Tag Archives: alchemy

Episode 75: Robert Olsen and I Meet Again

Robert Olsen and I did an AMA together on reddit’s /r/AskHistorians. The AMA was its own episode (Episode 20). It was great to pick the guy’s brain and just chat alchemy after two years. And yes, this one is 2:40 mins long. We had a ton of fun, but don’t forget there’s a pause button. The AMA itself is here.

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Archimastry (Archimy)

We talk about Archimastry on this podcast episode:

In that episode we attempted to deepen our definition of alchemy by contrasting it with another aspect and definition of alchemy: Archimy.

Different alchemists had different definitions for archimy, but for Giovanni Panteo archimy was the metallurgical aspect of alchemy, while alchemy could be more spagyric or biological.

1530 Panteo published Voarchadumia contra alchemiam ars distincta ab Archemia et Sophia, in which he differed alchemy from Archimie.

Alchemy can not produce real transformations in gold, in contrast to Archimie, which attributes to the biblical Tubal, connects this with the Kabbalah.

Tubal can be a people of Iberia or Iberia and Italy, depending on the sources.

Archimy or Archimastry

Arquemie the word is used in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, to designate a metal or alchemical substance composition, ie a mixture of gold and silver with a lower metal ”
The word Archimastry, appears in the first verse of Chapter I of a work by Thomas Norton in 1477: “Mastrye full merveylous and Archimastrye Is the tincture of holi Alkimi.”

Varchi Benedetto (1502-1565) uses the word as a synonym for alchemy archimie in the archimia If è vera e no questione (1544) – the archimie is a “truly royal science”.

For Pantheus, alchemy provides that golden objects on the surface and appearance, while archimie is the ancient science of biblical character Tubal-Caïn, followed by medieval alchemical authors and Arab latins. This is, for him, a “Cabal of metals,” at the time the Kabbalah, introduced by Pico della Mirandola, raises in the West, a major fascination. Treaties Pantheus are reprinted in 1550 in Paris, and repeated in the great collection of alchemical Theatrum Chemicum. They have interested many alchemists, including John Dee, Michael Maier, Jacques Gohory, Heinrich Khunrath, Oswald Croll and Andreas Libavius

Nineteenth and twentieth century

In 1834, the French Dictionary of Napoleon Landais archimie defines as “art of making gold and silver. The archimie differs from alchemy in that it generally occupies the transmutation of imperfect metals into other more perfect. “The French-English dictionary Porquet in 1844 archimie defines as “the chemical analysis of metals.” Marcelin Berthelot archimiques compiles the work described in papyri or ancient manuscripts.
By the 19th century it became a French word for studying metallurgy.

For Fulcanelli, alchemy is esoteric, exoteric and the archimie is more along the lines of spagyric alchemy (like herbal medicine and the like).
Alchemy is the “hermetic science,” a “spiritual chemistry” which “attempts to enter the mysterious dynamism chairs” to the “transformation” of “natural body.” The archimie continues about one of the goals of alchemy (“the transmutation of metals into each other”), but it uses “only materials and chemical means,” it is confined to the “mineral kingdom”.
Remember Fullcanelli lived in the 1920’s.. so it could be an attempt to give alchemy a 2nd life by separating archimastry from what alchemy had become.

According to Patrick Rivière, the archimie is the art of counterfeit precious metals, especially gold and argent.

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Giovanni Agostino Panteo

Giovanni Panteo (also Joannes Pantheus or Pantaura) really differentiated between Alchemy and Archimy

Giovanni Agostino Panteo also Pantheo, Joannes Pantheus was an Italian alchemist -.and priest of the 16th century in Venice
in 1519 he published the book Ars transmutationis metallicae,both with the permission of the Pope and of the Council ofTen in Venice, and even though the Council had actually forbidden alchemy in 1488 to counteract counterfeiting.
1530 he published Voarchadumia contra alchemiam ars distincta ab Archemia et Sophia, in which he differed alchemy of Archimie. Alchemy can not produce real transformations in gold, in contrast to Archimie, which attributes to the biblical Tubal, he and with the Kabbalah connects him.
Tubal can be a people of Iberia or Iberia and Italy, depending on the sources.

Archimy or Archimastry

See main page on Archimy and Archimastry

For Pantheus, alchemy provides that golden objects on the surface and appearance, while archimie is the ancient science of biblical character Tubal-Caïn, followed by medieval alchemical authors and Arab latins. This is, for him, a “Cabal of metals,” at the time the Kabbalah, introduced by Pico della Mirandola, raises in the West, a major fascination. Treaties Pantheus are reprinted in 1550 in Paris, and repeated in the great collection of alchemical Theatrum Chemicum. They have interested many alchemists, including John Dee, Michael Maier, Jacques Gohory, Heinrich Khunrath, Oswald Croll and Andreas Libavius

Vorarchadumia “Cabbala of Metals”

For Pantheus, alchemy provides that golden objects on the surface and appearance, while archimie is the ancient science of biblical character Tubal-Caïn, followed by medieval alchemical authors and Arab latins. This is, for him, a “Cabal of metals,” at the time the Kabbalah, introduced by Pico della Mirandola, raises in the West, a major fascination. Treaties Pantheus are reprinted in 1550 in Paris, and repeated in the great collection of alchemical Theatrum Chemicum. They have interested many alchemists, including John Dee, Michael Maier, Jacques Gohory, Heinrich Khunrath, Oswald Croll and Andreas Libavius

The word invention Vorarchadumia is by Panteo from the Chaldean for gold and the Hebrew for two formed rubies. In the book, which also includes parts of his book of 1519, he also mentions a recipe for mirror manufacturing and brings besides the Hebrew alphabet, two esoteric alphabets. One is from the Occulta Philosophia (1513) by Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (Transitus Fluvii), the other it leads to Enoch back and influenced a similar construct of John Dee (a copy of the book of Panteo with annotations by Dee from 1559 is . in the British Library)
Both texts were reprinted together in 1550 and also in the Theatrum Chemicum.

So I wanted to further deepen our definition of alchemy, by intruducing the term Archimastry and Archemy.
Also Panteo was such an influence! He came up several times when reading Dee, Fulcanelli, and others. It’s a shame there’s so little out there on his life.

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Cornelis Drebbel

Even in Golden Age of Alchemy, Cornelis Drebbel stands alone as a sort of Ben Franklin or Emmett Brown character.

He created the first submarine, red dye, and was famous for him continuous mobile machines that landed him in the courts of the likes of James I of England and Rudolf II of the Holy Roman Empire.

Our podcast on him:

  1. Life
  2. Move to england
  3. Prague and Rudolf II
  4. Back to optics
  5. Works
  6. Chemistry[edit]
  7. Submarine
  8. Scarlet dye
  9. Engravings
  10. Honors


  • Dutch
  • first navigable submarine in 1620
  • measurement and control systems
  • optics
  • chemistry


Cornelis Jacobszoon Drebbel[1] (1572 – 7 November 1633)

  1. Cornelis Drebbel was born in Alkmaar, Holland in an Anabaptist family.


`He lives according to the laws of Nature and believes in nothing. He would not consider himself insulted by the action or word of another in connection with anything that might be done to him. If any one abuses him, he answers not a word, unless they are right and are decent folk, and he does not excite himself in the very least. He carries no sword, neither in the country nor in town and he would not defend himself, were he attacked, although he is powerful and strongly built.’ 1

  1. After some years at the Latin school in Alkmaar, around 1587,
  2. he attended the Academy in Haarlem, also located in North-Holland.
    1. teachers at the Academy were Hendrick Goltzius, engraver, painter, alchemist and humanist
    2. Cornelis Corneliszoon of Haarlem. — he’s none other than the inventor of the wind-powered saw mill. That’s so dutch.

Same circle as

the famous

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) and the mathematician26

Henry Briggs (1556–1630) (see Chap. 1, p. 13). Then there were

medical men, who were busily making alchemical experiments, such

as Robert Fludd (1574-1637), Raphael Thorius, Joachim Morsius

(1593–1642), the translator and editor of Drebbel’s works


  • 2 – Drebbel’s outward appearance and character

All Drebbel’s contemporaries without, exception agree in

giving a favourable report as to his personal appearance. The secretary of the Duke of Wurtemburg, Wurmsser von Vendenheym writes

in 1609: ‘His Royal Highness went to the park in Eltham to see the

perpetuum mobile. The inventor’s name is Cornelis Drebbel, who

was born in Alkmaar, a very light- haired and handsome man, and of

very gentle manners all together different from such-like characters.’


Constantyn Huygens, informs us that he looked like a Dutch


De Peresc gives us most of the details we possess. According to

his own statement he received them from the Kuffler brothers (about


`He is a man of good understanding, sharp-witted and full of

ideas about great inventions.

Returning to the life of the said Cornelis Drebbel, Kuffler

narrated that as his years increased his inventions also increased. The

latter welled up spontaneously out of his consciousness without benefit from the reading of books, which he always depised, being firmly convinced that the truth and perfection of the sciences lay in the secrets of Nature, in which they are all concealed and it is recalled that he had reached a considerable age before he could understand Latin or speak it, and that he had taught it himself without anybody to teach him. He lives like a philosopher and is interested only in his observations; he despises all the things of this world and also its great men and he will rather greet a poor man than one of worldly position.

Drebbel behaves like a simple and ignorant person. When he is

asked whether he can make this, that or the other thing, he says he

cannot. He only shows his real self to persons he considers intelligent

or to those who desire to become so. For three or four years he has

been smoking tobacco, a thing which he used to hate. He has become

so much the slave of this habit, that he spends whole days and nights

smoking and declares, that they who do not smoke have no sense.

When he meets any one who is a hard smoker he respects and likes

him very much and in such a case he is able to explain his secrets,

whereas otherwise he is very uncomfortable.’ 318

The habit of smoking was introduced into England by Sir

Walter Raleigh.


Drebbel became a skilled engraver on copperplate and also took an interest in alchemy.

In 1595 he married Sophia Jansdochter Goltzius, younger sister of Hendrick, and settled at Alkmaar. They had at least six children of which four survived. Drebbel worked initially as a painter, engraver and cartographer. But he was in constant need of money because of the prodigal lifestyle of his wife.

In 1598 he obtained a patent for a water-supply system and a sort of perpetual clockwork. In 1600, Drebbel was in Middelburg where he built a fountain at the Noorderpoort.

There he met a maker of telescopes and learned to grind lenses for optics.

with the construction of a magic lantern and a camera obscura –both sort of projectors.

Move to england

Around 1604 the Drebbel family moved to England, probably at the invitation of the new king, James I of England (VI of Scotland). He was accommodated at Eltham Palace. Drebbel worked there at the masques, that were performed by and for the court. He was attached to the court of young Renaissance crown-prince Henry.[2] He astonished the court with his inventions (a perpetuum mobile, automatic and hydraulkic organs) and his optical instruments.

the Duke of Wurtemburg came to see him at work at Eltham, where his instruments were set up while

Prague and Rudolf II

His fame circulated through the courts of Europe. In October1610 Drebbel and his family moved to Prague on invitation of Emperor Rudolf II, (see our podcast on that)

Here again Drebbel demonstrated his inventions.

Bad timing though:

When in 1611 Rudolf II was stripped of all effective power by his younger brother Archduke Matthias, Drebbel was imprisoned for about a year. After Rudolf’s death in 1612, Drebbel was set free and went back to London.

Prague 18th of Oct 1610 Guglio de Medici, wrote a letter to

Galilei, in which he informs him, that a Fleming has come to Prague, who is able to construct a perpetuum mobile.


Originally he only was supposed to stay in Prague for 6 months. But Rudolf II kept him there until his death.


in prague to

alchemy and to the making of gold alloys for the German mint.


Archduke Matthias may have almost put him to death after rudolf died. but was saved when someone told him “you’re about to kill the greatest man in the world”

who had invented that glass bulb (perpetuum mobile),

which he showed him, and had designed the fountain below.


The Archduke ordered Drebbel to be set free and granted an amnesty;

and when this had been done, he profered apologies for the bad

treatment he had received because he was not known, but said that if

he would be willing to render to him the service he had rendered to

the Emperor and to complete, what he had begun, he would double

the reward the Emperor had promised him. Drebbel answered that

he very much appreciated his offer to take him into service but that

he was in the service of the king of England, without whose order he

could undertake nothing, and who had asked him, when he left him,

to let him know whether he agreed to remain in his service.

The Archduke Matthew then sent an express messenger to England; but

meanwhile Drebble sent a request to the king, begging him not to

give permission for him to stay longer, but to say that on the

contrary, he was commanded to return, for he was too badly treated

here to allow himself to be longer detained. When all this had been

done by the king of England, this king promised the Archduke to

send him back within one or two years to finish for him that which

he had begun. This little trick caused the Archduke to send him back

to England in a fine carriage with a gift of two thousand thalers.’ 5

Official records show that the above mentioned sum was in

reality six hundred thalers.


According to Svatek and

Gindley, two Bohemian historians, Drebbel was mixed up in a case

of embezzlement of money and jewels belonging to the Museum and

Treasury of Prague.


This crime was perpetrated by a gentleman in

waiting named Rucky. Soon after the death of Rudolf II this Rucky

was imprisoned and with him a number of others, among whom was

Cornelis Drebbel.

10 Rucky commited suicide. Svatek and Gindley do

not know what became of the others.

Unfortunately his patron prince Henry had also died and Drebbel was in financial trouble.

Back to optics

He manufactured with his glass-grinding machine optical instruments and compound microscopes with two convex lenses for which there was a constant demand.

In 1622 Constantijn Huyghens stayed as a diplomat for more than one year in England. It have been Cornelis that tought Constantijn Huyghens the art of glass grinding. That’s kind of a big deal because Constantijn later tought his son, the famous scientist and mathematitian Christiaan Huygens,

The English natural philosopher Robert Hooke may have learned the art of glass grinding from his acquaintance Johannes Sibertus Kuffler, the son-in-law of DrebbeL [3]

Towards the end of his life, in 1633, Drebbel was involved in a plan to drain the Fens around Cambridge, (also very dutch: water!!! drain it!!!)

At this point he was pretty poor running an ale house in England. He died in London.

After this difference of opinion between himself and the

Admiralty concerning the value of his inventions, Drebbel was

obliged to devote himself to other work in order to obtain a living.

From the Rawlinson Manuscript we learn that he became a brewer

and innkeeper.

`He was very poore, and in his later time kept an Ale-house

below the [London] bridge. He had an invention of going under

water which he used so advantageously, that many persons were 13

perswaded that he was some strange Monstar, and that means drew

many to see him and drink of his ale.’ 1

A part of the collection `for the understanding of brewing,

baking, making of cider and meade, ordering and preserving all sorts

of wines, cooking,’ preserved in the Cambridge MS. (see Chap. III, p.

35) probably dates from this time.

Drebbel perhaps acquired a part of his knowledge of these

matters from his brother-in-law, the brewer, Jacob Goltzius, during

the time that he still lived in Holland.


In keeping with traditional Mennonite practice, Drebbel’s estate was split between his four living children at the time of his death.


He was sort of a Nikola Tesla, or Emmit Brown of his time.

In some ways it’s hard to compare him to others in the 17th century!

and whose inventions were worked out later by others, especially after the foundation of the Royal Society of London.


he was a brilliant empiric researcher and innovator. Drebbel’s constructions and innovations cover in particular

  • measurement and control technology,

the royal society was later interested in his ovens and furnaces, we’ll get back to that in a second.

  • pneumatics,
  • optics,
  • chemistry,
  • hydraulics
  • and pyrotechnics.

With Staten General he registered several patents.

Measurement- and control technology/pneumatics’: Famous for his perpetual motion machine

builds and navigates with a submarine.

Builds an incubator for eggs and

a portable stove/oven with an optimal use of fuel, able to keep the heat on a constant temperature by means of a regulator/thermostat.

Designs a solar energy system for London (perpetual fire), demonstrates air-conditioning, let it rain, makes lightning and thunder ‘on command’, develops fountains, fresh water supply for the city of Middelburg. Involved in the draining of the moors around Cambridge (the Fens). Develops predecessors of the barometer and thermometer, the “Drebbeliaensch instrument”, harpsichords that play on solar energy.

but a patent granted him in 1598 for a pump and a clock with ‘a perpetual motion,’ shows us, that he very soon began his career of inventor.


From this description we learn, that the regulation of

temperature in this furnace was based on the same principle as that

on which Drebbel’s perpetuum mobile must have been constructed.

When the fire began to burn quicker, the ashes got warmer, the air in

the retort expanded and pushed the quicksilver further up into the

neck of the retort, whereby a damper, to which a spring was attached

closed down on the surface of the quicksilver, so that as a result less

air was admitted than before and the temperature of the fire and the

ashes were once more reduced.



Optics: Develops an automatic precision lens-grinding machine, builds improved telescopes, constructs the first microscope (‘lunette de Dreubells’), camera obscura, laterna magica, manufactures Dutch or Batavian tears

Maybe created the first  to

construct a composite microscope consisting of two convex lenses.

Chemistry: Develops an innovative way to improve and produce scarlet red dye, establishes a dye works in Stratford-at-Bow-on-Lea. Develops a methodology to re-gain silver ore. Makes –probably- oxygen for his submarine.

Hydraulics: Makes theater props, moving statues. Is involved in plans to build a new theater in London

Pyrotechnics: produces torpedo’s and seamines and a detonator with Batavian tears, uses fulminating mercury –aurum fulminarum- as an explosive.

In 1619 Drebbel designed and built telescopes and microscopes and was, with Gerbier, involved in a building project for the Duke of Buckingham. William Boreel, the Dutch Ambassador to England, mentions the microscope that was developed by Drebbel.[6] Drebbel became famous for his invention in 1621 of a microscope with two convex lenses. Several authors, including Christiaan Huygens assign the invention of the compound microscope to Drebbel. However, a Neapolitan, named Fontana, claimed the discovery for himself in 1618.[7] Other sources attribute the invention of the compound microscope directly to Hans Jansen and his son Zacharias around 1595.[8] In 1624 Galileo sent a Drebbel-type microscope to Federico Cesi (1585–1630), a wealthy noble man in Rome who used it to illustrate Apiarum, his book about bees.[9]


Drebbel’s most famous written work was Een kort Tractaet van de Natuere der Elementen[10] (A short treatise of the nature of the elements) (Haarlem, 1621). He was also involved in the invention of mercury fulminate.[11] He had found out that mixtures of “spiritus vini” with mercury and silver in “aqua fortis” could explode.[12]

Drebbel also invented a chicken incubator and a mercury thermostat that automatically kept it at a constant temperature.[13]This is one of the first recorded feedback-controlled devices. He also developed and demonstrated a working air conditioning system. The invention of a working thermometer is also ascribed to Drebbel

Credit must be given to Drebbel for making a contribution to

the science of explosives and kindred subjects and their development.

First of all, he made use of the knowledge of pyrotechnics,

which he possessed as an alchemist, in connection with the many

entertainments given at the court of James I and Prince Henry.


He also built the first navigable submarine in 1620 while working for the English Royal Navy.[15][16] Using William Bourne’s design from 1578, he manufactured a steerable submarine with a leather-covered wooden frame. Between 1620 and 1624 Drebbel successfully built and tested two more submarines, each one bigger than the last. The final (third) model had 6 oars and could carry 16 passengers. This model was demonstrated to King James I in person and several thousand Londoners. The submarine stayed submerged for three hours and could travel fromWestminster to Greenwich and back, cruising at a depth of from 12 to 15 feet (4 to 5 metres). Drebbel even took James in this submarine on a test dive beneath the Thames, making James I the first monarch to travel underwater.[17] but it couldn’t attract enough enthusiasm from the Admiralty and was never used in combat.

After successfully demonstrating his submarine on the Thames,

Drebbel found his services gradually more and more requisitioned

for the English navy, it being clear to the authorities how useful his

invention would be in time of war.

Also his skill in the contructing of ‘watermines’ and ‘waterpetards’ made him valuable to the Admiralty.

More recently it has been suggested that the contemporary accounts of the craft contained significant elements of exaggeration and it was at most a semi-submersible which was able to travel down the Thames by the force of the current

Faber, a German savant

living in Italy (1625).

`Persons who have sailed under the sea in that ship, invented

by the remarkable genius of the Dutchman, Cornelis Dreb-60

bel and constructed in London, England — where it may be seen

even today — have sworn to me solemnly, that while a storm was

raging on the surface, deep down in the sea they experienced not the

slightest difficulty. The ship carries 24 people, eight of whom row,

while the rest remain in their little cubicles; for 24 hours they suffer

from no lack of air and live contentedly on that which is locked in

the little vessel; after this period of time has elapsed, they go up to

the surf ace of the sea, and when the cover of the boat has been

unbolted and left open for a short time, they take in fresh air, upon

which they are able, after putting the lid on the ship again, to dive

down as deep into the water as the captain wishes to do — even to

the depth of fifty fathoms, should he so desire. And what will

surprise you still more — they steer by the compass and know where

they are and they move the ship with the greatest ease by means of

oars. But what almost passes belief is this: that that part of the ship

where the rowers sit has no bottom, so that the water is visible all the

time to these rowers, who are nevertheless not in the very least

afraid, as sitting on their seats a little above the water, they never

touch it with their feet.

Constantyn Huygens writes in his autobiography (1631) :

`Worth all the rest put together is the little ship, in which he

calmly dived under the water, while he kept the king and several

thousand Londoners in the greatest suspense. The great majority of

these already thought that the man who had very cleverly remained

invisible to them – for three hours, as rumour has it – had perished,

when he suddenly rose to the surface a considerable distance from

where he had dived down, bringing with him the several companions

of his dangerous adventure to witness to the fact that they had

experienced no trouble or fear under the water, but had sat on the

bottom, when they so desired, and had ascended when they wished to

do so; that they had sailed whithersoever they had a mind, rising as

much nearer the surface or again diving as much deeper as it pleased

them to do, without even being deprived of light; yea, even that they

had done in the belly of that whale all the things people are used 61

to do in the air, and this without any trouble. From all this it is not

hard to imagine what would be the usefulness of this bold invention

in time of war, if in this manner (a thing which I have repeatedly

heard Drebbel assert) enemy ships lying safely at anchor could be

secretly attacked and sunk unexpectedly by means of a battering ram

— an instrument of which hideous use is made now- a-days in the

capturing of the gates and bridges of towns.’


In 1645 we find Cornelis van der Woude of Alkmaar telling the

following story:

`He made a ship, with which one could row under water and sail

from Westminster to Greenwich — a distance of two Dutch miles.

Yes, even five or six miles, as far as one wished; and in the ship it is

possible to see without a candle and to read the Bible or any other

book; which ship was to be seen lying in the Thames — London’s

river — until a few years ago.’


Drebbel determined the depth to which his boat had descended

by means of a quicksilver barometer


Tymme writes in 1612 in his little work on perpetual motion

that the bulb of the perpetuum mobile was filled with ‘a fierie spirit

extracted out of a mineral matter.’ 2

This expression suggests the preparation

of oxygen from saltpetre.


Kepler also heard and wrote of this in 1607:

‘If he can create a new spirit, by means of which he can move

and keep in motion his instrument without weights or propelling

power, he will be Apollo in my opinion.’


Robert Boyle (1627- 1691),

that it is not the

whole body of the air, but a certain quintessence (as Chymists speak)

or spirituous part of it, that makes it fit for respiration; which being

spent, the remaining grosser body or carcase, if I may so call it, of

the air, is unable to cherish the vital flame residing in the heart; so

that for aught I could gather, besides the mechanical contrivance of

his vessel, he had a chymical liquor, which he accounted the chief

secret of his submarine navigation. For when, from time to time, he

perceived that the finer and purer part of the air was consumed, or

over-clogged by the respiration and steams of those that went in his

ship, he would by unstopping a vessel full of his liquor, speedily

restore the troubled air such a proportion of vital parts, as would

make it again, for a good while, fit for respiration, whether by

dissipating, or precipitating 67

the grosser exhalations, or by some other intelligible way,

…having made it my business to learn,

what this strange liquor might be, they constantly affirmed me, that

Drebell would never disclose the liquor to any, nor so much as tell

the matter wherof he made it, to above one person, who himself

assured me, what it was.


In the minutes of the Royal Society we find the following

dated May 6th, 1669:

`Mr Daniel Coxe mentioned, that Cornelius Drebbel pretended

to have a certain liquor, to supply the want of fresh air in the boat,

which he had made to go under water with;


Scarlet dye

The story goes that, while making a coloured liquid for a thermometer Cornelis dropped a flask of Aqua regia on a tin window sill, and discovered that stannous chloride makes the colour of carmine much brighter and more durable. Although Cornelis did not make much money from his work, his daughters Anna and Catharina and his sons-in-law Abraham and Johannes Sibertus Kuffler set up a very successful dye works. One was set up in 1643 inBow, London, and the resulting colour was called bow dye.[20] The recipe for “colour Kufflerianus” was kept a family secret, and the new bright red colour was very popular in Europe.


But remember he was also an engraver: Drebbel wrote some interesting essays about his experiments with air pressure. He made beautiful engravings; the subject was The Seven Liberal Arts on a map of the city of Alkmaar.







  • A small lunar crater has been named after him.
  • Cornelis Drebbel has been honoured on postage stamps issued by the postal services of both Mali and the Netherlands in 2010.[23]

A portrayal of Cornelis Drebbel and his submarine can be briefly seen in the film The Four Musketeers (1974). A small leatherclad submersible surfaces off the coast of England, and the top opens clamshell-wise revealing Cornelis Drebbel and the Duke of Buckingham.

Drebbel was honoured in an episode of the cartoon Sealab 2021 during a submarine rescue of workers on a research station in the Arctic. A German U-boat captain fired a pistol in celebration at the mention of Drebbel, to shouts of, “Sieg Heil! Cornelis Drebbel!” Also, on the Sealab 2021 Season 3 DVD, Cornelis Drebbel has two DVD commentaries devoted to the story of his life.

In the Dutch Eighty Years’ War comic Gilles de Geus, Drebbel is a supporting character to the warhero Gilles. He is drawn as a crazy inventor, similar to Q in the James Bond series. His submarine plays a role in the comic.

Richard SantaColoma has speculated that the Voynich Manuscript may be connected to Drebbel, initially suggesting it was Drebbel’s cipher notebook on microscopy and alchemy, and then later hypothesising it is a fictional “tie in” to Francis Bacon’s utopian novel New Atlantis in which some Drebbel-related items (submarine, perpetual clock) are said to appear.


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Christina of Sweden

Christina of Sweden converted to Catholicism and turned to alchemy.

Christina (Swedish: Kristina Augusta; 18 December [O.S. 8 December] 1626 – 19 April 1689), later adopted the name Christina Alexandra, was Queen regnant of Sweden from 1633 to 1654, She used the titles of

  • Queen of Swedes, Goths, and Vandals,
  • Grand Princess of Finland, and
  • Duchess of Ingria, Estonia, Livonia and Karelia.

She was the only surviving legitimate child of King Gustav II Adolph and his wife Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg. As the heiress presumptive, at the age of six she succeeded her father on the throne of Sweden upon his death at the Battle of Lützen. Being the daughter of a Protestant champion in the Thirty Years’ War, she caused a scandal when she abdicated her throne and converted to Roman Catholicism in 1654.

She spent her later years in Rome, becoming a leader of the theatrical and musical life there. As a queen without a country, she protected many artists and projects.

She is one of the few women buried in the Vatican grotto. Christina was known for being moody, intelligent, and interested in books and manuscripts, religion, alchemy, and science.

She wanted Stockholm to become the Athens of the North. Influenced by the Counter Reformation, she was increasingly attracted to the Baroque and Mediterranean culture that took her away from her Protestant country. Her unconventional lifestyle and masculine dressing and behaviour would feature in countless novels and plays, and in opera and film.

Queen Christina’s practise in alchemy preoccupied her for most of her adult life. Her interest in alchemy also has some intriguing Rosicrucian connections. The original Rosicrucians pamphlets of 1614 spread high expectations for a new age and a universal reformation of the arts and were circulated among radical Paracelsians in Northern Europe.

The Rosicrucian elements that were to surface in Italy, however, appear to have grown out of a purely alchemical interest where the transmutational operations promised a future restoration of the “golden age” and was best expressed in poetry.

While the royal antiquarian in Stockholm, Johannes Bureus, dedicated Christina a manuscript copy of his speculations on the mystical origin of the Runes, his Adulruna Rediviva, in 1643 and a copy of his apocalyptic work, the Roar of the Northern Lion, in 1644, it is not known whether he showed her his reply to the Rosicrucian Fama, his Fama e Scanzia Redux of 1616. Perhaps influenced by spiritual readings, Christina wanted to institute an Order of Immanuel in 1646, but her advisor Johann Adler Salvius said it would be regarded as child’s play and the idea never materialized.

Instead she instituted the Order of the Amaranthe in 1653 with its emblem of an ever green garland signifying immortal life. The amaranth leaves were known by the Greeks to grow in Colchis beyond the Black Sea. She conferred the Order on her Spanish aids who helped her prepare her conversion to Catholicism after her abdication in 1654. She left Sweden and settled in Rome as the convert of the age.

Prior to that that, however, Christina had been approached by the alchemist Johannes Franck, who described her future reign as the fulfillment of Paracelsus’ prophecy of a return of Helias Artista and of Sendivogius’ vision of the the rise of a metallic monarchy of the North. With these visions in store Franck urged on the Queen to start searching for the ruby red powder of the philosophers. He expressed these hopes in the tract that he offered her: Colloquium philosophcum cum diis montanis (Upsala 1651). A year later, in 1652, Christina was offered a text described as “magia cabalistica”, by the Hermetic engraver Michel Le Blon, thus mediating the offer of Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel.

Le Blon culled a copy of Jacob Boehme’s “little prayer book” from the Behmenist and mystic Abraham van Franckenberg and proceeded to translate it into French while in Stockholm in 1653. Christina was now turning towards Catholicism, but it is possible that she heard of the translation project from Le Blon, who acted as her art curator. At about this time she induced the Greek specialist Johannes Schefferus to write a history of the Pythagoreans, which was published in Sweden a decade later as De natura et constitutione philosophiae Italicae seu pythagoricae (Upsala, 1664). Christina’s preference for Greek manuscripts was critizised by Descartes when he visited Stockholm in 1650. Christina said in reply that she thought his ideas were already formulated by the sceptic Sextus Empiricus and by St. Augustine. snap She also read a copy of Iamblichus’ De mysteriis aegyptiaca, a text that uses Platonic and Hermetic sources in its descriptions of theurgy and divination, methods of coming into contact with gods and demons.

Christina’s murder of Monaldescho at Fontainebleau.

Monaldescho had betrayed the Queen’s French supported plan to again rise to power by a surprise attack on the Spanish rule in Naples.

In 1656, as Mino Gabriele points out, one S. Francesco Melosio performed some verse on la Bugia (the candlelight) in Christina’s Academy with phrases like “la Bugia su l’argento e vera alchimia” (Ms. Barb. Lat. 3885 ff. 85r-88r). Christina thus almost certainly came into contact with poets and alchemists who had taken part of the Rosicrucian expectations. She also came to know some aspects of alchemy and were to collect and practise it. There is a drawing with comments in her own hand that shows some alchemical destillation equipment. Christina also owned some forty alchemical manuscripts by the foremost medieval authors, as well as practical handbooks. They included works by Geber, Johan Scotus, Arnold de Villa Nova, Raimund Lull, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, Bernard Trevisano, George Ripley, (who wev’e all talked about already) George Anrach d’Argentine, Johan Grasshof and a Rosarium Philosophorum – with its alchemical imagery of merging the solar-King and the lunar-Queen into a hermaphroditic union. …she would have been a fan of this show! There is also the Porta Magica raised in 1680 in the Roman garden of Palombara which carries a portal stone with an emblem from Henricus Madathanus’ alchemical allegory Aureum Seculum Redivivum of 1621. It consists of a cross above a circle in which is inscribed a hexagram with the text “centrum in trigono centri”. Mino Gabriele draws attention to the geometrical construction and shows that it is similar to that of the 21st emblem of Michael Maier’s Atalanta Fugiens (Frankfurt 1617) where a man with a pair of compasses is in the process of constructing a hexagram by drawing a triangle within a larger circle while at its base a square is placed within a smaller circle. Palombara’s door is flanked by alchemical insignia and various Latin device describe the alchemical process. The seven signs are taken from Johannes de Monte-Snyder, Commentatio de Pharmaco Catholico (Amsterdam 1666 ) and are in sequence: Saturn-lead, Jupiter-tin, Mars-iron, Venus-bronze, Mercury, Antinomy and Vitriol. The door still stands to be seen on Piazza Vittorio Emanuele in Rome. A legend circulates saying that the door was raised as a commemoration of a successfull transmutation that took place in Christina’s chambers. This version of events was first told in 1804 in an Italian description of Rome in which it is said that northern youth, a “giovane ultramontane,” came to Christina’s court and produced some scraps of gold, but that he then disappeared. After her death she was elected symbolical head, “Basilissa,” of the poets forming the Academia Arcadia, thus continuing her own series of academies held in her palace.

The Porta Magica is topped with the Hebrew inscription Ruach Elohim or the Spirit of the Lord and around the emblem is the text: TRIA SUNT MIRABILIA DEUS ET HOMO MATER ET VIRGO TRINUS ET UNUS.

In another plate, now lost, was the device 1680 (Passing by opening the door of the villa, Iason obtained the rich fleece of Medea 1680).

Also on the Porta there is an inscription alluding to the travels of the Argonauts:

(The hesperian dragon guards the opening of the the magical garden and without Hercules Iason would not have tasted the delicasies of Colchis).

From left to right the inscriptions state

(When in your house black ravens will give birth to white doves, then you are going to be called wise).

(The diameter of the sphere, the tau of the circle, the cross of the globe, are of no use to the world).

(He who knows how to burn with water and wash with fire makes out of the earth heaven and out of the heaven precious earth).

(If you will throw the earth over your head with its hair you will convert into stone the torrents of water).

(When azoth and fire whitens Latona, Diana will come without clothes).

(Our dead son lives, the king turns from the fire and takes pleasure in the occult conjunction).

(It is the occult work of the true sapients to open the earth in order to generate salvation for the people). On the threshold there is the short line which can be read both ways:

(If you sit you cannot go, if you don’t sit go).

In the same year, 1680, a tract was published at Ulm by Johannes de Monte Hermetis with the title: Explicatio Centri in Trigono Centri per Somnium – Das ist: Erläuterung dess Hermetischen Güldenen Fluss. The text contains five parts, first an Aenigma Cabalisticum, then the explicatio centri in trigono centri and then two alchemical commentaries on the operations in the Opus Philosophicum written by “dem Löwen dess Rothen Creutzes”. Last was a text on astronomical medicine, on how to cure illness through the mediation of the stars. The explicatio describes the merging of the upward and downward triangles representing philosophical fire and philosophical water and is contemporary with the raising of the Porta Magica

There is no evidence to determine exactly when Christina started with alchemy, but her involvement tended to increase toward the end of her life.

In the summer of 1667 in Hamburg, Christina experimented with the messianic prophet and alchemist Giuseppe Francesco Borri, but Cardinal Azzolino wrote her that she had to distance herself from Borri because he was searched by the inquisition.

Christina at this time also corresponded with another alchemist, Johan Rudolf Glauber. She also took interest in the phosphorus discovered by Hennig Brandt.

In her collecion of spiritual medieval manuscripts, counting to over 2000 items, are included texts by Joachim di Fiore and Campanella. Also on the list is a copy of the Hermetic Asclepius. Her collection includes Trithemius’Steganographia (Ms. Reg. Lat. 1344) and John Dee’s Monas Hieroglyphica (Ms. Reg. Lat. 1266). She also owned parts of a Picatrix and a Latin version of the Sefer-ha-Raziel (Ms. Reg. Lat. 1300), a book of angelic magic.

Her collection of printed books counted to several thousand items and included Paracelsus’ works, alchemical works of Johannes Theurneisser and Andreas Libavius . In 1655, she gave a large collection of alchemical manuscripts from Prague to her librarian Isaac Vossius. These were once owned by Rudolph II and are written in the German, Czech and Latin languages, a collection which now resides as the Codices Vossiani Chymici at the University of Leiden.

Christina’s books are listed in a document now in the Bodleian library, Oxford. It is prefaced by a drawing of a rose in full bloom with the text “Erst einen Knop danach einen Rosen.” The corresponding list in the Vatican (Ms. Vat. Lat. 8171) carries a Bible, drawn by the same hand, with a bee and a spider with the text “Mel ibit tibi fel”, i. e. the honey will go to your bitterness – emblems that combined remind us of Robert Fludd’s bee-adorned rose and cob-web of the Summum Bonum, but that perhaps may indicate a more mainstream mysticism. Christina was very eager to know more of alchemy and brought in a younger woman called Sibylla into the experiments. She also employed a working alchemist, Pietro Antonio Bandiera, to run her laboratory and finally testamented him the equipment. An alchemical tract was dedicated to her by Giovanni Batista Comastri, the Specchio della Verita (Venice, 1683). There is a document in her own hand, entitled “Il laboratorio filosofico – paradossi chimici,” but it appears to be notes from a text with the same title. The last text that Christina read, found by her deathbed in 1689, was a letter on the universal medicine, the alkahest, by Samuel Forberger. She clearly was a very forceful woman. She claimed that her mind was entirely masculine and that she lacked what she saw as the normal faults of womanhood. This belief was to materialize in her ardent hope for a real transmutation. In her collection of papers that she testamented to Cardinal Azzolino, now in Riksarkivet, Stockholm, there is an Italian text on which Chrisina has written that it was given to her in April 1682. In it, Christina’s abdication and travel to Rome is first described.

Suddenly, in one sentence, it is said “la natura perfettera l’opera” and instead a strong youth by name Alexander appears. The text goes on to tell of Alexander’s future travel to Constantinople to convert the Turks. Since she as ex-Queen took the name Christina Alexandra in Rome, it appears that the prophecy with its wonderful metamorphosis spoke to Christina’s inner dreams of perfecting herself.

You could read this in the Aristotelian view of women as undeveloped men had a role to play, but also the alchemical vision of polarities and ultimate perfection.

Yet, we may have some doubts of her expertise. In a letter to Azzolino in Hamburg in March 1667 she writes of the report of a successful transmutation performed by a Dutch peasant. The learned doctor Helvetius, who formerly had been sceptical towards alchemy was present and now guaranteed its fulfillment. Christina adds that with one grain of the projection powder one is able to convert “500 livres” of lead, that is 250 kg, into 24 carats of gold. This is far out of proportion as the tradition teaches us that the real weights is perhaps one grain to 15 g of gold. She does not say that the result was obtained through a multiplication process. Maybe she grew to learn more, especially after meeting Borri and after setting up her own laboratory in Rome. Christina knew something of alchemy, we may infer, and we may rest with one of her maxims where she says: “la Chimie est une belle science. Elle est l’anatomie de la nature et la veritable clef qui ouvre tous les tresors. Elle donne la richesse, la santé, la gloire et la veritable sagesse a son posseseur.” She added that while alchemy had recently been degraded by charlatans, it remained as the royal science. True to her Platonic ideals she had medals made as a gift to her visitors. It carried a shining sun on one side and with the text on the other: “Nec falso, nec alieno – with neither false nor borrowed /light/.” This was how she liked to present herself : i. e. as a philsopher-Queen.

The philosophy involved was not the modern rationalism of Descartes but the age-old philosophia perennis and the theory of alchemical transmutation.

Christina had asked for a simple burial, but the pope insisted on her being displayed on a lit de parade for four days in the Riario Palace. She was embalmed, covered with white brocade, a silver mask, a gilt crown and scepter. “The Queen wore a thin mantle, decorated with hundreds of crowns and fur bordered with ermine, under this a splendid garment in two pieces, thin gloves and drawers of knitted silk and a pair of elegant textile bootees”. In similar fashion to the popes, her body was placed in three coffins – one of cypress, one of lead and finally one made of oak. The funeral procession led from Santa Maria in Vallicella to St. Peter’s Basilica, where she was buried within the Grotte Vaticane – only one of three women ever given this honour. Her intestines were placed in a high urn. From 2005 to 2011 (when his grave was moved), her marble sarcophagus was positioned next to that of Pope John Paul II.

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Count of St. Germain

So many fantastic stories of the Count of St. Germain. Who was he and how long did he live? Even folks like Voltaire and Casanova had something to say about this man that travelled in royal circles around Europe. This was a listener request.

Here’s our podcast on him:

Count of St. Germain

Unfortunately we will only scratch the surface of the Count of St. Germain because there’s just so much out there.

The Comte de Saint Germain (1712? – 1784) was a European courtier, with an interest in science and the arts. He achieved prominence in European high society of the mid-1700s. In order to deflect inquiries as to his origins, he would invent fantasies, such as that he was 500 years old, leading Voltaire to sarcastically dub him “The Wonderman”.

Not just Voltaire, but also Casanova chymed in.

His birth and background are obscure, but towards the end of his life he claimed that he was a son of Prince Francis II Rákóczi of Transylvania. His name has occasionally caused him to be confused with Claude Louis, Comte de Saint-Germain, a noted French general


The Count claimed to be a son of Francis II Rákóczi, the Prince of Transylvania, possibly legitimate, possibly by Duchess Violante Beatrice of Bavaria. This would account for his wealth and fine education. It also explains why kings would accept him as one of their own. The will of Francis II Rákóczi mentions his eldest son, Leopold George, who was believed to have died at the age of four. The speculation is that his identity was safeguarded as a protective measure from the persecutions against the Hapsburg dynasty.

He was educated in Italy by the last of Medicis, Gian Gastone, his mother’s brother-in-law. It is believed that he was a student at the University of Siena

could make himself invisible, knew the secret of eternal life, and could speak all languages. He said he’d known Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

Another quote:

My cousin the Landgraf Karl von Hessen is much attached to him; they are eager Freemasons, and work together at all sorts of hidden arts. . . . He  is supposed to have intercourse with ghosts and supernatural beings, who appear at his call.”

Historical figure

He appears to have begun to be known under the title of the Count of St Germain during the early 1740s.

Some theories of who he is descended from:

  1. The widow of Charles II. (King of Spain)–the father a Madrid banker.
  2. A Portuguese Jew.
  3. An Alsatian Jew.
  4. A tax-gatherer in Rotondo.
  5. King of Portugal (natural son).
  6. Franz-Leopold, Prince Ragoczy, of Transylvania. (my money’s on this one if I had to pick)


According to David Hunter, the Count contributed some of the songs to L’incostanza delusa, an opera performed at the Haymarket Theatre in London on all but one of the Saturdays from the 9th of February to the 20th of April 1745. Later, in a letter of December of that same year, Horace Walpole mentions the Count St. Germain as being arrested in London on suspicion of espionage (this was during the Jacobite rebellion) but released without charge:

The other day they seized an odd man, who goes by the name of Count St. Germain. He has been here these two years, and will not tell who he is, or whence, but professes [two wonderful things, the first] that he does not go by his right name; [and the second that he never had any dealings with any woman – nay, nor with any succedaneum (this was censored by Walpole’s editors until 1954)] He sings, plays on the violin wonderfully, composes, is mad, and not very sensible. He is called an Italian, a Spaniard, a Pole; a somebody that married a great fortune in Mexico, and ran away with her jewels to Constantinople; a priest, a fiddler, a vast nobleman. The Prince of Wales has had unsatiated curiosity about him, but in vain. However, nothing has been made out against him; he is released; and, what convinces me that he is not a gentleman, stays here, and talks of his being taken up for a spy.

The Count gave two private musical performances in London in April and May 1749. On one such occasion, Lady Jemima Yorke described how she was ‘very much entertain’d by him or at him the whole Time- I mean the Oddness of his Manner which it is impossible not to laugh at, otherwise you know he is very sensible & well-bred in conversation’. She continued:

‘He is an Odd Creature, and the more I see him the more curious I am to know something about him. He is everything with everybody: he talks Ingeniously with Mr Wray, Philosophy with Lord Willoughby, and is gallant with Miss Yorke, Miss Carpenter, and all the Young Ladies. But the Character and Philosopher is what he seems to pretend to, and to be a good deal conceited of: the Others are put on to comply with Les Manieres du Monde, but that you are to suppose his real characteristic; and I can’t but fancy he is a great Pretender in All kinds of Science, as well as that he really has acquired an uncommon Share in some’.

Walpole reports that St Germain:

‘spoke Italian and French with the greatest facility, though it was evident that neither was his language; he understood Polish, and soon learnt to understand English and talk it a little […] But Spanish or Portuguese seemed his natural language’.

Walpole concludes that the Count was

‘a man of Quality who had been in or designed for the Church. He was too great a musician not to have been famous if he had not been a gentleman’. Walpole describes the Count as pale, with ‘extremely black’ hair and a beard. ‘He dressed magnificently, [and] had several jewels’ and was clearly receiving ‘large remittances, but made no other figure’.


St Germain appeared in the French court in around 1748. In 1749 he was employed by Louis XV for diplomatic missions.

A mime and English comedian known as Mi’Lord Gower impersonated St-Germain in Paris salons. His stories were wilder than the real Count’s — he had advised Jesus, for example. Inevitably, hearsay of his routine got confused with the original.

Giacomo Casanova describes in his memoirs several meetings with the “celebrated and learned impostor”. Of his first meeting, in Paris in 1757, he writes:

The most enjoyable dinner I had was with Madame de Robert Gergi, who came with the famous adventurer, known by the name of the Count de St. Germain. This individual, instead of eating, talked from the beginning of the meal to the end, and I followed his example in one respect as I did not eat, but listened to him with the greatest attention. It may safely be said that as a conversationalist he was unequalled.

St. Germain gave himself out for a marvel and always aimed at exciting amazement, which he often succeeded in doing. He was scholar, linguist, musician, and chemist, good-looking, and a perfect ladies’ man. For awhile he gave them paints and cosmetics; he flattered them, not that he would make them young again (which he modestly confessed was beyond him) but that their beauty would be preserved by means of a wash which, he said, cost him a lot of money, but which he gave away freely.

He had contrived to gain the favour of Madame de Pompadour, who had spoken about him to the king, for whom he had made a laboratory, in which the monarch — a martyr to boredom — tried to find a little pleasure or distraction, at all events, by making dyes. The king had given him a suite of rooms at Chambord, and a hundred thousand francs for the construction of a laboratory, and according to St. Germain the dyes discovered by the king would have a materially beneficial influence on the quality of French fabrics.

This extraordinary man, intended by nature to be the king of impostors and quacks, would say in an easy, assured manner that he was three hundred years old, that he knew the secret of the Universal Medicine, that he possessed a mastery over nature, that he could melt diamonds, professing himself capable of forming, out of ten or twelve small diamonds, one large one of the finest water without any loss of weight. All this, he said, was a mere trifle to him. Notwithstanding his boastings, his bare-faced lies, and his manifold eccentricities, I cannot say I thought him offensive. In spite of my knowledge of what he was and in spite of my own feelings, I thought him an astonishing man as he was always astonishing me.

Another quote.. more of a story:

“The old Countess v. Georgy who fifty years earlier had accompanied her husband to Venice where he had the appointment of ambassador, lately met St. Germain at Mme. de Pompadour’s. For some time she watched the stranger with signs of the greatest surprise, in which was mixed not a little fear. Finally, unable to control her excitement, she approached the Count more out of curiosity than in fear.

“‘Will you have the kindness to tell me,’ said the Countess, ‘whether your father was in Venice about the year 1710?’

“‘No, Madame,’ replied the Count quite unconcerned, ‘it is very much longer since I lost my father; but I myself was living in Venice at the end of the last and the beginning of this century; I had the honour to pay you court then, and you were kind enough to admire a few Barcarolles of my composing which we used to sing together.’

“‘Forgive me, but that is impossible; the Comte de St. Germain I knew in those days was at least 45 years old, and you, at the outside, are that age at present.’

“‘Madame,’ replied the Count smiling, ‘I am very old.’

“‘But then you must be nearly 100 years old.’

“‘That is not impossible.’ And then the Count recounted to Mme. v. Georgy a number of familiar little details which had reference in common to both, to their sojourn in the Venitian States. He offered, if she still doubted him, to bring back to her memory certain circumstances and remarks, which . . . .

“No, no,’ interrupted the old ambassadress, ‘I am already convinced. For all that you are a most extraordinary man, a devil.’

“‘For pity’s sake!’ exclaimed St. Germain in a thundering voice, ‘no such names!’

“He appeared to be seized with a cramp-like trembling in every limb, and left the room immediately.

“I mean to get to know this peculiar man more intimately.

Casanova pretended to be him in 1760 during a trip to Switzerland. Aleister Crowley toyed with the idea of disguising himself as the Count. A mentally ill French man got on TV in 1972 and claimed to be St. Germain.

he was at St. Petersburg in Russia in 1762 and is asserted to have played an important part in the conspiracy against Tsar Peter III in July of that year, a plot that placed Catherine II the Great on the Russian throne. He then went to Germany, where, according to the Mémoires authentiques of the adventurer the Count di Cagliostro, he was the founder of freemasonry and initiated Cagliostro into that rite. He was again in Paris from 1770 to 1774, and, after frequenting several of the German courts,


In 1779 St. Germain arrived in Altona in Schleswig. Here he made an acquaintance with Prince Charles of Hesse-Kassel, who also had an interest in mysticism and was a member of several secret societies. The Count showed the Prince several of his gems and he convinced the latter that he had invented a new method of colouring cloth. The Prince was impressed and installed the Count in an abandoned factory at Eckernförde he had acquired especially for the Count, and supplied him with the materials and cloths that St. Germain needed to proceed with the project. The two met frequently in the following years, and the Prince outfitted a laboratory for alchemical experiments in his nearby summer residence Louisenlund, where they, among other things, cooperated in creating gemstones and jewelry. The Prince later recounts in a letter that he was the only person in whom the Count truly confided. He told the Prince that he was the son of the Transylvanian Prince Francis II Rákóczi, and that he had been 88 years of age when he arrived in Schleswig.

The Count died in his residence in the factory on the 27th February 1784, while the Prince was staying in Kassel, and the death was recorded in the register of the St. Nicolai Church in Eckernförde. He was buried March 2 and the cost of the burial was listed in the accounting books of the church the following day. The official burial site for the Count is at Nicolai Church (German St. Nicolaikirche) in Eckernförde. He was buried in a private grave. On April 3 the same year, the mayor and the city council of Eckernförde issued an official proclamation about the auctioning off of the Count’s remaining effects in case no living relative would appear within a designated time period to lay claim on them. Prince Charles donated the factory to the crown and it was afterward converted into a hospital.

Jean Fuller-Overton found, during her research, that the Count’s estate upon his death was: a packet of paid and receipted bills and quittances, 82 Rthler and 13 shillings (cash), 29 various groups of items of clothing (this includes gloves, stockings, trousers, shirts, etc.), 14 linen shirts, 8 other groups of linen items, and various sundries (razors, buckles, toothbrushes, sunglasses, combs, etc.). There were no diamonds, jewels, gold, or any other riches. There were no kept cultural items from travels, personal items (like his violin), or any notes of correspondence.

Books attributed to the Count of St. Germain

One book attributed to the Count of Saint Germain is (The Most Holy Trinosophia), and although there is little evidence that it was written by him, the original was certainly in his possession at one point. There are also two triangular books in the Manly Palmer Hall Collection of Alchemical Manuscripts at the Getty Research Library which are attributed to Saint Germain.

In Theosophy

Main article: St. Germain (Theosophy)

Here’s a legend for ya:

St. Germain, as one of the Masters of the Ancient Wisdom, is credited with near god-like powers and with longevity. It is believed that Sir Francis Bacon faked his own death on Easter Sunday, 9 April 1626, attended his own funeral and made his way from England to Transylvania where he found lodging in a castle owned by the Rakóczi family. There, on 1 May 1684, Bacon, by using alchemy, became an immortal occult master and adopted the name Saint Germain and became one of the Masters of the Ancient Wisdom, a group of beings that, Theosophists believe, form a Spiritual Hierarchy of planet Earthsometimes called the Ascended Masters. Thus, according to these beliefs, St. Germain was a mysterious manifestation of the “resurrected form” (or “resurrection body”) of Sir Francis Bacon.

Myths, legends and speculations about St. Germain began to be widespread in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and continue today. They include beliefs that he is immortal, the Wandering Jew, an alchemist with the “Elixir of Life”, a Rosicrucian, and that he prophesied the French Revolution. He is said to have met the forger Giuseppe Balsamo (aliasCagliostro) in London and the composer Rameau in Venice. Some groups honor Saint Germain as a supernatural being called an Ascended Master.

Madame Blavatsky and her pupil, Annie Besant (both occultists in the 19th century), both claimed to have met the Count who was traveling under a different name.

In Fiction

The Count has inspired a number of fictional creations:

  • The mystic in the Alexander Pushkin story “The Queen of Spades”

  • He appears in Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum.

  • Chelsea Quinn Yarbro used the count as the base for her series character Count Saint-Germain (vampire), although only the initial book deals with the historical rather than fictional St. Germain.

  • He is an influential character in Katherine Kurtz’ novel Two Crowns For America, where he is one of the principal behind-the-scenes leaders in the Masonic connections behind the American Revolution.

  • He is also mentioned as a main character in the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series by Micheal Scott as an alchemist and teacher of Fire Magic.

  • The Count is also one of the main characters in the trilogy of the German writer Kerstin Gier; in it, he is a time traveler who wants to become immortal through use of the philosopher’s stone.

  • He appears as a traveler, prestidigitator and perfume researcher that has learned many forms of armed and unarmed combat in Robert Rankin’s book “The Japanese Devil Fish Girl”. In Rankin’s “The Brentford Trilogy”, Professor Slocombe is at one point directly addressed as “St. Germain” by another character, the implication being that said character recognises him as the immortal Count.

  • He appears in Kouta Hirano’s manga Drifters.

  • He is an apparent time traveler in Diana Gabaldon’s spin-off novella, “The Space Between.” He also appears in her Outlander series.

  • He is a central character in Kōji Kumeta’s manga “Sekkachi Hakushaku to Jikan Dorobou”.

  • In Vertigo comics’ Dead Boy Detectives, the Count is a pseudonym taken on by occultist child-murderer Gilles de Rais, his claims of immortality genuine.

  • St. Germain is a NPC in Castlevania: Curse of Darkness. He is a person who can travel through time and constantly asks Hector to abandon his quest.

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Bernard Trevisan

We take a look at another great influencing character on the golden age of alchemy from the 14th or 15th century.

Bernard Trevisan (Bernard of Treviso, Bernardus Trevisanus) refers to one or more Italian alchemists. These are often confused, or more accurately the name may refer to a shadowy figure or figures.

Bernard of Trévisan is often confused with two other individuals—Bernardo Trevisano (1652-1720), a Venetian devoted to languages, mathematics, philosophy, and painting, and Bernardinus Trivisanus (1506-1583), who studied arts and medicine at Padua and became professor of logic and medical theory.


The figure from the fifteenth century is described as living from 1406-1490. He was born into a noble family in Padua and spent his entire life spending his family fortune in search of the Philosopher’s stone.

Trévisan was born at Padua. His father was a doctor of medicine, so it is probable that Bernard received his initial training in science at home. At the age of fourteen he devoted himself to alchemy. He read the works of Eastern philosophers Gerber and Rhasis. Trévisan augmented his learning with the writings of Sacrobosco and Rupecissa. He engaged in a long course of reading and praying.

He began his career as an alchemist at the age of fourteen. He had his family’s permission, as they also desired to increase their wealth. He first worked with a monk of Cîteaux named Gotfridus Leurier. They attempted for eight years to fashion the Philosopher’s stone out of hen eggshells and egg yolk purified in horse manure.

Again, it could be two or even three people behind the works of Bernard of Trevisan, his name first appears in manuscript texts of the fourteenth century; and the contents of all of these works fit well into fourteenth-century alchemical thought and practice, both in the nature of the alchemical doctrines expounded and in the authorities or authors cited.

For example, in a reply to Thomas of Bologna, physician to King Charles V of France (d. 1380), Bernard maintained against Thomas the dominant fourteenth-century theory that gold is made solely from quicksilver or mercury, although the process might be hastened by the addition of a small amount of gold. Bernard rejected the sulfur-mercury theory of the preceding century. He asserted that mercury contained within itself the four elements—that is, the air and fire of sulfur in addition to the earth and Water usually associated with mercury. All these elements, he reported, remain when the mercury turns to gold. He also rejected Thomas of Bologna’s association of the planets with the alchemical process.

Trévisan heard that Henry, a German priest, had succeeded in creating the philosophers’ stone. He went to Germany, accompanied by other alchemists. Henry claimed he would disclose all if they would supply a certain sum of money to procure the necessary tools and materials. After Henry proved fraud Trévisan decided to abandon his search. However, he visited Spain, Great Britain, Holland, and France, trying in each of these countries to learn more about creating the philosophers’ stone. Eventually he went to Egypt, Persia, and Palestine and subsequently travelled in Greece. Baltics, Germany, Spain, France, Vienna, Turkey, and Cyprus, to find hints left by past alchemists

He then worked with minerals and natural salts using distillation and crystallization methods borrowed from Jābir ibn Hayyānand Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi. When these failed he turned to vegetable and animal material, finally using human blood and urine. He gradually sold his wealth to buy secrets and hints towards the stone, most often from swindlers.
Ultimately Trévisan found himself impoverished and was forced to sell his parental estates. He retired to the Island of Rhodes and met a priest who knew something of science. Trévisan proposed they should start fresh experiments together. The cleric agreed to help, so the pair borrowed a large sum of money to purchase the necessary paraphernalia. The two found some success.

In Rhodes he kept working on the Philosopher’s stone until his death in 1490.

He is believed to have been influential on the work of Gilles de Rais in the 1430s.

About his works:

The alchemical doctrine of the composition of the philosophers’ stone by mercury alone was reiterated in the tracts that were printed under Bernard’s name in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, particularly in A Singular Treatise on the Philosophers’ Stone and in the Traicté de la nature de l’oeuvf. In the latter, Bernard asserted that the elixir is made of pure mercury and that this purified substance, which has lost all its terrestrial and consumable feces and which the philosophers call the water of volatility, contains within itself the entire magisterium.

Bernard, in common with other alchemists of the fourteenth century, likened the production of the philosophers’ stone to human generation. In this process, he explained, the sun is the male and is hot and dry, the moon is the female and is cold and moist, and both are essential because nothing can be generated and brought to the light of existence without a male and a female. In the philosophers’ stone, however, is to be found everything that is required for the production of the stone. This is demonstrated by the fact that it is composed of both body and spirit or of fixed and volatile elements, which, although they do not appear to be so, are indeed one in substance, i.e., quicksilver.

Furthermore, to demonstrate or explain the alchemical process, Bernard utilized another symbol commonly found in the alchemical literature of the time. He likened the mercury of the philosophers to the philosophers’ egg, which contains in itself two natures in one substance, the white and the yellow, and from itself produces another—the chicken—which has life and the power of generation. Mercury, he held, similarly contains within itself two natures in the one body and from itself produces a whole that has body, soul, and spirit. Moreover, on the authority of Albertus Magnus, whom he had cited for the preceding exposition of the philosophers’ egg as one and many, Bernard likened this oneness of spirit, soul, and body to the Holy Trinity, who are One in God without diversity of substance. In his view, mercury, the egg, contains in itself everything required for the perfection of its own magisterium, without the addition of anything else and without any diminution of its own perfection. It has everything for the production of the chicken.

The works bearing Bernard’s name also reveal the author’s acquaintance with a number of alchemical writers, several of them from earlier centuries and others belonging to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Among the earlier group are Geber, Rasis, Avicenna, Morienus, and Hermes. The later group comprised the Latin authors Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, Arnald of Villanova, and his brother Pierre of Villanova, as well as Hortulanus and Raymond Lull, John Dastin, and Christopherus Parisiensis. Furthermore, Bernard paraphrased Hippocrates’ Aphorisms and cited Aristotle and Galen.

There are other interesting and engaging features in Bernard’s works. For example, in the Chemica miraculathere is a long autobiographical account of his quest for the philosophers’ stone. In another tract he cites as his reason for departing from the usual admonitions to keep the alchemical art secret the fear that so noble an art or science might perish or be lost if it were not imparted to others. Possibly because the works attributed to Bernard reproduced in this attractive form alchemical doctrines and practices that were familiar to his Contemporaries and were to become traditional in the centuries that followed, they were printed and reprinted not only in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries but as late as the eighteenth century.

Attributed works

In the sixteenth century alchemical works were attributed to Bernard. For example, Trevisanus de Chymico miraculo, quod lapidem philosophiae appellant was edited in 1583 by Gerard Dorn. The Answer of Bernardus Trevisanus, to the Epistle of Thomas of Bononia, and The Prefatory Epistle of Bernard Earl of Tresne, in English, appeared in the 1680 Aurifontina Chymica.

It is belived that Trévisan was at least partly responsible for an octavo volume published in 1643, Le Bernard d’Alchmague, cum Bernard Treveso, while he is commonly credited with another work titled La Philosophic Naturelle des Metaux. In this latter work he insists on the necessity of meditation by the scientist who would create the philosophers’ stone.

Treatise of the philosopher’s stone (1400’s):

Sol and Luna, or Male and Female,

Male is hot and dry, Female Cold and Moist (or Fire and Water)

four colors: black, white, yellow, red

sulphur and mercury

as above so below

squaring of the circle

–all in one paragraph.

takes a year to make a perfect stone

when it’s agrent vive, when it’s dry it’s silver, and when it grows red they call it gold.. but it’s all the same thing.

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