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Amur
06-11-2013, 04:44 PM
What's the most used language for good alchemical texts available? Latin or what language would be recommended to learn for me? I'm a total noob in the area.

Andro
06-11-2013, 05:02 PM
What's the most used language for good alchemical texts available? Latin or what language would be recommended to learn for me? I'm a total noob in the area.

German.

French.

Italian.

Latin (?)

Green :)

Salazius
06-11-2013, 05:35 PM
Latin obviously yes.

Greek also can be useful.

Arab too.

But, more important than all of these languages : the language of Nature. This one can teach you soooo many things directly from the source.

Andro
06-11-2013, 05:52 PM
But, more important than all of these languages : the language of Nature. This one can teach you soooo many things directly from the source.
______________________________

755

JDP
06-11-2013, 06:20 PM
What's the most used language for good alchemical texts available? Latin or what language would be recommended to learn for me? I'm a total noob in the area.

For early alchemical texts, Greek and Arabic are essential, since the bulk of the earlier literature on the subject has been preserved in these two languages.

For later alchemical and "chymical" texts, Latin and German are the two languages that have preserved the bulk of the literature.

teofrast40
06-11-2013, 08:48 PM
Hallo
Fist of all, to me learning languages is a priority if you are serious about (western) alchemy, as there are tons of sources untranslated, and for those that are already translated, being able to take a peek at the original is a big advantage, seeing that the matter is very delicate and difficult to understand.
My priority list:
Latin (you could do well just with this, as almost everything of classical alchemy is available in Latin)
French (many classics of the golden age of alchemy are in French)
German (a lot of untranslated sources here, from Paracelsus to the golden rosy cross)
Arabic (there is a wealth of treasures waiting to be discovered here)
Greek (less urgent to me as the Greek corpus is not that vast - namely the marcianus graecus manuscript- and most of it has been translated in French by Berthelot, and there are some very well done academical translations in the making)
My 2 cents
t

Amur
06-11-2013, 10:59 PM
Thank you for your replies. Think I will begin to learn latin immediately atleast and after that german or french :)

JDP
06-13-2013, 11:31 PM
Greek (less urgent to me as the Greek corpus is not that vast - namely the marcianus graecus manuscript- and most of it has been translated in French by Berthelot, and there are some very well done academical translations in the making)

Unfortunately, Berthelot and his associates were not very interested in the Greek Byzantine alchemical texts, which they thought were too "mystical" (to them "practical alchemy" was pretty much just the texts that contain seemingly clear "recipes", which is absurd; in fact, the majority of these early texts that contain such "recipes" are proto-chymical texts, not alchemical properly) so they left them mostly untranslated. Only a few of these have been translated into modern languages (ex: a Byzantine alchemical poem ascribed to "Theophrastos" was translated into English by C. A. Browne, and some of the "Lessons" by Stephanos were translated into English by Frank Sherwood Taylor.)

Ghislain
06-14-2013, 01:32 AM
English is fairly useful too. ;)

Ghislain

JDP
06-14-2013, 02:24 AM
English is fairly useful too. ;)

Ghislain

It's useful, but the amount of alchemical and chymical literature available in English is dwarfed in comparison to that available in Latin or German. More alchemical and chymical texts have been written or translated into either of these two languages than any other language.

Ghislain
06-14-2013, 03:43 PM
JDP, dwarfed yes, but how many texts can be read and understood in one lifetime?

There have been numerous English Alchemists

Roger Bacon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Bacon), John Dastin ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dastin), George Ripley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Ripley_(Alchemist)), Thomas Norton (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Norton_(alchemist)), Thomas Charnock (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Charnock), John Dee (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dee) and son Arthur (Welsh, although had one of the largest libraries in England of that time), Edward Kelley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Kelley)...

The list of English Alchemists and their works goes on and on...

William Backhouse, Elias Ashmole, Thomas Henshaw, Edmund Dickinson, Robert Boyle, George Starkey, Isaac Newton, James Price, Albus Dumbledore ;)

I am sure there are many other English Alchemists missed from the list above and one could spend a lifetime studying their works. The
problem here lies in the fact most wrote in Latin or old English and thus some understanding of this would still be required.

Another problem to be taken into account is the information lost or misinterpreted in translation on a subject that is already riddled with red-herrings and ciphers, which make these translations almost
incomprehensible and there are many and varied translations of most texts. I guess the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I have not yet read a text that I can say I fully understand or isn't open to
many and varied interpretations so I look inside myself and at nature for the answers; I’m sure they’re out there.

Learning from others can be fun, but discovering things for oneself needs no translation.

Ghislain

JDP
06-14-2013, 09:21 PM
JDP, dwarfed yes, but how many texts can be read and understood in one lifetime?

There have been numerous English Alchemists

Roger Bacon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Bacon), John Dastin ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dastin), George Ripley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Ripley_(Alchemist)), Thomas Norton (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Norton_(alchemist)), Thomas Charnock (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Charnock), John Dee (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dee) and son Arthur (Welsh, although had one of the largest libraries in England of that time), Edward Kelley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Kelley)...

The list of English Alchemists and their works goes on and on...

William Backhouse, Elias Ashmole, Thomas Henshaw, Edmund Dickinson, Robert Boyle, George Starkey, Isaac Newton, James Price, Albus Dumbledore ;)

I am sure there are many other English Alchemists missed from the list above and one could spend a lifetime studying their works. The
problem here lies in the fact most wrote in Latin or old English and thus some understanding of this would still be required.

Another problem to be taken into account is the information lost or misinterpreted in translation on a subject that is already riddled with red-herrings and ciphers, which make these translations almost
incomprehensible and there are many and varied translations of most texts. I guess the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I have not yet read a text that I can say I fully understand or isn't open to
many and varied interpretations so I look inside myself and at nature for the answers; I’m sure they’re out there.

Learning from others can be fun, but discovering things for oneself needs no translation.

Ghislain

As you point out yourself, many of these English alchemists actually wrote in Latin. In older times, nationality did not guarantee that a writer would write in his local vernacular. In medieval and most of early modern Europe Latin was the language of the intellectuals for hundreds of years, just like Arabic was (and largely still is) such a language in the Islamic world, and Greek in the ancient Hellenic world (which included Byzantium and parts of Egypt and the Levant.)

Translation is the best method to gather information about this subject before coming up with experimental approaches to see if any given claim has any real foundation. Alchemical treatises are usually difficult to understand, but not impossible.

The "learning from nature" approach could take eons before giving any positive results. Just look at chemistry. For 200+ years its practitioners have been "learning from nature" as well, and their opinion about transmutation is that it is totally impossible short of having an "atom smasher" on your backyard. Gathering information from the experience of others is a great way of "cutting to the chase" and saving time & money in countless of experiments that will lead absolutely nowhere. And even with that advantage, it will still take you a long time and great effort to gather anything worthy of investigation, because the literature on the subject is riddled with all sorts of lies and mistakes (both deliberate and unintentional) that will also cost you time and money.

Orbital
06-15-2013, 12:30 AM
One shouldnt need to learn any other languages outside of english to have a better understanding of the esoteric. There is so much material out there now that has been translated to english. The art of alchemy is a language in itself, if you can't comprehend the english texts of your own language how can you comprehend the texts in a foreign language?

If you really want to learn another language try spanish or chinese. That will probably do more for you in this life.

teofrast40
06-15-2013, 02:50 AM
Unfortunately, Berthelot and his associates were not very interested in the Greek Byzantine alchemical texts, which they thought were too "mystical" (to them "practical alchemy" was pretty much just the texts that contain seemingly clear "recipes", which is absurd; in fact, the majority of these early texts that contain such "recipes" are proto-chymical texts, not alchemical properly) so they left them mostly untranslated. Only a few of these have been translated into modern languages (ex: a Byzantine alchemical poem ascribed to "Theophrastos" was translated into English by C. A. Browne, and some of the "Lessons" by Stephanos were translated into English by Frank Sherwood Taylor.)

This is sadly true. But with time things could get better. A translation of the whole Stephanos' Crysopoeia should appear for the Éditions les belles lettres.
Cheers
t

JDP
06-15-2013, 06:21 AM
This is sadly true. But with time things could get better. A translation of the whole Stephanos' Crysopoeia should appear for the Éditions les belles lettres.
Cheers
t

Unfortunately, for some reason the few new translations of alchemical texts written in Greek are being mostly done into French instead of English (why? English nowadays has more readers worldwide than French could ever dream of!) There was a guy in an American university who was working on an English translation of all the "Lessons" by Stephanos, but for unknown reasons he pulled down the website where he was giving updates of his progress with the project:

http://www.alchemydiscussion.com/view_topic.php?id=404&forum_id=6

Bel Matina
06-16-2013, 03:50 AM
Reading esoteric works in translation is a perilous exercise at best - you put yourself very much at the mercy of the translator. Although a few good translations do exist, it's always more informative to check back on the work in its original language - even the best translator must struggle with double meanings that can't quite be rendered elegantly into the target language. Speaking of double meanings, the literature is also rife with interlinguistic puns which frequently carry a lot of meaning, so for example reading a seventeenth century German manuscript there may be important things you miss if you don't also know Latin, Greek, and French.

Many of the most valuable works in the tradition were indeed originally written in Arabic, but unfortunately it's frustratingly difficult to get your hands on text. Until that changes, you're probably better off giving Arabic a pass, as the grammar is very foreign to westerners and the vocabulary is nuanced, complex, and highly variable depending on the time and place of the author.

Obviously Greek, Latin, German and French are the big ones. There's some interesting stuff written in Italian, and you could probably profit from a general familiarity with the various dialects of Mediterranian Romance (Italian, Provencal, Catalan, Spanish etc.). There's a lot of stuff written in Sanskrit from various periods that's really worth reading.

If you want to read the Qabbalistic texts you're kind of committing to a study of the whole Rabbinic tradition of exegesis, but it's an interesting comparison to contemporary works, and can shed valuable light on difficult ideas. Still, you're still talking about learning Biblical Hebrew, Rabbinic Hebrew, and Aramaic, along with a whole body of literature, so I wouldn't put it first on the list.

Chinese you can give a pass. I'm actually doing reconstructive work on Old Chinese, and it's amazing how little we know about pre-Han grammar. Most of the texts we'd be interested in were written during that period. Han and post-Han texts are pretty spare, unless you're into long, dry histories and maybe martial arts. I understand that during the romantic period they had a flowering of epic novels with hundreds of characters, but that's not really what you're asking about.

There's a whole bunch of cartoons from Japan which make extensive use of the language of the art. I wouldn't expect any startling enlightenment, but it can be fun to feel in on something so I suppose you could pick that up too if you wanted.