(London: Printed by J. Grismond for Nath. Brooke, 1652). 198 x 140 mm. (7 3/4 x 5 1/2"). 8 p.l., 486,  leaves (without the frequently missing Rrr4, as the Yale University copy, which they speculate is a blank, but possibly a short errate leaf). FIRST EDITION.
Modern sheep, raised bands, spine panels with gilt fleurettes and gilt titling. With 11 engraved illustrations, six of them full-page, and one woodcut tailpiece (appearing twice). Without the folding diagram entitled "Here followeth the figure conteyning all the secrets of the treatise both great & small." With older typewritten errata sheet laid in at rear. Duveen 31; Ferguson I, 52 (Note); Gardner, Rosicruciana, 64; Bolton 952; Pritchard 80; Krivatsy 449; Wellcome II, 63; Wing A-3987; ESTC r205904. Binding lightly chafed, text a little browned at edges, half a dozen quires with faint dampstain to upper fore-edge corner, otherwise an excellent copy, clean and fresh internally in a binding with few signs of wear.
This is an extensively annotated collection of English alchemical poems, described by Duveen as "the most important English alchemical text." The magnum opus of English astrologer and antiquary Elias Ashmole (1617-92), it was intended as a Brtitish supplement to the European "Theatrum Chemicum," first published in 1602. According to DNB, "Ashmole put much effort into collecting together and annotating these texts and his book remains one of the key sources for the history of alchemy, putting into print numerous works that had previously existed solely in manuscript. He also included an introduction which illustrates his wide reading of relevant writings and his understanding and acceptance of the principal tenets of alchemy." It includes texts by Thomas Norton, George Ripley, Edward Kelley, John Dee, and Geoffrey Chaucer. Ashmole became interested in astrology after meeting the royal astrologer George Wharton, and continued to study the subject for the rest of his life. A prudent marriage to a wealthy widow gave him the leisure to, in his words, "live to my selfe & Studies, without being forced to take paines for a livelyhood in the world." Ashmole produced another alchemical work, "The Way to Bliss" (1658), but never completed the projected second volume of "Theatrum." After the Restoration, the royalist Ashmole became much involved with heraldry, helping to revive the Order of the Garter, though he retained his interest in astrology and magic all his life. He is best remembered today for bequeathing to Oxford University the founding collection of the Ashmolean Museum. Duveen observes that complete copies of the present work "are extremely rare, most copies lacking one or more plates," with Ferguson agreeing that it is "very rare, and difficult to get complete." Gardner notes that the folding plate missing here is frequently lacking: it was absent, for example, in the last two copies we trace at auction. Copies as fresh as the present one are especially desirable. (CDT1716)
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