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Page 1


Science and Nature in Medieval

and Early Modern Europe

Edited by

Miguel López Pérez, Didier Kahn

and Mar Rey Bueno

Page 2

Chymia: Science and Nature in Medieval and Early Modern Europe

Edited by Miguel López Pérez, Didier Kahn and Mar Rey Bueno

This book first published 2010

Cambridge Scholars Publishing

12 Back Chapman Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 2XX, UK

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Copyright © 2010 by Miguel López Pérez, Didier Kahn, Mar Rey Bueno and contributors

All rights for this book reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system,

or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or

otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.

ISBN (10): 1-4438-2553-0, ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-2553-5

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Michael Sendivogius and the Meanings of Success in Alchemy


name as “Weronika s Tyberyn” (which should be read in the context of the
Polish text as “from Tyberyn”) without any additional information. He
does, however, include a small illustration of her coat-of-arms. Her
identity has not been properly researched so far, except for some
speculations that she came from a family of Nuremberg patriciate. The
arms is, however, that of an old family of Franconian knighthood named
Stiebar von Buttenheim, so Paprocki’s version was simply a misspelt
maiden name Stiebarin.

A detailed genealogy of the Stiebars published by Johann Gottfried
Biedermann (1705-1766) does not show any Veronica which might fit
chronologically.110 It was not until a recent discovery of archival sources
mentioning her that the mystery could be resolved. The records of the
Imperial Chamber Court (Reichskammergericht) in Munich contain
several cases in which she is specifically mentioned as the wife of
“Michael Sedzimir von Skorsko”.111 Most interestingly, Veronica turns out
to have been a widow of Hans Ehrenfried von Absberg, Amtmann in
Baiersdorf, who died in 1592, and the mother of his two sons. Her mother
was Ursula von Fronhofen, at the time wife of Andreas von Horkheim, and
earlier a widow of a Stiebar von Buttenheim zu Sassanfahrt, whose first
name is not mentioned. The court cases were concerned with the land
estates inherited by Veronica and her sons, Hans Ernst i Hans Heinrich
von Absberg. Their legal guardians, Hans Konrad von und zu Absberg and
Philipp Jakob von Eyb zu Rammersdorf, accused Veronica that she was
unable to administer their land estates because “she had married an
unknown Pole” (sich mit einem unbekannten Polen verehelicht habe).
They also requested that her mother Ursula should return the chidren to
them, so that they may be sent to a tutor in Nuremberg, because in
Sassanfahrt there were no conditions for their proper upbringing. It means
that Veronica left her sons with the grandmother, as she and her new
husband lived in Spalt.

The Biedermann genealogies of the other related families and a
monograph of the von Absberg family give conflicting information about
the member of the Stiebar family who was the father of Veronica and
husband of Ursula (either Christoph zu Buttenheim und Aisch or Erhard
zu Regensperg).112 There were two main branches and several lines of the
family flourishing in the 16th century and since one of them had their
residence in Sassanfahrt, it was certainly the one in question, rather than
either of the two indicated by the genealogies. By the early 1590’s all lines
of that main branch became extinct and thus in all probability Veronica
became an heiress to at least part of the property. This is further supported
by the court records in which three male members of the other main

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branch of the Stiebar family, Albrecht, Pancratius, and Georg Sebastian,
are listed in 1598 as the closest relatives of the two sons of Veronica.
Whatever the details of the relationships were, she was certainly a rich
widow and marrying her was a crucial stage in the career of Michael
Sendivogius, perhaps even a springboard to Rudolf II’s court. On the other
hand, it is hard to imagine how a wandering student from Poland managed
to convince the wealthy noble widow to marry him, leave her children and
move to Bohemia. Interestingly, the Stiebar family was not only politically
and economically important, but one member of the Sassanfahrt line,
Daniel Stiebar von Buttenheim (1503-1555), was also a humanist scholar
and a friend of Erasmus of Rotterdam.113 Almost certainly he was
Veronica’s grand uncle, so she may have also shared intellectual interests
with her new husband. In a letter to Rudolf II in 1597 Sendivogius asked
the emperor to give the land estate of Libochovice, with a magnificent
castle, to “his wife and children”, perhaps as a compensation for the
property left in Franconia.114 The goods had been confiscated from Ji#í of
Lobkovic, leader of the Catholic opposition, and held by the state until
1610 when Rudolf granted them to Adam of &ternberk, so this early
attempt of Sendivogius at becoming a landowner was unsuccessful.

According to Josef Svatek, Sendivogius met Dee and Kelley in
Germany, and later also Seton. It may be an interpolation from the
received Seton story and from the fact that Sendivogius bought the
Fumberk farm in Jílové from Joan Kelley. If true, however, it must have
taken place in 1586, when the two Englishmen went first for a few days to
Leipzig, returned to Prague, and upon being expelled from the country
travelled to Erfurt, Gotha, and Kassel before they received the news that
they were allowed to go back and stay in T#ebo$. Alternatively,
Sendivogius may have met Kelley after Dee returned to England, perhaps
between October 1593, when the “Engellender” was released from his first
imprisonment, and May 1594, when the Pole became the courtier of
Rudolf II. It is also possible that Svatek had access to some Polish sources,
in which the whole of the Holy Roman Empire was often referred to as
Germany and thus the meeting of the two alchemists may have taken place
at the imperial court in Prague.

When Edward Kelley was imprisoned for the second time in 1596 and
his land estates were confiscated, his wife had to sell the houses in Jílové
and Prague to pay his debts and move to Most to be close to him. The
Fumberk farm, which according to Svatek had been bought from her own
resources for 4300 schock of Meissen groschen,115 was sold to
Sendivogius. His ownership of it is well attested in primary sources and by
reliable researchers.116 It is even possible to point to an approximate date

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Michael Sendivogius and the Meanings of Success in Alchemy


149 Stanis'aw Kleczewski, Kalendarz Seraficzny zamykai*cy w sobie zywoty
wielebnych S"ug Boskich Zakonu S. O. Franciszka Reformatów Polskich osobliw*
swi*tobliwosci* znamienitych (Lwów: Drukarnia J. K. M. i Bractwa .wi%tej
Trójcy, 1760), LIX-LXI. It is quoted from a chronicle which does not seem to
survive. A surviving chronicle in the library of the Reformed Franciscans in
Cracow does not include the eagle episode but otherwise corroborates
Kleczewski’s account.
150 Kraków, Archiwum Pa(stwowe, Castrensia Cracoviensia, Inscriptiones 222,
pag. 110-113.
151 Jan Pasiecznik, Ko!ció" i klasztor reformatów w Krakowie (Kraków:
Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1978), 34-35.
152 Kraków, Archiwum Pa(stwowe, Castrensia Cracoviensia, Relationes 51, pag.
153 Christian Ritter d’Elvert, Beiträge zur Geschichte der böhmischen Länder,
insbesondere Mährens, im siebzehnten Jahrhunderte, vol. 3 (Brünn: Verlag der
historisch-statistischen Sektion; Karl Winiker, 1875), 445.
154 Ibid., 431.
155 Josef Zukal, “Alchymista Michal Sendivoj pánem na Krava#ích a Koutech,”
V#stník Matice Opavské 17 (1909), 1-8, here 3.
156 I am indebted to Vladimír Spá*il, a leading authority on the history of
Olomouc, for checking municipal records and other resources for me. He found no
mention of Sendivogius but on the other hand he is known to have asked the
emperor for it and Pinocci says he had it, which is independently confirmed by an
anonymous biographical note from Sendivogius’s lifetime (Warszawa, Biblioteka
Uniwersytecka, Gabinet Rycin 477).
157 Roma, Pontificia Universita Gregoriana, Carteggio Kircheriana, 564, fol. 95r-
96v. Digital reproductions available on the website of Athanasius Kircher
Correspondence Project,
158 Gellner, “%ivotopis léka#e Borbonia”, 114; Dvo#ák, “Dva denníky”, 108.
159 Croll, Basilica chymica, Praefatio admonitoria, 94.
160 Zukal, “Alchymista,” 7.
161 See for example: Zbigniew Szyd'o, Water Which Does Not Wet Hands. The
Alchemy of Michael Sendivogius (Warszawa: Polish Academy of Sciences,
Institute for the History of Science, 1994); William T. Lynch, Solomon’s Child:
Method in the Early Royal Society of London (Stanford, CA: Stanford University
Press, 2001), 67; Donald R. Dickson, “Thomas Henshaw and Sir Robert Paston’s
pursuit of the red elixir: An early collaboration between fellows of The Royal
Society,” Notes and Records of the Royal Society 51 (1997), no. 1, 57-76.
162 See especially: Betty Jo Teeter Dobbs, The Foundations of Newton’s Alchemy
or “The Hunting of the Greene Lyon” (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1975). Richard Westfall, “The Role of Alchemy in Newton’s Career,” in Reason,
Experiment, and Mysticism in the Scientific Revolution, ed. M. L. Righini Bonelli
and William R. hea (New York: Science History Publications, 1975); ibid., Never
at Rest. A Biography of Isaac Newton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1980); ibid., “Newton and Alchemy,” in Occult and Scientific Mentalities in the

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Rafal T. Prinke


Renaissance, ed. Brian Vickers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984);
William R. Neman, “Newton’s Theory of Metallic Generation in the Previously
Neglected Text ‘Humores minerales continuo decidunt’,” in Chymists and
Chymistry. Studies in the History of Alchemy and Early Modern Chemistry, ed.
Lawrence M. Principe (Sagamore Beach: Chemical Heritage Foundation and
Science History Publications, 2007), 89-100.
163 Lavoisier’s own copy of the French 1723 edition of the works of Sendivogius is
now in Cornell University Library, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections in
Ithaca (shelfmark: Lavoisier/QD/25/S47/1723).
164 Examples are: “Jak magik z Krakowa nabra' 1l'skiego zbójnika,” in Legendy i
ba!nie !l*skie, ed. Stanis'aw Wasylewski (Katowice: Ognisko, 1947); “Pov"sti a
pov"da*ky,” in Ho#ká, Ludmila. Národopisné pab"rky z Hlu*ínska, ed. 2 (Krava#e
: Kulturní st#edisko zámek Krava#e, 2002), 27-37.
165 The most important of those include: Józef Bohdan Dzieko(ski, S%dziwój, vol.
1-3 (Warszawa, 1845; ed. 2: Warszawa, 1907; ed. A. Gromadzki, PIW :
Warszawa, 1974 and later reprints), on-line ed. Marek Adamiec and Helena
Draganik, Wirtualna Biblioteka Literatury Polskiej (UNESCO Project),
Uniwersytet Gda(ski,; Josef Franti"ek
Karas, Polsk$ *ert (Praha: B. Ko*í, 1924); Gustav Meyrink, “Die Abenteuer des
Polen Sendivogius,” in Goldmachergeschichten (Berlin: Scherl, [1925]; repr.
Darmstadt: Verlag Wolfgang Roller, 1989), 195-261; Jadwiga 2yli(ska, Kawaler
Christian Rosenkreutz, in Do kogo nale/y 1wiat? (Warszawa: PIW, 1977),149-186;
Wac'aw Szymanowski, “Micha' S%dziwój. Dramat w pi%ciu aktach,” in Poezje i
dramata, vol. 2 (Warszawa: Gebethner i Wolff, 1884). Possible influence of
Sendivogius on Elizabethan drama was discussed by Stanton J. Linden, “Jonson
and Sendivogius: Some New Light on Mercury Vindicated from the Alchemists at
Court,” Ambix 24 (1977), 39-54. Compare also: Charles Nicholl, The chemical
theatre (London - Boston - Henley: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980).

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