Piedmontese.   Alessio [Girolamo Ruscello]     - A medieval classic.
The Secrets of Alexis:
CONTAINING MANY EXCELLENT REMEDIES AGAINST DIVERS DISEASES, wounds, and other Accidents. With the maner to make Distillations, Parfumes, Confritures, Dying, Colours, Fusions, and Meltings. A worke well approved, very necessarie for every man. Newly corrected and amended, and also somewhat more enlarged in certaine places, which wanted in the former Editions. Lonodn, Printed by William Stansby for Richard Meighen and Thomas Iones, and are to be sold at their shop with-out Temple-barre under S. Clements Church. 1615.
4to. 180x145mm. 3feps (with 2 19th-cent. ink inscriptions on recto, one being from J.Osbourn Francis) Title page. [1] 6pp The Epistle to Francis, Lord Russel, Earle of Bedford. 4pp To the Reader. Unusual pagination; recto with number, verso unnumbered -- (1) 2-348 (698 pages) Lacking 259-290 including title to the fourth part. 28pp The Table. 3feps. Some mild age browning throughout, with the title and last pages a little darker. Printed mainly in black letter. Some pencil markings in the margins, Five early English MS marginalia discussing recipes. Bound in 19th-cent. marled boards with the page edges marbled to match. Sympathetically rebacked in dark brown smooth calf with gilt lines and red morocco gilt label. Overall a very good copy of an early book.
- Alessio Piemontese, also known under his latinized name of Alexius Pedemontanus, was the pseudonym of Girolamo Ruscelli, a 16th century Italian physician, alchemist, humanist and cartographer, who was born in Viterbo around 1504 and died in Venice, 1566, and the author of this immensely popular book, 'The Secrets of Master Alexis of Piedmont'. This work is in five parts, parts 2-3 have separate dated title pages (and the fourth when present); the fifth part has a caption title; foliation and register are continuous. The title pages to the second, third and fourth parts bear the imprint "Printed at London by W. Stansby, anno Dom. 1614." The first three parts were first published separately in an English translation, beginning in 1559 and the four parts were first published together in English in 1595. Our edition contains an additional fifth part attributed in the title to "Mayster Alexis of Piemont" but not found in the original Italian editions nor the English edition of 1595 It continued to be published in more than a hundred editions and was still being reprinted in the 1790s. As well as English, the work was translated into Latin, German, Spanish, French, and Polish. It unleashed a torrent of 'books of secrets' that continued to be published down through the eighteenth century. Alessio was the prototypical professor of secrets. His description of his hunt for secrets in the preface to the 'Secreti' helped to give rise to a legend of the wandering empiric who dedicated his life to the search for natural and technological secrets. The book contributed to the emergence of the concept of science as a hunt for the secrets of nature, which pervaded experimental science during the period of the Scientific Revolution. In a later work, Ruscelli reported that the Secreti contained the experimental results of an ĎAcademy of Secretsí that he and a group of humanists and noblemen founded in Naples in the 1540s. Ruscelliís academy is the first recorded example of an experimental scientific society. First published in Venice in 1555 as the famous title 'De secreti del Reverendo Donno Alessio Piedmontese' , it helped to shape Giambattista Della Porta's famous 'Magia Naturalis' of 1558 and Isabella Crtese's 'Secreti' of 1564. -- Duveen, Bibliotheca Alchemica et Chemica, pages 15-17; Krivatsy, 17th Century Books in the National Library of Medicine, page 21, No. 209; Wellcome Library, Volume I, page 9, No. 188.

click on image to enlarge
Information

Antiquarian category
ref number: 11085