"To All Ingeniously Elaborate Students, In the most Divine Mysteries of Hermetique Learning." Or so British politician and Freemason ELIAS ASHMOLE (1617-1692) dedicated this curious artifact of the esoteric and spiritual philosophy of alchemy.
An avid collector of antiquaries and other oddities (they were, upon his death, bequeathed to Oxford University, which used them to found the Ashmolean Museum), Ashmole counted among his treasures volumes of metaphysical poems available only in private, and fiercely guarded, manuscripts. In 1652, though, he collected many of these writings in this hefty tome, annotated with his own comments. Included are:
. "The Ordinall of Alchimy" by Thomas Norton
. "The Compound of Alchymie" by Sir George Ripley
. "Liber Patris Sapientiae"
. "The Tale of the Chanons Yeoman" by Geoffry Chaucer
. "The Worke of John Dastin"
. "The Hunting of the Greene Lyon" by the Viccar of Malden
. "Bloomsfields Blossoms: Or, The Campe of Philosophy"
. "Sir Ed Kelley Concerning the Philosopher's Stone"
. and much more.
Once a resource for such natural philosophers as Isaac Newton, the Theatrum Chemicum Brittannicum remains an astonishing album of arcania.