De quinta essentia

From Theatrum Paracelsicum
Libellus de quinta essentia

I. Basic information

Printing History, Manuscripts. First published in Latin in 1582 along with the pseudo-Paracelsian Manualia (§ ‎8.9) by the Basel printer Pietro Perna in a volume called Aureoli Theophrasti Paracelsi Archidoxorum seu de Secretis Naturae mysteriis libri decem. First published in German by Huser in 1605. There are two German manuscripts in Kassel and Leiden.

Editions. Edited by Huser in Chirurgische Bücher vnd Schriften (1605), Appendix: 92–98. Not edited by Sudhoff.

Relationship between different versions. Contrary to Sudhoff’s assumption, the German text published by Huser is not a translation of the Latin text printed in 1582. On the contrary, the Latin text was a translation from German by a French-speaking person (who may or may not have been Gerhard Dorn). The manuscripts in Leiden and Kassel preserve the same original German text printed by Huser, although both of them have fewer sections and present them in a different order.

Structure, genre/form, perspective, style. De quinta essentia consists of a theory-oriented introduction written in the first person, and a practical part discussing the preparation of oils (or quintessences) and salts of different metals, minerals and plants.

Relationship to other texts. Further study required.

Authenticity, authorship. The authenticity of De quinta essentia was already denied by Huser. Sudhoff considers the text “obviously spurious.” Paracelsus had frequently referred to a text by himself entitled De quinta essentia in his Siebente Buch in der Arznei von den Krankheiten, die der Vernunft berauben and Das neunte Buch in der Arznei. Von Ursachen und Kuren der Kontrakturen und Lähme. This De quinta essentia quoted by Paracelsus himself was most probably the corresponding chapter in the authentic Archidoxis.

Time of writing. Possibly written in the 1570s to replace the De quinta essentia quoted by Paracelsus and supposed to be missing.

II. Sources


  • Leiden, Universiteitsbibliotheek: Voss. Chym. Q.21, f. 193v–206v (171v–184v) [German]
  • Kassel, Landesbibliothek: 4° Ms. chem. 19, f. 82r–91r [German]

First printed:

  • 1582 (Latin translation; in Aureoli Theophrasti Paracelsi Archidoxorum seu de Secretis Naturae mysteriis libri decem (Basel: Pietro Perna, 1582), VD16 P 399; Sudhoff, Bibliographia Paracelsica, 331–334 n° 191)
  • 1605 (German; in Huser, Chir. 1605; VD17 3:313744Z; Sudhoff, Bibliographia Paracelsica, 463 n° 267)

Historical Manuscript Catalogues: Toxites, Zugesagte Bücher (Dresden), n° 12; Libri Theophrasti (Dresden), f. 6rb; Widemann, Verzeichnisse (Kassel), n° II, 83 / I, 139

III. Bibliography

Essential bibliography: Sudhoff, Bibliographia Paracelsica, 333, 463; Sudhoff, Paracelsus-Handschriften, 777; CP 1: 282; CP 2: 247.

Further bibliographical references:

Boeren, Codices Vossiani Chymici (1975), 152.

Udo Benzenhöfer, Studien zum Frühwerk des Paracelsus im Bereich Medizin und Naturkunde (Münster, 2005), 96, 106–109, 113, 133, 207.

Broszinski, Manuscripta chemica in quarto (2011), 60.