Johannes Isaac Hollandus De Lapide Philosophico is composed of two treatises, but usually, only a summary of the second one is available on the web.
The first treatise seems to be a practical one, assembled in recipes. But Hollandus’s “recipe” is more hermetically sealed than expected. This kind of “recipe” book had a huge success among seventeenth-century readers. As a matter of fact, Johannes Isaac Hollandus has been regarded by his contemporaries as an Alchemy celebrity, furthermore being called for some astonishing transmutations. While presently he is looked down upon due to his lack of excessive symbolism.
Johannes Isaac Hollandus was probably Isaac’s son. An Hollandus family introduction has been posted on Opera Vegetabilia. Both father and son are considered Basilius Valentinus contemporaries. Indeed “De Lapide Philosophico” has been written in manuscript form, in german, and then translated into latin to be published in 1600. For this reason, I choose a category before 1597, in spite of the publication date. I thought it will be of great interest to directly hear from latin. Translation has been performed by myself, as usual, and as verbatim as possible.
Operum Mineralium Joannis Isaaci Hollandi, sive de Lapide Philosophico.
Liber Primus, First book:
“Nunc filium meum docere volo primum modum in Alchymia invetum omnia metalla que mortua et impura sunt, ad verum Solem et Lunam reducendi: sciet, filius meus hanc rationem in Alchymia primum ordinem vocari, quia prima est quae in rerum natura inventa suit ad imperfecta metalla perficienda.”
translation: “Now I want to teach you, my son, the first alchemical method to turn all metals which are dead and impure into real Sun and Moon (Sol et Luna). You have to know, my son, that, in Alchemy, it is called knowledge of first order, what is first discovered in the nature of things and in imperfect metals perfecting.”
Sun and Moon. If someone had some doubts about Hollandus being merely spagyric, there is contrary evidence: Sol et Luna is an allegory for Mercurius Philosophorum or Azoth (1), as well as being an allegory for Solve et Coagula (2). Namely our preparatory work or Labors of Hercules proceeding to get an ineffable substance out of changes of state and putrefaction (see an Opus Magnum scheme and keep to hand). Luna or Moon or woman when in a pure phase of volatility, Sun or Sol or man when fixed. And so far it seems quite clear, or at least quite rational. But, due to the rule of three (every symbol may stand for at least three different concepts), a Solve et Coagula is also involved in the Main Work, that of Secret Fire performing on itself. Hollandus starts describing the first one, but as he goes, boundaries between the two Works are in the dim.
Opus primis ordinis. Work of first order
Caput 1. Chapter 1
Translation: “First get hold of Saturn ashes, residues or residual salts (3), lb. 12 (4), shake them in an oblong vessel clay (5) as much as you can let through a small sieve: then wash the aforementioned Saturn residue salts with clean water, until water flows out clean. Have done that, dry your Saturn on a little fire till powder. Then consume salt vapors but do not overcook; throw all salts in cold water, and dissolve them in cold water as much as you can, and then get rid of water since it is useless. Make solidify Salt already dissolved in its dryness, so that it pulverizes. Then take one part of this salt as much as one part of Saturn.”
At the beginning of the chapter, Hollandus seems to start from preparatory work, with residue Saturn salts already worked out of raw matter, Materia Tertia, to be next processed in physical calcination. Thus, as for the “one part of salt”, it might seemingly be clear enough. But what about the Saturn part to be added? The last one gives the impression to be a different Saturn from the first mentioned. On a side note, Hollandus writes “Salis pars 1. & Saturniana”. So two different things. Nevertheless, ashes have been extracted from Saturn. I don’t know if you are acquainted with rule of three, but Saturn’s term is very representative in its ubiquity. But let’s go on:
Simulque super lapide cum acri aceto ex vino confecto conterito;… translation:” and both or similarly over the crushed stone with a vinegar made from wine. Here the action is lacking, the sentence is not complete. What do we have to do with chemical vinegar over these solidified salts ( to the extent that Hollandus names them “Stone”, Lapide?
Translation: “and then dry at low heat so that it crumbles into powder. After that in the following way in a special “calcinatorium” clay furnace so it can stand on its release and be made this way (engraving on the left). Cover with a strong lid and set in this “calcinatoria” furnace to calcinate for 12 days and nights. And so moderately without becoming red hot, and salt melting: furnace must be precisely restrained and positioned so that in these 12 days will neither break nor melted, which you should avoid. And salinity has taken away, repeatedly binds legs with strips without instead set firmly;”
And here Hollandus begins to act strangely:… superinfunde, (6) translation: introduce over.
… move & sine residere, translation: shake incessantly without fixing,
donec aqua pura defluat, translation: so long as pure water flows,
gustumque salis non amplius retineat, translation: and it ( pure water nominative-subject) does not fully return the sample or taste of Salt.
Hollandus does not mention if the lid has been previously lifted up so as to allow the introduction of something inside. Therefore what is “aqua pura” and where does it come from? This term is often an allegory for our Mercurius or Secret Fire extracted from salt sublimation. And what is this taste of salt? Hollandus has here in mind a product of salt sublimation. But the furnace is surely not translucent like glass. Of course, the following sentences are even more difficult to understand, since Hollandus has surely skipped important passages.
translation:... then chopping mache over the stone with water pure enough to paint thinner with a brush…
A water so pure that can be used as enamel paint, but after being previously chopped? Definitely not common sense water.
translation:… again wet your “calces” in pure and fiery (calida) water, several times, so long as your pure water flows…
So there we are at last: this pure water is “ pure fire”, our Mercurius/Secret Fire. In Latin aqua did not simply mean water, but moreover spring, sea, ocean, rain, fountain, and source.
translation:… then dessicate it in the pan ( sartago) with a moderate (lentus) fire, to powder. Having done this, put your “calces” in distilled vinegar into a stoned or glass-cleaned bowl-shaped vessel (cantharus): and if it is not all calcinated, put it with Salt over the aforementioned for three days, as aforesaid:…
Be aware here that Aqua and Salt are often synonyms for Mercurius Philosophorum (5) or a Mercurius less volatile and more fixed. Even Salt here seems to be no more common ashes salts.
… ibus exactis iterum solvendas pone in aceto, ac brevi solventur … translation: these days passed put in vinegar for dissolving once again, and they dissolve in a short time. Mind here if Hollandus, at this point, alludes to common vinegar or “acetum”, that’s to say to our Mercurius or “pure water, pure fire”. The plural, if you remember, is referred to the aforementioned Pure Water and Salt.
... tum congela aut acetum decola, translation: then make “acetum” solidify otherwise may disappear,
Translation: a subtle power will remain in you, which does not dissolve in water. And then you have prepared your Saturn.
Hollandus does not say how and when to open the furnace. How and when he realizes pure water/ Mercurius begin to flow. How and when Mercurius’s fixation has begun. And, moreover, if we have passed preparatory work and perhaps some duplication (7) begins to be involved. The Opus Magnum scheme aforelinked might be essential.
To be continued at De Lapide Philosophico Chapter 2
- See Basilius Valentinus Azoth ;
- See Basilius Valentinus Solve et Coagula ;
- In Italian residual salts are still called ceneri or ashes;
- Libra,ae grams 327,4
- Since Hollandus omits stress marks, Luteus-a-um has consequently two meanings: egg-yellow color, and made of mud, clay;
- Infundo-di. Sadly, latin verbs are not precise and show many different meanings: in the case of infundo we have: pour, shed, spill, scatter, bestrew, and introduce. We are not allowed to clearly understand the real state of matter to be introduced;
- Atalanta Fugiens & Mercurius Duplicatus ;
- Phillalethes dedicated his Introitus Apertus chapter 2 to Mercurius Philosophorum;