De magia veterum

From Theatrum Paracelsicum
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Magia veterum
Magiae Theophrasti neun Bücher
Von der Magia

I. Basic information

Printing History, Manuscripts. The Arbatel was first printed in Latin in 1575 by Pietro Perna, the most important printer-publisher of Paracelsus in Basel at that time, but it was not attributed to Paracelsus. It was reprinted in 1579 in the undated edition of Agrippa von Nettesheim’s Opera that appeared with the false imprint “Lugduni, per Beringos fratres” (actually Basel, Thomas Guarin). This false imprint is the reason why the Arbatel is often said to have been first printed as early as 1510 or 1531. The Latin manuscripts are copied from the first edition. Several German manuscripts are known with at least four different translations. Version C, which was also partially printed by Gottfried Arnold (see below), is attributed to Paracelsus.

Editions. Not edited by Huser or Sudhoff.

Relationship between different versions. The German version C, which is probably the oldest according to Gilly, has the 49 aphorisms in a different order, enriched with many citations from Agrippa von Nettesheim, according to Gilly.

Structure, genre/form, perspective, style. Originally written in Latin in 49 (7 × 7) aphorisms forming an Isagoge which was only the first of nine books planned. No further book was ever published (or written).

Relationship to other texts. The Arbatel’s doctrine of Olympic spirits was influential among pseudo-Paracelsian writers. Even dates were given, for example by Benedictus Figulus, for the reigns of spirits as outlined in the Arbatel.

Authenticity, authorship. The author is an anonymous Paracelsian who styled Paracelsus along with Hermes Trismegistus as “secretorum pater” in aphorism 26. Attributed to Paracelsus in version C of the German manuscripts and in the summary edited by Gottfried Arnold in his Kirchen- and Ketzerhistorie. It was “one of the most influential and most contested manuals of Renaissance magic.” It also was the first text to revive the long-forgotten terms theosophia and anthroposophia.

Time of writing. The Arbatel was probably written after 1571, the year of the first publication of Paracelsus’s Astronomia magna. The German version attributed to Paracelsus may have been prepared in the late 16th century. Further study required.

II. Sources


version C (attributed to Paracelsus)

  • Darmstadt, Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek: Hs. 1720/1, 1–61
  • Dessau, Landesarchiv Sachsen-Anhalt: Z 70, A 17a Nr. 105c, 1–119
  • Erlangen, Universitätsbibliothek: MS B 244 (olim Irm. 1508), 1–60
  • Hamburg, Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek: Cod. alchim. 728
  • Kopenhagen, Det Kongelige Bibliotek: Thott 630 kvart
  • London, British Library: Harley MS 514; 122 fols. [Latin; translated from German; attributed to Paracelsus]

First printed:

  • 1700 (“Von der Magia”, in Gottfried Arnolds Fortsetzung und Erläuterung Oder Dritter und Vierdter Theil der unpartheyischen Kirchen- und Ketzer-Historie (Frankfurt a.M.: Thomas Fritsch, 1700), 158–168)

Historical Manuscript Catalogues: Widemann, Verzeichnisse (Kassel), n° I, 5 / IV, 1; Arpe (1726), 121; Schröer/Roth-Scholtz (1732), 16 add. n° 4; von Linden (1786), 40 n° 265; Linck (1787), 243 n° 5; von Linden (1788), 4 n° 8 & 9, 29 n° 146, 43 n° 293 & 294; Ponickau (1791), col. 1232 n° Quarto 22

III. Bibliography

Essential bibliography: Sudhoff, Paracelsus-Handschriften, 681–682, 798 n° IV/12; CP 2: 625; CP 3: 1087–1088.

Further bibliographical references:

Gottfried Arnold, Unpartheyische Kirchen- und Ketzer-Historie, vol. 2 (part 3/4) (Frankfurt a.M., 1700), 159 (part IV, section II, num. XXII).

Peuckert, Pansophie (1956), 333–337, 338, 479–481.

Peuckert, Gabalia (1967), 397.

Peuckert, Rosenkreutz (1973), 161.

Antonio Rotondò, “Pietro Perna e la vita culturale e religiosa di Basilea fra il 1570 e il 1580,” in Rotondò, Studi e ricerche di storia ereticale italiana del cinquecento (Torino, 1974), 273–392, on 337–391; reprinted in Rotondò, Studi di storia ereticale del Cinquecento (Florence, 2008), 1: 479–576.

Gilly, “Zwischen Erfahrung und Spekulation” (1977), 65–66, 68–69, 73, 88–89; (1979), 185–187.

Hans Schneider, “Johann Arndts Studienzeit,” Jahrbuch der Gesellschaft für niedersächsische Kirchengeschichte, 89 (1991), 133–175, on 150–154; reprinted in Hans Schneider, Der fremde Arndt. Studien zu Leben, Werk und Wirkung Johann Arndts (1555–1621) (Göttingen, 2006), 83–129, on 102–106.

Gilly, Paracelsus in der BPH (1993), 68, 70.

Gilly, “Theophrastia Sancta” (1994), 433 n. 20, 436 n. 26.

Carlos Gilly, “Paracelsus, Hermes, Ficino, and the ‘Picatrix deutsch’”, in Sebastiano Gentile and Carlos Gilly, eds., Marsilio Ficino e il ritorno di Ermete Trismegisto (Florence, 1999), 302–306 n° 63, 306.

Gilly, “Das Bekenntnis zur Gnosis” (2000), 397–399.

Gilly, “Il primo prontuario di magia bianca” (2002).

Gilly, “Vom ägyptischen Hermes zum Trismegistus Germanus” (2010), 72, 82–84.

Beket Bukovinská and Ivo Purš, “Die Tischglocke Rudolfs II.: über ihren Urheber und ihre Bedeutung,” Studia Rudolphina, 10 (2010), 89–104, on 96.

Hereward Tilton, “Bells and Spells: Rosicrucianism and the Invocation of Planetary Spirits in Early Modern Germany,” in Celestial Magic, special issue of Culture and Cosmos, 19 (2015), 167–188, on 178, 179.

Bellingradt and Otto, Magical Manuscripts (2017), 21–22 n. 71 and 72.