Πέμπτη, 12 Ιουλίου 2012

A.E Waite - Turba Philosophorum (1896)


The Turba philosophorum
or assembly of the sagas; called also the book of truth in the art and the third Pythagorical synod. 
An ancient alchemical treatise translated from the Latin, 
the chief readings of the shorter codex, parallels from the Greek alchemists, 
and explanations of obscure terms (1896)

PREFACE.

Turba Phiksophorum is indisputably the most ancient extant treatise on Alchemy in the Latin tongue, but it was not, so far as can be ascertained, originally written in Latin ; the compiler or editor, for in many respects it can scarcely be regarded as an original composition,wrote either in Hebrew or Arabic ; however, the work, not only at the present day, but seemingly during the six or seven centuries when it was quoted as an authority by all the alchemical adepts, has been familiar only in its Latin garb.

It is not, of course, certain that the original is irretrievably lost, the Arabic and Syriac manuscripts treating of early chemistry are preserved in considerable numbers in the various libraries of Europe, and have only been imperiectly explored. Unfortunately, the present editor has neither the opportunity nor the qualifications for undertaking such a task.

There are two codices or recensions of The Turba Philosophorum, which differ considerably from one another. What is called in the following pages the second recension, is appreciably shorter, clearer, and, on the whole, the less corrupt of the two, but they are both in a bad state. The longer recension has been chosen for the text of the following translation, because it seemed desirable to give the work in its entirety. 

The variations of the second recension are appended usually in foot-notes, but where the reading of the text is so corrupt as to be quite untranslatable, the editor has occasionally substituted that of the alternative version, and has in most cases indicated the course pursued.

Monsieur Berthelot's invaluable text and translation of the Byzantine Alchemists has been largely made use of, to illustrate the striking analogies between the Greek Hermetic writers of the fourth century and the Turba. It is to this great scholar and scientist that we owe the discovery of these analogies, some of which are very clearly indicated in a chapter devoted to the subject, and forming part of his " Essai sur la Transmission de la Science Antique au Moyen Age."

It follows from M. Berthelot's researches, that Latin Alchemy, which has always been rightly referred to an Arabian source, connects with the Greek Alchemy which preceded Arabian Science, because the latter was itself derived from Greece. 
We are also enabled to identify, for the first time, and that with perfect certainty, those ancient sages, to whom all the Latin literature makes requent and reverent allusion ; we now know that they are Zosimus, the Panopolite, the adepts of the school of Democritus, and the other writers preserved in the Byzantine collection. M. Berthelot, however, infers that the Greek influence found in The Turbo, Philosophorum was not a direct influence, but was derived mediately through channels which are now unknown In any case the Turba summarises the author's preceding Geber, and is therefore the most valuable, as it is the most ancient, treatise on Alchemy, which exists in the Latin language.

The chief printed versions of The Turba Philosophorum, are those of the " Theatrum Chemicum," the " Bibliotheca Chemica Curiosa," and that of the smaller collection entitled " Artis Auriferae Tractatus." There are some translations of the work existing in German and some also in French. Those in the latter language are specially remarkable for the very slender way in which they represent the original. 

The versions contained in Salmon's " Bibliotheque des Philosophes Alchimiques," and in the " Tro's Anciens Traictes de la Philosophic Naturelle," are instances in point. One English version in manuscript is known to the present editor, and it will be found in the British Museum amongst the treasures of the Sloane collection.
It is rendered, however, from the French, and has been found useless for the purposes of this translation.

It may be added that the great collections of Alchemy, such as the " Theatrum Chemicum " and Mangetus, contain colloquies, commentaries, and enigmas which pretend to elucidate the mysteries of The Turba Philosophorum.

While they are of a considerably later date, they at the same time belong to the early period of Latin Alchemy. It may be added also that the editor has collected a considerable amount of material concerning this curious work, which the limits of the present volume preclude him from utilising.

ARTHUR EDWARD WAITE. 

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