From Theatrum Paracelsicum

Dedications, Prefaces, Postfaces

from: Paracelsus, Aphorismorum aliquot Hippocratis genuinus sensus & vera interpretatio, no date [1568]
This preface addresses the reader with an explanation for publishing Theophrastus Paracelsus' works, which have garnered interest among various scholars and laypersons for their insights into the natural world and God's creations. The author decides to print these previously unpublished works, including interpretations of Hippocrates' aphorisms and treatises on corals, St. John's wort, and water pepper, for the common good. The preface deliberately avoids the customary praise in introductions, aiming to spare the reader unnecessary verbosity and because the texts' inherent value makes external commendation superfluous. The author acknowledges that while Paracelsus' writings are insightful, revealing secrets in philosophy, medicine, and chemistry, they should be read with discernment due to his human flaws. The preface criticizes those who blindly follow Paracelsus, misinterpreting and misusing his teachings, and emphasizes the need to emulate the virtues, not the vices, of great men.
from: Paracelsus, Archidoxorum Theophrastiae pars prima, 1570
This preface addresses the reader about the publication of Theophrastus Paracelsus' "Archidoxes." Despite earlier editions being printed in various locations, many contained errors and deviated from the original. The author has prepared this edition based on Paracelsus' own handwriting, making significant corrections. It includes the books "De Renovatione et Restauratione" and "De Vita Longa," as well as a previously unpublished tractate "De Mineralibus." The intention is to satisfy readers' interest in Paracelsus' works and encourage the release of more of his writings, thereby enriching the common good and revealing nature's secrets for the praise of God and the benefit of art lovers.
from: Wunder Artzney/ Von allerley leibs gebrüchen, 1573
The text highlights two prevalent vices of the era: disloyalty and ingratitude. Disloyalty, encompassing selfishness and ambition, is seen as a violation of the Christian duty to love and value one's neighbor as oneself. This vice, along with ingratitude, is considered an affront to God's commandments, with severe consequences promised on Judgment Day. Ingratitude is equally offensive to God. It manifests when individuals fail to acknowledge and appreciate the benefits and knowledge they receive, especially from God and others. The text criticizes those who receive knowledge and gifts but respond with pride, contempt, or dismissal, rather than gratitude and sharing. The author particularly focuses on scholars who hoard knowledge for personal gain. These scholars possess valuable books and insights that could benefit many but choose to keep this knowledge to themselves out of arrogance and self-interest. This behavior is seen as a betrayal of Christian duty and a waste of resources that could otherwise serve the common good.
Theophrastus von Hohenheim is contrasted with these scholars. He shared his extensive knowledge of medicine, gained through travel and experience, for the public good. His approach to medicine, based on natural principles and the use of fire in extraction processes, was groundbreaking. Despite his contributions, Theophrastus faced criticism and rejection from contemporaries, who either misunderstood his methods or were too entrenched in traditional practices to accept his innovations.
The text argues that all knowledge, especially in the fields of medicine and the arts, is a gift from God and should be shared for the benefit of all. Hoarding knowledge for personal gain or out of arrogance is seen as a grave sin. The author urges scholars and practitioners to embrace and disseminate knowledge, particularly in the fields of natural science, alchemy, and astronomy, for the greater good of humanity and in gratitude to God.
from: Thomas Erastus, Explicatio Grauissimae Quaestionis, ed. Giacomo Castelvetro, no place, no printer [London: John Wolfe], 1589
This preface discusses a treatise by Thomas Erastus on ecclesiastical discipline and excommunication. The author recounts his efforts to locate and acquire this unpublished work, which had been neglected after Erastus's death. Despite potential criticism from those more loyal to their factions than to truth, the printer was motivated by the value of the treatise and the support of leading theologians. He acknowledges the risk of controversy in publishing the work during tumultuous times but is comforted by the truth and the high regard for the manuscript among learned and truth-loving individuals. The printer urges readers to appreciate the effort made to bring this important work to light and to support the publication of more beneficial books.
Source: Tractatus varii, de vera praeparatione et usu medicamentorum chymicorum, ed. Bernard Gilles Penot, Frankfurt am Main: Johann Feyerabend for Peter Fischer, 1594, sig. B5v–B6v = pag. 26–28 [BP.Penot.1594-01]
The preface discusses the importance of taking a thoughtful and informed approach to the treatment of human ailments. The author emphasizes the fragility and challenging nature of human life and asserts the value of both personal experience and the wisdom found in the works of renowned philosophers and physicians. The focus is on the necessity of carefully studying ancient texts to extract medical knowledge while also acknowledging the contributions of contemporary scholars.
The author delves into the concept of the "fifth essence" or quintessence, which is seen as a powerful and effective element hidden within various natural substances, such as plants, metals, and stones. This essence, when properly extracted and prepared, is believed to possess remarkable healing properties far superior to the substances in their original form. The process of preparing medicines is described as an art that requires both skill and knowledge, distinguishing true philosophers and practitioners from ordinary people and pharmacists.
In conclusion, the text advocates for a balanced integration of ancient wisdom and modern science in medical practice. It highlights the transformative potential of medicinal substances when expertly harnessed and the critical role of proper preparation in restoring health.
  • Preface, Anonymous (A. R. N. P. D.) to the Reader; Latin
Source: Paradisus Aureolus Hermeticus, ed. Benedictus Figulus, Frankfurt am Main: Nicolaus Stein for Wolfgang Richter, 1608, sig. G3v = pag. 54 [BP.Figulus.1608-01]
The author advises his readers not to concern themselves with the identities of either the author or the compiler. The key message conveyed is that the author has a profound mastery of the Philosopher's Stone, having successfully created and obtained it. This document, shared in the spirit of mutual goodwill and affection, aims to explore the three primary alchemical principles: Mercury, Sulphur, and Salt. It questions whether the Philosopher's Stone is to be sought within these elements or elsewhere, using straightforward language and a clear style. The compiler expresses hope that the publication of this treatise, despite possibly going against the author's preference for anonymity, will be well received by true lovers of philosophy, reducing their expenses and efforts in pursuit of this knowledge. The compiler also commits to publishing further works on the remaining principles and other topics from the same author, depending on the public's reception.
Source: Georg Fedro, Halopyrgice sive Jatrochemica pestis epidemicae curatio, Oder Warhafftige Cur der erschrecklichen Sucht der Pestilentz, Halle: Christoph Bismarck for Joachim Krusicke, no date [1612], sig. A2r–A2v [BP.Fedro.1612-01]
The author has come into possession of three rare treatises authored by Georg Fedro. These works, published many years ago in German, cover topics on the cure of epidemic plague, minor surgery, and a defense of the art of chemistry against its critics. Due to Fedro's untimely death, these publications have become exceedingly rare, to the point where no additional copies are available. The author acknowledges having these valuable texts, which have been admired by prominent physicians and enthusiasts of Astral Medicine for containing effective remedies for severe diseases. Responding to the encouragement of these medical professionals and aficionados, who have expressed a strong interest in the treatises and urged their republication, the author has decided to reprint these works for the benefit of those studying Hermetic doctrine. The author modestly sets their expectations regarding the reception of these reprints among the broader medical community, anticipating that while many may not appreciate the effort, a few might find the works valuable and express gratitude. The author concludes by expressing a hope to publish more in the future, should he live longer.
Source: Andreas Tentzel, Chymisch-Spagirische Arztney-Kunst, tr. P. C., Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig, no publisher, 1736, sig. )(1r–)(2v [BP.Fedro.1736-01]
The text introduces three significant manuscripts in the realms of chemistry, spagyric art, and medicine, previously hidden and now shared, highlighting the ongoing issue of envy among individuals who wish to hoard knowledge. These manuscripts include works by renowned figures such as Doctor Andreas Tentzel, Georgius Phaedron, and Henning Schevnemann, covering topics from the Chemical-Spagyric Art of Medicine to rare Chemical and Medical Arcana and previously unpublished Spagyric Secrets. Additionally, the text mentions further writings by Andreas Tentzel, offering a deep dive into medical-philosophical and sympathetic writings. This sharing of knowledge is positioned as an act of generosity and a stand against the sin of keeping secrets to oneself, inviting the reader into a world of ancient wisdom and encouraging exploration beyond the envy that has historically suppressed such valuable information.

Notices, Editorial Remarks etc.

from: Paracelsus, Außlegung Der Figuren/ so zu Nürenberg gefunden seind worden, 1569
The text suggests that a person, believing themselves to be knowledgeable, hastily interpreted some magical figures. However, as understanding magical art requires more than a cursory interpretation, their efforts were deemed fundamentally useless, despite initial positive reception.
from: Wunder Artzney/ Von allerley leibs gebrüchen, 1573
The reader is informed that the book has been preserved in its original, simple German language without any alterations or improvements. This is to illustrate the faithfulness of its intent and to highlight the linguistic evolution over time. The book, deemed a divine gift, was intended for devout individuals rather than the godless. Therefore, it is primarily intended to benefit pious Christians.


from: Paracelsus, Labyrinthus medicorum errantium, ed. Achatius Morbach, Nürnberg, 1553
The poem celebrates medicine as a divine art, attributing its origin to God and considering it the most noble of all human pursuits. It emphasizes medicine's ability to understand hidden causes, heal the sick, preserve health, and guide proper diet. Historically, kings highly valued it, and sacred scriptures command honor for pious doctors. The poem ends with a call to thank God, who delivers people from illness through the art of medicine.
from: Paracelsus, Septem libri de gradibus, de compositionibus, de dosibus receptorum ac Naturalium, ed. Adam von Bodenstein, Basel: Pietro Perna, 1568
The text presents a couplet in which the Roman numerals spell out the year in which the book was first written.
from: Leonhard Thurneisser, ἑρμηνεία. Das ist ein Onomasticum, Interpretatio oder erklerunge, 1574
The poem expresses the author's stance on the value of practical experience over theoretical learning. The author questions if anyone wonders why they write about unfamiliar matters that even learned people do not know, despite their extensive studies in various renowned universities. These scholars have spent much time and money on education, yet their extensive reading doesn't equate to understanding if they fail to grasp the essence of their learning. Notable figures like Plato and Aristotle didn't gain their wisdom solely from reading. Therefore, reading and traveling are of little use without hands-on practice. The author emphasizes that they know their craft through practice, as direct experience often reveals the truth where written words may deceive. Much like a handpost that points the way without traversing it, writings can guide towards many arts, but true understanding comes from hands-on practice. The author finishes by saying they are unaffected by envy, for they have achieved through their work what hundreds could not achieve through reading.
from: De cometis dissertationes novae, ed. Thomas Erastus, Basel: Leonhard Ostein for Pietro Perna, 1580
The poem is a tribute to Thomas Erastus, praising his contributions to society and intellectual prowess. The author lauds Erastus for being beloved and admired by discerning and thoughtful individuals. Erastus's written works, which have evidently benefitted communal life, are celebrated for their depth and expertise. The poem contrasts Erastus's wisdom and teachings with others, suggesting that few, if any, could rival him in natural talent, sagacity, or instructional methods. Notably, false prophets and the renowned yet controversial figure, Paracelsus, are criticized, indicating that Erastus's views may have been in opposition to certain popular beliefs or pseudo-sciences of his time.
from: Jonas Kitzkatz, Speculum alchimistarum, Hof: Matthäus Pfeilschmidt, 1583
The poem discusses a widespread debate concerning alchemy and the teachings of Paracelsu about a mystical gem. It contrasts the viewpoints of scholars who deny the possibility of alchemical transformations with those driven by greed or curiosity, who believe in the potential to create gold and other miracles through alchemy. The debate considers the nature of a mysterious gem, described as both a stone and not a stone, and compares it to the wealth of mythical figures like Croesus and Midas. The dispute is said to be settled by the wisdom of Kitzkatz, though it awaits further validation from higher authorities, possibly the Rhine court.
  • Poem, Anonymous (A. L.) to Gaston Duclo; Latin
Source: Gaston Duclo, Apologia argyropoeiae et chrysopoeiae, Nevers: Pierre Roussin, 1592, sig. Ee2r [BP.Duclo.1590-01] [see also BP.Duclo.1598-01]
Erastus attempts to challenge the principles of alchemy, using ignorance as his weapon, but in his critique, he unintentionally highlights the significance of the art. Duclo, in response, defends the art by refuting Erastus's arguments, thereby restoring the esteem of alchemical practices.
  • Poem, Anonymous (I. B. A.) to Gaston Duclo; Latin
Source: Gaston Duclo, Apologia argyropoeiae et chrysopoeiae, Nevers: Pierre Roussin, 1592, sig. Ee2r [BP.Duclo.1590-01] [see also BP.Duclo.1598-01]
The poem encourages a book, symbolically represented under the protection of an invincible leader, to be bold and not fear failure like Erastus, who couldn't stand his ground. It suggests that the book, which speaks of great deeds, deserves recognition for its noble content and should confidently proceed, assured by the illustrious name it carries.
from: Gerhard Dorn, Schlüssel der Chimistischen Philosophy, 1602
The poem is a philosophical riddle, presenting the journey of a complex entity. It depicts a self-contradictory being, embodying earth and fire, birth and death, immensity in minuteness, and perpetual motion in stillness. This entity confesses its paradoxical nature: it must destroy its mother to be born, death precedes its life, and darkness is its parent. It houses great virtue in its smallness, remains solid and indivisible, and is colored yet desires the contrast of black and white. It is shapeless and produces a mysterious yellow light. The entity experiences a constant cycle of spirit departure and return, indicating its resilience and ability to contain multiple souls. The poem ends by challenging the reader to unravel its riddle, underscoring the elusive nature of understanding and knowledge.
from: Basilius Valentinus, Ein kurtzer summarischer Tractat. Von dem grossen Stein der vhralten, ed. Johann Thölde, Johann Schleer (Zerbst) for Jacob Apel (Leipzig), 1602
from: Basilus Valentinus, TriumphWagen Antimonii, ed. Johann Thölde, Leipzig: Jacob Popporeich for Jacob Apel, 1604
This German text is a poetic exhortation to a book, symbolizing knowledge or truth, encouraging it to persist and triumph in the face of adversity. It urges the book to remain resilient against enemies and persecutors, no matter how cruel or powerful they may be.
from: Cornelis Drebbel, Tractatus duo, ed. Joachim Morsius, Hamburg: Heinrich Carstens, 1621
This text is a tribute to Petrus Lauremberg, highlighting his exceptional wisdom and contributions. Through an anagram of his name, it suggests that Lauremberg's work will bring fame to his city and beyond, likening his enduring impact to the evergreen laurel, a symbol of honor and glory. The comparison to Chrysa's praise for Apollo underscores Lauremberg's significant influence, suggesting that his legacy will flourish perpetually, much like the laurel's eternal greenery, enhancing his reputation and the esteem in which he is held.

Other Texts

from: Basilius Valentinus, Ein kurtz Summarischer Tractat, Von dem grossen Stein der Vralten, ed. Johann Thölde, Eisleben: Bartholomaeus Hörnig, 1599
from: Paracelsus, Operum latine redditorum tomus II, 1575
The texts provided are a collection of epitaphs written by the friends of Theophrastus Paracelsus, as a testament to their piety and goodwill towards him. 1. The first epitaph states that under a small mound rests Theophrastus, a man of great renown. He was a prolific healer who could treat various diseases and even alleviated leprosy through his art. He cured incurable dropsy but ultimately succumbed to the inexorable death. The reader is asked to say the final words. 2. The second epitaph affirms that Theophrastus's body rests in an urn, and that even the famed Aristotle was not his equal. 3. The third epitaph remembers Theophrastus as a Swiss physician of unmatched medical skill, integrity, and charity towards the needy. It mentions his age at death but does not specify it. 4. The fourth epitaph commemorates Theophrastus as the only physician who could cure gout, leprosy, dropsy, and humoral imbalances. 5. The fifth epitaph suggests that readers should not be surprised that even people like Theophrastus, who seemed worthy of immortality and had few equals in medical arts, are mortal. Nonetheless, he will be immortal in the eyes of God. 6. The sixth epitaph portrays Theophrastus as a distinguished physician, level-headed in all fortunes, devoted to fairness, kindness to the poor, and religious. His death is mourned by all good people. 7. The final epitaph is for Theophrastus, a highly skilled physician whose death robbed the world of a man of complete learning, who saved many who were on the brink of death. The epitaph is placed by N. Setznagel, a citizen of Salzburg, out of piety. It also mentions his lifespan and death but does not specify them.
Source: Cornelis Drebbel, De quinta essentia Tractatus, ed. Joachim Morsius, No place, no printer, 1621, sig. C5r–C5v [BP.Drebbel.1621-01]
The text highlights a harmonious journey towards truth and wonder, guided by God, with Nature as a companion and experience as the guide. It describes an alchemical process involving the "shadow of the sun," mixed with fire and water to achieve a transformation that mirrors the progression from the moon's brightness to the sun's brilliance, symbolizing the attainment of ultimate knowledge or enlightenment. This process is likened to the "true Winged Hermes," which, despite lacking feathers, signifies swift transcendence. The text concludes with a caution against excessive curiosity and a reminder of the value of silence in the pursuit of wisdom, suggesting that understanding the nature and transformation of metals is akin to grasping deeper universal truths.