Bibliotheque Des Philosophes Chymiques, Tome II (1678)

Bibliotheque Des Philosophes Chymiques, Tome II (1678)

Bibliotheque Des Philosophes Chymiques Tome II

I recently purchased my first rare antique book! Not just antique as in 18xx- I bought an 1870 edition of Plutarch for like $30 back in college. This book is from 167freakin8! 342 years old, and in great shape. I won’t say how much I paid cause I think it was way too much. The book is the second volume of Bibliotheque Des Philosophes Chymiques, a compendium of important alchemical and philosophical texts. The first volume was published in 1672, and revised editions were republished in 1740. The author is believed to be Willliam Salmon, an English professor and writer.

I don’t speak French, let alone 17th century French, so it’ll be a bit of a process even getting bare descriptions of each section. I’ll post the pictures now and update the text as I can.

This edition in French was printed by the company of Charles Angot in Paris. It’s about 4 x 6 inches, and bound in leather over board with gilding on the spine and marbling on the endpapers as well as the head, foredge and tail edges. I don’t know enough about bookbinding to say more than that, but here are some pictures!



The divisions on the spine contain red leather that’s a bit faded, but still noticeable:


Also some marbling of the leather cover, and a little bit of wear & tear:


Really handsome marbling. The practice dates to the 15th century in Europe, but really took off in the 17th century. Here it’s done both on the inner covers and the edges:


Here you can see the fine detail of the gilding. It’s still in good shape, and mostly it’s only worn away where the cover itself is:


Title Page. They really liked long titles pack then. If you have a more accurate translation, please let me know!

stated on the other page, and newly translated.
With Notes & various Lessons,
A Latin Letter on the Book entitled
A Preface on the obscurity of Philosophers, & on the Treatises of the Volume, & their Authors.
And a Table of Materials.
By Mr. S. Doctor of Medicine.

Charles Angot, Saint Jacques Street,
at golden Lyon.



Preface. Thanks for writing all over my precious antique, Barbette! How rude. Basically, the preface talks about how if alchemists wanted everyone to understand their art, they could’ve put it all down and made it easy to understand.  Right, because modern chemistry textbooks are just so crystal clear. But to protect their jobs they cloaked it in allegory, mysticism and philosophy. Which is what a lot of this book is. Spoiler alert.


The first part of the book is The Seven Chapters, or The Seven Golden Chapters of Hermes Trismegistus.  This is a mostly philosopical text rather than a practical alchemy one, with lots of metaphor and allegory concerning the fabrication of the “Philosopher’s Stone” substance. I managed to get my hands on an English translation, and it’s largely incomprehensible Bible-like verse.


This is a short dialogue between two people about preparing the Magisterium, a form of the Philosophers Stone. It has specific instructions but is once again couched in riddles and metaphor.


This is a long interrogation by a king named Khalid of a hermit he encounters, who is a philosopher called Morien. Morien relates the fundaments of Hermeticism through a very Christian religious filter. Several aspects of alchemy are mentioned, but again the operations are related very ambiguously.


Artephius is the name given to a supposed alchemist writing some time in the 12th century, and who claims to have been a thousand years old. Who he was and if he really existed is unknown, but the text is believed to have first been written in Arabic. Although this text uses obscure terms, it actually contains explicit instructions for performing supposed alchemical transformation involving antimony, silver and gold, among other things. It also discusses the concept of sublimation. Here is a link to an English translation.


This is a very long section that includes many of the writings of Geber, aka Jabir ibn Hayyan, an 8th century Arab scientist. His works cover a large variety of subjects including alchemy, chemistry, mysticism and philosophy. I’ll have to go through this more carefully to give a meaningful description.


There’s a fabric bookmark included, woven into the binding at about the halfway point of the book. It’s completely intact and in good shape.


Supposedly a doctor who was personal physician to the Polish queen moved to Paris to join the university medical faculty after she died. After reading the first volume of this work he sent his own writings on alchemy to Salmon, and this letter in Latin is Salmon’s reply, which he included in volume two.


There are also several very nice woodcut prints throughout the text:



Some handwritten notes added at some point in the last few centuries.


I ordered this nice custom wood and glass case to display the book. It maintains humidity levels and keeps too much dust, heat and light away. Very happy with it. I ordered it from SherriStudio on Etsy.



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