Giovanni Carbonelli translates the latin verses in Codex Laur. MS Ashburnham 1166 has dealt with the acrostic I.A.A.T on the vessel since the beginning.
Of course, they are the initials of the four elements, but something technically relevant is involved in their acrostic inside the vessel. Carbonelli only indirectly helps us with the comprehension of the acrostic. He prefers to study in depth the allegory of nature, which I prefer to analyze in a coming post on folio 10r. Simply put, the question remains: what the acrostic I.A.A.T. does mean? And is it essential to be decrypted? Sure, as it is the foundation of the alchemical work. At the end of the article, I will try to answer when Carbonelli’s notes end.
In my previous article Carbonelli, Bellini and the Codex Laur. MS Ashburnham 1166 you can find the full-size black and white images shot by the Italian historian and all the original watercolors I managed to take from the web. Then my notes, and facts on the codex conserved in Biblioteca Medicea-Laurenziana in Florence as Miscellanea d’Alchimia; There are also elucidations of my theory of the too-superficial attribution given by historians to Johannes von Teschen-Ticinensis as the author does. While the name, instead, of Giovanni Bellini, the remarkable renaissance Venetian painter, might be put forward for the written part too.
My translation from Sulle Fonti Storiche della Chimica e dell’Alchimia in Italia, on the sources of chemistry and alchemy in Italy, Roma 1925. In italics, the original latin text translated by Carbonelli. In regular fonts, his commentary and notes: Carbonelli implements the translation of the latin aphorisms with quotations from other ancient Italian manuscripts, a very interesting way to decrypt a symbolism we do not generally read in more modern treatises. Folio is latin for sheet.
Giovanni Carbonelli: The first page presents no picture but two encrypted words which I couldn’t decrypt. The first figure is Hermes Trismegistus enunciating his great aphorism. I warn the reader that, for that codex, I will transcribe the latin text, as the translation is not always easy due to the damage from burns and poor latin, even if a later correction had been provided.
The line in folio 2r (on the top of the page) says only: Pater Hermes Philosophorum. Figure turning to the right, wearing a large turban surmounted by an imaginary heraldry crown: up is the eight-pointed star with rays, perhaps reminiscent of the star in Crysopoeia.
On the next folio, 2v, it continues the concisely enunciated hermetic theory: Hermes, father of the philosophers, also called Chains, those that fasten the magisterium of the philosophers. Melting, i.e., joining: to putrefy; i.e., to blacken; whiten: to fix; i.e., to coagulate: to make poison; i.e., to wax: to dye, i.e., to make red. Every operation is done with these four systems, i.e., to dissolve bodies or spirits: to fix bodies and spirits: to dissolve the bodies and fix the spirits: or to fix the bodies and dissolve the spirits: The first two he said to be poor.
In these words, all the alchemical theory lies, and they are the incipit of the short but important manuscript. In “Dream of the Anonymous Philosopher”, of Liber Laureatus, Hermes’ position among the ancient alchemists is a leading one: … The first to sit in Aries was Hermes Trismegistus, philosopher king, and scholar in Alchemy. He rules Egypt; on his crown, it is written: so real without lies, and this is the truth of the truths; in the book: in this way, you will separate the coarse from the subtle and the fiery from the terrestrial; in the thigh; its pulp from the deep of the earth, in the right foot: trust, we will see; in the other one: as, without the faith, it is impossible to achieve (1).
In the letter by Rosinus to Euthesia, it is said that Hermes, in his book called Key of Every Prosperity (2). He says that no one has ever designated the actual name ( of the stone) but Hermes, who said: I found some stone tablets in which it was scratched by Hades’ son when the world needed to expire. The ignorant being between fire and deluge: ( read the treatment with water and fire) Hermes explained those words we find in the tablets saying: you have to know that no dye can be done, but from the red stone (3). See also the legend of the fallen angels’ books and the destruction of the human breed according to the Bible.
Folio 3r: into the four plates, coupled two by two and joined by two lines crossing in front of the philosophical vessel, are represented the four elements: Terra-Earth with a country landscape with trees; Aqua-Water with the blue waves of the sea; Aer-Air with a light blue dye; Ignis-Fire, with a red flame. Within there is the closed philosophical pumpkin-shaped vessel set on straw support to stand it; the Elements’ four initial letters are inscribed, to be read crossed as they are, ie, I (ignis) A (aqua) A (aer) T (terra).
All are within a circle, to mean the union of the elements in the alchemical process is dependent and tied to each other, carried out in the philosophical vessel. At the bottom of the page, the properties of each element are described, that is, reading before the second line with the names:
Terra; sicca, frigida ( dry, cold) Aqua; frigida, humida (cold and humid) Aer; humida;calida ( humid, warm) Ignis; calidus, siccus ( warm, dry).
The word intersection speaks more clearly in the figure than if it were written: in the third line are repeated the initial i.a.a.t:
Item heu nobis qui multis…lunarem. Silicet decoctionem continuam….imitari spernitis nomen dicunt philosophi quod ignis et azoth tibi sufficiunt. Mercurius philosophorum.
The four elements, as presented, fasten each other with two crossed lines joining the earth to water from below to above and from left to right, the water with fire from right and left from below to above, crossing the two lines in front of the philosophical vessel.
The earth per se wasn’t philosophically considered a principle because to be such; it needed an association with other elements.
The latin text, in folio 4r, as far as it can be read, says: Item prima extraitur mercurius (the damage of the parchment is very ancient since the word Mercurius is rewritten by a later hand)… solvuntur corpora imperfecta que terram reg… rantur, dealbantur et tunc fiat compositio sol… Also, in the first place, Mercurius is extracted, the imperfect bodies found in the earth are melted, and the composition with gold is whitened.
The picture represents a cylindroid seen in perspective, whose inner part is a four-sided rendering of the four elements also by colors and light drawings; the flat truncate surface represents the earth or the world, it is divided into three segments, the two minor are air and fire, the third is the Philosophers Stone (according to the word phrase “Lapis Philos”): above the philosophical vessel. The text accompanies this ideal figure:
Sublimo, calcino, Solvo, Abluo, Cero, Coagulo, Figo: Hortulanus vocat serras ( lately corrected in Efferas) vel catenas que claudunt magisterium. Item mercurius vulgi philosophicus. Potest reperiri in parte quinte octo partium operatiomis: sed participio, et sal metallorum est lapis philosophorum tantum occultatum per unam litteram. It can be translated: Only seven operations can be above all, that is to say: Sublime, calcine, dissolve, wash, melt like wax, coagulate, fix: Hortulanus calls these operations ties or chains which fasten the magisterium. In the same way, the common philosophical mercury can be found in five of the eight parts of the operation: but your participation, and the salt of metals, are the philosophers stone so hidden with a letter.
If I have exactly, or more or less, got the sense: the explanation of the figure, that’s to say of a base shaped by the union of four elements, which ends in a plane divided into three segments, the major of those is the philosophers stone, lies in the genesis of the world, that is: Aristotle says (4): alchemists should know that a substance cannot be turned into another if before it is not be reduced to first matter. The first matter, as reported by Genesis, was water, God divided the waters and created the firmament and earth, and from this, he created Adam, from whom he shaped Eve, both generated males and females from who all the human genre came down. So the man comes down from man and no more from the earth, which nevertheless keeps providing nourishment: the earth is an elemented element, that’s to say, it contains in within earth, water, air, and fire, and therefore man partake of the four elements that are to say with the elemented substance with which he was given food. The same happens with our magisterium; we have to do as nature when we want to generate metals, which is unlikely God did when he created it. In fact, in the beginning, he created a substance from which he drew all the metals, as the man did from the earth; so if we want to generate some gold and silver, we should have of these metals, give food to them with a pure substance until we have generated their simile. But being water the first matter, let’s get back at this point; we have to reduce the substance in water; otherwise, we work in vain (5). After this statement, it is easy to understand how one can get the three segments on the base of the four elements, and the major is the Stone.
Folio 4v: on the left is the Sun (gold), and on the right is the philosophical vessel. The translation of the short text says:
Hermes, the philosophers’ father, says that the philosophical parts are three, that’s to say gold, silver, Mercurius; with which, either united or divided, Hermes could make the tincture; those three lie all in the extracted Mercurius that’s to say in the rebis (sulfur) with equal qualities.
Corpus, spiritus et anima. Body, spirit, and soul.
It follows the formula to compose what Hermes said above: That’s to say to get the body, spirit, and soul; one can guess it is a recipe as the letter R – recipe can be read, followed by a series of cryptic signs, represented by numbers, the Sun sign and maybe that of the Moon or Mercurius. Below, they are set in a column:
- Calidum (warm) 3 – calidum sign of the Sun 333 calidum 1
- Siccum (dry) 3 – (uncertain sign) 1 Siccum 333 secum 1
- Frigidum ( cold) 2 – 4 frigidum 222, frigidum 4
- Humidum ( humid) 2 – 4 humidum 222, humidum 4.
Folio 5r, Carbonelli: I couldn’t explain this encryption. On the left is the philosophical vessel with the initials I.A.A.T. on the right moon scythe with the concavity to the left, which can be interpreted as a silver sign since the title is Mater Cor Scientiarum referring to the word mater to the moon, and cor (heart) to the vessel, that’s to say mother and heart of sciences. The initials on the vessel point to the four elements. On the side of the vessel, there are two files of signs that can be explained, reading from left to right, the first of the first line corresponds to the putrefied stone: the second to rock salt, the third to eau de vie; the fourth to cinnabar; the fifth to tartar and vessel too. The first of the second line to glass vessel, the second to medicine at white; the third to calcination; the fourth to alembic; the fifth to crucible (?).
Below it is written: Earth, wind, air, soul, the virtue of Sun thins vapors, once thinned lifts them, lifted them it set them on fire, once set on fire pump them in an impressionable way. Our stone goes through the entire, the earth in water, the water in the air, the air in the fire; this is the being, but one gets down: to the action of the opposites in ascending and descending.
These words are referred to the action of heating and the four elements; by the operation of the substances and devices named above, our stone goes through the four elements and stops where the being is. It ends with the well-known sentence that the solution of the bodies is the foundation of the art, and this is the philosophers’ first work.