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October 2005
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Subject: ACADEMY: Influence of Greco-Egyptian alchemy
From: Joaquin Perez
Date: 1 Oct 2005

The influence of the Graeco-Egyptian alchemy on the western
alchemy is a very interesting subject in itself, and it is possible that
this topic has already been commented in the forum.

Anyway, I would like to know where I can find reliable, clear and
detailed information on the exact influence of Graeco-Egyptian
alchemy on western alchemy. Of course, everybody knows about
general statements concerning the role played by Arabic culture in
the transmission of Egyptian knowledge to Europe, but it is
possible, for example, to connect in a clear way the Greco-
Egyptian alchemical processes as analyzed by Prof. Hopkins, for
example, with alchemical processes describe in Middle Age
western alchemical literature?

Another additional point concerns how European alchemists
viewed the influence of old Egyptian lore on their own alchemical
practice. Does anyone knows about alchemists commenting such
influence, in addition to the well known general statements on
Hermes? I do not have the information at hand, but I think
Borrichius (XVII century) has elaborated something about this in
one of his books.



Subject: ACADEMY: Influence of Greco-Egyptian alchemy
From: José Rodríguez Guerrero
Date: 1 Oct 2005

Dear Joaquin,

I think the real Greek alchemy has no direct influence on Western authors
during the Middle Ages. Probably you can find references to greek
authorities, especially Hermes, but most of translated texts (Tabula
smaragdina; Liber rebis; De secretis naturae; Septem tractatus seu capitula
trimegisti; Secreta de salibus et corporibus; etc.) seem to be Arabic works
attributed to Hermes Trimegistos. There are some Western forgeries too
(Gemma salutaris; liber Hermetis artis alkymie; etc.). There is an
interesting article on this question:

SYLVAIN MATTON, (2003), "Hermès dans la littérature alchimique médiévale"
in: Paolo Lucentini et al. (eds.), Hermetism from late Antiquity to
Humanism, Brepols Publishers, pp. 621-649.

The textual tradition of the real Greek alchemists arrived in Europe around
the middle of the 15th century. The oldest manuscript (Marcianus Graecus
299) was placed in Venice by Bessarion. Recent studies makes clear that
early copies in Western libraries were based on MG299 (MS. Parisinus 2419,
Parisinus 2275, Parisinus 2325, Parisinus 2327). The textual tradition was
developed in the Greek language and there are shorter materials in Latin (Ms.
Vindobonensis 11456: Ms. Vindobonensis 11453; Ms. Gotha Chart. I 147;
Pizimenti's edition of De arte magna; two poems in Fabricius' Bibliotheca
graecae, etc.) and there are tiny references in vernacular languages. Most
of the copies listed in the "Catalogue des Manuscrits Alchimiques Grecs"
dated from the 17th century and those manuscripts were used by erudite humanists
not by alchemists. You should read a paper signed by Sylvain Matton:

SYLVAIN MATTON, (1995), "L'influence de l'humanisme sur la tradition
alchimique", in: "Micrologus", 3, pp. 279-345.

Matton concludes: (p. 331)"Il était donc normal, dans ces conditions,
qu'avant la publication de la traduction de Pizimenti la quasi totalité des
alchimistes de la Renaissance ignorât, hormis leurs noms, les alchimistes
grecs et s'en tint à la tradition alchimique médiéval..."; (p. 341)
"...pourtant, sa lecture attentive des textes traduits par Pizimenti paraît
avoir joué un rôle pour le moins mieux dans la formation de sa théorie
alchimique, qui, se situant dans le droit fil de la tradition médiévale".

So, little appears to be known about the original Greek texts in Medieval or
Early Modern alchemists.

José Rodríguez Guerrero

Subject: ACADEMY: Influence of Greco-Egyptian alchemy
From: Jean-Yves Artero
Date: 1 Oct 2005

Hi Joaquin,

"The introduction to the German translation is an
adaptation of the translations of Patrizi and van
Beyerland, although enlarged with passages from the
work of Olaus Borrichius (1626-1690), a Danish
physician who travelled through Europe in the 1690s,
visiting Germany, the Netherlands, France, England and
Italy as part of his itinerary. During his travels he
collected information on the hermetic sciences and
later defended the authenticity of the hermetica in
his works De ortu et progressu chemiae dissertatio
(1668) and Hermetis, Aegyptiorum et chemicorum
sapientia (1674), two wrongfully neglected sources for
information on Hermes Trismegistus in all his facets."


Subject: ACADEMY: Animal Spirits
From: Herman B. Triplegood
Date: 26 Nov 2005

I am currently reading Descartes, and the notion of animal spirits
figures into some of his discussion in Treatise of Man. I am interested
in the history of this idea so I can better understand how Descartes
himself may have understood the term as he was using it around
1630 or so. Where does the term come from?

Herman B. Triplegood