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ELIXIR DE VIE. . . [manuscript caption title] by [Long Life Elixir] - First Edition - ca. 1760s] - from W. C. Baker Rare Books & Ephemera and Biblio.com

ELIXIR DE VIE. . . [manuscript caption title]

by [Long Life Elixir]

Condition: Very good


[France, ca. 1760s]. First Edition. Hardcover. Very good. Bifolium, approximately 10 x 7 1/2 inches. [3]pp. of text. Early folds, light dampstains in corners, mild foxing. Very good, untrimmed, in a fine custom cloth folding case with printed paper label.

18th-century manuscript recipe for the “long life elixir” closely associated with a 17th-century Swedish doctor known variously as “Samst,” “Vornets,” “Xermet,” “Yerner,” “Yernest,” “Gernest,” and, here, “Guernai.” The recipe, which has ancient origins and a millennia-long history of revision and rediscovery, has been widely credited in its present form to the Swedish doctor at least since the 1760s, when several similar manuscripts and a handful of printed notices appeared throughout France. In a 2012 article in the REVUE D’HISTOIRE DE LA PHARMACIE, “<<Un>> ou… <<Le>> précieux manuscrit de <<L’élixir de longue vie>> nouvellement découvert,” Jean-Pierre Grelaud argues persuasively for a 1700-1710 date of another recently discovered—and, at this point, earliest known—comparable manuscript, suggesting a date no later than the turn of the 18th century for the death of the Swedish doctor. The true name of the doctor has never been conclusively determined, nor specific details (or proof) of his life uncovered. It is certain, however, that his formula either was derived from or shared common roots with recipes Paracelsus discussed during the 16th century. A consistent key element was Venetian theriac (here, “thériaque de Venise,” known also as “Venice treacle” and therica andromachi), which is usually thought to have originated in Greece, particularly with Andromachus the Elder of Crete, in the first century C.E. This compound traditionally contained viper flesh, scorpion venom, opium, and myrrh among its scores of ingredients and appears to have traveled as far as China in its first several centuries. The elixir of life, in general, appears to have origins as old as Babylon and was discussed extensively by European and Arabic alchemists, eventually attaching itself to the legends of Nicolas Flamel and the Comte de Saint Germain. Most early copies of the present version of the recipe inform us that the original manuscript was found in the papers of a Swedish doctor who died at an advanced age (almost invariably 104, but here 110) from a fall from a horse. The “secret” had existed in his family for “several centuries,” and daily consumption helped his grandfather, father, and mother live similarly long lives (in the present copy, to 130, 112, and 104 years, respectively). The handful of known 18th-century examples of the recipe are remarkably consistent regarding the elixir’s ingredients and their proportions, method of preparation, and uses. When there is variation among the lists of ingredients, it tends to occur in the proportion of aloe (this copy shows the greatest amount, at “un once et trois gros” to the single “gros” of most other elements) and rhubarb (here, a gros and a half) and in the specific names used for the different ingredients (e.g., “safran du levant” here is usually “le meilleur safran,” sometimes “d’orient” or “oriental”). Unique to the present manuscript is an interesting final paragraph referring to a “frere Nicolas de friardel,” presumably a monk at the Augustinian priory of Saint-Cyr at Friardel in Calvados, Lower Normandy. Brother Nicolas has mentioned that using the elixir regularly for two years has largely cured him of a “cruel gout” which had “robbed him of the use of his feet and hands.”

  • Bookseller: W. C. Baker Rare Books & Ephemera US (US)
  • Bookseller Inventory #: 362
  • Title: ELIXIR DE VIE. . . [manuscript caption title]
  • Author: [Long Life Elixir]
  • Format/binding:Hardcover
  • Book condition: Used - Very good
  • Edition: First Edition
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Place: [France
  • Date published: ca. 1760s]
  • Keywords: science, biology, medicine, occult, alchemy, elixir vitae, elixir ad longam vitam, French language, manuscript
  • Bookseller catalogs: Medicine; Occult; Science;


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