Vellum Edition: Full imperial vellum with gilt-stamped spine bands and central ‘grotesque’ ornament to boards. Scarlet leather spine label, silk bookmark, hand-marbled endpapers and silk closure ties. Limited to 35 copies only
Stout Octavo, 6 x 9 inches. 528 pages. Primary Typeface: Williams Caslon Text. Rubricated title page in red and black ink. Illustrated with alchemical engravings, ornamental grotesques, dragons, trees, and fleurons. Includes an 11 x 14 folding plate titled George Ripley’s Wheel.
The Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum is a major collection of English alchemical texts which encapsulate the arcana of the Magnum Opus in poetic form. Originally gathered by Elias Ashmole from several rare medieval manuscripts, the text represents the largest collection of verse concerning the production of the Philosopher’s Stone to be brought together in one volume.
Ashmole’s pride in English literature was amplified through the consideration he gave to the project. In deciding which texts should be included in the book, he details ancient British examples among the Druids & the Bardic Tradition and explains that poesy is much better than mere verse.
Here we find well-known names in the alchemical corpus, among whom are included: Thomas Norton, George Ripley, Geoffrey Chaucer, John Daston, Pearce the Black Monke, Richard Carpenter, Abraham Andrews, Thomas Charnock, William Bloomefield, Edward Kelley, John Dee, Thomas Robinson, William Backhouse, John Gower, John Lydgate, W. Redman, and several anonymous authors. This who’s who of English alchemists is placed in historical context by a Prolegomena by Ashmole, which supports his thesis that England may be proud of its alchemical literary heritage. In addition, Ashmole has provided ample annotations and commentary on each of the texts as supplementary material in the concluding chapter of the book. The text has a new introduction by William Kiesel and a full bibliography of alchemical and bibliographic materials used in researching the text.
“Ashmole’s introductory matter is a marvelous, sprightly essay on alchemy by the most learned antiquarian of his age.”
-Manly P. Hall author of the Secret Teachings of All Ages.
This complete edition of the Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum goes beyond the mere reprinting of the original pages as past facsimiles have done. Using the original errata sheets provided by Ashmole, the entire text has been corrected and reset in a more readable typeface and features clear reproductions of the original engravings produced by Robert Vaughan. In addition, this edition features a more complete version of the Breviary of Natural Philosophy by Thomas Charnock by employing a complete manuscript of the text not available to Ashmole in 1652. This is the most ambitious publishing project embraced by Ouroboros Press in its years of laboring to bring source works of western esotericism to scholars and collectors alike. Over a dozen individuals and institutions worked hard to bring the book into this complete and corrected edition. This is fine esoteric book arts at its best, a volume Elias Ashmole himself would be proud of.
“In scope, these poems encompass all of the aspects of the great work: theory and practice, instructions on furnaces and vessels, or on substances to be avoided, and allegorical accounts intended to convey the most important secrets.”
-Didier Kahn author of Alchemical Poetry in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: A Preliminary Survey and Synthesis Part I — Preliminary Survey, Ambix Volume 57, Number 3, November 2010.