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Catoptrics in alchemy?
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Richard Ashrowan
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 Posted: Wed Feb 15th, 2012 08:34 pm
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I am researching the use of catoptrical methods (the use of lenses, mirrors and optical devices to focus or direct light) in alchemy, part of a PhD. I would be particularly interested in unearthing illustrations of practical catoptrics relating to this. This is directly related to the use of the emanations of the sun, moon and stars within alchemy, which certainly interests me, though I am more specifically looking for images and texts that detail methods in which light is mediated through some kind of practical optical apparatus, mirror, or lens.

Richard Ashrowan
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 Posted: Wed Feb 15th, 2012 08:39 pm
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Perhaps I should also outline where I am already with this, and the questions I already arising, to save duplicating content:

I have found several very interesting illustrations from Athanasius Kircher Ars Magna Lucis (1646), though I am not sure how many of these relate to alchemy and how many rate to more general non-alchemical optical theory.
http://bibliodyssey.blogspot.com/2008/09/ars-magna-lucis-et-umbrae.html

Does anyone know of a translation of Kircher's text to put these images in proper context? I have not yet visited an original. There is another very good example of solar distillation by means of a focussing mirror in Kircher's later Mundus subterraneus (1665), which I believe Adam has a version of on this site.

I note also the illustration of the lens focussing beams from the moon in Chymischer Monden-schein, (1739), which Adam has put on this site. I should be interested to know more about the text/context of this work, if anyone can fill me in.
http://www.alchemydiscussion.com/view_topic.php?id=45&forum_id=2

There are also reproductions of John Dee's optical diagrams (from De Speculis comburentibus) in Urszula Szulakowska's book The Alchemy of Light, which includes also some illustrations of distillation by direct sunlight (Andreas Orthelius, Gimabattista della Porta, Robert Fludd). This useful book covers in some depth the concerns of Khunrath, Fludd, Maier and Dee in relation to light.

I am aware (from this forum) that there are 'four pen illustrations' within a text called Zweyte Silentium Dei by Johann Arndt (Mellon MS 136, Yale). I am trying to track this down through Yale, but has anyone actually seen this manuscript?

In a related post Stanislas Klossowski de Rola said that the above text is actually a later copy of "Arndt's "Zweytes Silentium Dei in des Konigs Salomonis des Weisen paradiessischen Lustgarten" dated 18-25 December 1798" which contains a full page illustration on page 23. Does anyone know where this earlier manuscript lives? Does anyone know also how these texts relate to the various versions of the Arcana Divina - in one post I read, it was suggested they are very similar in content?

One post mentioned looking at Libavius' Alchymia (1606) for illustrations of mirrors and magnifying lenses, but I have not yet found any images related to optics, at least not online.

I have also been recommended "Secret Doors of the Earth" by Jacques Bergier for a modern take on 'solar alchemy'.

I apologise for the lengthy message and for so many questions all in one post. I thought it worth outlining where I am starting from. Any advice or thoughts most welcome.

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Wed Feb 15th, 2012 10:35 pm
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A very warm welcome Richard.

Chymische Monden-Schein can be read/downloaded from Dresden here:
http://www.slub-dresden.de/sammlungen/digitale-sammlungen/werkansicht/cache.off?tx_dlf[id]=51615

or from here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=dGg6AAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=%22chymischer+mondenschein%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=dT48T8rNEMnC0QWt3-1s&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

I do not know of any translations of Kircher's Ars Magna. The original can be consulted here:

http://echo.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/ECHOdocuViewfull?mode=imagepath&url=/mpiwg/online/permanent/einstein_exhibition/sources/5G6UYVGT/pageimg&viewMode=images

"Mundus subterraneus" text and translation here:
http://spellbook.info/prime/spellbook/files/mundus-subterraneus/

Please do not overlook the Arab perspective:
http://www.levity.com/alchemy/islam17.html

This might be useful (including correspondence project):
http://www.stanford.edu/group/kircher/cgi-bin/site/


I'm sure our resident bibliographer Alan Pritchard will be intrigued and able to help. I will of course chip in anything else I come across in my browsing. Best of luck with your researches anyway and we look forward to saluting Dr. Ashrowan in due course :)

Alexander Guthrie Stewart
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 Posted: Wed Feb 15th, 2012 10:53 pm
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Interesting.  A bit later than my interest, although I can't recall seeing anything like this in medieval or into Tudor times. 

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Thu Feb 16th, 2012 05:11 pm
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Alexander Guthrie Stewart wrote:
Interesting.  A bit later than my interest, although I can't recall seeing anything like this in medieval or into Tudor times. 

Was Roger Bacon into this?

Alan Pritchard
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 Posted: Fri Feb 17th, 2012 10:42 am
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"I'm sure our resident bibliographer Alan Pritchard will be intrigued and able to help"

I have extracted from my database anything with the string 'optic' in the title, annotation, call number, additional subject headings. I have removed any obvious false drops such as 'Coptic', and the list will include quite a lot of material relating to Newton's optics.

I hope that amongst the dross, you may find some nuggets of gold.

Alan

Attachment: Opticsdoc.zip (Downloaded 1525 times)

Alexander Guthrie Stewart
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 Posted: Fri Feb 17th, 2012 12:38 pm
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Bacon was certainly into optical stuff, although I read that he took a lot of it from Arabic sources.  See the section on Optical science in the Opus MAjus, but I don't  recall seeing any mention of alchemy in that section.  Unfortunately I havn't been able to get a translation of the opus tertius into English, my Latin is nearly non-existent despite trying to learn some. 

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Fri Feb 17th, 2012 03:12 pm
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Alexander Guthrie Stewart wrote:
Bacon was certainly into optical stuff, although I read that he took a lot of it from Arabic sources.  See the section on Optical science in the Opus MAjus, but I don't  recall seeing any mention of alchemy in that section.  Unfortunately I havn't been able to get a translation of the opus tertius into English, my Latin is nearly non-existent despite trying to learn some. 

There seem to be some extracts from it translated in this book:

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Scientific-Achievement-of-the-Middle-Ages/Richard-C-Dales/e/9780812210576

It really is extraordinary how many important Latin texts have not been made available in other languages.

Alexander Guthrie Stewart
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 Posted: Sat Feb 18th, 2012 11:44 am
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It isn't quite what you are after, but the EETS "Book of the Quintessence", being a 1460/70's translation of Rupescissa's book of the same name, mentions the use of the heat of the sun on page 9 for the making of quintessence of gold.  You put calcined gold and strong vinegar or purified urine in your glass vessel, and put it in strong sunshine in summer and collecte the oil which rises to the surface.

No lenses I am afraid, but it might have helped inspire future alchemists.  The connection between the sun and calcined gold is obvious.   

adammclean
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 Posted: Wed Feb 22nd, 2012 09:15 am
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I assume you have the common examples of this.

Here is one from Le Faivre

Attached Image (viewed 2756 times):

le Faivre_8.jpg

adammclean
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 Posted: Wed Feb 22nd, 2012 09:16 am
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And from the English translation

Attached Image (viewed 2724 times):

lefevre1970-2.jpg

adammclean
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 Posted: Wed Feb 22nd, 2012 09:17 am
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The well known engraving from Kircher

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Kircher.jpg

adammclean
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 Posted: Wed Feb 22nd, 2012 09:53 am
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I seem to recall  that there are a number of such images in the emblem literature.

adammclean
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 Posted: Wed Feb 22nd, 2012 10:03 am
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Engraving from Christian Friedrich Sendimir von Siebenstern Chymischer Monden-schein, Frankfurt, 1739.

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A159.jpg

adammclean
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 Posted: Wed Feb 22nd, 2012 10:04 am
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Engraved frontispiece from Giambattista della Porta, Magiae naturalis libri vigenti, Leiden 1644.

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A191.jpg


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