Determining your location... | View access restrictions

About Access Restrictions to Electronic Resources

Access and use of electronic resources made available by the Becker Medical Library are governed by license agreements between the School of Medicine and publishers or third parties. Several of the electronic resources carry some restriction on their use. Access may be restricted by user location, number of concurrent users, and/or password.

In short, most people experience access limitations based on the network to which their computer is connected. Below is a quick breakdown of what can be accessed from various networks.

BJH (Limited to) SLCH (Limited to) Proxy (Remote Access) WUSM Off Campus
AccessMedicine
STAT!Ref
UpToDate Online
AccessMedicine
American Academy of Pediatrics Journals
Applied Clinical Informatics
Harriet Lane Handbook
Red Book Online
ScienceDirect
STAT!Ref
UpToDate Online
Unrestricted Access to All Becker Resources Unrestricted Access to All Becker Resources No Access without Proxy

No, Those Three Rare Books With the Same Title Are Not Duplicates: A Visual Guide

One of the most spectacular rare book collections held at the Becker Library is the Robert E. Schlueter Paracelsus Collection.  While it is notable for its holdings in Paracelsian medicine and for its beautiful contemporary bindings, its most intriguing works might be the texts on the subject of alchemy.  These works are fascinating not only for their textual content, but also for their beautiful, highly allegorical illustrations.  Of these, the most spectacular are without a doubt found in Salomon Trismosin’s Splendor Solis (The Splendor of the Sun).  Our copies of this text are found in the Aurem Vellus, oder Guldin Schatz und Kunst-kammer (Golden Fleece, or Golden Treasure and Art Cabinet), a composite work of several alchemical tracts that appeared at the end of the sixteenth century.

The Splendor Solis first appeared in manuscript form and was written in 1532-35.  Manuscript copies of the work are quite rare, but the ones that exist are extraordinarily beautiful: the British Library’s 1582 copy shows the meticulous detail that went into its creation.  The carefully drawn and sumptuously colored series of illustrations is rich in alchemical symbolism, with each image representing a different aspect of the creation of the philosopher’s stone.  For example, the image of the queen (the moon) and the king (the sun) represents the union of sulfur and mercury in the chemical wedding; while the drowning king symbolizes putrefaction, or the dissolution of impurities.  The meaning of these images is often quite difficult to decode.  This was deliberate on the part of the alchemists, partly out of the desire to keep alchemical knowledge out of undeserving hands, but also because alchemy had a strong spiritual component.  As such, alchemical illustrations did not just reflect an outward physical process; they were meant to express philosophical and metaphysical concepts.

We aren’t quite lucky enough to have a manuscript copy of the Splendor Solis here in St. Louis, but we do have three different editions of the Aurem Vellus, dating from 1598-1599, 1599, and 1708.  The illustrations below all show the same image of a dark-skinned man being raised out of the water by a beautiful woman.  The accompanying text describes it as an unclean body being dissolved by the spirit, which is then removed from the body, and then finally descends into a newly spiritual body.  This is probably an allegory for sublimation and distillation.

This first image comes from 1598-1599 edition.  It was created using a woodblock print, which was the earliest form of printing.  The additional hand coloring would have increased the overall value of this particular copy of the work.

Now look at this next one.  This is from the 1599 edition, and is also a woodblock print, but it’s not nearly as nice.  There is no handcoloring, and the carving is not as detailed.  This edition probably would have been cheaper to purchase than the one above.

This third one comes from the 1708 edition, printed over one hundred years after both of the others.  While the previous illustrations were both created with woodblocks, this is a copperplate engraving (for more information on different illustration techniques check out this post over at the Folger Shakespeare Library’s blog).  See how fine the line work is? 

All three illustrations show the same image, but each one is distinct.  Each of these editions of the Aurem Vellus also has its own unique binding, and while the first and third images come from books in the quarto format, the second one is from an octavo (check out this post for an overview of what is meant by a book's format).  Books from the hand press period might have the same text - although changes were often made in the middle of a print run, so there are plenty of textual variations - but calling them duplicates of one another is a misnomer.  Each copy is unique, and has its own distinct features. 

Those of you interested in uncovering the secrets of the philosopher's stone are welcome to come up to the rare book room.  You might also want to consult Lyndy Abraham’s excellent A Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).  If by chance you do end up discovering how to create the philosopher's stone, please don't feel the need to adhere to the alchemists' code of secrecy.  You can let all of us know.

* Please note: Becker Briefs pages may contain links, email addresses or information about resources which are no longer current.