(Gouda: P. Rammazenius, 1638). 318 x 196 mm. (12 5/8 x 7 3/4"). 4 p.l., 96 leaves, 97- pp., 113-152 leaves; 30,  leaves. FIRST EDITION of the "Philosophia Moysaica," bound with the First Latin Edition of the "Responsum."
Modern binding using part of a 16th century antiphonary leaf, flat spine. With two large copper-plate engravings, four copper-plates in text, and 26 woodcut figures in the text. Gardner 237; Wheeler Gift 112; Ferguson I, p. 284; Wellcome I, 2331-32; Caillet 4036. See also: DSB, pp. 47-49. Leaves lightly browned, occasional minor marginal stains or smudges, a few tiny rust spots, but an excellent copy, generally clean and very fresh, in an unworn binding.
This book contains two separate works by an author who, while nominally part of the scientific community, had his feet firmly planted in the realm of the metaphysical. The bulk of the present book consists of Fludd's posthumously published final work, in which he expounds his "Mosaic Philosophy" of the world based on the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible, traditionally believed to have been dictated to Moses by God). Though the work consists mostly of Fludd's mystical interpretations of the divine "truths" these books supposedly reveal, it also contains a few points of true scientific interest, including an early diagram of a thermometer (which he claims to have seen in a 500-year-old manuscript). The instrument shown here is quite similar to a thermoscope (a very basic set-up in which water rises and falls within a vertical tube), but it is distinguished by the addition of a scale of measurement--an important development toward our modern thermometer.
Fludd was often criticized for his lack of empirical evidence in support of his theories, but this diagram supports DSB's assertion that "Although Fludd was quite willing to use observational and experimental evidence, he thought that the eternal truths of Scripture and the mysteries of the ancient occultists carried far more weight than the evidence of the senses." In this same work, Fludd also uses the concept of magnetism--that is, the observable phenomenon of attraction and repulsion between two objects--to a similar end. In his view, magnetic forces also work on an invisible, cosmic level, arousing "sympathetic" energies that could unite objects even at a distance.
He further applies this concept in the second work, often found bound with "Philosophia," as here. It is a response to an attack by clergyman William Foster, who objected to Fludd's support of the so-called "weapon-salve"--a recipe of blood, moss, and flesh from a human corpse said to cure a wound from a distance when applied to the weapon that had caused it. First put forth by the 16th century physician Paracelsus, the weapon-salve is based on the belief that the like qualities of wound and weapon would "sympathize" with each other, and work together to heal the injury. To Foster, this "action at a distance" amounted to witchcraft; according to Fludd, drawing on William Gilbert's work on magnetism, the process was simply rooted in the same magnetic forces that could be observed in nature.
Robert Fludd (1574-1637) was an English physician who wrote extensively on a kind of natural philosophy rooted in the occult and Christian traditions, often including in his works abstruse and mysterious diagrams to illustrate his pseudo-scientific theories. According to Britannica, "Most of Fludd’s writings represent the culmination of the occult, as distinct from the scientific, tendencies of the 17th century. Deriving his ideas from such diverse sources as the Old Testament, the Jewish Kabbala, alchemy, astrology, sympathetic magic, and chiromancy, Fludd was primarily interested in establishing parallelisms between man and the world, both of which he viewed as images of God." Fludd rejected the work of Aristotle and Galen, and, in the words of DSB, "sought instead a new understanding of nature based on Christian principles." Fludd's theories attracted a number of detractors--chief among them being French mathematicians Merin Mercennes and Pierre Gassendi, and German astronomer Johannes Kepler--but DNB tells us that his ideas actually gained more acceptance and respect on the Continent than in his native England. The present work is important not only because it is the author's final piece of writing, but also, as Gardner says, because it "fitly represents his matured opinions," and is perhaps the best expression of Fludd's unique and elaborate worldview in his entire oeuvre. (ST16486)
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