Early Science and Medicine 17 (2012) 477-499


Transmission and Transmutation: George Ripley and the Place of English Alchemy in Early Modern Europe
Jennifer M. Rampling
University of Cambridge*

Abstract Continental authors and editors often sought to ground alchemical writing within a long-established, coherent and pan-European tradition, appealing to the authority of adepts from different times and places. Greek, Latin and Islamic alchemists met both in person and between the covers of books, in actual, fictional or coincidental encoun ters: a trope utilised in Michael Maier’s Symbola aureae mensae duodecim nationum (1617). This essay examines how works attributed to an English authority, George Ripley (d. c. 1490), were received in central Europe and incorporated into continental compendia. Placed alongside works by the philosophers of other nations, Ripley’s writings helped affirm the unity and truth of alchemy in defiance of its critics. His continental editors were therefore concerned not only with the provenance of manuscripts and high-quality exemplars, but by a range of other factors, including the desire to suppress controversial material, intervene in contemporary polemics, and defend their art. In the resulting compilations, the vertical axis of alchemy’s long, diachronic tradition may be compared to the horizontal plane of pan-European alchemy. Keywords George Ripley, alchemy, peregrinatio academica, translation, Michael Maier, Andreas Libavius, Ludwig Combach

*  Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RH, United Kingdom (jmr82@cam.ac.uk). This re­­ search was funded by a Darwin Trust of Edinburgh Martin Pollock doctoral scholarship and a Wellcome Trust postdoctoral research fellowship [090614/Z/09/Z]. Further support for archival visits was provided by the Society for Renaissance Studies, the Cambridge European Trust and the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry. Several translations were polished in the erudite and entertaining environment of the Cambridge Latin Therapy Group. I am very grateful to all these institutions, and to the journal’s two anonymous referees for their helpful suggestions.
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2012 DOI: 10.1163/15733823-175000A2


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Introduction Alchemy, like other branches of natural knowledge, enjoyed a vigorous circulation in early modern Europe. Offering philosophical speculation, practical recipes, polemical attacks and passionate defences (several of these functions sometimes combined in a single text), alchemical writing traversed the continent via manuscript and printed book, in compendia and correspondence, through practical demonstration and by word of mouth. Practitioners of alchemy also travelled, or were perceived to have travelled, far and wide: seeking to acquire the wisdom of their own and other nations; sometimes acquiring the sobriquet Cosmopolite in the process.1 From the latter half of the sixteenth century, this pan-national pursuit also served rhetorical ends, in defending the reputation of alchemy from its critics. From their vantage points at the urban, courtly and academic hubs of Central Europe, a host of writers, editors and practitioners appealed to the authority of alchemists from far-flung regions to support their contention that all the “philosophers”—however dispersed in time and place—essentially spoke with one voice, testifying to the universal truth of alchemy, grounded in an overarching prisca philosophia.2 The conference of philosophers provided both a literary trope and a practical reality. In late medieval florilegia such as the Rosarium philo­ sophorum, the words of many and varied authorities were accommodated within a single text, while the commonplacing of dicta and recipes enabled physical encounters between the words, if not the persons, of the philosophers.3 Within individual tracts, however, authori  Famous examples include such legendary, wandering adepts as Alexander Seton and Eirenaeus Philalethes, able to live off their alchemical expertise; see William R. Newman, Gehennical Fire: The Lives of George Starkey, an American Alchemist in the Scientific Revolution (Cambridge, MA, 1994), Introduction. The grittier practicalities of alchemical peregrinations are explored by Tara Nummedal, Alchemy and Authority in the Holy Roman Empire (Chicago, 2006), 30-32 and passim. 2)   On the “universality” of alchemical knowledge, see also Stephen Clucas, “Alchemy and Certainty in the Seventeenth Century,” in Lawrence M. Principe, ed., Chymists and Chymistry: Studies in the History of Alchemy and Early Modern Chemistry (Sagamore Beach, MA, 2007), 39-51; and the essays by Håkan Håkansson and Vera Keller in this volume. 3)   See Joachim Telle, ed., Rosarium Philosophorum. Ein alchemisches Florilegium des Spätmittelalters. (Faksimilie der illustrierten Erstausgabe Frankfurt 1550), 2 vols.

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ties sometimes convened in imagined symposia: a trope rooted in the Turba philosophorum, a literary conference of philosophers who meet to clarify the alchemical doctrines hidden within the obscure sayings of ancient authorities.4 This conceit received detailed elaboration in the Symbola aureae men­ sae duodecim nationum (1617), a treatise in twelve books composed by the alchemist and sometime imperial physician, Michael Maier (1569– 1622).5 The setting is a banquet at the court of the Virgin Queen Chemia, attended by twelve alchemists, each representing a different nation. Beginning with Hermes Trismegistus as spokesman for the Egyptians, the representative authorities take turns to refute the criticisms of the anti-alchemist, Pyrgopolynices (“Adversarius Chemiae & Chymicorum”).6 His invocation of the combined wisdom of the twelve
(Weinheim, 1992). On the composition of florilegia more generally, see Alastair J. Minnis, Medieval Theory of Authorship: Scholastic Literary Attitudes in the Later Middle Ages (London, 1984). 4)   The Turba, an early thirteenth-century Latin translation of an Arabic text composed around 900, has generated an extensive literature, notably Julius Ruska, Turba Philoso­ phorum: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Alchemie. Quellen und Studien zur Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften und der Medizin, 1 (1931). For a recent study, see Didier Kahn, “The Turba philosophorum and its French Version (15th C.),” in Miguel López Pérez, Didier Kahn and Mar Rey Buono, eds., Chymia: Science and Nature in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Newcastle upon Tyne, 2010), 70-114. 5)   Michael Maier, Symbola avreae mensae dvodecim nationvm: hoc est, Hermaea sev Mercvrii festa ab heroibus duodenu selectu, artis chymicae usu, sapientia & authoritate paribvs celebrata, ad Pyrgopolynicen seu aduersarium illum tot annis iactabundum ... (Frankfurt am Main, 1617). On Maier’s alchemical pursuits see, inter alia, Karin Figala & Ulrich Neumann, “A propos de Michael Maier: quelques découvertes bio-biblio­ graphiques,” in Didier Kahn and Sylvain Matton, eds., Alchimie: Art, Histoire et Mythes (Paris and Milan, 1995), 651-664; ibidem, “‘Author cui nomen Hermes Malavici’: New Light on the Bio-bibliography of Michael Maier (1569–1622),” in Piyo M. Rattansi and Antonio Clericuzio, eds., Alchemy and Chemistry in the 16th and 17th centuries (Dordrecht, 1994), 121-147; Erik Leibenguth, Hermetische Poesie des Früh­ barock: die ‘Cantilenae intellectuales’ Michael Maiers: Edition mit Übersetzung, Kom­ mentar und Bio-Bibliographie (Tübingen, 2002); Hereward Tilton, The Quest for the Phoenix: Spiritual Alchemy and Rosicrucianism in the Work of Count Michael Maier (1569–1622) (Berlin, 2003). 6)   Maier had in fact visited many of these nations in the course of his own peregrinatio academica. In the Symbola he further alluded to the benefits of journeying on the metaphysical level: Maier, Symbola, 569.


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nations is an imaginative development of what was, by 1617, already a well-worn rhetorical strategy. In this case, however, the philosophers have assembled both to explicate and to defend their art—the ancient and early medieval authorities (Egyptian, Hebrew, Greek, Roman and Arab) seated alongside the chief alchemists of Christendom: German, French, Italian, Spanish, Hungarian, Polish, and—the focus of this essay—English. George Ripley: An Englishman Abroad Maier’s inclusion of an English representative, Roger Bacon, at his “Golden Table” reflects his esteem for the alchemical literature of this nation, as reflected in his own translations of works by or attributed to English adepts.7 England, in many respects peripheral to the great centres of European learning, nevertheless produced its share of medieval alchemical authorities, including, besides Bacon’s genuine and pseudoepigraphic works, those attributed to his thirteenth- and fourteenthcentury countrymen, Ricardus Anglicus and John Dastin. From the fourteenth century onwards, an influx of pseudo-Lullian texts from the continent kept English alchemy vigorous and up to date.8 PseudoLullian practices, fusing with a native tradition of vernacular poetry typified by the alchemical digressions of Gower and Chaucer, produced some of the most distinctive works of English alchemy, of which George Ripley (d. c. 1490) and Thomas Norton (d. 1513) were the most important and influential exponents.9 Their masterworks—Ripley’s Com­
  Michael Maier, Tripus Aureus, hoc est, Tres tractatus chymici selectissimi (Frankfurt am Main, 1618). 8)   On pseudo-Lullian alchemy in England, see Michela Pereira, The Alchemical Corpus Attributed to Raymond Lull (London, 1989); eadem, “Mater Medicinarum: English Physicians and the Alchemical Elixir in the Fifteenth Century,” in Roger French, Jon Arrizabalaga, Andrew Cunningham, and Luis Garcia-Ballester, eds., Medicine from the Black Death to the French Disease (Aldershot, 1998), 26-52. 9)   On English alchemical poetry, see Robert M. Schuler, ed., Alchemical Poetry 1575– 1700: From Previously Unpublished Manuscripts (New York, 1995); Anke Timmermann, “The Circulation and Reception of a Middle English Alchemical Poem: The Verses upon the Elixir and the Associated Corpus of Alchemica,” Ph.D. dissertation (Uni­ versity of Cambridge, 2006); George R. Keiser, “Preserving the Heritage: Middle

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pound of Alchemy, or Twelve Gates, dated 1471, and Norton’s Ordinall of Alchemy, dated 1477—were composed not in Latin prose, but in Middle English verse. These works remained touchstones of English alchemical practice throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; eventually providing the first two entries in Elias Ashmole’s compendium of English alchemical verse, the Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum (1652).10 It was Ripley, however, whose works achieved the greatest success in mainland Europe, notwithstanding Maier’s translation of Norton’s Ordinall into Latin prose, published in 1618.11 The early translation of the Compound into Latin, as the Liber duodecim portarum (Book of the Twelve Gates), and the perceived place of the work within a larger ‘Ripleian’ corpus (including many late or spurious tracts), undoubtedly contributed to Ripley’s popularity beyond his native shores, including an honourable mention at Maier’s philosophical banquet. As an established alchemical classic, the Compound has received its share of scholarly attention, primarily focused on the English print editions of Ralph Rabbards (1591) and Ashmole.12 However, the work
English Verse Treatises in Early Modern Manuscripts,” in Stanton J. Linden, ed., Mystical Metal of Gold: Essays on Alchemy and Renaissance Culture (New York, 2007), 189-214; Didier Kahn, “Alchemical Poetry in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: A Preliminary Survey and Synthesis. Part I—Preliminary Survey,” Ambix, 57 (2010), 249-74, and “Part II—Synthesis,” Ambix, 58 (2011), 62-77. 10)   Elias Ashmole, Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum. Containing severall poeticall pieces of our famous English philosophers, who have written the hermetique mysteries in their owne ancient language … (London, 1652) (hereafter TCB), at 1-106 and 107-93, respectively. 11)  Maier, Tripus Aureus. On Ripley, see Jennifer M. Rampling, “Establishing the Canon: George Ripley and His Alchemical Sources,” Ambix, 55 (2008), 189-208; eadem, “The Catalogue of the Ripley Corpus: Alchemical Writings Attributed to George Ripley (d. c. 1490),” Ambix, 57 (2010), 125-201 (hereafter CRC); Lawrence M. Principe, “Ripley, George,” in Claus Priesner and Karin Figala, eds., Alchimie. Lexicon einer hermetischen Wissenschaft (Munich, 1998), 305-6; Joachim Telle, “ Ripley, George,” in Lexikon des Mittelalters, vol. 7 (Munich, 1995), 861. 12)   George Ripley, The Compound of Alchymy ... Divided into twelue gates ... Set foorth by Raph Rabbards Gentleman, studious and expert in archemicall artes (London, 1591). Rabbards’ text is reproduced with some spelling emendations in a recent edition, although the accompanying commentary should be approached with caution: George Ripley’s Compound of Alchemy (1591), ed. Stanton J. Linden (Aldershot, 2001); cf.


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known to sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Europe was not the Compound known today from these editions. Ripley’s English editors were at pains to include the fullest possible versions of the text: two prefatory poems, the “Prologue” and “Preface”; the actual “Twelve Gates” and their “Recapitulation”; Ripley’s concluding “Admonition”; and an associated, dedicatory poem, The Epistle to Edward IV. Yet no authoritative ‘master text’ dates from Ripley’s lifetime in which all of these elements are preserved.13 Rather, the text of the Compound was adapted over the course of a century-long scribal circulation, later to be reassembled from multiple copies by diligent scribes—a process that did not end with the work’s translation into Latin and European vernaculars.14 The posthumous peregrinations of Ripley’s works are fitting, given that the major items in the corpus describe their author’s alchemical studies abroad. In the Compound, Ripley mentions his “learning in Italy,”15 observing that, “I cowde never fynde hym wythin Englond / whych on thys wyse to Ferment cowde me teche.”16 In the preface to his prose treatise, the Medulla alchimiae, he promises to reveal the learning that he obtained during his travels in Italy and the surrounding regions, over the space of nine years.17 Italian wanderings are also described in the Ripleian Cantilena and Philorcium alchymistarum, although these works cannot be definitively linked to Ripley’s pen.18
Didier Kahn, “Stanton J. Linden (ed.): George Ripley’s Compound of Alchemy (1591)” (review), Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Sciences, 53 (2003), 347-53. 13)   The earliest surviving ‘complete’ Compound may well be Bodleian Library MS e. mus. 63, transcribed around 1550 (CRC 9.26 in Rampling, CRC). 14)   See Keiser, “Preserving the Heritage,” 192-93; Rampling, CRC. 15)   TCB, 108. 16)   “Fermentation” 16, TCB, 177. It is perhaps during his travels that he met the master referred to later in the Compound: “The same my Doctour to me did shew,” “Calcina­ tion” 9, TCB, 131. 17)   “[T]ractaturus de secretis Alkimice que progressu et indagatu annorum nouem in Italia circumvicinisque ipsius partibus nanciscebar medullam quodammodo natur[a]e ipsa grossiori feculentiorique substancia carnium resecata ex ipsius interioribus secre­ tioribus.” Cambridge, Trinity College Library R.14.58 (Part 3), fol. 1v. Italics denote expansion of abbreviated text in manuscript. All translations are mine unless otherwise stated. 18)  Rampling, CRC, at 146, 184.

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The travels and travails of the alchemist are familiar topoi of alchemical texts, and given the prevalence of pseudo-epigraphic works in the Ripley corpus, these autobiographical assertions should be handled with care. Such survivals nevertheless illustrate an interesting trend in Ripley’s later reception, in which the Yorkshire canon is extracted from his geographically remote starting point and resituated within a wider European tradition. The relationship between knowledge and travel, often worked out through the peripatetic lives of alchemical practi­ tioners, is explicit in Ripley’s methodology. Dissatisfied by the inade­ quacies of English learning, he embarks for the great heartlands of alchemical knowledge: Italy and the German lands. Having acquired the necessary knowledge from continental masters, he makes the return voyage to England to compose his works, unaware that a century later his physical and intellectual peregrinatio alchemica would be curiously echoed by the activities of his own continental editors. Early Editions Even as Ripley’s reputation blossomed in England, his alchemy took root abroad, with Latin translations of Ripleian works already circulating in manuscript in France and Italy by the early 1570s,19 and throughout East-Central Europe by the end of the century.20 An established and trusted authority, Ripley was esteemed among continental cogno­ scenti both for his clarity of exposition, and the practical utility of his processes. Thus the Saxon alchemist, physician and schoolmaster Andreas Libavius (c. 1550–1616), a sharp critic of contemporary practitioners, considered the late medieval “Hermetic” alchemy of Lull and Ripley superior to more recent Paracelsian works in practical efficacy

  See, for instance, Rampling, CRC 9.42 and 9.46 (Liber duodecim portarum); and CRC 16.10-11 (Latin re-translations from the English Marrow of Alchemy, based on the Medulla alchimiae). 20)   These include Ripleian compilations in Cieszyn, Książnica Cieszyńska MS DD.vii.33 and Wien, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek Codex 11133. See Rampling, CRC; eadem, “John Dee and the Alchemists: Practising and Promoting English Alchemy in the Holy Roman Empire,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 43 (2012), 498-508, at 501-2.


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and consistency of terminology.21 In his monumental Syntagmatis arca­ norum chymicorum, Libavius provided a commentary on the Liber duo­ decim portarum that runs to 37 folio pages, in which he allowed the English Canon to be either “the first of the best who have written of chrysopoeia [...] or to be not far from the first.”22 Nor was Ripley’s knowledge limited to gold-making. The French royal physician and defender of Paracelsian medicine, Joseph Du Chesne (1546–1609), ranked the English Canon among the foremost “doctors and philosophers” who worked to uncover the universal medicine: the others being Raymond Lull, Roger Bacon, John of Rupescissa and Christopher of Paris.23 Over the period 1595–1649, the Liber duodecim portarum was published in three Latin editions. Two of these, edited by the Frenchmen Bernard Gilles Penot (c. 1522–1620)24 and Nicolas Barnaud (c. 1539– 1604?),25 were subsequently reprinted in the monumental Theatrum
  See Bruce T. Moran, Andreas Libavius and the Transformation of Alchemy: Separating Chemical Cultures with Polemical Fire (Sagamore Beach, MA, 2007). 22)   “[N]oster Riplaeus … videatur inter optimos, qui de chrysopoeia scripserunt, ... primus, aut non procul à primis esse.” “Analysis Dvodecim Portarvm Georgii Riplaei Angli, Canonici Regularis Britlintonensis,” in Andreas Libavius, Syntagmatis arcanorum chymicorum: tomus [primus] secundus … (Frankfurt, 1613–1615), 400-36, at 400. 23)   “Huiusmodi interpretes fuerunt Lullus, Rogerius Baccho, Riplaeus, Rupecissa [sic] Cristophorus Parisiensis, ac plerique alij magni nominis ac celeberrimi Medici & Philosophi.” Joseph Du Chesne, Ad Veritatem Hermeticæ Medicinæ ex Hippocratis veterumque decretis ac Therapeusi, ... adversus cujusdam Anonymi phantasmata Responsio (Paris, 1604), fol. [a.v]r. On Du Chesne, see Didier Kahn, Alchimie et Paracelsisme en France à la fin de la Renaissance (1567–1625) (Geneva, 2007), chs. 3.2, 4.1 and passim. 24)   George Ripley, “Duodecim portarum epitome,” in Egidii de Vadis Dialogus inter Naturam et Filium Philosophiae, Accedunt Abditarum rerum Chemicarum Tractatus Varii scitu dignissimi ut versa pagina indicabit. Autore et Collectore Bernardo G. Penoto a Portu S. Mariae Aquitano, Reipubl. Franckatallensis D. Physico (Frankfurt, 1595), 67-92; Theatrum chemicum, præcipuos selectorum auctorum tractatus de chemiæ et lapidis philosophici antiquitate, veritate, iure, præstantia et operationibus ... , 6 vols., comp. Lazarus Zetzner (Ursel and Strasbourg, 1602–1661) (hereafter TC), II: 114-25; JeanJacques Manget, ed., Bibliotheca chemica curiosa, 2 vols. (Geneva, 1702), II: 275-85 25)   Nicolas Barnaud, Quadriga aurifera (Prima rota: Tractatus de philosophia metallorum, a doctissimo ... viro anonymo conscriptus; 2a rota: Georgii Riplei … Liber duodecim portarum; 3a rota: Liber de mercurio et lapide philosophor. Georgii Riplei; 4a rota: Scriptum ... docti viri cuius nomen excidit, elixir solis Theophrasti Paracelsi tractans) (Leiden, 1599); TC, III: 797-821.

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chemicum, ensuring wide diffusion throughout the seventeenth century. A version of Ripley’s Medulla was printed in 1614,26 while Barnaud’s edition of the Liber duodecim portarum appeared in French translation in 1618, and in German in 1624.27 Ripley made his Latin print debut in 1595, when an abbreviated prose translation of the Compound was published in Frankfurt by the Paracelsian physician Bernard Penot.28 Penot included the “Epitome of the Twelve Gates,” or Axiomata philosophica, in a collection of alchemical tracts that seems almost consciously international in flavour. Ripley’s axioms are located between the Dialogus and epistle of Ægidius de Vadis (alias Giles Du Wes, a Frenchman domiciled in England), and a further set of axioms attributed to Albertus Magnus. The Physica chy­ mica attributed to another German, the Benedictine abbot Johannes Trithemius, follows, then a short work by the legendary Dutch adept, Isaac Hollandus.29 The geographical and linguistic range of Penot’s selection is no accident. On its arrival in mainland Europe, Ripley’s text entered a rough playing field, riven by confessional and professional disputes, notably the escalating debate between the proponents of chemical and Galenic medicine. In 1571 the Swiss theologian Thomas Erastus (1524–1583) had denied the possibility of interchange between metallic species,
  Opuscula quaedam Chemica. Georgii Riplei Angli Medvlla Philosophiae Chemicae. pre­ Incerti avtoris canones decem, Mysterium artis mira brevitate & perspicuitate com­ hendentes … Omnia partim ex veteribus Manuscriptis eruta, partim restituta (Frankfurt am Main, 1614). Latin re-translation of the English Marrow. 27)   Trois traitez de la philosophie naturelle, non encores imprimez: sçavoir: La turbe des philosophes, plus, La parole délaissée de Bernard Trevisan et un petit traicté, très-ancien, intitulé, Les douze portes d’alchymie, autres que celles de Ripla (Paris, 1618); Chymische Schrifften des hochgelehrten, fürtrefflichen vnd weitberhümten Philosophi Georgii Riplaei, Canonici Angli. Darinnen vom gebenedeyeten Stein der Weisen vnd des­ selben kunstreicher praeparation gründlich gelehret wird, Zuvor durch den Hochgelahrten Herrn Nicolaum Barnaudum Chymicum zu Lateinischer Sprache publiciret ... (Erfurt, 1624). 28)   Penot, ed., Egidii de Vadis. For a detailed biography and bibliography of Penot, see Eugène Olivier, “Bernard Gilles Penot (Du Port), médecin et alchimiste (1519–1617),” ed. Didier Kahn, Chrysopoeia, 5 (1992–1996), 571-668. 29)   Ægidius de Vadis, Dialogus inter Naturam et Filium Philosophiae (fols. A3v–A5v, 1-64); Albertus Magnus, Alia axiomata philosophiae (93-101); Ps.Trithemius, Physica chymica (101-6); Isaac Hollandus, Fragmentum de lapide philosophorum (114-24).


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attacking the very basis of alchemical transmutation and hence the authority and veracity of past adepts.30 The chymist Gaston DuClo, or Claveus, responded with a detailed rebuttal of Erastus’s arguments in the Apologia argyropoeiae et chrysopoeiae adversus Thomam Erastum (Nevers, 1590), which Penot, himself a vocal defender of Paracelsian medicine, re-edited in 1598, with a subtly altered title.31 In 1602, the Apologia, supported by Penot’s commendatory preface, was reprinted immediately before Ripley’s Axiomata in the Theatrum chemicum. The Axiomata and their accompanying texts were therefore mustered for reasons beyond the simple imparting of alchemical knowledge. Together they provide witnesses to the truth of alchemy, whose arguments and precepts, set forth at different times and in different places, nevertheless cohere. The stockpiled axioms of Ripley and other philosophers line up silently behind DuClo, whose text takes the offensive part, “disputing against Thomas Erastus, and solidly refuting all his arguments … not only with reasons, but also with demonstrations, and sure experiments.” Thus, says Penot, the Art is shown “to be true, certain, and without difficulty.”32 The Axiomata do not, of course, give a complete rendition of Ripley’s poem. The text itself consists of a more or less direct translation of the
  Thomas Erastus, Explicatio quaestionis, qua quaeritur: utrum ex metallis ignobilibus arte conflari aurum posit verum et naturale … in Disputationum de medicina nova Philippi Paracelsi pars prima (Basle, 1571). Various aspects of the controversy are discussed by Kahn, Alchimie et Paracelsisme; Moran, Andreas Libavius; William R. Newman, Atoms and Alchemy: Chymistry and the. Experimental Origins of the Scientific Revolution (Chicago, 2006). See also Charles D. Gunnoe, Thomas Erastus and the Palatinate: A Renaissance Physician in the Second Reformation (Leiden, 2011). 31)   Gaston Claveus, Apologia chrysopoieae et argyropoeiae Adversus Thomam Erastum Doctorem et Professorem Medicinae. An. Quid, et Quomodo sit Chrysopoeia et Argyropoeia … Nunc primum a Bernardo G. Penoto a portu S. Maria Aquitano, cum annotationibus marginalibus edita (Geneva, 1598). On DuClo, see Lawrence M. Principe, “Diversity in Alchemy: The Case of Gaston ‘Claveus’ DuClos: A Scholastic Mercurialist Chry­ sopœian,” in Allen G. Debus and Michael T. Walton, eds., Reading the Book of Nature: The Other Side of the Scientific Revolution (Kirksville, MO, 1998), 181-200. 32)   “Claveus adversus Thomam Erastum disputans, eiusq[ue] argumenta omnia solide refutans, firmissimis tum rationibus, tum demonstrationibus … & certis experimentis … Artem veram, certam & facilem esse ostendit, & confirmat.” Bernard G. Penot, “Ad Lectorem … Praefatio, in qua omnem totius artis potentiam & efficaciam in duobus consistere verbis ostendit,” in TC, II: 1-2.

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first five stanzas of the Compound  ’s “Preface,” followed by selected precepts drawn from the remainder of the “Preface,” the “Twelve Gates” and the “Recapitulation.” The concluding “Admonition,” in which Ripley recounts his long past history of failed experiments, is omitted entirely, apart from a few lines at the end. Possibly Penot felt that this material detracted from the case he was attempting to put across. Also omitted is a long passage from the fifth Gate, “Putrefaction,” in which Ripley satirises fraudulent alchemists. Although satirical verses provided a staple component of English alchemical poetry, in emulation of Chaucer’s Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale, it seems they failed to weather the tough continental climate. The publication of a more substantial edition of Ripley’s poem was not, however, far off, and was soon effected by Nicolas Barnaud, who had previously met Penot in Prague.33 Ripley’s Liber duodecim portarum and Liber de mercurio et lapide philosophorum provide, respectively, the second and third wheels of Barnaud’s four-wheeled chariot of texts, the Quadriga aurifera, compiled in Leiden in 1599.34 Even more explicitly than Penot, Barnaud’s prefaces emphasise the trans-national quality of alchemical knowledge. In the preface to his readers, the well-travelled editor promises that his Quadriga offers the best knowledge to be gleaned from the French, English, Germans, Italians, Poles, Bohemians, Prussians, Swedes and Dutch, not to mention the philosophers of the Swiss Confederacy:
All of which kingdoms, dominions and countries, by the goodness of God I trav elled through, practising medicine, several times: and I discussed my studies with no small number of philosophers known to me.35

  On Barnaud’s travels, see Didier Kahn, “Between Alchemy and Antitrinitarianism: Nicolas Barnaud (ca. 1539–1604?),” trans. Robert Folger, in Martin Mulsow and Jan Rohls, eds., Socinianism and Arminianism: Antitrinitarians, Calvinists, and Cultural Exchange in Seventeenth-century Europe (Leiden, 2005), 81-96. 34)   George Ripley, “Liber duodecim portarum,” in Barnaud, Quadriga aurifera, 23-66. 35)   “Idq[ue] maximè in Gallorum, Anglorum, Germanorum, Italorum, Polonorum, Bohemorum, Borussorum, Suecorum, & ad miraculum natorum Batauorum, & Regionum confœderatarum philosophorum. Quorum omnium regna, ditiones & agros, Dei beneficio, medicinam faciens aliquoties lustraui, & cùm non paucis philosophis mihi notis studia mea contuli.” Barnaud, Quadriga aurifera, 8.


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Barnaud fittingly dedicated his edition of an English work to another probable acquaintance from his Prague days, the recently-knighted English courtier, poet and alchemical enthusiast, Sir Edward Dyer (1543–1607).36 In the dedication, he recalls his motives for publishing Ripley’s unabridged text. Some years have passed, he explains, since Bernard Penot, “medical doctor and my esteemed friend,” published the axioms extracted from the Liber duodecim portarum of the learned English philosopher, Ripley. However, the usefulness of this work is such that Barnaud thought it worthwhile to publish “the entire book of the author, which has long lain concealed in my house,” dedicating it to Dyer: “you who easily hold the first place among all philosophers in the realm of England.”37 Penot’s and Barnaud’s versions were thus linked from the start, and comparison reveals that the latter text is, indeed, virtually identical to the former. Furthermore, the source of Barnaud’s more complete version of the Compound is not Rabbards’ recent edition from across the English Channel, but the manuscript already concealed in his possession.38 Barnaud has relied on this exemplar to plug the gaps between Penot’s extractions, presenting “The Book of the Twelve Gates, in no way muti lated, but complete.”39 Yet despite this claim, Barnaud’s edition is still
  Dyer was knighted in 1596. He had previously visited Prague on at least three occasions between 1588 and 1590, partly in repeated attempts to persuade Edward Kelley to return to England or to teach him alchemical secrets, and it is probable that he met Barnaud during this time. See Ralph M. Sargent, The Life and Lyrics of Sir Edward Dyer (Oxford, 1968). 37)   “Cvm annos iam aliquot in luce[m] prodierint axiomata quaedam philosophica, à Bernardo Penoto à portu Doctore medico, amico meo obseruando, è libro duodecim portarum Georgij Riplei, doctissimi philosophi Angli, collecta, & comperissem quae­ dam, ad rem maximè facientia, in iis desiderari: opere pretium existimaui, integrum illum auctoris librum, qui apud me iam diu delituit, qua par est fide, & obseruantia, tuo nomini (qui omnium philosophorum in Regno Angliae, vt caetera regna tacea[m], facile primas tenes) dicare, & tuo clypeo tutum typis tradere, & euulgare.” Barnaud, Dedication to “Quadriga Aurifera, secunda rota,” Quadriga Aurifera, 21-22. 38)   This conceit evokes Rabbards’ own preface to the English edition, in which the revelation of another private, exemplary manuscript is described: Rabbards “Hauing reserued the Copie hereof … these fortie yeares for many secrete vses.” Rabbards, Preface to Ripley, Compound of Alchymy, 9. 39)   “Liber dvodecim portarvm nequaquam mutilus, sed integer.” Barnaud, Quadriga Aurifera, 23.

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far from a complete translation of the Compound. Both the “Admonition” and 30 stanzas from “Putrefaction,” including the most controversial material, are missing.40 That Ripley’s works were already circulating in France by the 1580s is confirmed by the survival of several early manuscripts, including a compilation in the Caprara collection, now in Bologna, containing a Liber duodecim portarum and five other Ripleian works, transcribed in France around February 1570.41 The Liber in Bibliothèque Nationale MS Lat. 12993 is dated 1571,42 while Bibliothèque Nationale MS Lat. 14012 includes a Liber and six other Ripleian texts compiled between January 1585 and August 1587.43 A striking similarity between these manuscript Libri and Penot’s and Barnaud’s editions is that all are based on the same Latin translation.44 However, there is also a significant difference. Although lacking the original prologue (also missing from both print versions), the Libri in BUB MS 109 and BN MS Lat. 12993 are otherwise complete versions of Ripley’s poem, while BN MS Lat. 14012 lacks only twelve stanzas throughout. All three retain the controversial sections on fraudulent and failed alchemy, subsequently omitted in print. Thus, although Penot and Barnaud drew on an existing manuscript tradition in prepar  TC, II: 120; III: 810. The omitted stanzas are 20-47 and 49-50 respectively.   Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna MS 109, vol. II, fol. 1r: “Ex vetustissimo manuscripto | transcriptus Anno Christi 1570 | Mense februario 5” (see Rampling, CRC). On the provenance of the Caprara collection, see Didier Kahn, “Le fonds Caprara de manuscrits alchimiques de la Bibliothèque Universitaire de Bologne,” Scriptorium, 48 (1994), 62-110. 42)   “Georgii Riplaei Chanonici angli. Xii. portar[um] Libru[m] ann[o] .1471. Prologus. anno 1571.” CRC 9.46, in Rampling, CRC. 43)   CRC 9.47, in Rampling, CRC. The other texts are the Epistle to Edward IV, Philorcium, Pupilla (dated January 1585), Liber de Mercurio et lapide philosophorum, Terra terrarum, and Medulla (dated August 1587). Both manuscripts are described in James A. Corbett, Catalogue des manuscrits alchimiques latins, vol. I: Manuscrits des bibliothèques publiques de Paris antérieurs au XVIIe siècle (Brussels, 1939), 161-63; 202-7. As Didier Kahn has noted, part of Ripley’s “Preface” was also incorporated into an anonymous Discours of 1590: Didier Kahn, “Alchimie et littérature à Paris en des temps de trouble: le Discours d’autheur incertain sur la pierre des philosophes (1590),” Réforme, Humanisme, Renaissance, 21 (1995), 75-122, at 120. 44)   Incipit: “O lumen incomprehensibile, et gloriosum in Majestate”; explicit: “Quam in suo regno faxit is ut possimus videre. Amen.”
40) 41)


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ing their editions, they appear to have been selective with this material—excising text which did not suit the apologetic objectives of their compilations. Exemplary Texts The selection of high quality exempla was necessary for any editor claiming to preserve an original text, free from errors, lacunae or extraneous additions. This humanistic concern with textual integrity was as valid for alchemy as for other subjects, and editors of alchemical books were quick to point out the inadequacies of earlier or rival publications, and to emphasise the reputable provenance of their own manuscript copies. However, as the excision of controversial material from print copies of the Liber suggests, editors could also introduce changes to their text that influenced its subsequent reception. Thus Libavius, relying on the editions of Penot and Barnaud, seems to have been unaware of the content of Ripley’s prologue and “Admonition,” which accordingly receive no commentary in his own “Analysis duodecim portarum.” Yet Libavius was clearly aware of the perils of faulty transcription and careless editing. In his introduction to the “Analysis” he describes a German translation of the Liber made by a nameless alchemist, who presented it to a certain prince as though the treatise were his own.45 However, this translation differed in various ways from the text of Barnaud’s 1599 edition. Libavius concluded that, rather than interpolating anything new himself, the translator had relied upon an alternative version of the classic text. He does not speculate as to whether this version may have been an alternative Latin redaction, or a fresh translation from the English. Rather, he takes the opportunity to criticise errors arising from faulty transcription or inappropriate amendment:
Which no one should wonder at who knows that monks in epitomising render many things ambiguous and obfuscate; while scribes will have gone astray in read-

  I have been unable to trace this German translation of the Compound, which clearly does not correspond to that published in Chymische Schrifften. The latter is a direct translation of Barnaud’s Quadriga aurifera, in which all four texts, including one attributed to Paracelsus, are grouped under Ripley’s name.

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ing and copying; to say nothing of those smatterers, who when they think some text is false, delete it, substituting their own fantasies, and thus make work for other correctors in turn, so that eventually, if the author had to identify his own book, he would probably not be able to recognise it.46

Ludwig Combach (1590–1657), physician to Moritz, Landgraf of Hesse-Kassel, and his successors, Wilhelm V and Wilhelm VI, expressed a similar concern regarding both textual degeneration and manuscript provenance in his own Tractatus aliquot (1647). This typically international compendium included treatises attributed to Dutch, French, German and Italian alchemists, besides the English adepts John Belye, John Dastin and Edward Kelley.47 In the preface, Combach deplores the degradation of alchemical texts through poor transcription, pointing to his own careful selection of exemplars as a corrective. For example, one text, previously published “full of vices” by Johannes Rhenanus, has been salvaged through cross-referencing with two other sources: a Latin manuscript belonging to one of Combach’s predecessors at Kassel, the physician Jacobus Mosanus; and a reliable German translation by the former abbot, Erasmus Kupfermann.48 Combach was thus at pains
  “Quod cum quidam alius, de cuius nomine non constat, verum iudicaret, in linguam patriam Germanorum opus transtulit, & magno cuidam Principi tanquam suum obtulit, in qua translatione deprehendi alicubi dissensum ab impresso Barnaudi, vt veri simile sit, si interpres nihil de suo adiecit, diuersae lectionis scripturam habuisse, id quod nemo mirati debet, qui scit monachos abbreuiando multa ambigua reddere & obscurare: notarios autem legendo, describendoq[ue] falli, ne quid dicamus de sciolis istis, qui cum putent falsum scriptum, deleto sua phantasmata substituunt, atque ita aliis rursum correctoribus negotium facessunt, vt tandem, si autor deberet recognoscere suum libellum, verisimile sit, non agniturum.” Libavius, Syntagmatis, 400. 47)   Ludwig Combach, Tractatus aliquot chemici singulares summum philosophorum arcanum continentes, 1. Liber de principiis naturae, & artis chemicae, incerti authoris. 2. Johannis Belye Angli ... tractatulus novus, & alius Bernhardi Comitis Trevirensis, ex Gallico versus. Cum fragmentis Eduardi Kellaei, H. Aquilae Thuringi, & Joh. Isaaci Hollandi. 3. Fratris Ferrarii tractatus integer, hactenus fere suppressus, & in principio & fine plus quam dimidia parte mutilatus. 4. Johannis Daustenii Angli Rosarium. Opuscula partim nondum in lucem producta ... (Geismar, 1647). 48)   “Et prior quidem, qui est de principiis naturae & artis, in Syntagmate harmoniae Chymico-philosophicae Johannis Rhenani vitiosiβimè editus ex duplici manuscripto exemplari nunc correctus est, uno Latino ex bibliotheca Dn. Jacobi Mosani Angli Doctoris Medici, altero verò Germanico Dn. Erasmi Kupfermanni Abbatis quondam in Herren Breitungen, translatitio, ut puto, sed nullis mendis aut lacunis hiulco.”


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to stress the reliability and completeness of his editions, based on manuscript exemplars that included copies endorsed by well known practitioners, who included, besides Mosanus, the imperial councillor Nicolaus Mai, or Maius, and the English alchemist Edward Kelley. Combach’s comments may also offer clues to his relationship with other physicians who benefited from the Landgraf ’s patronage.49 Despite his chemical interests, Combach was employed as a medical rather than an alchemical consultant, in contrast with Moritz’s protégé Rhenanus: a fact which may have added spice to his critique. Contemporary concerns also underwrote Combach’s efforts to bring the Liber duodecim portarum to the press for the third time, as the first of twelve works included in Ripley’s Opera omnia chemica (1649).50 Combach’s interest in editing texts in a variety of languages, by both medieval and contemporary authors, is attested by his earlier volume, the Tractatus aliquot, and his later translation of Jacques de Nuysement’s popular work on salt from French into Latin.51 In the Opera omnia we have apparently his only attempt to collect the works of a single author,

Combach, Tractatus aliquot, 10-1. This treatise is presumably the anonymous “Liber de principiis naturae, & artis Chemicae” (Combach, Tractatus aliquot, Pt. I, 3-56), previously published by Rhenanus as “De Principiis naturae, & arte alchymica” in his Syntagma harmoniae chymico-philosophicae ... (Frankfurt, 1625), 7-48. The Syntagma should not be confused with the similarly titled Harmoniae chymico-philosophicae ... Decas II, also published by Rhenanus in Frankfurt in 1625. 49)   See Bruce T. Moran, The Alchemical World of the German Court: Occult Philosophy and Chemical Medicine in the Circle of Moritz of Hessen (1572–1632) (Stuttgart, 1991), ch. 5, esp. 75-9. 50)   George Ripley, Opera omnia chemica, cum praefatione a Ludovico Combachio (Kassel, 1649) (hereafter OOC). 51)   Tractatus De Vero Sale Secreto Philosophorum, & de universali Mundi Spiritu ... Nunc simplicissimo stylo Latine versus a Ludovico Combachio D. & Illustrissimor. Hassiae PP. Medico ordinario (Kassel, 1651). This edition was itself translated into English by Robert Turner, who also transformed Combach into a French court physician: Sal, lumen, & spiritus mundi philosophici: or, the dawning of the day ... Written originally in French, afterwards turned into Latin, by the illustrious doctor, Lodovicus Combachius, ordinary physitian to the King, and publick professor of the physick in the University of Mompelier. And now transplanted into Albyons Garden, by R.T. (London, 1657). Bruce Moran also cites Combach as the author of a “treatise concerning an alchemical Liquor Alkahest (Venice, 1641)”: Moran, The Alchemical World, 75.

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yet even here it is clear that the English Canon is to be viewed as an actor on a wider international stage. Combach’s preface demonstrates familiarity with the tropes and devices common in the alchemical literature of the period. The tract opens with a denouncement of false and fraudulent practitioners, who debase the spirit of alchemical philosophy (“huius Philosophiae genius”). Combach then follows the example of Maier in the Symbola by listing the great alchemists by nation, starting with Hermes Trismegistus among the Egyptians. However, Maier’s twelve nations are here reduced to eight, with an additional grouping of important anonymous works. The apparent division reflects an underlying unity that is all the more impressive given the range of its manifestations:
You see, good reader, how many and how great men bear witness to the truth of this divine knowledge, who are all available either in manuscript or in print; and differ so much in nations, eras, and languages, while great dissimilarity can also be seen to belong to their words; yet they agree marvellously in sense and in fact. Rashly to pronounce them guilty, with Nicolas Guibert, the Lotharingian physi cian, of vanity, ignorance, stupidity, madness, falsehood, and impiety would surely be the greatest temerity.52

The nations of philosophers have, once more, been assembled to good purpose. In 1603 a physician from Lorraine, Nicolas Guibert (c. 1547– c. 1620), disillusioned after forty years of unsuccessful alchemical practice, published a powerful denunciation of the art. Among his criticisms, Guibert sought to undermine the textual basis of alchemical practice by challenging the authority of past adepts. Thus, the ancient authorities, Hermes and Aristotle, had not written the foundational texts of alchemy which had long been attributed to them. The alchemical works of Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas were spurious. Although


  “Vides, benigne Lector, quot & quanti viri veritatem hujus divinae scientiae testentur, qui omnes aut manuscripti, aut typis impressi extant; & cum tantoperè nationibus, aetate, & linguis different, magna etiam verbis eorum videatur inesse discrepantia, mirè tamen in Sensu & Rebus consentiunt; quos temerè, cum Nicolao Guiberto Medico Lotharingo, vanitatis, inscitiae, stultitiae, insaniae, mendacii, impietatis reos pronunciare, maxima profectò temeritas esset.” OOC, fol. 4r.


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Raymond Lull had written on alchemy, in doing so he had been deluded by demons.53 Guibert’s attack provoked immediate retaliation, most vociferously from Libavius (in 1604 and 1615), but also from the Dutch alchemist Ewald von Hoghelande (1604), and Ripley’s sometime editor, Penot (1608).54 Combach’s comments, published in 1649, therefore provide a surprisingly late response to the controversy, yet his response to Guibert may reflect more immediate concerns. Only a few years earlier, in 1641, Guerner (Werner) Rolfinck (1599–1673), professor of anatomy, surgery and botany at the University of Jena, had argued against transmutation in his chemical textbook Chimia in artis formam redacta. Rolfinck cited Guibert with approval in the sixth book, damningly titled “On imaginary effects or works, and chemical non-entities.”55 More recently still, the distinguished scholar Hermann Conring (1606– 1681), professor of natural philosophy, medicine, and law at the University of Helmstädt, had followed Guibert’s example in debunking the authority of Hermes, arguing that the origins of Egyptian wisdom were Mosaic rather than Hermetic. Among his targets, the Liber de secretis naturae, seu de quinta essentia—a core work of pseudo-Lullian alchemy, and one of Ripley’s own sources—was condemned as “full of follies and
  Nicholas Guibert, Alchymia ratione et experientia ita demum viriliter impugnata, una cum suis fallaciis et deliramentis, quibus homines imbubinarat: utnunquam imposterum se erigere valeat ... (Strasbourg, 1603). For Guibert’s specific arguments against alchemy, and his subsequent dispute with Libavius, see Moran, Andreas Libavius, 84-101; Newman, Atoms and Alchemy, 104-6; Kahn, Alchimie et paracelsisme, 213-4, 402-9. 54)   Andreas Libavius, Defensio et declaration perspicua Alchymiae transmutatoriae op­ posite N. Guiperti… expugnationi virili… (Ursel, 1604); Andreas Libavius, “Vita, vigor et veritas alchymiae transmutatoriae… demonstratio irrefragabilis, trans­ muta­ tionem metallorum, et argenti viui ex imperfectioribus ad perfectiora non tantum esse possibilem arti, et naturae…,” in Appendix necessaria syntagmatis arcanorum chymicorum Andreae Libavii… (Frankfurt am Main, 1615); Ewald von Hoghelande, Historiae aliquot transmutationis metallicae… pro defensione alchymiae contra hostium rabiem: adjecta est venerab. viri Raymondi Lullii vita, et alia quaedam (Köln, 1604); Bernard G. Penot, De denario medico, quo decem medicaminibus, omnibus morbis internis medendi via docetur … (Bern, 1608). 55)   “Liber VI. De effectis seu operibus imaginariis, & non entibus chimicis.” Guerner Rolfinck, Chimia in artis formam redacta (1641), 419; 438. Rolfinck also taught chemistry at Jena, becoming professor of chemistry in the same year.

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vanities.”56 Guibert’s ghost had yet to be laid, and although Combach mentions neither Rolfinck nor Conring by name in his preface, he evidently felt that the Lotharingian slur on Ripley’s prime authority still demanded a reply. In defending Lull Combach took as his model the approach of Ewald von Hoghelande some years earlier, by offering a short biography of the Majorcan philosopher.57 Here, particular emphasis is placed on Raymond’s learning, sarcastically juxtaposed with Guibert’s own:
As I may mention in passing, this Guibert was a sufficiently learned man in other respects, besides becoming the bitterest enemy of chemists. Raymond Lull, a man who cannot be sufficiently praised, he said to be a merchant, a layman, fantasti cal, unskilled and utterly ignorant of grammar, to fall into the traps of demons … [he] who was known by that honourable title, of Enlightened Doctor of Arts. 58

Ten pages into an eleven page preface to his own collected works, Ripley’s name has as yet appeared only once, and then merely as an entry in Combach’s roll call of adepts. Only in the final pages does Combach turn to Ripley’s merits, in a passage that would shortly after be translated by Ashmole:
A worthy Author without exception, who is diligently studyed by the lovers of Chimestry, forasmuch as he is open, well compast, and plaine of delivery, and not wrapt in any Thornes, after the custome of others … Besides, he hath great Affinity with the Writings of Lully, insomuch that the one explaineth the other.59   “Et vero iam supra demonstratum est, librum de Quinta essentia Raimundi plenum esse ineptiarum ac vanitatum.” Hermann Conring, De Hermetica Ægyptiorum vetere et Paracelsicorum nova medicina (Helmstedt, 1648), 382. 57)   Von Hoghelande, Historiae aliquot, 39-49. 58)   “Vt obiter hoc inseram, fuit hic Guibertus, vir alioquin satis doctus, prae aliis Chemicorum acerrimus hostis. Raymundum Lullium, hominem nunquam satis laudatum, dicit Mercatorem, laicum, phantasticum, imperitum, & totaliter Gram­ maticae ignarum fuisse, in Daemonis laqueos incidisse, [...] quae specioso titulo, Artis illuminati Doctoris circumfertur.” OOC, fol. 4r–4v. 59)   TCB, 456. Combach’s text reads, “Est autem Riplaeus autor procul dubio dignus, qui ab amatoribus Chemiae sedulò evolvatur, cu[m] in sermone apertus sit, rotundus & planus, nec ullis spinis aliorum more obsitus. Videtur tamen lectionem requirere multiplicem & saepiùs repetitam, ut locus cum loco conferri, ex sensu sensus erui, atq[ue] ad usum practicum accommodari felicius omnia possint, quem laborem ijs


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There is something curiously regressive about Combach’s presentation of the English Canon. Overshadowed by Raymond’s authority, and valued primarily as an expositor of pseudo-Lullian texts, Ripley slips back into the pan-European tradition from which his own alchemical thought derived. It is worth remembering that, across the Channel, the English were commemorating a rather different Ripley—a client of the warrior king Edward IV, a hero of English alchemical verse (soon to be enshrined in Ashmole’s Theatrum), and, within just a few years, the subject of enigmatic and popular commentaries by Eirenaeus Philalethes.60 Within Combach’s national listings, at least, Ripley stands alongside his countrymen, in the august company of “Rasis Cestrensis,” Merlin, Roger Bacon, John Dastin and St Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury; but also that of more recent adepts, including John Dee, Edward Kelley, and Samuel Norton.61 Even here, however, we may detect signs of contemporary interest, for Combach’s decision to publish Ripley’s works may well relate to their connection with the famous Kelley. Indeed, Combach attributes to Kelley the Latin translation of his “complete” version of the Liber duodecim portarum and two other works.62 Given that Combach’s Liber is simply a more complete version of the translation already circulating by the 1570s, this attribution is clearly spurious. However, this need not imply disingenuousness on Combach’s part, since the edition is actually linked to Kelley through the medium of one of his main exemplary manuscripts. This codex, now Kassel Landesbibliothek 4o MS chem. 67, contains eight of the twelve texts published in the Opera, including the full version of the
committo, qui opibus abundant & otio. Habet insuper cum Lullij scriptis magnam affinitatem, ut uxus alterum explicet, & hac ratione faciliùs cuipiam naturae scrutatori scopum rei attingere liceat.” OOC, fols. 6v–7r. 60)   Eirenaeus Philalethes (alias George Starkey), Ripley Reviv’d: or An Exposition upon Sir George Ripley’s Hermetico-Poetical Works, ed. William Cooper (London, 1677–78). On Starkey, see Newman, Gehennical Fire. 61)   OOC, fol. 7r. 62)   “Finis libri 12. portarum, quem cum Epistola ad Regem Eduardum ex rhythmis Anglicis Latinè vertit Eduardus Kellaeus” (OOC, 100); “Finis tractatus Georgii Riplae qui Clavis aurea portae inscribitur, quem ex Anglico in Latinium idioma transtulit Ed. Kellaeus” (OOC, 294). Kelley’s relationship with the Ripley Corpus, and Combach’s editing strategy, are discussed in Rampling, “Dee and the Alchemists.”

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Liber that Combach seems to have used as the main exemplar for his own edition.63 The codex’s value, however, is greater than the sum of its texts. Annotated by Kelley’s Prague acquaintance Nicolas Mai, it also includes fragments of recipes attributed to Kelley, which Combach published as part of his Tractatus aliquot—two years before his edition of the manuscript’s primarily Ripleian contents.64 In an atmosphere of heightened concern with authenticity, the association with two prominent practitioners, Mai and Kelley, must have made this codex an irresistible source for Combach, ever keen to stress the provenance of his manuscript exemplars. Conclusion Such points of contact, often merely hinted at in printed prefaces and manuscript marginalia, indicate both how and why alchemical authorities from widely dispersed regions were used and represented by their editors and compilers. As an expositor of pseudo-Lull, George Ripley could be readily situated on the “vertical” axis of a universal, diachronic alchemical tradition. As a doyen of English practice, he also had a place upon the geographical, “horizontal” axis of pan-European alchemy, where superficial differences between nations, languages and choice of words still failed to obscure the underlying unity of alchemical wisdom. These axes intersect in Combach’s preface, where the English canon is redeployed as both descendant and defender of a Hermetic prisca philosophia.
  The Liber 12 portarum, Medulla philosophiae chemicae, Clavis aurae portae, Pupilla alchemiae , Terra terrae philosophicae , Viaticum seu varia practica , Can­tilena, and Epistola ad Regum Eduardum. Of the remaining four texts printed by istarum, Combach, three (Liber de Mercurio & Lapide philosophorum, Philorcium Alchym­ and Accurtationes & practicae Raymundinae) are found in Combach’s second major exemplar, Kassel Landesbibliothek 4o MS chem. 66. I have yet to identify Combach’s source for the remaining item, the Concordantia, although this work is mentioned by title in 4o MS chem. 67 (fol. 133v). On the Kassel manuscripts, see Hartmut Broszinski, Manuscripta chemica in Quarto (Wiesbaden 2011), 303-16. 64)  Combach, Tractatus aliquot, 31-33. On Mai, see Joachim Telle, ed., Parerga Para­ celsica: Paracelsus in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart (Stuttgart, 1991), 176-7; Rampling, “John Dee and the Alchemists,” 501-2.


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The textual peregrinations of Ripley’s writings did not end with his Opera omnia. In 1690, the entire collection resurfaced in a German translation by the Nuremberg physician and chemist Johann Hiskia Cardilucius (1630–1697).65 In his foreword, the editor speculated anew on the close relationship between Ripley’s alchemy and that of two other semi-legendary authorities, Bernard Trevisanus and Isaac Hollandus. Building on Ripley’s own reference to a sojourn abroad, Cardilucius suggested that the similarities might be explained by a physical rather than a merely textual encounter:
He sets out in the preface to his tract called the Medulla, that for nine whole years in Italy and the surrounding regions he travelled in search of these philosophical secrets, and may perhaps himself have met with Trevisanus in Italy, or also in Ger many with Hollandus.66

This account, in which the English alchemist’s deliberations with philosophers of other nations are subsequently enshrined in his own treatise, presents a Ripley who is in fact the image of his own well-travelled and well-connected editors. From Penot to Barnaud, Mai to Combach, Ripley’s cosmopolitan readers enjoyed fruitful encounters in person and on paper, at distinct geographical nodes, notably Prague and Kassel. Such nodes provided centres, or, perhaps more aptly, crossroads, for scholars and practitioners from across the continent, through whose efforts the wisdom of all nations was communicated, translated and edited, transcending territorial divisions of alchemical knowl­ edge.
  George Ripley, “Des Grossen Engelländischen Philosophi Georgii Riplaei Expe­ rientzreiche/Hermetische Schrifften betreffend die Vniversal-Tinctur; so bisher noch niemals teutsch ausgangen,” in Johann Hiskias Cardilucius, ed., Magnalia Medicochymica continuata, Oder, Fortsetzung der hohen Artzney und Feuerkunstigen Geheim­ nüssen (Endter, 1680), 379-710. On Cardilucius, see Norbert Marxer, Praxis statt Theorie! Leben und Werk des Nürnberger Arztes, Alchemikers und Fachschriftstellers Johann Hiskia Cardilucius (1630–1697) (Heidelberg, 2000). 66)   “Aber Riplaeus selber ist allem Ansehen nach, ein hocherfahrner sehr reicher Artist gewesen, gestaltsam er in der Vorrede über seinen Tractat Medulla genannt, melder, daß er 9. ganzer Jahr in Italien und den benachbarten Landschafften in Erlern- und Erfahrung dieser Philosophischen secreten zubracht, und mag vielleicht wohl selbsten mit Trevisano in Italien senn bekandt worden, oder auch in Teutschland mit Hollando.” Cardilucius, Vorrede to Ripley, “Des Grossen Engeländischen Philosophi,” 382.

J.M. Rampling / Early Science and Medicine 17 (2012) 477-499


Indeed, if the literary origins of Maier’s imagined “Golden Table” lie within the Turba philosophorum, perhaps a terrestrial analogue may still be found in the courts of princely enthusiasts, including those of Moritz in Kassel and Rudolf II in Prague, attended by numerous budding philosophers—Maier and Ripley’s editors included. Traces of these historical turbae remind us of the real communities of practitioners, who discussed and assembled the works of their distinguished forebears for practical, polemical, promotional and pedagogical ends. In their collections, the primarily medieval contents provide only a part of the whole: mined from their crude ore and placed, like carefully polished jewels, in settings crafted by the disputes and correspondence of contemporary alchemists.

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