From Alchemy to Chemistry:
Five Hundred Years of Rare and Interesting Books

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Rare Book Room Exhibit

BRUNSCHWIG, HIERONYMUS (1450 - c. 1512). Liber de arte distillandi; Das buch der rechten kunst zu distillieren. Strassburg: 1500.

FIRST EDITION of one of the earliest books on chemistry and pharmacology based on the author's study of some 3000 authorities. The equipment of the period is beautifully and skillfully illustrated including medicinal plants and prescriptions which are offered for marital compatibility, good memory, a merry and brave spirit and against bad dreams, drunkenness and terrors of the night. The last of the fifteenth-century herbals was the first to be concerned with the chemistry and essential oils of plants. Brunschwig based the first part of the work, an exposition of the methods and apparatus of distillation of plant or animal products, mainly by steam, on his own observations. The second part, a discussion of plant and their attributes, is a compendium of the traditional herbal texts, with the same illustrations, and the third part, also based on the herbal format, is a list of distilled plant remedies grouped by ailment. The Liber de arte distillandi reveals great originality; primarily because of the description, complemented by abundant illustrations, of chemical and distillation apparatus, this book became a pharmaceutical-technical handbook that was the authority far into the sixteenth century. Appended to it was a compilation of illnesses along with a list of vegetable distillates indicated for each case of illness. Because of their completeness, Brunschwig's compilations of the technical terms adaptable to pharmacy in the early sixteenth century are noteworthy accomplishments. They represent an important link between the Middle Ages and modern times. The choice of this book as the first in the present exhibit is particularly appropriate, because its publication date, May 8, 1500, was almost exactly five hundred years ago.

Dibner, Heralds, 37; DSB; Christies Auction Oct. 29, 1992, item 40.

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