But to tell you the truth, I failed to perceive a direct alchemical symbolism here. The cave on plate 13 is the most suggestive. The plate 14, vaguely reminiscent of Lambspring’s athanor, still look more to me as a variation on the lame XVI ( la ‘Maison-Dieu’). The presence of death's heads, suns, moons and arrows is hardly convincing, as they are to be found in so many pictorial systems, including, of course, the diverse Masonic ones.
But as the work has been reprinted in 1993 along with a short study by Didier Kahn, I’ll defer my judgement, until I could read it. Now, D. Kahn’s essay is not, it seems, on the Mutus Liber Latomorum itself, but rather on the converging points between alchemy and freemasonry in the dying XVIIIth century. I would assume dealing with Tschoudy’s alchemico-masonic cathechism, and Pernety’s Illuminés d’Avignon.
MUTUS LIBER LATOMORUM - "Le Livre Muet des Francs-Maçons". Editions J-C. Bailly - 1993 - Un volume broché 16x25 cm de 80 pages dont 64 pages couleur,papier vergé d'Arches. Tirage limité et numéroté.
(Editor's note) "Cette très rare suite de dessins aquarellées, constituée de 31 compositions symboliques représente l'ensemble d'un rite maçonnique Androgyne vraisemblablement consacré au grand œuvre Alchimique. La conception de ce rite, inconnu et inédit, peut se situer aux alentours des années 1780. Afin d'en éclairer le contexte de création nous l'avons accompagné de deux études l'une de Mr Philippe Morbach, une approche historique et symbolique et l'autre de Mr Didier Kahn portant sur les rapports de la Franc-maçonnerie, de l'Hermétisme et de l'Alchimie en France à la fin du XVIIIe siècle "
Maybe the curators at the Quatuor Coronati have other XVIIIth and early-XIXth century copies on their shelves. And for all I know, the Mutus Liber Latomorum could also be described and commented in Wolfstieg, or in Kloss.
Last edited on Wed Jun 17th, 2009 05:28 am by Carl Lavoie
Didier Kahn's article in this book, includes a rather wonderful illustrated page from an 18th century manuscript in the Municipal library in Rouen MS. Leber 1255. I would love to know whether many of the pages have similar illustrations. If so it would be well worth purchasing some scans or photographs. This illustration is better known in a coloured version.
The images on the Mutus Liber Latororum have captions placed below. For the most part these seem to be the familiar cryptic letters one finds in masonic texts, supposedly to hide the secrets, but usually the first letter of the word. People who do crossword puzzles have no problem reading these masonic texts. In a few places in the Mutus Liber Latororum the full word is given. For example, in an image clearly showing the Ark of Noah, the caption reads "ARCH.D.N.E". "ECOS" appears on three of the images, and this would appear to be a reference to the symbols of the Scottish Rite degrees. The manuscript seems entirely explicable within masonic terms and there is no need to attempt to impose any alchemical context.