’s, in his poem entitled The Particules of Gold ( Dîwan Shudhûr al-Dhahab), maintained its reality”.

 

(Adam, move this post to another thread, if you see fit.)

Last edited on Sun Oct 11th, 2009 02:03 pm by Carl Lavoie

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Mon Oct 12th, 2009 10:09 pm
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Carl Lavoie wrote:
Salut Paul,

About the oddness of the title of Petrus Bonus’ Margarita preciosa novella, you provide links of Arabic texts dealing with “pearl-lore”.

I just wanted to bring to your attention a passage of this study by E.J. Holmyard (Paris, 1927) about the text of De congelatione et conglutinatione lapidum from the Kitâb Al-Shifâ d’Avicenne.

He [Holmyard] mentions, in his introduction, another author whose work, maybe actually dealing with alchemy (and not only its controversies), also uses the ‘pearl’ in its title. That would make two, but the only ones as far as I know (and certainly unrelated).

Here is the excerpt, of pages 6 and 7:

 

The evidence does not end here, however. Hâjjî  Khalifa states that Ibn Sînâ denied the truth of alchemy in the Prolegomena to his Book of the Remedy (Kitâb Al-Shifâ), while Al-Jildakî (†circa 1360 A.D.) has the following passage in his book entitled The Guarded Pearl (Al-Durr al-Maknûn) : ―“  ‘Alî  ibn Sînâ denied the existence of alchemy in the Shifâ, and so did Al-Bîrûnî in his Lapidary (Kitâb Al-Ahjâr);   Abû Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakarîya al-Râzî, however, in his Book of the Twelve (Kitâb Al-Athnầ ‘ Ashrîyât), and Ibn Arfa ‘Ra’s, in his poem entitled The Particules of Gold ( Dîwan Shudhûr al-Dhahab), maintained its reality”.

 

(Adam, move this post to another thread, if you see fit.)


Hi Carl,

I think it's the same book as I referred to in the second post above. Holmyard for some reason attributes it to Al-Jaldaki [sic] (who was actually a Persian, not an Arab) but it's usually attributed to (pseudo-)Geber.


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