FLUDD’S “NEOPLATONIST—CABALIST—ALCHEMICAL INTERPRETATION OF THE UNIVERSE”: MOSAICALL PHILOSOPHY, 1659
FLUDD, Robert. Mosaicall Philosophy Grounded upon the Essentiall Truth or Eternal Sapience. Written first in Latin, and afterwards thus rendered into English. London: Printed for Humphrey Moseley, 1659. Small folio, contemporary full blind-ruled brown sheep, raised bands. Housed in custom half morocco clamshell box. $24,000.
First edition in English of Fludd’s “grand synthesis of knowledge,” based on intricate, interwoven theories of mysticism, natural magic, Neoplatonism, alchemy, hermeticism and Paracelsianism, featuring numerous woodcut engravings.
A controversial Rosicrucian and physician, Robert Fludd (1574-1637) first encountered occult circles during his time at St. John’s College, Oxford. “The chief English representative of that school of medical mystics which laid claim to the possession of the key to universal science” (DNB), Fludd traveled extensively through Europe after graduation, a period in which it “seems likely that he was exposed to hermeticism and Paracelsianism,” and on returning to London, began his life’s work amidst almost immediate and continuing controversy (ODNB). “Remembered for his connection with the fraternity of the rosy cross… [and] his position that all true natural science is rooted in revelation” (DNB), Fludd preceded his Mosaicall Philosophy with only one other work in English, Doctor Fudd’s answer unto M. Foster (1631). It was there that Fludd defended his belief in the efficacy of a weapon-salve based on the Paracelsian doctrine of curing a wound by anointing it with the weapon that caused it—in this instance with a mixture of the patient’s blood, moss grown on a human skull, and flesh from the body of a hanged man.
In Mosaicall Philosophy, Fludd offers an “explicit, detailed and highly organized Neoplatonist—Cabalist—alchemical interpretation of the universe… Fludd was a devoutly Christian Neoplatonist, or as he would call himself, a Mosaicall Philosopher, since he begins with what he believes to be infallible principles delivered from God directly to Moses and his followers. Since Fludd made some unique contributions to his grand synthesis of knowledge over and above what was formulated originally by the Renaissance Florentine Neoplatonists, he felt justified in calling his philosophy ‘Fluddean’ as well as Mosaicall… This concept of using natural magic to investigate the mysteries of the unified, sympathetic harmony of the universe precisely described Fludd’s approach to exploring natural phenomena.” Fludd chronicles a number of experiments, including the fascinating Calendar- (or Weather-) Glass and those dealing with magnetism. The Weather-Glass, a combination of barometer/thermometer, was used to show the effects upon the natural world of the dichotomies of light/dark or heat/cold. Fludd believed that the interplay of these opposites animated the universe and that the Weather-Glass demonstrated this. The other major experimental evidence Fludd offers herein is said to “confirm the loving Micro-cosmicall Attraction, or sympathetical Coition, and anti-patheticall Expulsion or hatred, by the magnetick, and expulsive property of the Macrocosmicall Loadstone.” Just as the Weather-Glass could be considered a miniature universe, the mineral lodestone could be said to demonstrate its principles of attraction and repulsion on a macrocosmic scale, while also demonstrating “how these properties work in the animal kingdom, and can thus be used for medical cures” (Huffman, 104-5, 118, 124). Preceded by the posthumously published Latin edition of 1638. Two sections in one volume; second section with its own title page. With several woodcut illustrations, ornamental woodcut headpieces and initials. Ferguson I:284. Krivatsky 4141. Wing F1391. Lowndes, 814. Contemporary owner signature, notations, to front free endpaper and title page; lengthy passage in manuscript (leaf R3r); marginalia to one leaf (287).
Scattered mild foxing, light dampstaining. Inner paper hinge starting, mild splits to ends of front joint; binding sound. Mild age-wear to contemporary sheep. Minor repair to spine head. An extremely good copy. Scarce.