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Mutus Liber

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Mutus Liber cover
The Mutus Liber, or Mute Book (from Latin: Silent Book), is a Hermetic philosoph
ical work published in La Rochelle in 1677. It ranks amongst the major books on
alchemy in Early Modern literature, just as much as does Atalanta Fugiens by Mic
hael Maier. It has been reprinted numerous times.
Consisting mainly of illustrated plates, Mutus Liber arouses contradictory inter
pretations. Its meaning was pored over for a long time by authors such as Eugene
Canseliet and Serge Hutin, who claimed to be initiated alchemists. More recent
studies are striving to use its historical reality in order to reveal its meanin
Contents [hide]
1 Editions
2 History of attributions of authorship
3 Interpretations
4 Notes
5 External resources
The first edition of Mutus Liber dates from 1677, published by Pierre Savouret i
n La Rochelle.[2] No more than a few dozen copies can have been printed. Twelve
original copies are conserved in main Western libraries. There may be more copie
s, however. As early as 1702 it was reprinted in Geneva, with new plates, and ed
ited by Jean-Antoine Chouet and Jean-Jacques Manget. Eugene Canseliet purports s
eeing some pages of a Parisian edition dating from 1725. But the existence of th
is edition has not been established. A third version of Mutus Liber was entirely
reprinted around 1760 in Paris, and this third edition is extremely rare. Mutus
Liber was temporarily forgotten, but then regained editorial interest in the se
cond half of the 19th century. Since the beginning of the 20th century, editions
have multiplied, sometimes accompanied by prefaces detailing more or less preci
sely its contents. The main editions of Mutus Liber are the following:
1867 by Thibaud publishing house in Clermont Ferrand;
1914, by Nourry, prefaced by Pierre Dujois, alias Magophon;
1943, by Paul Derain, the publisher;
1966 by Pauvert publishers, prefaced by Eugene Canseliert;
1967 by L Unite publishers, prefaced by Serge Hutin;
2015 by Editions a l Envers, with new plates by Raymond Meyer.
History of attributions of authorship[edit]
Mutus Liber clearly indicates the names of its author and of its inventor. The f
ormer is Altus, a scholar in high chemistry of Hermes . The latter is Jacob Saulat,
Sire of Marez. But as these assertions were soon proven to be fictitious, the a
uthorship of Mutus Liber has long been in doubt.
Rev. Arcere, a noted historian of La Rochelle, claims that Jabob Tolle is the au
thor though his very existence was even put in doubt.[3] Tolle was in fact a Roc
helais doctor reputed for using chemistry and mastering perspective.[4] These tw
o qualities account for the fact that he was acknowledged as the author for a lo
ng time. However, ever since the article by Jean Flouret, it has been establishe
d that the author of Mutus Liber is in fact Isaac Baulot. Using clues in Mutus L
iber and contemporary documents, Patrick Sembel suggests three people were invol
ved with Isaac Baulot. Abrahaim Thevenin probably worked on the plates, as the p
resence of his monetary symbol on the first illustrated page of Mutus Liber indi
cates. Elie Bouhereau and Elie Richard must have contributed to the conception o
f the book. As doctors and scholars who used chemistry, they would have had many
contacts who would facilitate publishing the book. Elie Richard studied at Gron
ingen with Des Maretz, a philosopher whose name is used to designate the person
who discovered Mutus Liber. Elie Bouhereau knew Valentin Conrard, a secretary of
the Academie Francaise, as well as many major authors and philosophers of the t
ime. It is he who attributed authorship of Mutus Liber to Isaac Baulot.
The form of Mutus Liber means that is open to various interpretations. Four ways
of reading the book may be distinguished
The most widespread reading is that of initiated alchemists , started off by Pierre
Dujols,[5] under the pseudonym of Magophon. It is carried on by Eugene Canselie
t[6] and Serge Hutin.[7] These authors say that Mutus Liber shows how to proceed
to achieve the Great Work, whose ultimate purpose is to obtain the philosopher s
stone. Carl Gustav Jung, the psychoanalyst, studied Mutus Liber, and owned a cop
y of the 1677 edition. He used it namely to illustrate his work entitled Psychol
ogy and Alchemy.[8] In this book Jung explains how alchemy is speculative thinki
ng looking for the spiritual equilibrium whose metaphorical form would be the ph
ilosopher s stone. This process is accompanied by the creation of a repertoire of
mental pictures, or archetypes, which would gradually lead to a collective uncon
scious. More recently Lee Stavenhagen worked on the narrative structure used to
illustrate Mutus Liber.[9] In their research Jean Flouret and Patrick Sembel hav
e been trying to define the contents of Mutus Liber by putting it into its relig
ious, intellectual and scientific context.
Jump up ^ See FLOURET, Jean, A propos de l auteur du Mutus Liber , Revue francaise
d histoire du livre, n 11 N.S., avril-juin 1976, p. 206-211.
Jump up ^ For an analysis of the editions and attributions of authorship, see SE
MBEL, Patrick, Hermes Atlantique, Le Mutus Liber, 1677, L eloge d ether, 2015, 65 p.
ISBN 978-2-9555442-0-4.
Jump up ^ ARCERE, M. Histoire de la ville de La Rochelle et du Pays d Aunis, tome
2, Chez Desbordes, La Rochelle, 1757, p 394.
Jump up ^ MONCONYS, Balthasar de, Journal des Voyages, Lyon, Boissat & Remeus, 1
665, p. 20
Jump up ^ DUJOLS, Pierre, alias Magophon, Hypotypose du Mutus Liber, Paris, Edit
ions Nourry, 1914.
Jump up ^ CANSELIET, Eugene, L Alchimie et son livre muet, Paris, Pauvert, 1967.
Jump up ^ HUTIN, Serge, Commentaires sur le Mutus Liber, Paris, Le lien, 1967
Jump up ^ JUNG, Carl-Gustav, Psychologie et Alchimie, Buchet/Chastel, 1970, 756
Jump up ^ STAVENHAGEN, Lee, Narrative Illustration Techniques and the Mute Books
of Alchemy , Explorations in Renaissance Culture, vol. 5 (1979), 56-6