The Galletti Alchemical Compendium, including the celebrated Summa perfectionis magisterii attributed to Geber (Jabir ibn Hayyan), and other texts attributed to Albertus Magnus and Razis (Ahmad al-Razi), in Latin, illustrated manuscript on paper [western central Germany or adjacent parts of Netherlands (probably Kleve or vicinity), c. 1489]
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147 leaves (now disbound single leaves due to burn damage, see below), almost certainly complete, original collation partly recoverable from catchwords, the rest most probably following a regular pattern: i8, ii-iii10, iv10(probably: the quire ends with a blank leaf), v10, vi-vii10(probably), viii10(probably: as quire 4), ix-xi10, xii-xiv10(probably: as quire 4), xv9 (last probably a cancelled blank), modern pencil foliation (repeating 78 and 104, but followed here), text in double column of 38 lines of a good late Gothic bookhand, with other contemporary hands later in volume, capitals touched in red, simple red and pale blue initials, twenty-two diagrams of alchemical equipment accompanying Geber's text, the whole once in a fire and probably burnt while stacked on a shelf semi-protected by other books, and so with spine and edges of leaves burnt away, causing small losses to upper lines and a cm or so from edges of innermost columns at head of volume, the edges of the paper dry, discoloured and flaking in those places, but stabilisable by a good conservator, some spots and stains throughout, leaves at each end discoloured from soot, central part of pages in good condition and paper supple, each leaf now in individual plastic folder (see weblink appended to online cataloguing to further assess condition), 270 by 190mm.
1. Most probably written for a scholar interested in alchemy, around 1489 in Kleve in the Lower Rhine or its vicinity: most watermarks are indistinct, apart from that of a realistic goose close to Briquet 12172 (recorded Kleve, 1489; here visible on fols. 50 and 97) and 12173 (Metz, 1490).
2. Gustavo Camillo Galletti (1805-1868) of Florence, nobleman, lawyer and grand bibliophile, specialising in manuscripts and incunabula: his oval and crowned blue ink stamp at foot of first leaf with inscription "Bibl. Gust. C. Galletti Flor." After his death his vast library was divided between his daughter-in-law, Vittoria Galletti, and Baron Horace de Landau (1823-1903), the Rothschild's banker in Turin, who acquired his part in 1879. The present codex is not in the 1890 catalogue of the Landau collection (F. Roediger, Catalogue des livres manuscrits et imprimés composant la bibliothèque de M. Horace de Landau , 1885-90) and bears no marks of Landau's ownership, and so it may have passed out of the Galletti collection in the years between 1868 and 1879, or remained with the Galletti family.
3. Recently rediscovered in a German collection.
Fire is perhaps the greatest enemy of books, and this item has only narrowly escaped destruction, perhaps sometime in the last century and a half. That said, what remains is still remarkable as a large collection of important alchemical works, some fundamental to the subject. Such works in manuscript of this early date are rare to the market.
The manuscript contains a large collection of alchemical and early scientific texts, including: (1) fols. 1r-37r, De metallis in speciali , attributed to Albertus Magnus (Albertus Magnus, Opera omnia , 5 (IV, 1-8), 1890), followed by a single blank leaf; (2) fols. 39r-49v, the Semita recta , opening "Alkimia est ars ab alkimio inventa ...", and also attributed occasionally to Albertus Magnus (Thorndike, History of Magic and Experimental Science , III, p. 42, 62, Thorndike & Kibre, Catalogue of Incipits of Mediaeval Scientific Writings , 1963, col. 76; A. Calvet in Archives d'histoire doctrinale et littéraire du moyen âge , 79, 2012, pp. 129-33), followed by six blank leaves; (3) fols. 57r-65v, Rasis, Opusculum in arte alchimie (a variant also known from Beinecke, Mellon MS. 7, that copy attributed there to a Franciscan, Brother Helias, and previously thought to be otherwise unrecorded), followed by two blank leaves; (4) fols. 68r-70r, Liber Correctorum , edited by one "Magister Bernardus" (notably similar to Richardus Anglicanus, Correctium , in his Theatrum Chemicum ); (5) fols. 70v-74v, an unidentified treatise with index; fols. 78r-115r, (6) the Summa perfectionis magisterii attributed to Geber, with numerous diagrams, followed by a single blank leaf; (7) fols. 117r-120v, Liber de septuaginta ; (8) fols. 121r-122v, a medieval addition of an unidentified treatise on metals, followed by three blank leaves; (9) fols. 126r-140v, De lapidis, cum glosa ; (10) fols. 141r-42v, indices, followed by three blank leaves.
The Summa perfectionis magisterii attributed to Geber (more properly Jabir ibn Hayyan, d. 815) was widely read in alchemical circles in Europe from its translation into Latin c . 1310 onwards, as it offered the clearest synthesis of alchemical theory and laboratory instruction. It asserted that all metals are composed of unified sulphur and mercury corpuscles, and thus went to the heart of practical alchemy - the hunt for an elixir or philosophers' stone that could rearrange these corpuscles and transmute base metals into gold.
What is of especial note here are the twenty-two diagrams that accompany the text of Summa perfectionis magisterii on fols. 89-98. They accompany the laboratory directions of the text, and are themselves famed for their precision, indicating that the author had extensive practical experience in chemical operations. The text and its diagrams was not equalled in chemical instruction until the sixteenth century. This is the most heavily annotated section of this volume, indicating its practical use in the Middle Ages.