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July 2006
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Subject: ACADEMY: Influence of Greco-Egyptian alchemy
From: Mark Clarke
Date: 4 July 2006

I might add that I talk a litle more about these links in a
forthcoming paper:

Clarke, M. (in press) "The earliest technical recipes: Assyrian recipes,
Greek chemical treatises and the Mappae clavicula text family" in:
D. Ricardo Córdoba de la Llave (ed.) Craft treatises and handbooks:
the dissemination of technical knowledge in the Middle Ages,
(Universidad de Córdoba, Facultad de Filosofia y Letras, 6-8 October 2005).

Dr Mark Clarke

Subject: ACADEMY: Mutus liber and Braunschweig
From: Adam McLean
Date: 25 July 2006

Recently, while editing the text of the English translation of the
first book of the well known and influential work of Hieronymous
Braunschweig, his 'Book of Distillation', 1500, I noticed this passage:

"But if it fortuned that you should distil the dry herbs etc., you shall
every year in the month of May before the suns rising, when it is fair
weather, and has not rained by night, you shall take a fair white linen
cloth spread abroad and scaled or drawn over the grass in a fair lese [meadow]
or garden where as many fair herbs and flowers stand growing. The fair
lese or garden whereas you do this in, ought not to stand on a moist or
watery ground, nor in deep valleys, but upon high ground and as nigh
as it is possible, and then shall this cloth be wrung out in a glass, and
then do so again as often till you have enough. This dew must be
thoroughly distilled in Balneo Mariae and rectified as it shall be
hereafter shall be declared in the next chapter following. And so
keep that water from year to year. Then if you list [wish] to distil
within the year any dry herbs, then take such herbs as are dried in
the shadow as much as you will having its natural scent and odour,
and cast upon it three times of the aforenamed water of dew so much
that at every time the herbs be concryd [concrew, or joined together in a mass]."

This immediately brought to my mind the famous image from the 1677
'Mutus liber'. It seems to me that the creator of the Mutus liber, was familiar
with the 'Book of Distillation' and indeed may have drawn directly from it
to inform his depictions of the process.

Subject: ACADEMY: First appearance of the term 'Philosophers' Stone'
From: Stan Marlan
Date: 31 July 2006

Would anyone happen to know when was the first time the
philosophers' stone appeared in the literature?

Stan Marlan

Subject: ACADEMY: First appearance of the term 'Philosophers' Stone'
From: Anke Timmermann
Date: 31 July 2006

Dear Stan,

You have probably checked the surprisingly extensive explanation in
the OED already (which, however, generally goes back to printed
sources only unless one of their researchers' manuscript-hobby horses
coincides with a term, so it is not completely reliable)? Here it is again,
just in case (reference:

correct way of citation on the OED web page):
philosophers' stone, n.
1. a. A mythical solid substance, supposed to change any metal into
gold or silver and (according to some) to cure all wounds and diseases
and prolong life indefinitely. Cf. ELIXIR n. 1. Now hist.
The discovery of the stone was considered to be the supreme object of alchemy.
a1393 GOWER Confessio Amantis (Fairf.) IV. 2523 Til he the parfit
Elixir Of thilke philosophres Ston Mai gete, of which that many on
Of Philosophres whilom write.
c1395 CHAUCER Canon's Yeoman's Tale 862 The philosophres
[v.rr. philosophre, philisopheris] stoon, Elixir clept, we sechen.
1590 'PASQUIL' First Pt. Pasquils Apol. sig. Bv, The Philosophers
stone to turne mettles into gold is yet to seeke.
1611 Bible (A.V.) Transl. Pref. 3 Men talke..of the Philosophers
stone, that it turneth copper into gold.
1631 J. SHIRLEY Schoole of Complement III. ii. 40 Well, you
shall bee prentice to an Alcumist, and watch his Stills night,
by night, not sleepe till he get the Philosophers-stone.
1670 J. PETTUS Fodinę Regales 44 Henry VI..did then grant
4 successive Patents and Commissions to several Knights..
and find out the Philosophers stone.
1747 R. CAMPBELL London Tradesman v. 57 Men hunting after
the Philosopher's Stone. set them first upon Trials by Fire.
a1774 A. TUCKER Light of Nature Pursued (1777) III. I. 207 How
many profitable discoveries in chemistry have taken birth from
that whimsical notion of finding the philosopher's stone?
1817 KEATS Let. 28 Sept. in M. B. Forman Lett. J. Keats
1816-20 (1947) (ed. 3) 50 He does not possess the Philosophers stone
nor Fortunatus' purse, nor Gyges' ring.
1864 J. H. BURTON Scot Abroad I. iii. 145 He was in search of the
philosopher's stone.
1914 Science 23 Oct. 579/1 The scientific man must not be
pictured as an alchemist in medieval surroundings, searching
for the elixir of life or the philosopher's stone.
1995 Countryman Summer 145/2 Dew was considered potent
enough to be needed in the search for the philosophers' stone.

b. fig. and in extended use.
1612 B. JONSON Alchemist I. i, I will haue A Booke, but barely
reckoning thy Impostures, Shall proue a true Philosophers stone, to Printers.
1643 SIR T. BROWNE Relig. Medici I. §46, I am half of opinion that
Antichrist is the Philosopher's Stone in Divinity.
1856 R. A. VAUGHAN Hours with Mystics II. VIII. viii. 94 [Behmen]
declared that the true Philosopher's Stone..was 'the new life in
Christ Jesus'.
1868 Jrnl. Statist. Soc. 31 311 Let any man tell the world why
pauperism increases, why crime increases, or why, at best, do
both remain stationary.., and he will discover the philosopher's stone.
1947 M. E. BOYLAN This Tremendous Lover xvi. 258 Humility
is the Philosopher's Stone which changes all our losses into the
gold of God's favor.
1985 P. H. MANN Methods Social Investig. (ed. 2) (BNC) 64
It is a symptom of sociology's low status as a scientific discipline
that so many researchers still seem to be seeking for the philosophers' stone.
2001 Financial Times 27 Jan. (Weekend Suppl.) p. xxiv/1 Rebranding
is perceived as the philosopher's stone of business practice.

2. A kind of artificial gem. Obs. rare.
1879 Cassell's Techn. Educator IV. 310/1 France is clever at
producing..shams, and a perfect thing called the philosopher's-stone
which..has a very beautiful and gem-like appearance, is imported
from there.