Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae […] — Hanau 1609
Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae […] — [Colophon:] Hanoviae Excudebat Guilielmus Antonius, MDCIX.
[Hanau, Antonius, 1609].
(294 x 190 mm). a-g4 h2 (signature g bound as g4, g2, g3, g1) A-Z4 Aa-Ee4: 60, 222, (1) pp.
12 engravings (9 as double-pages), 2 double-page tables: Summa Amphitheatri Sapientiae Aeternae bound between 7th and 8th engraving; Tria sunt, quae primordialiter constituunt MUNDUM between quires T and V.. Excellent copy with an important provenance.
It seems that no copy is identical to another in terms of the order of the plates and their placement in the text. This is unusual. Did the respective owners of a copy specify a certain sequence to the bookbinder? Did Landgraf Moritz and his librarian Jacob Thysius discuss the order of the plates and the places where they should be bound? I have no idea.
In Moritz‘ copy the sequence is: Gymnasium Naturae / Tabula Smaragdina / Citadel of Alchemy / Porto Amphitheatri Sapientiae / Theogony & Empyreum / Cosmogeny / Rebis / Oratorium & Laboratorium / Calumniatores / The owl.
Binding/Provenance: Contemporary vellum; arms of Landgraf Moritz von Hessen-Kassel (1572-1632), ornamental border, four corner pieces and eight rosettes on both covers; all seem too be tooled in black, but minimal traces of gold may show that the binding was tooled in gold which has oxidised. Three fillets in blind form the outer frame of both covers. Overlapping fore-edges. Four ties in green silk.
The private library of Moritz contained nearly 900 printed books and manuscripts, 541 of these were Alchemica. The catalogue of the library lists the Amphitheatrum under no. 571. The library’s printed books were almost all destroyed in the bombing of Kassel, Sept. 8-9, 1941, except a few given away or sold before.
There is a lot of literature on Moritz and his Court, and I only mention a few things to caracterize this gifted man:
at the age of 20 published a paraphrase of the Psalter, and full of pride sent it to Rudolf II in Prague;
in 1603 to 1605 he built the first stand-alone theater building, the Ottoneum;
the Court school was transformed by him into a school for the sons of not only aristocratic but also middle-class parents, the school which was called Collegium Mauritianum, and for which he wrote a number of textbooks;
he privileged the Kassel printer Wilhelm Wessel, who published a number of books as „ex typographia Mauritiana“ or as „Fürstliche Druckerei“;
the skilled composer he was he promoted Heinrich Schütz and had John Dowland at his court for a short while;
he spoke eight languages fluently;
he was member of the „Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft“, where he was called „der Gelehrte“; corresponded with Tycho Brahe, John Dee and other important European scientist,
and he was – what is the most important in our context – deeply interested in alchemy and theosophical questions. It is said that his laboratory was the largest of the many laboratories in European courts. With the mentioned 541 Alchemica his library was excellent in that field.2
The University Library and the Murhard Library in Kassel display digitized copies of some of the bindings from Moritz’s library (orka.bibliothek.uni-kassel.de). The signatures are: 4° Ms. chem. 90, 4° Ms. chem. 65, 4° Ms. chem. 79, 4° Ms. poet. et. roman. 13, 4° Ms. chem. 100, 4° Ms. chem. 91, 2° Ms. astron. 7, 4° Ms. mus. 108, 4° Ms. chem. 62.
The embossing of these bindings follows a recurring pattern: on both covers, fillets or an ornamental band form a rectangle with a floral stamp (pomegranate) at the corners. Either Moritz’s coat of arms or an ornamental stamp is used as the centerpiece in the rectangle. The ribbons are made of green silk. The stamps and lines on 4° Ms. chem. 79 and 2° Ms. astron. 7 are gilded, those of the other bindings appear in black. They too may have been originally gilded, but are oxidized.
Our binding has the same pomegranate stamp and the same ornamental band on covers and spine as 4° Ms. chem. 90 and as 4° Ms. mus. 108; the arms are identical with 4° Ms. poet et roman. 13.
The bindings shown seem to come from a single workshop; however, who the bookbinder was is unknown.
1 Konrad Wiedemann, Katalog der Bibliothek von Landgraf Moritz, in: Die Handschriften der Universitätsbibliothek Kassel, Landesbibliothek und Murhardsche Bibliothek, Band 3, 2,2: Manuscripta Chemica in Quarto. Bearbeitet von Hartmut Brozinskis. Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz, 2011, page 410, Nr. 57.
2 See H. Broszinski, Die alchemistische Bibliothek des Landgrafen Moritz. Der Landgraf und die Bücher. In: G. Menk (Hrsg.), Landgraf Moritz der Gelehrte. Ein Kalvinist zwischen Politik und Wissenschaft, Marburg 2000, pp. 258ff.