11 - 13 July 2000
ASHMOLE, Elias (1617-1692). Theatrum chemicum Britannicum, containing several poeticall pieces of our famous English philosophers who have written the Hermetique mysteries in their owne ancient language. Part I [all published]. London: J. Grismond for Nath[aniel] Brook, 1652.
4° (183 x 137mm). Title in red and black with engraved device, folding engraved table by John Godard, 12 engraved illustrations, most by Robert Vaughan, 6 of these full-page and with elaborate borders of flowers and birds, woodcut of a dragon on p. 212 repeated on p. 379. (Title affected by heavy ink erasure over the words 'The First Part' and by tears at outer margin, lacking the plate called for between pp. 436-37, without the leaf of extra errata, 3R4, but with an alternative state of 2O3, conjugate with 3R1 and replacing 3R4 in the penultimate quire.) Mid 20th-century brown half morocco. Provenance: The Rt. Honble. Charles Viscount Bruce of Ampthill (bookplate on title verso dated 1712).
FIRST EDITION of this collection of English alchemical poems drawn from manuscript sources, with notes and a Prolegomena by Ashmole. Duveen describes it as 'THE MOST IMPORTANT ENGLISH ALCHEMICAL TEXT. Complete copies are extremely rare, most copies lacking one or more plates.' Ferguson also calls it 'very rare, and difficult to get complete.' The absence of the extra errata leaf in this copy suggests that it came from the press before the compilation of more errata, on the verso of the final leaf. The verso of 203 contains the beginning of the poem, 'The Hunting of the Greene Lyon': in one state, the author's name is given as 'the Viccar of Malden', in the alternative state, bound in as an integral part of quire 3R, the the author's name is not stated. Bolton p. 952; Duveen p. 31 (erratic collation); Ferguson I, p. 52n; Wing A-3987.
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