An important milestone in the evolution of medical science: the art of distilling alcohol combined with a treatise on the nature of the universe

Coelum philosophorum seu de Secretis Naturae

1525

Coelum philosophorum seu de Secretis Naturae

Coelum philosophorum seu de Secretis Naturae

— 1525

  1. Philipp Ulstad was a nobleman from Nuremberg who taught in Fribourg at the beginning of the 16th century

  2. He is the author of a major work in the history of distillation, which describes the process and equipment in detail

  3. Ulstad also theorizes that the universe is divided between the world of the four elements and the incorruptible sky

Coelum philosophorum seu de Secretis Naturae

Coelum philosophorum seu de Secretis Naturae – Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid, Spain)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

Evidence of distillation has been found going back thousands of years, from Babylonian perfumeries to Roman alchemists, but distillation as we know it today has existed since the Middle Ages, when Arab scholars were creating a substance they called “al-kohl”. The process was explicitly described by Al-Kindi in the 9th century, and spread to Europe in the 12th century. The consumption of liquor as an elixir became popular in the 14th century, when it was prescribed as a remedy for plague. The art of distillation was refined to a science by the time Hieronymus Brunschwig published the first work solely dedicated to it in 1500. Philipp Ulstad’s treatise is a major contribution to the quest for the “water of life” and describes the process in detail as well philosophizing on its larger, cosmic significance.

Coelum philosophorum seu de Secretis Naturae

This Latin title translates into English as “Philosopher’s Heaven or the Secrets of Nature”, which builds on the work of the German surgeon, botanist, and alchemist Hieronymus Brunschwig (ca. 1450 – ca. 1512) titled Liber de arte distillandi de simplicibus or “Book on the Art of Simple Distillation”. The author was Philipp Ulstad, a nobleman from Nuremberg who taught in Fribourg at the beginning of the 16th century. It is a major work in the history of distillation and includes various remedies for doctors as well as recipes for drinkable gold. The text is mostly focused on obtaining the “water of life”destillatorium ad aqua vitae. Ulstad specifies the various instruments involved in producing alcohol, but also addresses other topics like the philosophy of the nature of time.

Alcohol: the Fifth Element?

Ulstad divides the universe into two distinct regions: the world of the four elements (water, air, earth, and fire), where corruption and imperfection reign, and the incorruptible sky. Aqua vitae, having been distilled down to its essence, was thus believed to be the “quintessence”, the fifth element that was supposedly the matter of heavenly bodies. It was believed that when the substance enters the body of the patient it eliminates the uncomfortable humors since it surpasses all the elements that are under the sky. The ancient philosophers worked on its elaboration to strengthen and lengthen life. Today we know that distilled alcohol can be used to sterilize medical instruments, and ether, an early anesthetic, can also be created through distillation. This document thus marks an important milestone in the evolution of medical science.

Codicology

Date
1525
Language
Artist / School

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Coelum philosophorum seu de Secretis Naturae“

Coelum Philosophorum seu de Secretis Naturae
Coelum philosophorum seu de Secretis Naturae – Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid, Spain)
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Coelum Philosophorum seu de Secretis Naturae

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Circulo Cientifico – Madrid, 2003
Limited Edition
999 copies
Commentary
1 volume by Benito Del Castillo, Javier Puerto, Manuel Arroyo González, Agustín Fernández Merino
Language: Spanish

More Information
Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
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