A rare male and female four elements exposition by a man who did not dare to define himself an alchemist, but just a mechanician translating Lacinius.
Although he was too modest, Stoll helps us greatly in the disposition of Mercurius and Sulphur among the four elements. Indispensable enough in getting alchemical symbolism on Solve et Coagula a bit more intelligible.
Ferguson, in his Bibliotheca Chemica, stated that Wolfgang Georg Stoll was, according to Zedler, the german translator of “Pretiosa Margarita Novella” by Lacinius. In fact he wrote the preface for the german version of the compendium printed in Venice, that’s to say “Pretiosa Margarita, oder neu-erfundene köstliche Perle von dem unvergleichlichen Schatz und höchst- kostbahren Stein der Wiesen……” 1714 ( Pretious Daisy, or re-invented pearl of great price from the incomparable treasure and most precious-casket of the Philosophers Stone).
Stoll was said to have been an inventor of good quality, as long as having produced his arcana “for the kings of Poland and Denmark who were eyewitnesses and bestowed on him gold medals”. This uncommon enterprise is today better knows as “transmutation” or the action of changing one metal into another and the bestowing of a medal quite certainly meant a successful operation. Roth Scholtz, the editor of Deutsches Theatrum Chemicum, praises Stoll’s preface and says: “ it is worth all the money, though the rest of the book were valueless”.
The woodcut we are examining is the famed introductory picture of the book, quite universally known, though less explained. And which certainly doesn’t belong to the Pretiosa Margarita original latin version. As we can se a tree-column is standing, with a rampant lion on the viewer left and an equally rampant winged lion on the right. An uncertain bird (due to artist’s poor skills), though certainly white color, perches on the tree-column top. To be more precise the ugly bird is placed on the upper part of a circle surmounted by a cross. Additionally symbols of Mercurius, Sulphur and Salt, in the order, proceed from the top to the roots. A sulphurous sun on the orthodox lion side and a mercurial moon (1) on the winged one side. On the ground a circle divided by a horizontal interior line on sun side and a circle with an interior cross on the moon side.
And the four elements, of course. To my eyes they represent the more interesting part of the picture, as we will see. But let’s turn a blind eye to them for the moment. To someone following this site from at least the previous article, the scene should appear as a fixed-volatile operation (2). A section of the Solve et Coagula Alchemy foundation, in fact the column is a Solve et Coagula allegory. What may seems a tree trunk growing from the earth without branches is instead a column, or a tree trunk, proceeding from the sky and then rooted, or anchored, to the ground. Of course, since the element Earth is what is more close to a fixation. As a matter of fact we are before a very delicate and difficult operation: to give roots to a volatile bird, or substance. The ultimate alchemist’s goal is to made fixed everything is volatile and uncatchable.
We can see at Wenceslaw Lavinius and the Sky and Earth Properties why: because we need constantly to operate on Secret Fire/Mercurius by dissolving and fixing it. In every phase and operation all along alchemical works we need to do so. I have already said that the same Secret Fire from sky, or Mercurius Sideribus, acts this strange way on its path from stars to earth. By itself, since it doesnt need alchemist’work. In fact I have already described all that as the alchemical engine. I do not think Stoll wants to point at a particular operation. The bird is white and the four elements are also present. As strange as it may appear this not the first phase, or the first achievement of the first white bird, or Mercurius out of the first putrefaction (labors of Hercules, to be more clear see at an Opus Magnum scheme). No, the symbol on which the bird is placed does mean a further ambitious purpose: the projection powder in the flesh. According to ancient chemists the circle surmounted by a cross stands for mineral antimony, but not for alchemists, since in their world a surmounted cross is a symbol of “crocus”, or alchemical rust, or powder safran color. While, according to their symbology, mineral antimony is represented by a circle surmounted by two horizontal directional arrows on a vertical segment.
A white bird is representative of every time our matter undergoes a complete washing (3), or dissolution, and turns white again. Over and over till a quite ultimate fixity, the projection powder indeed. A substance well rooted in the ground, or better, well turned into earth. In fact the symbol for salt, the product of Mercurius fixation is near the radical apparatus.
We have already said that once Mercurius is fixed is called Sulphur, and Sulphur is actually Salt. And what I surely have already said again is that Salt is Mercurius Philosophorum or of Wises (4).
All the characters in the scene are the same actor playing all the roles (our Mercurius). The Sun in the sky, this time, indicates a male, or fixing phase, while the moon, conversely, a female, or dissolving phase. In fact under the two lions we have respectively the symbol of fixation (the circle with a horizontal segment inside, while according to chemists it stands for common salt) and the symbol of Universal Dissolvent or Seed of all Metals ( according to chemist it stands for vinegar or a generic acid).
The two flowers on winged lion side are certainly white and red, so a complete color rotation during washings. The seven flowers on orthodox lion side are the six sublimations plus one which lead to complete the operation. Flowers are synonyms for sublimations.