The first edition to call Geber an Arab: profusely annotated throughout

Geber (Jabir Ibn Hayyan). (De alchemia). In hoc volumine de alchemia continentur haec. Gebri Arabis, philosophi solertissimi, rerumq[ue] naturalium, praecipue metallicarum peritissimi [...].

Nuremberg, Johann Petreius, 1541.

4to (165 x 213 mm). (20), 373 (but: 371), (5) pp. With 16 woodcut illustrations in the text. Contemporary full vellum with handwritten spine title.


The rare first edition of this extremely important and early collection of alchemical writings, which unites several first printings of works previously circulated only as manuscripts. This is first edition to call Geber an "Arab", the first to use "Summa perfectionis magisterii" on the title-page, and also the first printing of the famous "Smaragdine Table" of Hermes Trismegistus.

"De Alchemia and the other works of the Geber corpus were of the greatest influence on Western chemistry, and whether they be translations or elaborations, they represent the amount of Arabic chemical knowledge made available to Latin reading people toward the end of the thirteenth century [...] they represent the best Latin knowledge on chemistry in that period" (Sarton).

The present collection, arranged by Chrysogonus Polydorus, contains four treatises by Geber: 1. Summa perfectionis; 2. Liber de investigatione perfectionis (the earliest description of the preparation of nitric acid and aqua regia); 3. Liber de inventione veritatis sive perfectionis; 4. Liber fornacum (a practical text on chemical operations). It also contains the following texts, of which at least four are printed for the first time: 5. Roger Bacon's Speculum Alchemiae (the original text from which the 1597 English "Mirror of Alchemy" edition was made); 6. Richard of Wendover's Correctorium Alchemiae; 7. Rosarius minor, de Alchemia, by an unknown author; 8. Khalid ibn Yazid's Liber Secretorum Alchemiae; 9. Hermes Trismegistus' Tabula Smaragdina; 10. Hortolanus' commentary on the Tabula. Illustrated with 16 fine woodcuts of alchemical apparatus and alchemists at work.

A complete copy in good condition showing light browning to paper, with wide margins containing extremely extensive early marginal annotations throughout. Stains to outer margin of last several leaves. A tear to the gutter of leaf c2 professionally repaired; old vellum repair to upper cover. A good copy. While the second edition of 1545, also very rare, has made a few appearances on the market, this first edition is extremely scarce.

VD 16, J 15. Ferguson I, 18 & 301. Sarton II, 1044. Lamoen, Hermes Trismegistus (Amsterdam 1990), no. 70. Brüning I, 220. Darmstaedter, Geber 7. Duveen 11. Mellon Collection (Alchemy and the Occult, Yale 1968) I, 10 (note). Cf. Hoover 445 (1545 edition only). Not in Caillet or Rosenthal.