Miscellany of Alchemy

Miscellany of Alchemy – Ediciones Grial – MS Ashburnham 1166 – Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (Florence, Italy)

Padua (Italy) β€” Ca. 1470

All-embracing knowledge on the refinement of metals and the human soul: a charming alchemical compilation manuscript in search of the "Philosopher's Stone"

  1. Alchemists were not only interested in the transmutation of substances, but of the soul as well

  2. It was believed that the same substance that could transform a base metal into gold could also grant immortality

  3. This is a rare alchemical manuscript because practitioners of the esoteric art were secretive by nature

Miscellany of Alchemy

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Miscellany of Alchemy

The key word of alchemy is β€œtransmutation” and alchemists were concerned with changing both substances, i.e. turning base metals into gold, and perfecting humans both body and soul. A legendary substance capable of doing both was referred to as the β€œphilosophers’ stone”, and is also a symbol of perfection and universal truth. The alchemists’ search for wisdom and even immortality and their efforts to transform substance also helped lay the foundations from modern science, chemistry in particular. This comprehensive Gothic alchemy manuscript was gorgeously adorned with enigmatic watercolors by Francesco da Barberino.

Miscellany of Alchemy

The now-debunked science of alchemy is concerned with the transmutation of substances, particularly the creation of gold from base metals. Nonetheless, the labors of the alchemists gave birth to modern chemistry and other sciences. Alchemists were also concerned with the heavens, the macrocosm, and its reflection in man, described as the microcosm. As such, they sought an elixir of immortality, panaceas to cure any disease, and other substances to perfect the human body and soul. Their belief in an all-encompassing knowledge, a universal truth, is perhaps best represented by the search for the philosophers’ stone, a legendary substance capable of changing base metals into noble metals or granting immortality. The philosophers’ stone has come to be a symbol of perfection, enlightenment, and heavenly bliss. The manuscript at hand, stored under the shelf mark MS Ashburnham 1166 in Florence’s Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, attributed to Johannes von Teschen, or Ticinensis. It is famous for a representation of a dying man shot with an arrow and being used as soil by a tree growing up from his genital area, and is named after its last private owner, Bertram Ashburham. The text is adorned with gorgeous, enigmatic watercolors attributed to Francesco da Barberino (1264–1348).


Alternative Titles
MiscelΓ‘nea De Alquimia
Sammlung der Alchemie
Size / Format
60 pages / 21.2 Γ— 16.0 cm
Ca. 1470
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Miscellany of Alchemy – Ediciones Grial – MS Ashburnham 1166 – Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (Florence, Italy)
Ediciones Grial – Valencia, 2004
Limited Edition: 821 copies
Detail Picture

Miscellany of Alchemy

Abū Mūsā Jābir ibn Ḁayyān

Jabir ibn Hayyan was an 8th century polymath whose surviving Arabic texts deal with alchemy, chemistry, magic, and Shi’ite religious philosophy but is believed to have written on numerous other topics. However, historians still debate whether Jabir was ever a historical person, or a pseudonym used by one or more authors because he is not recorded in any historical source before c. 900. He was nonetheless praised centuries later for pioneering the use of vegetable and animal substances in alchemy.

Miscellany of Alchemy – Ediciones Grial – MS Ashburnham 1166 – Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (Florence, Italy)
Single Page

Miscellany of Alchemy

Tree Growing from a Dying Man

Art historians generally agree upon the pictorial and precision and harmony of the miniatures in this manuscript, which must surely originate from the hand of a great painter of the Quattrocento, probably from the Bellini school, perhaps even Giovanni Bellini himself. The incredible delicacy and creativity of the watercolors and the attention to detail all point to a true master.

The most famous miniature in the manuscript depicts a man who is mortally wounded with an arrow and has a tree growing from his genitals. It is strongly reminiscent of an archetypal depiction of Eve emerging from the side of Adam as he sleeps and is also a reminder that we are made of the earth and will return to it one day, our bodies transformed to feed new life.

Miscellany of Alchemy – Ediciones Grial – MS Ashburnham 1166 – Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (Florence, Italy)
Facsimile Editions

#1 MiscelΓ‘nea De Alquimia

Ediciones Grial – Valencia, 2004

Publisher: Ediciones Grial – Valencia, 2004
Limited Edition: 821 copies
Commentary: 1 volume by Demetrio Santos and Ida Giovanna Rao
Language: Spanish
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) 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.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
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