September 10, 2004


In 1625, the Frankfurt-based publisher Lucas Jennis published an alchemical emblem-book entitled De Lapide Philisophico, ‘Of the Philosophical Stone’. This was based on a text that had been translated into Latin from a German manuscript by one Nicolaus Barnaud, and which had been published, unillustrated, in Leiden, in 1599. The identity of the original author, given pseudonymously as Lambsprinck (Lamb-Spring), is unknown. Jennis, who published numerous alchemical, ‘Rosicrucian’ and Paracelsan titles, breathed new life into the work by illustrating it with fifteen beautiful engravings, eight of which I’ve reproduced below…

Fig. II from Lambsprinck's 'De Lapide Philisophico': Here you straightaway behold a black Beast in the forest.


Fig. III from Lambsprinck's 'De Lapide Philisophico': Hear without terror that in the forest are hidden a Deer and an Unicorn.

The symbolism of these images is such that they can support multiple interpretations which, singly, may be straightforward & specific enough, but which collectively blur into a rather vague & enigmatic whole. In the text accompanying the second of the images (above), for instance, we read that the forest represents the Body, the unicorn the Spirit and the deer the Soul. At the same time, however, we are told that ‘within the Forest of the Work are found the twin Natures, Mercury the Stag and Sulphur the Unicorn’.

Fig. VI from Lambsprinck's 'De Lapide Philisophico': This surely is a great miracle... that in a venomous dragon there should be the Great Medicine.


Fig. IX from Lambsprinck's 'De Lapide Philisophico': The Lord of the Forests has recovered his Kingdom...

The four images that follow belong to the book’s final sequence, and feature three distinct figures: the Father, the Son and the Angel, or Guide. While these three again abstractly represent the Body, the Spirit and the Soul, they are also shown to be enacting what we would consider to be purely chemical reactions, or physical processes such as sublimation, absorption and solution. For example, in the image below, ‘Taking the Son (extracted from the Body) to the highest Mountain—i.e. to the top of the Vessel, where he receives the celestial influences from above and is metaphorically purified from the ignorance of matter—the Angel sublimates the Fixed.’

Fig. XII from Lambsprinck's 'De Lapide Philisophico': Another mountain ... lies in the vessel, which the Spirit and the Soul - that is, the Son and the Guide - have climbed.


Fig. XIII from Lambsprinck's 'De Lapide Philisophico': Here the Father devours the Son; the Soul and the Spirit flow forth from the body.

My source for the present images is Stanislas Klossowski de Rola’s book The Golden Game, a fascinating volume that presents hundreds of 17th-century alchemical emblems and illustrations. The complete set of emblems from De Lapide Philisophico can also be seen here, and, coloured in, here, at Adam McLean’s alchemy website. McLean also presents an interesting essay about this book.

Fig. XIV from Lambsprinck's 'De Lapide Philisophico': Here the Father sweats profusely, while Oil and the true tincture of the Sages flow forth from him.


Fig. XV from Lambsprinck's 'De Lapide Philisophico': Here the Father and Son are joined in One to remain for ever.

Click on the images to see them enlarged…

Posted by misteraitch at September 10, 2004 01:24 PM | TrackBack

Illustrations from the Aurora Consurgens.

Posted by: PF on September 11, 2004 08:04 AM

Thanks for that link, PF: I hadn’t seen those particular images before: they’re quite something!

Posted by: misteraitch on September 13, 2004 11:46 AM

I suspect you would also enjoy seeing these colored alchemical emblems, from the same site. I did, anyhow.

Posted by: PF on September 14, 2004 07:07 AM

Beautiful. Why do you not reproduce the last 7?

Posted by: Chris on December 5, 2004 11:08 PM

Alas, Chris, my trusty CanoScan is slow, and I’ve less spare time than I would like to work on this site. Besides, I’d prefer to point people back towards the books I use as my sources rather than reproduce sections of them in full.

Posted by: misteraitch on December 6, 2004 12:02 PM
Comments are now closed