Chymica Vannus: when Alchemy’s history is not enough to explain a title not to be taken for granted. Just an assonance with the Mystica Vannus Iacchi?
Believe it or not, at present, I have neither read the influential Verginelli translation, nor the Donatino Domini’s. So I’m virginally facing the task. I will go on my own, aware of the risk and burden. So expect an awful, and unhurried, style. Of courses discrepancies will be found by readers already familiar with other translations. I have to warn them that I will translate just the most outstanding parts and in the other cases, as usual, I will summarize. Trust me, I can assure the Chymica Vannus integral reading may result pompous, redundant and pretty labyrinthine at times. The translation turns struggling from the very beginning, the frontispiece.
Chymica Vannus was a unique in the alchemical panorama. Always defined as a strange book, it is actually unusual, different and more creative ( and learned, in my opinion) than the usual trend of alchemical books of its era, and not only. Being an independent researcher, I can try to translate it without excessive anxieties and fears of breaking (hermetic as well as marketing) taboos.
The first point to make is that the author doesn’t mention himself. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t feel the need to. This book is a “per se” work. We shouldn’t need to increase, or decrease, its value searching for author’s trustworthiness. But, as we know, people love to read the author and not the book (when they read). So this book does not escape the rule of the outstanding alchemical works of uncertain author: if an originator can not be inferred, he can always be invented. Said that, I fail to understand why and how Chymica Vannus could be attributed to Thomas Vaughan, by some modern historians. Perhaps because of the assonance with Vaughan of some topics in the book.
Even though, at page 7 of the book, we can find the second sentence the author uses to explain the origins of his work ( we will see the first one, mentioned by Ferguson, some paragraphs below): “…& à me Londini in Anglia è germanismo in latinum transfusus est……”, and through me londoner in England from germanism in latin has been moved…. (referring to Pharmaco Catholico). Nevertheless we can affirm there are no evidences of Vaughan’s involvement in the work. This bare sentence cannot be taken by a serious researcher as an identification evidence.
Even more arbitrary is the attribution by Stanislas de Guaita (as far as an attribution by de Guaita is worth to be seriously taken into consideration), whose imagination galloped wildly over the line above mentioned. According to him, the mere translation from german to latin made this book to be attributed to the Brothers of the Rose + Cross. And the author certainly was Philalethes, Grand Master of the R + C. Of course these nineteenth century fellows belonged to secret self-proclaimed brotherhoods, for whom evidences were inconsequential.
Every person with a decent knowledge of Latin can notice a big difference in literary style between Introitus Apertus and Chymica Vannus. Only two features in common: we can hardly find any syntax error, and both authors knowledge of the Latin language double meanings is astonishing. They don’t write in latin, they teach latin. These two books were both written by tremendously learned writers. But they are characterially different. Cold and almost merciless, Philalethes. Intense till arousing pity, Chymica Vannus author. The first one, boldly confident. The second, desperately conscious of being alone.
If Chymica Vannus must be given a certain author, some serious evidences head instead to J. de Monte Snyder. This is also Ferguson’s opinion, in his Bibliotheca Chemica. About Monte Snyder we don’t even know his first name. In some publications we can find John, in other Johannes and in further even Joseph. So I prefer, like Ferguson, to use the first letter J, on which at least all historians seem to agree.
The most comprehensive details on his biography were provided by the same Ferguson: “Did J. de Monte Snyder write Chymica Vannus or translate it or simply edit it? No other known version of it exists……. Of the Author nothing is known except what he says incidentally, as in the little of the Commentatio, that he translated it from the German, when he happened to be in London, or in the ‘Epigramma in Zoilium’ when he says: ‘Gelria mi patria est, sed Venloa propria terra, me mihi scito data non sine lege loqui. Schmieder says that though apparently Dutch, his name was Mondschneider, and he was a native of the ( german) Palatinate. Others say that Monte Snyder was a grandson of Levinus Lemnius on the mother’s side, and from him got the tincture with which he performed several transmutations. One of the most notable of these was narrated by Vreeswyk, and from him the narrative was copied by other writers. It took place at Aix-la-Chapelle in 1667, in presence of Guillaume, a goldsmith and assayer, and Monte Snyder on that occasion produced gold of extraordinarily fine quality from lead and copper. After his stock of “tincture” was exhausted, he is said to have died at Mains in poverty”.
The last information, in my humble opinion, gives instead an aura to Monte Snyder. In fact I don’t understand why, and how, an alchemist should grow rich on Alchemy, letting aside the forbidden practice of producing gold and the other, forbidden by good taste, of cashing on books.
Another attribution has been given to Willielmus de Roe. In fact in a manuscript in the British Library at the name ‘Willielmus de Roe’ is written “This was author of the book, Chymica Vannus, printed in Holland, 1666”.
But let’s get to Chymica Vannus frontispiece translation now, just after the first engraving, entitled Character Adeptorum, which I will present in another category. So:
RECONDITORIUM AC RECLUSORIUM Opulentiae Sapientiaeque NUMINIS MUNDI MAGNI, Cui deditur in titulum CHYMICA VANNUS, Obtenta quidem et erecta Auspice Mortale Coepto; Sed Inventa Proauthoribus Immortalibus Adeptis, Quibus Conclusum est, sancitum & decretum, Ut Anno hoc per Mysteriarcham Mercurium, Velut Viocurium, sed Medicurium, Velut StatVta oraCVla sVa eXorDInè InoLesCerent, & aVrea VerItas perspICaCIorIbVs IngenIIs nVDe breVIterqVE InnotesCeret (Statuta oracula sua ex ordine inolescerent, & aurea Veritas perspicacioribus ingeniis nudè breviterque innotesceret).
Orbe post Christum natum Millesimo, sexcentesimo, sexagesimo sexto, Idibus Majis. Apud Joannem Janssonium à Waesberge, & Elizeum Weyerstraet, Anno 1666.
My verbatim, as far as possible, translation:
REPOSITORY (1) and HIDDEN TREASURY (2) of the Power and Knowledge of the SUPREME APPARATUS (3) NUMEN (4), which is dropped in the title CHEMICAL WINNOWING FAN (5), In the beginning still obtained and constructed under mortal auspice; but discovered under patronage of the victorious (6) immortal authors (7), Through whom is concluded, ordained and heralded, in this period by means of Mercurius presiding over the Mysteries (8) as well as Expert path (9), so (10) the healing Mercurius (11), may their firm predictions be developed according to the order and the golden truth be made simply and concisely known to discerning minds .
In the world after Christ born thousandth, six hundredth, sixtieth, sixth, Ides of May. Amsterdam by Johannes Jansson from Waesberg and Elizeus Weyerstraet, year 1666.