Manutius printer’s mark actors are a dolphin and an anchor. Which we also find in a Hypnerotomachia Poliphili chart of Alchemical Art.

aldus manutius printer markA dolphin around an anchor just to pay homage to Venice, the town where he established his legendary printing-house? In Hypnerotomachia, printed by Manutius, these two symbols are not arranged in a single device, as in his mark, but in a row with others to explain the various alchemical stages and steps.

The first diagram in Hypnerotomachia is to be read from the bottom ( the chest) to the final suspended cow’s skull. So the dolphin is the second object in the first part, while the anchor is in the middle of the second line. Every symbol is here attentively chosen and placed. The result of the reading is the Opus Magnum.

Basilius in his Currus Triumphalis Antimonii, or Triumphant Chariot of Antimony writes:”……Festina lente pingit Alciatus, et ancora Delphinus Implicat…….Run slowly paints Alciatus and the dolphin winds around the anchor”

hypnerotomachia poliphili opus magnum 41

The external one, perhaps the human, in the same book is represented by another diagram, the second. Which puts in display a  different stage, tied with a practice other than the simple extraction of the Soul from a mineral. Here the dolphin and anchor device is at the beginning of the Work (1).

hipnerotomachia poliphili second part 69

The dolphin and anchor device was not new in ancient times. The roman emperor Domitianus had coined it in various samples. Generally the second side of roman coins were not be seen as mere decorations. In them there were various examples of religious symbolism and not government, ethnic and social. To remember when, in very ancient eras, the coinage was sacred. So, with a good approximation, we can evince that a dolphin around an anchor was not considered a maritime logo, back at roman times.

domitianus coin dolphin anchordomitianus coin dolphin anchor 1

The dolphin is an animal living in the sea, with a fast, darting and elusive behavior among the waves. All featuring our Mercurius. Which is very often represented as a huge sea, in the alchemical imaginary. The Mercurius we are referring to is that out of the preparatory works (2), which are devoted to this particular task, that’s to say to achieve an ineffable and volatile substance. Our diaphanous nymph, or water because of its flowing attitude, is characterized by a volatility so remarkable to discourage the opening of the vessel. The Mercurius/Dolphin, in this condition, is very challenging to be handled.

An anchor is a device performing the action of securing and settling a ship in a watery environment. It is a holding, attaching instrument. The dolphin, against all appearances is not playing around with the anchor.

In fact our anchor is here arranging a stopping of the dolphin. In the same way the Mercurius volatility must to be stopped, and fixed (3). The methods to hold our mercurial dolphin are very disparate. It all depends on the very raw matter and path (4). And, in every path, it is a “Secretum Artis”, a secret of the Art.

So, if the dolphin symbol represents the Mercurius in its volatile state,  the anchor stands for the final fixed result: the Mercurius Philosophorum, in some paths also called Sulphur, or male (4).

According to Greek mythology, the dolphin is dear both to Apollo and Dionysus for its good attitude to rescue men to safe shores, for this reason he was  taken as a symbol of the passage from life to life after death and so became a psychopomp fish. If we consider the part of Alchemy called “Amplificatio”, or amplification.

manutius sons printers markManutius sons took over their father business and tasks, and arranged a slightly different mark: their father’s dolphin and anchor device was framed. But is not this harmless decoration to be intriguing, it is the “fixation” of the anchor, which is kind of “hanged”. In fact the mouth holding the anchor belongs to a lion. Another fixing symbol. In some paths, the Mercurius/Dolphin can be fixed when pushed to the higher part of the vessel.

More news  at Aldus Manutius and Hypnerotomachia Poliphili ;

  1. See also Pompeii Mysteries Villa/ a Gentle Flowing with Mystica Vannus ;
  2. See also Archarion & the Opus Magnum Scheme ;
  3. See also Atalanta Fugiens and the Golden Apples ;
  4. See also Cabala Mineralis or the She Horse on Urine Work part 1 ,  Orthelius Commentary on Maria Prophitissa. Part 1 ;
  5. See also Basilius Valentinus & Salt, Azoth or Philosophers Gold? ;