Paris, chez la Veuve Abel L’Angelier, 1618.
4to [231 x 165 mm] of (2) ll., 267 pp., some slight browning and foxing. Contemporary limp vellum, remains of ties, flat spine with handwritten title. Contemporary binding.
Very rare first edition of this “sought-after treatise, curious mixture of alchemy, kabbala, mysticism, and where we find the way to make gold” (Caillet, III, 11161).
It may be recalled that we owe to Blaise de Vigenère the discovery of benzoic acid that he names in his treatise “benzoin oil”. He even seems to have had knowledge of oxygen.
Blaise de Vigenère (Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule 1523-1596) is a multifaceted man, best known for his thirty-year diplomatic career and his work as a cryptographer, but who was also interested in history, astronomy and comets, alchemy, etc.
He entered diplomacy when he was only seventeen, and he attended as secretary to the Diète de Worms, at the age of 22. Two years later, he entered the service of the Duke of Nevers. He visited Rome twice, in 1549 and 1566, where he met cryptographers.
Philologist (he re-edited medieval authors like Villehardouin or Jean Chartier), translator of Greek and Latin writers (whose works he accompanies with methodological reflections on translation), he also did the work of an archaeologist and epigraphist.
He participated in the publication by L’Angelier of Chalcondyle’s work on the history of Turkey, and it is to the widow of this publisher-bookseller that we owe the publication of this treatise on alchemy, since it was he who inherited the papers from the former diplomat and who chose to have the manuscript completed in order to issue an edition.
Most of his work, of esoteric inspiration, relates to alchemy (Traité des comètes, 1578 ; Traité du feu et du sel, 1618) and to Kabbalah (Traité des chiffres, 1587).
This is here a posthumous work, the manuscript of which being with the bookseller Abel Langelier since 1599.
Precious copy preserved in its authentic contemporary limp vellum binding.