17th century alchemist’s manuscript heads to auction

A rare 17th century alchemist’s manuscript with breathtaking illustrations will head up PBA Galleries’ manuscript sale in San Francisco on February 11.

It’s titled Coronatio Naturae (The Crowning of Nature) and is, incredibly, the only copy remaining in private hands.

 Alchemists crowning nature

The Crowning of Nature was published in the early to mid 1600s

A note on the flyleaf indicates this copy was printed and sold by William Cooper, one of London’s best known alchemical publishers in the late 1600s.

Despite its roots in the occult, alchemy would lead directly to chemistry and the development of the scientific method.

That was largely thanks to the alchemist Robert Boyle, who rigorously documented his chemicals, ratios and settings.

This turned out to be a much more effective way of going about things than relying on allusions to fire-breathing lions and phoenixes as shown in this text.

Still, it’s a beautiful book and carries an estimate of $100,000-150,000.   

There’s also an Albert Einstein-signed illustration of the scientist by his good friend Josef Scharl, produced at Princeton in February 1950.


Scharl left Germany when the Nazis featured his work in their 1937 Degenerate Art exhibition 

It’s one of several such drawings Scharl created over a number of years.

The two men had known each other in Germany. Both fled to the US when the Nazis took power in the 1930s.

The drawing is valued at $20,000-30,000.

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