Stanislas Klossowski De Rola has produced a beautifully constructed survey of the extraordinary alchemical engravings of the seventeenth century. These striking and enigmatic images represent one of the most fantastic flowerings of the human imagination, contemporary (and closely connected) with the birth of what we call modern science. Eschewing fashionable psychological and other theories, Klossowski presents these emblems within their own frame of reference - that of spiritual and practical alchemy. Concealed beneath modest and scholarly captions is a comprehensive presentation of the tenets of this tradition. This book is exquisitely designed, with fine attention to points of typography and reproduction that makes a huge difference to the appreciation of both images and commentary.
An annotated collection of engravings drawn from diverse seventeenth-century alchemical works may seem to many an unappetising basis for a book. In the hands of such an erudite and credulous guide as Klossowski de Rola, however, such unpromising material is made to shine. The engravings, as their compiler explains, often went beyond mere ornament and illustration, being central to conveying their authors' abstruse notions. Among the riches herein are a complete set of engravings from Michael Maier's Atalanta Fugiens, and a selection of images from an enigmatic textless work entitled Mutus Liber, the 'Silent Book'. The designs are striking, elaborate, and many are beautiful, poignantly filled with meanings that very few, if any, readers today will understand: urgent ciphers in a dead language. Practising alchemists and enthusiasts of the recondite and obsolete will be captivated by this book.