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Liber mirabilium, a medical, alchemical and viticultural compendium, incorporating Hermes Trismegistus, De transmutatione metallorum, Taddeo Alderotti, De virtutibus, and Arnaldus de Villanova, Epistola de sanguine humano, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Piran (formerly Republic of Venice, now Slovenia), 1451-55]
Estimate
50,00070,000
JUMP TO LOT
19
Liber mirabilium, a medical, alchemical and viticultural compendium, incorporating Hermes Trismegistus, De transmutatione metallorum, Taddeo Alderotti, De virtutibus, and Arnaldus de Villanova, Epistola de sanguine humano, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Piran (formerly Republic of Venice, now Slovenia), 1451-55]
Estimate
50,00070,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

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Liber mirabilium, a medical, alchemical and viticultural compendium, incorporating Hermes Trismegistus, De transmutatione metallorum, Taddeo Alderotti, De virtutibus, and Arnaldus de Villanova, Epistola de sanguine humano, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Piran (formerly Republic of Venice, now Slovenia), 1451-55]
100 leaves, 204mm. by 143mm., complete, collation: i2, ii6, iii-vii16, viii12, single column, c.32 lines in black in a number of semi-cursive humanistic hands, each item numbered in margin in Arabic numerals, rubrics in red, one- and 2-line initials in simple red or blue, larger initials in same, often with elaborate contrasting pen- and brushwork, some enclosing armorial devices of blue lions rampart (see below), frontispiece with 10-line initial ‘P’ (opening “Primo sciendum est …”) in pink with scrolling blue acanthus leaves on a brightly burnished gold ground, enclosing the author as a bearded man holding an open book, full border of coloured acanthus leaves, gold fruit and a large boss-like cartouche, enclosing the arms of Sandei in the bas-de-page: a lion rampant azure on argent, frontispiece somewhat scuffed and gold crackled, with losses to top of author’s head and large smudge to rubric, text flaking away in a few places (see fols.9r and 88r), small smudges and spots throughout, one large stain on fols.36v-37r with semi-circular ring in centre of stain unaffected, perhaps from accidental placement of a test-tube-like container onto the book during use (note, this section discusses the production of therapeutic drugs from the distillation of human blood), else good condition, vellum over pasteboards
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Provenance

provenance
(1) Written by the scribe Jeronimus de Sandei in Piran in the period 1451-55: he names himself and dates his work on fol.98v (“1455. Jeronimus de Sandei condam domini Henrici. Pirani”), adding further dates of 1451 on fols.99v  and ‘Mcccclij’ on 1r. The book was clearly produced for his own use: the arms are those of his own family, and the text opens with laudatory verses on him by another inhabitant of Piran named “Antonius Vitalis de Pyrano” (an Istrian physician who was enrolled in the University of Padua from 1481-83). Jeronimus must be the scribe listed by the Bénédictins du Bouveret, Colophons II, no. 7181, as ‘Hieronymus de Sandellis’, who also wrote the Vergerius, Iustinopoli, dated 1444 in Piran, now Marciana Library, cod. lat. XIV (4664); the works of Prosper of Aquitaine dated 1460, now in the Gregorian Seminary in Belluno (Kristeller, Iter Italicum II, p.495: “Jeronimus Sandei filius domini Henrici scripsit”); and the Giordano Ruffo, Marescalcia equorum, signed by him and dated 1454, now Yale, Beinecke, MS.161. He was a member of a prominent Lucca family who moved to the Veneto to trade in fabrics, and extended their influence eastwards to the Balkan coastline. The Republic of Venice dominated the town of Piran and the coastline around it from the thirteenth century to 1787, when Napoleon’s invasion of northern Italy left it under Austrian control.

(2) Acquired by the present owner in America.

Catalogue Note

text
To early scientists and those in need of medical or horticultural help in the Middle Ages, the boundaries of alchemy, medicine and how to control the natural world were blurred. All involved the use of mysterious ingredients and processes to produce apparently supernatural effects. The present manuscript contains a wide-ranging compendium of such information. Intermingled with purely theoretical alchemical treatises there are directions on the purification of gold and lead, and recipes for a vast array of ailments (including alchemical cures produced through the distillation of human blood), advice on horse and dog breeding and agricultural matters such as how to stop ants ascending tree trunks and the best way to produce various types of wine, avoid its spoliation by must, and what effects these drinks are likely to have on human mood.

It opens with Hermes Trismegistus, De transmutatione metallorum (also named Secreta and De salibus et corporibus) which deals with the qualities of metals, their transubstantiation into each other and their kinship with the seven planets, according to the scheme Sun-gold, Moon-silver, Mars-iron, Jupiter-tin, Saturn-lead, Mercury-mercury, Venus-copper: Thorndike-Kibre 1112/12 (fols.9r-12v); followed by substantial excerpts from Taddeo Alderotti (1223-95, master of medicine at the university of Bologna, and the initiator of the scientific study of the distillation of alcohols), De virtutibus: Thorndike-Kibre 121/11 (fols.13r-39r); Arnaldus de Villanova, Epistola de sanguine: Thorndike-Kibre 1310/7 (fols.39r-46r, ending with item 376 here), followed by 75 other recipes (predominantly medical, including several for the plague); Petrus Hispanus, Liber de aquis: Thorndike-Kibre 1328/9 (fols.51r-61v, from item 453 here to 586); Arnaldus de Villanova, Epistola de sanguine humano ad magistrum Iacobum de Toleto: Thorndike-Kibre 842/2 (fols.61v-63r); 443 practical recipes for treating leathers, preparing wax, as well as various types of plant and animal glue, dyes, inks, soaps, metals, counterfeiting precious stones (fols.63r-95v); and remedies against the plague (fols.96r-100r), which focus on the need for hygiene to stop the spread of the disease. All of these are preceeded by an alphabetical index directing the reader to relevant sections of the book.

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