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Clavis Artis, Zoroaster

Zoroaster’s Clavis Artis, a mysterious alchemical manuscript

Clavis Artis is the title of an alchemical manuscript published in Germany in three volumes in the late 17th or early 18th century, attributed to Zoroaster (Zarathustra). It features numerous watercolor illustrations depicting alchemical images, as well as pen drawings of laboratory instruments.

Three copies of the manuscript are known to exist, one at the Biblioteca dell’Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in Rome, one at the Biblioteca Civica Attilio Hortis in Trieste, and one at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich. There is no information about the author and the origin of the manuscript, but there are references to a Rosicrucian order (Orden der Gold- und Rosenkreutzer). If you speak Italian, there is more information available on the Italian Wikipedia.

There is even debate whether the author might be “Abraham Eleazar”, who wrote a well-known alchemical text, the Uraltes Chymisches Werk. A non-illustrated book under the same title is digitally available at SLUB Dresden, published in 1738 in Jena, Germany.

Clavis Artis, Zoroaster

Clavis Artis, Zoroaster

Clavis Artis, Zoroaster

Clavis Artis, Zoroaster

Clavis Artis, Zoroaster

Clavis Artis, Zoroaster

Clavis Artis, Zoroaster

Clavis Artis, Zoroaster

Clavis Artis, Zoroaster

Clavis Artis, Zoroaster

Clavis Artis, Zoroaster

Source: The images were taken from the copy at the Biblioteca Civica Hortis in Trieste and made available on Wikimedia Commons, where they are considered as public domain.

Robert Fludd's "Utriusque Cosmi...", 1617–24

Robert Fludd’s “Utriusque Cosmi…”, 1617–24

Robert Fludd (1574-1637) was an English physician, astrologer, mathematician, and mystic. His opus magnum, Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet et minoris metaphysica, physica atqve technica historia, was published in two volumes between 1617 and 1624. The encyclopedic book covers different subjects such as optics, music, perspective drawing, engineering, as well as Rosicrucianist themes, theosophy and the Qabalah. Read more about Robert Fludd’s philosophy and imagery of the Microcosm, Macrocosm and The Divine on The Public Domain Review.

Robert Fludd's "Utriusque Cosmi...", 1617–24

Robert Fludd's "Utriusque Cosmi...", 1617–24

Robert Fludd's "Utriusque Cosmi...", 1617–24

Robert Fludd's "Utriusque Cosmi...", 1617–24

Robert Fludd's "Utriusque Cosmi...", 1617–24

Robert Fludd's "Utriusque Cosmi...", 1617–24

Robert Fludd's "Utriusque Cosmi...", 1617–24

Robert Fludd's "Utriusque Cosmi...", 1617–24

Robert Fludd's "Utriusque Cosmi...", 1617–24

Robert Fludd's "Utriusque Cosmi...", 1617–24

Robert Fludd's "Utriusque Cosmi...", 1617–24

Robert Fludd's "Utriusque Cosmi...", 1617–24

Robert Fludd's "Utriusque Cosmi...", 1617–24

Robert Fludd's "Utriusque Cosmi...", 1617–24

The images above were provided by the Deutsche Fotothek for Wikimedia Commons and are licensed as CC BY-SA 3.0 as stated here (in German). The book is also available at Archive.org (provided by The Getty Research Institute).

NASA: Butterfly Emerges from Stellar Demise in Planetary Nebula NGC 6302

I HEART HUBBLE: Stellar Demise

I HEART HUBBLE is an ongoing series about everyone’s favourite space telescope. If we can’t go to space ourselves, at least we can browse through NASA’s royalty-free imagery and enjoy the scenery. Ad astra!

“Butterfly Emerges from Stellar Demise in Planetary Nebula NGC 6302”:

This celestial object looks like a delicate butterfly. But it is far from serene.

What resemble dainty butterfly wings are actually roiling cauldrons of gas heated to more than 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The gas is tearing across space at more than 600,000 miles an hour—fast enough to travel from Earth to the Moon in 24 minutes!

A dying star that was once about five times the mass of the Sun is at the center of this fury. It has ejected its envelope of gases and is now unleashing a stream of ultraviolet radiation that is making the cast-off material glow. This object is an example of a planetary nebula, so-named because many of them have a round appearance resembling that of a planet when viewed through a small telescope.

Source of image and quoted text: Hubblesite.org

Illustration by Kay Nielsen in East of the sun and west of the moon (1914)

“East of the Sun and West of the Moon”, Illustrations by Kay Nielsen

Danish Art Nouveau illustrator Kay Nielson (1886–1957) created these watercolor plates for a 1914 edition of East of the Sun and West of the Moon, a Norwegian folk story.

The images were released by the National Library New Zealand on Flickr Commons in high resolution with no known copyrights. Click here to see the entire set of plates. The description reads,

In the early twentieth century several English publishers issued a series of collector’s editions of children’s literature. These gift books, specially bound in gold-tooled vellum, were elaborately illustrated with coloured plates by the best illustrators of the time such as Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Hugh Thomson, and Heath Robinson. One of the most stunning is East of the sun and west of the moon illustrated by the Danish illustrator, Kay Nielsen.

Nielsen (1886-1957) was born in Denmark and studied art in Paris. He was influenced by the styles of Aubrey Beardsley, Edward Burne-Jones and the influx of Japanese art that was spreading to the West at this time. East of the Sun and West of the Moon (London: Hodder & Stoughton, [1914]) was his second book and is considered to be his masterpiece and one of the most beautiful illustrated children’s books ever produced.

Nielsen’s burgeoning career was interrupted by World War I, and never really recovered. His publisher, Hodder & Stoughton tried unsuccessfully to reinvigorate the market for gift books after the war and in 1924 and 1925 issued two further fairy tales books illustrated by Nielsen, but these were on a more modest scale and the demand for extravagant books of this type had gone. Nielsen fell into obscurity and died in poverty in 1957.

This set shows the 25 watercolour plates included in East of the sun and west of the moon held in the Alexander Turnbull Library.

Illustration by Kay Nielsen in East of the sun and west of the moon (1914)

‘And then she lay on a little green patch in the midst of the gloomy thick wood’

Illustration by Kay Nielsen in East of the sun and west of the moon (1914)

‘ “Tell me the way, then,” she said, “and I’ll search you out” ’

Illustration by Kay Nielsen in East of the sun and west of the moon (1914)

‘Just as they bent down to take the rose a big dense snow-drift came and carried them away’

Illustration by Kay Nielsen in East of the sun and west of the moon (1914)

‘And this time she whisked off the wig: and there lay the lad, so lovely, and white and red, just as the Princess had seen him in the morning sun’

Illustration by Kay Nielsen in East of the sun and west of the moon (1914)

‘She could not help setting the door a little ajar, just to peep in, when – Pop! out flew the Moon’

Illustration by Kay Nielsen in East of the sun and west of the moon (1914)

‘”Well, mind and hold tight by my shaggy coat, and then there’s nothing to fear,” said the Bear, so she rode a long, long way’

Illustration by Kay Nielsen in East of the sun and west of the moon (1914)

‘He too saw the image in the water; but he looked up at once, and became aware of the lovely Lassie who sat there up in the tree’

Image caption top of page: ‘No sooner had he whistled than he heard a whizzing and a whirring from all quarters, and such a large flock of birds swept down that they blackened all the field in which they settled’

Source: National Library NZ on The Commons

License: No known copyright restrictions

Atlas ichthylogique, Pieter Bleeker, 1862 (Indonesian Fish Atlas)

Fabulous Fish by Pieter Bleeker (Atlas Ichthylogique)

These illustrations are from a beautiful book about the various fish species in Indonesia, written by Dutch physician and ichthylogist Pieter Bleeker (1819–1878) under the title Atlas ichthyologique des Indes orientales néêrlandaises : publié sous les auspices du gouvernement colonial néêrlandais (Amsterdam, 1862). The Biodiversity Library identifies the book in the public domain. The PDF is available for download at Archive.org.

Source: The Biodiversity Library

Planetary Nebula MyCn18: An Hourglass Pattern Around a Dying Star

I HEART HUBBLE: Hourglass Nebula

I HEART HUBBLE is an ongoing series about everyone’s favourite space telescope. If we can’t go to space ourselves, at least we can browse through NASA’s royalty-free imagery and enjoy the scenery. Ad astra!

“Planetary Nebula MyCn18: An Hourglass Pattern Around a Dying Star”:

JANUARY 16, 1996: This Hubble telescope snapshot of MyCn18, a young planetary nebula, reveals that the object has an hourglass shape with an intricate pattern of “etchings” in its walls. A planetary nebula is the glowing relic of a dying, Sun-like star.

The results are of great interest because they shed new light on the poorly understood ejection of stellar matter that accompanies the slow death of Sun-like stars. According to one theory on the formation of planetary nebulae, the hourglass shape is produced by the expansion of a fast stellar wind within a slowly expanding cloud, which is denser near its equator than near its poles.

Credits: Raghvendra Sahai and John Trauger (JPL), the WFPC2 science team, and NASA

Image and quoted text source: Hubblesite.org

Cyprianus, Uricus and Paymon, from Clavis Inferni..., Late 18th Century

Cyprianus aka The Black Book

These illustrations are from a late 18th century book about magic, the Clavis Inferni sive magia alba et nigra approbata Metratona by M. L. Cyprianus. There is not much information available about the book or author, but the writer of the Res Obscura blog suggests the author might actually be St. Cyprian. The official captions state,

Cyprianus is also known as the Black Book, and is the textbook of the Black School at Wittenburg, the book from which a witch or sorceror gets his spells. The Black School at Wittenburg was purportedly a place in Germany where one went to learn the black arts.

Maymon and Egyn, from Cyprianus, Clavis Inferni, late 18th Century

llustrations showing kings wearing gold crowns, represented by Maymon – a black bird – as King of the South; and Egyn – a black bear-like animal with a short tail – as King of the North.

Archangel Metratron, from Cyprianus, Clavis Inferni, late 18th Century

Ink and watercolour image of the Archangel Metratron with seven lighted candles and seven gold stars, surrounded by alchemical/magical symbols in red ink

Pentagram Seal, from Cyprianus, Clavis Inferni, late 18th Century

Illustration in black ink showing pentagram seal – a five-pointed star with magical symbols

Dragon devouring Lizard, from Cyprianus, Clavis Inferni, late 18th Century

Ink and watercolour showing a red-winged dragon wearing a gold crown and devouring a lizard. Between the two figures is a snake entwined around a cross with a skull and crossbones at its base.

Orobouros, from Cyprianus, Clavis Inferni, late 18th Century

Page from Cyprianus showing the serpent Ouroboros surrounding a circle with lettering in Latin and Hebrew.

Seal of Approbata from Cyprianus, Clavis Inferni, late 18th Century

Illustration in black and red ink showing the Seal of Approbata – a six-pointed star surrounded by alchemical and magical symbols

Header image caption: Illustrations showing kings wearing gold crowns, represented by Uricus – a red-crowned and winged serpent – as King of the East; and Paymon – a black cat-like animal with horns, long whiskers and tail – as King of the West.

Source and license: The book was purchased by the Wellcome Library in London and the images are available on Wellcome Images under CC BY 4.0. All captions were taken from the Wellcome Library.

William Sharp, Victoria regia, in: by John Fisk Allen's "Victoria Regia"... (1854)

Victoria regia, The Great Water Lily of America

The Flickr Page of the Biodiversity Heritage Library is a great resource for finding beautiful zoological and botanical illustrations. These water-lillies, for instance, were illustrated by William Sharp (1803–1875) and published in a book called Victoria regia, or, The great water lily of America written by John Fisk Allen (Boston, 1854). The genus, victoria, was named by English botanist John Lindley in 1837 after the then new queen, and subsequently, the new species was named Victoria regia.

William Sharp, Victoria regia, in: by John Fisk Allen's "Victoria Regia"... (1854)

William Sharp, Victoria regia, in: by John Fisk Allen's "Victoria Regia"... (1854)

William Sharp, Victoria regia, in: by John Fisk Allen's "Victoria Regia"... (1854)

William Sharp, Victoria regia, in: by John Fisk Allen's "Victoria Regia"... (1854)

William Sharp, Victoria regia, in: by John Fisk Allen's "Victoria Regia"... (1854)
Source: Biodiversity Library via their Flickr

License: CC BY 2.0

Tycho Brahe, The great steel quadrant (1588)

Tycho Brahe, Astronomical Instruments (1598)

Born in 1546 in Denmark, Tycho Brahe served as an astronomer for the king of Denmark, and later, for the Holy Roman Emperor in Prague. He was well known for his accurate and comprehensive astronomical and planetary observations. He was also a pretty eccentric character: Tycho Brahe famously lost his nose in a sword duel (supposedly a quarrel with another student over who was the better mathematician), and attached a metal nose in its place. Read More