Two Books (Books acquired, 7 and 14 Feb. 2020)

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Robinson by Muriel Spark. Penguin Books, 1964. Cover drawing by Terence Greer.

I have not yet read Muriel Spark, but I’ve noted she’s been compared to Ann Quin and Anna Kavan. Robinson looked more interesting to me (and shorter) than her more famous novels The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Memento Mori, and I love this cover.

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Alchemy by Titus Burckhardt. Penguin Books,1974. Cover design by Walter Brooks, using a drawing from Basilius Valentinus’s “Aurelia Occulta Philosophorum” in Theatrum Chemicum, Argentoratie, 1614. vol. IV. Chocked full of glorious black and white images.

Melancholia (detail) — Albrecht Dürer

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The Powder of Sympathy

“The Powder of Sympathy”

from

THE SEVEN FOLLIES
OF SCIENCE

A
POPULAR ACCOUNT OF THE MOST FAMOUS
SCIENTIFIC IMPOSSIBILITIES
AND THE ATTEMPTS WHICH HAVE BEEN MADE TO SOLVE THEM.

To which is Added a Small Budget of Interesting
Paradoxes, Illusions, and Marvels.

BY
JOHN PHIN


This curious occult method of curing wounds is indissolubly associated with the name of Sir Kenelm Digby (born 1603, died 1665), though it was undoubtedly in use long before his time. He himself tells us that he learned to make and apply the drug from a Carmelite, who had traveled in the east, and whom he met in Florence, in 1622. The descendants of Digby are still prominent in England, and O. W. Holmes, in his “One Hundred Days in Europe,” tells us that he had met a Sir Kenelm Digby, a descendant of the famous Sir Kenelm of the seventeenth century, and that he could hardly refrain from asking him if he had any of his ancestor’s famous powder in his pocket.

Digby was a student of chemistry, or at least of the chemistry of those days, and wrote books of Recipes and the making of “Methington [metheglin or mead?] Syder, etc.” He was, as we have seen in the previous article, a believer in palingenesy and made experiments with a view to substantiate that strange doctrine. Evelyn calls him an “errant quack,” and he may have been given to quackery, but then the loose scientific ideas of those days allowed a wide range in drawing conclusions which, though they seem absurd to us, may have appeared to be quite reasonable to the men of that time.

From his book on the subject,we learn that the wound was never to be brought into contact with the powder. A bandage was to be taken from the wound, immersed in the powder, and kept there until the wound healed.

This beats the absent treatment of Christian Science!

The powder was simply pulverized vitriol, that is, ferric sulphate, or sulphate of iron. Continue reading “The Powder of Sympathy”

The Alchemist — Edmund Dulac

The Alchemist — Pieter Bruegel the Elder

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Goldfish Tears (Book Acquired, 3.16.2012)

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Goldfish Tears by Curtis Ackie: A good looking collection of shorts. Here’s the descriptor:

A perturbed bachelor is beleaguered by his misbehaving shadow; a reclusive alchemist builds a machine to right his wife’s disfigurement; the sun forgets to rise over a sleepy town in the middle of nowhere. Equal parts haunting and outlandish, Goldfish Tears is an enchanting collection of short stories by Curtis Ackie, a young British-born author concerned with the magic of dreams as escapism.

(More).

The book is full of charming illustrations that evoke whimsy and dread:

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