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Medieval mineralogy.

The following article(*) was originally published as part of Frank Dawson Adams' Birth and Development of the Geological Sciences, which is perhaps the most quoted reference on early mineralogical literature. The only alteration is the compilation of a reference list from Adams' footnotes, augmented by translations of various works published after 1938 and some new illustrations.

Adams was born in Montreal in 1859 and died there on December 26, 1942, at the age of 83, just four years after the publication of his book. He received his bachelor's degree from McGill University in Montreal in 1878, attended the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale and obtained his PhD (summa cure laude) in geology at the University of Heidelberg in 1892. He began lecturing in geology at McGill in 1889 and was made a full professor in 1893. He retired from teaching in 1924 and devoted himself to book collecting and research in the history of medicine and of geology. His extensive antiquarian library numbered about 1500 volumes at the time of his death and was willed to the Osier Library at McGill where the books may be seen today. He was held in high esteem particularly for his work with the petrographic microscope. The geology building at McGill is named in his honor. Ed.

In medieval times no distinction was made between minerals, rocks and fossils as these words are now understood - all were brought together into one class and were known as "Fossils" from the Latin word fossilis, that is, a thing dug up out of the earth. With the advance of knowledge the distinction between these three classes came to be recognized and the three sciences of mineralogy, petrography and paleontology arose devoted to the study of these three groups respectively. Those "fossils" which are now known as minerals are the subject of this article.


Our information concerning medieval mineralogy is derived from several sources. First, and of least importance, are the medieval encyclopedias. These works aim at setting forth the whole range of human knowledge at the time in which they were written and among other things treat, in a general way, of minerals. The information which they give is compiled from other and older writers whose works in many cases have now disappeared and are known only from the quotations given in the encyclopedias. A large part of the information, such as it is, has its origin in Pliny's Natural History or comes from Theophrastus. They also copy from one another as they appear in successive order (see Mieleitner, 1922). The earliest of these is that extraordinary collection of miscellaneous information which was the encyclopedia of the Dark Ages by St. Isidore of Seville, who was born in Cartagena in 570 and died in 636. He was for some thirty years Bishop of Seville. His descriptions of minerals are taken largely from Julius Solinus, and he devotes especial attention to the etymology or derivations of the names of minerals, as indicated by the title of his work. These are for the most part quite incorrect and in many cases ridiculous, as when he says that aurum (gold) is derived from aura (air) because it is through the air that the splendor of the metal is reflected to our eyes.

Another early encyclopedia is that of Rabanus Maurus who was born in 776 at Mainz. He was Abbot of Fulda and almost continuously from 804 to 842 was head of a celebrated cloister school in that center of learning. In the sixteenth chapter of his book, which is entitled De Universo, he treats of minerals but follows Isidore and adds little or nothing of his own. He tries to bring everything into relation with Holy Writ and his treatment is frequently very recondite, fanciful and mysterious.

Another writer who deserves special mention here is Alexander Neckam (1157-1227), who was one of the most remarkable English men of science of the twelfth century. In him we have a curious link between the history of science and ordinary secular history, for he was the foster-brother of King Richard the First of England (Coeur-de-Lion). In a chronicle formerly existing among the manuscripts of the Earl of Arundel it is recorded that "In the month of September 1157 there was born to the King at Windsor a sone named Richard and the same night was born Alexander Neckam at St. Albans, whose mother gave suck to Richard with her right breast and to Alexander with her left breast." He received his early education at the Abbey School of St. Albans and later studied at the University of Paris, where he became a professor in 1213. His relation to the King who was a lover of learning explains, in part at least, the brilliant position which Neckam achieved in later life. While still bound by a reverence for authority, he sought for something more satisfactory than the teaching of the schools and frequently shows a leaning toward experimental science. Neckam in his book has a long satirical discourse on the logical teaching of the schools of the University of Paris and especially on the quibbles and falsities into which, in the scholastic teaching, logic continually degenerated. Wright, who edits Neckam's book and supplies an interesting and valuable preface to the volume, remarks that Neckam gives a number of examples of this:

He shows how, by the train of reasoning employed in the schools, a man - Sortes the man of straw employed in the language of the scholastic disputations - might be proved to be a stone, or a rose, or a lily, or any other object; how what Sortes or any other individual said was at the same time true and false; how Sortes at the same time knows something and knows nothing; and a number of other similar quibbles.

Neckam's book was intended to be a manual of the scientific knowledge of the time but has an additional interest from the introduction of many contemporary stories and anecdotes illustrating the conditions and manners of the age. He draws from almost every scientific fact which he mentions a moral or religious lesson or application, although these are often far fetched and their truth by no means very apparent. His book abounds in stories of animals and plants. He mentions the metals briefly and refers to a dozen minerals or stones but does not describe them. Concerning mercury he remarks:

Quicksilver is necessary in gilding; at first the substance of the gold appears to be totally absorbed by the quicksilver, but afterward, by the agency of fire, the quicksilver is consumed and the colour of the gold comes out in all its brightness. So the mind is not gilt with the gold of wisdom without the agony of tribulation and sometimes the beauty of wisdom appears to have entirely disappeared in the tribulation until it is submitted to the solace of the Holy Ghost, represented by fire, and then the strength of wisdom returns to its brightness.

Like most people in the Middle Ages, Neckam believed that gems and precious stones possessed extraordinary virtues. Thus in referring to agate he repeats the statement made by Marbodus to the effect that the agate (achates) carried on the person rendered the bearer amiable, eloquent and powerful, and he explains the story of Aeneas having a faithful companion named Achates by supposing that he carried with him an agate stone whereby he acquired the love of many people and was rescued from many dangers.

At a considerably later period in his life, Neckam wrote a poem called De Laudibus Divinae Sapientiae, which is a metrical paraphrase of the De Naturis Rerum, but in it many of the stories are omitted and in places very considerable additions of new material are made.

In the interval between the writing of the two works Neckam had evidently continued his studies and enlarged his knowledge of mineralogy for in the De Laudibus after naming the metals he mentions thirty seven minerals, most of them precious stones and refers to their distinctive virtues.

Another great Englishman among the ranks of the medieval encyclopedists is Bartholomaeus Anglicus, whose book De Proprietatibus Rerum, written about 1240, was widely read and had a great influence in its time. He treats a series of stones and metals arranged in alphabetical order closely following Isidore of Seville.

Another of the great encyclopedias is the Speculum Mundi by Vincent of Beauvais written between 1240 and 1264. In the general prologue he says that there are a multitude of books and time is short and furthermore man's mind cannot gather in and retain all that the books set forth, therefore he had determined to condense all knowledge into one great work. It is indeed a great compilation in which he quotes from 450 writers by name, some of whom are now known only by the "excerpts" which he gives from their writings. In the brief portion dealing with minerals and rocks he seems to have added nothing to the observations of former writers. The work went through many editions: that in the Osler Library, which is one of the earliest, was printed "not later than 1478." Among the writers whom he quotes most frequently is the almost unknown writer of a very early encyclopedia, Arnoldus Saxo (see Sarton, 1931, for references to the literature concerning this author), whose work De Finibus Rerum Naturalium was written between 1220 and 1230. In it the section on stones consists of an annotated list in alphabetical order of 81 names, and is in turn taken from Albertus Magnus, "Evax," Dioscorides and certain Arabic writers.

Another writer whose work is but little known is the Dominican Thomas Cantimpratensis, who was born at Brussels in 1201 and died between 1263 and 1280. He resided for many years at Cambrai, from which place he derives his name. His encyclopedic work entitled De Natura Rerum, was never printed, but several manuscripts of it exist, one of the most perfect being in the Staatsbiliothek in Munich. He describes about 70 minerals, the number varying somewhat in the different manuscripts, and enlarged on the occult properties of the precious stones, but adds nothing to the work of earlier authors from whom his information is derived. According to Valentine Rose (Mieleitner, 1922), a number of the trade names for certain stones, as for instance corneolus, granatus and rubinus, first appear in this book.

The encyclopedia attributed to Berengarius and entitled Lumen Animae may also be mentioned. A critical description of it is given by Thorndike (1929).

In addition to these encyclopedias there appeared in the Middle Ages a number of popular works on natural history, many of them compilations by men who cannot be ranked as scholars. Some of these works were very widely read, and foremost among them is a very celebrated work entitled the Book of Nature ("Buch der Natur") by Conrad of Megenberg. The author of this work was born in 1309 and died in 1374. His father was Constable of the castle of Megenberg near Schweinfurt. He studied at Paris and Vienna and was later appointed to the important position of Canon in the Cathedral of Regensburg. This is the first Natural History which appeared in the German language. It is a compilation drawn largely from the work by Thomas Cantimpratensis or Thomas of Cambrai, already mentioned, but much material has also been taken from Aristotle and Galen, coming through Arabian channels. There are four copies of fifteenth century editions of Conrad of Megenberg's book in the library of the British Museum, the oldest of which was published in Augsburg in 1475. On the title-page of each of these it is stated that the work was translated ("transferiert") out of Latin into German by Conrad von Megenberg. The Latin text referred to was evidently that of Thomas Cantimpratensis. In the portion dealing with gems, these. are arranged alphabetically in order of their Latin names, and introduced with the words "In this 6th chapter of our book we will speak of gems, their color, the peculiar properties which characterize them and how we can increase their powers." 82 stones are mentioned, a number of these being quite fabulous as for instance the Terobolen, which are said to be the "Stones which come from the orient, some of them presenting the form of a man and others that of a beautiful young woman. If they are brought near to one another they send forth flames of fire." Also the Dyadochos, a stone which when cast into water causes certain spirits to appear who will answer questions which are put to them. The book also contains many wonderful stories about animals and plants, which made it very attractive to the general reader, its popularity being enhanced by numerous illustrations, so that it passed through many editions. The book is worthy of study as presenting an admirable picture of the medieval conception of the world of nature. Megenberg himself, however, recognized that many statements in his book, even when drawn from what were considered to be sources of the highest authority were open to doubt, and in many places he does not hesitate to go so far as to state that he does not believe them.

The Herbals of the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance form another source from which some knowledge of the medieval mineralogy may be obtained. In 1484 Peter Schoffer of Mainz printed one of these in Latin which bore the simple title Herbarius.

There was such a demand for this, that early in the following year he issued a similar but much larger book in German written by Johann von Cube the "Stadtarzt" of Frankfort, to which the author, in the preface, gives the name Hortus Sanitatis or, in German, Garten der Gesundheit. The book as the name indicates was intended to treat more particularly of the medicinal virtues of plants. In addition to the plants, however, a few animals and minerals, from which materials of therapeutic value were supposed to be obtained, are included. The work appeared in a great number of subsequent editions, some in German, others in Latin. It was also translated into Dutch, Italian and French. It appeared in a greater and in a smaller form known as the Hortus Sanitatis Major and the Hortus Sanitatis Minor. The smaller form is the older and was never printed in Latin but always in some other language. Most of the later editions are divided into three sections dealing with plants, animals and minerals respectively, completely illustrated and supplying information concerning the character and medicinal value of each and all. In the French edition of 1529 mention is made of 140 metals, stones and gems.

Who the author of the work was is really not known with certainty. By some it is believed to be Johann Wonnecke, his designation "von Cube" being derived from the fact that he came from Caub, a town on the Rhine between Bingen and Coblenz. Chouland (1858) thinks that the book is really a compilation from the works of a number of earlier writers. In any event it was the most popular illustrated book on natural history of the time.

A number of other herbals, based upon the Hortus Sanitatis and embracing minerals of supposed therapeutic value, appeared shortly after it. Among these may be mentioned that of Rosslin (1533) which passed through six editions in thirteen years. The second edition of this work mentions 80 metals and gems and is illustrated. Another on Lonicer, also illustrated, appeared in 1551 and treats of 85 metals, stones and gems.


The most important source from which our knowledge of medieval mineralogy is obtained is the medieval lapidaries. They are treatises, usually quite short, which deal exclusively with metals, stones and gems, and in which as in the sources already referred to, nothing is said of the composition of the stones, and very little concerning their physical characters, but their medicinal, magical or mythical characters are set forth, these being, at the time when the lapidaries were written, properties which such stones were almost universally believed to possess, and which caused them to be looked upon with interest, if not with awe.

The lapidaries were very popular, not only among the educated classes of the community but also among the middle classes, as shown by the fact that there were many of them and they were in great demand, and when written in Italian were frequently translated into the vernacular languages of many of the leading European countries. Probably the goldsmiths and jewellers offered them for sale as setting forth the value of their wares, and the people bought the gems not only for purposes of adornment but for the magical powers which they were supposed to possess. How many of these lapidaries have survived is unknown. Some of them were never printed but are known to exist in the form of manuscripts only, in one or other of the great libraries of Europe.

Among the most important of these lapidaries the following may be mentioned (brief references to the other less well known lapidaries of Persian, Spanish and other origin are given by Sarton, 1931).

1. The Lapidary of Aristotle. It is now known that this book, although it bore the name of Aristotle down through the centuries, was not written by him but is of Persian origin from the pen of some unknown author [Ed. note: probably Avicenna] who lived about the middle of the ninth century. It describes 72 stones and is of especial value in that it affords an insight into the mineralogy of the Arabs, which had an important influence on the development of the science of mineralogy in Europe at a later date (see Ruska, 1912).

2. The Lapidary of Marbodus. This is in Latin hexameters and was written by Marbodus, also called Marbodacus or Marboeuf, Bishop of Rennes, between 1061 and 1081. It is by far the most important of the early medieval lapidaries.

3. Albertus Magnus: De Mineralibus. One of the best and most comprehensive of the western medieval lapidaries, it was written about 1260. There are several works, dealing in whole or in part with minerals, which are attributed to Albertus. Of these, that entitled De Mineralibus is the most important and is at the same time undoubtedly a genuine work of his. The first edition was printed at Padua in 1476. Other editions have somewhat different titles: one printed at Oppenheim in 1518 bears the title Liber Mineralium Domini Alberti Magni, another in which the text is identical was printed at Cologne in 1569 with the title De Mineralibus et Rebus Metallicis Libri Quinque. It is a compilation from earlier writers with the addition of some facts derived from the author's own observations. While Albertus preserves the medieval attitude of mind, he shows unmistakable signs of a belief in the value of research and personal observation. He tells us that he has wandered far to visit places rich in mines that he might test the natures of metals. Seventy stones are mentioned arranged alphabetically, and Albertus says that gems differ from other stones in that in them the watery element preponderates over the earthy constituent and he attempts to classify them by color. He, however, while saying little of the medicinal value of gems, enlarges at length on their mystical and wonder-working powers and virtues. There is scarcely an ill that flesh is heir to, for which he does not indicate some stone that will act as a protector. He also shares the general opinion of the time that when these gems or stones have certain signs or figures engraved upon them, such "sigils" greatly enhance the power of the stone (Evans, 1922). He states furthermore that in many cases at least, the sigils were not carved in the stone by any human agency, for the gems on which they are found are too hard to be worked by any tool; they are of celestial origin, having been impressed upon the growing stone by the mighty agency of the stars which is also displayed in those gigantic starry pictures which are seen in the heavens and are called constellations.

4. The Lapidary of Alphonso X. This is a beautifully illustrated lapidary, the only recorded manuscript of which is in the Escurial library. It is said to be a Chaldean lapidary of unknown date, which was translated into Arabic by Abolays and from Arabic into Spanish by Garci-Perez. This latter translation was finished in 1278. Evans, who gives an extended review of the work, states that it deals with 360 "stones" among which are included substances such as sulphur, soda and even sponges. Myerhoff and Foster (1936) say that it describes 280 "stones," with brief references to some of their physical properties, uses and medicinal values.

The basis of classification is color "Cast into the 12 signs of the Zodiac."

The treatment of the virtues and powers of the stones as influenced by the stars and changing according to the position of the planets indicates the complexity of the connection made by Arabic science between minerals and the celestial forces. The court of Alfonso the Learned of Castile (1223-1284) was as typical a court of the Arab Renaissance of the thirteenth century as that of Lorenzo de Medici was of classical learning in the fifteenth century. Jews, Mohammedans and Christians there met on equal terms; his court was the Academy where an epitome of the science of the Mediterranean world of the thirteenth century was to be found.

5. Volmar: Das Steinbuch. An old German lapidary written about 1250 which mentions some 38 stones.

6. Steinpreis: Lapidarium omni Voluptate refertum. This is an interesting lapidary of which very few copies are known to exist. Dolch-Langer knows only three copies, those in the Glasgow Hunterian Museums, the British Museum and the Munich Staatsbibliothek. There is a fourth copy in the Adams collection at McGill University. It is a small quarto volume of 28 unnumbered leaves, is believed to have been written by Steinpreis and was printed shortly after the year 1500, probably about 1510. In the opening paragraph the author states that he has two objects in writing the book, first to give such information concerning the various minerals we will enable them to be recognized, and second, to set forth their origin, virtues and properties.

The book is divided into two parts. The first consists of twelve short chapters setting forth and establishing the fact that the precious stones have peculiar virtues and properties, how these manifest themselves, how they may be strengthened and how they should be venerated. He inveighs against those ignorant and foolish persons who, although quite unfitted to express any opinion on the subject, are wont, in their bestial stupidity, to blaspheme God by stating that these gems possess no such virtues. These opinions he proceeds to confute_in the true medieval manner. Let such men listen to the words of Aristotle, the head and chief of all philosophers, let them hear what the divine Bonaventura says upon this subject, and what the divine Plato asserts. The words and the authority of these great men establish and definitely prove that these stone have the mystic virtues which they are asserted to possess.

The second part treats of 117 different stones in alphabetical order. This portion consists largely of quotations from Albertus, Serapion, Pliny, "Dyast," Evax and Avicenna. Indeed a large portion of it is a direct and verbatim copy from Albertus Magnus.

7. Erasmus Stella: Interpraetamenti Gemmarum Libellus. This lapidary was written in 1517 by Dr. Erasmus Stueler. He was born about 1450 and studied at Leipzig and Bologna. In 1501 he was appointed town physician and later became burgomeister of Zwickau in Saxony, which was at that time an important mining centre. It is a book of quarto size and comprises 21 unnumbered leaves. It shows a distinct advance upon the older lapidaries in that the alphabetical arrangement of the minerals is abandoned and they are grouped into four classes according to their color: white, green, red, and blue or black. Thirty-three minerals are described and a number of others are mentioned by name. The descriptions given of the minerals are longer and more complete than in most of the older lapidaries, and more attention is devoted to the varieties of the several minerals and to the localities where they are found. Furthermore he has little belief in the magical properties attributed to gems by the older writers and in the chapter having the title In Universum de Gemmis he says that while no one in his sound mind denies that gems have medicinal and curative properties he would find it very difficult to concede that they possessed any of those powers attributed to them by superstitious persons, such as those of bringing to their wearer joy, sorrow, tranquility or security. He merely mentions such powers in describing the several gems in order that the reader might know that they had been attributed to the respective stones by the ancient writers, but not because he himself shared such opinions, which were ridiculous if not indeed actually irreligious.

In the chapter on rings (in which gems were mounted) he refers to the custom of wearing the ring on the third finger of the left hand, which he says was derived from the Egyptians who believed that a vein passes from this finger directly to the heart.

8. Camillus Leonardus: Speculum Lapidum. The last of the medieval lapidaries to be mentioned is that of Leonardus.

It is a significant fact that in all the lapidaries which appeared prior to the sixteenth century the minerals, when any definite system of classification was adopted, were arranged and listed in alphabetical order. This was owing to the fact that their authors knew practically nothing of the composition of the minerals and little or nothing of their actual physical characters - with the exception of color. They knew scarcely anything concerning the form of minerals, or of their hardness, specific gravity, cleavage, lustre or fusibility and nothing of their optical characters, on which knowledge alone a proper classification could be based.

The number of species enumerated differs largely in different lapidaries. Marbodus mentions 60, Albertus Magnus 93, the Steinpreis Lapidary 117, Leonardus, who gives a longer list than any other writer, catalogues 279 separate names. The list given by Leonardus includes almost all those given by the other writers. Steinpreis differs most widely from him in enumerating 38 names not mentioned by Leonardus, while omitting a much larger number of those found in the lapidary of that author.


It may be of interest here, in order to present an adequate idea of the character and contents of these medieval lapidaries, all of which cover essentially the same ground although some of them do so more thoroughly than others, to select two, those of Marbodus and Leonardus, and describe them in some detail. The work of Marbodus is the earliest lapidary of the Middle Ages, and also the one which is quoted most widely. As has already been stated, Marbodus was Bishop of Rennes and wrote his lapidary, in 734 Latin hexameters describing sixty stones, between the years 1061 and 1081. More than 100 manuscripts of this lapidary are known, and it was translated into French, Provencal, Danish, Hebrew and Spanish. After the invention of printing, 14 editions (see Riddle, 1977; Beckmann, 1799) appeared between 1511 and 1740 and still others at later dates.

To a student of the present time it seems strange that a treatise on minerals should be written in verse. Janus Cornarius, who includes the lapidary of Marbodus in his edition of the Macer Floridus herbal (1540), says that this was done in order that the contents of the book might be more easily remembered.

Since there are certain differences in different texts, it may be stated that those which are used in the present notes are the first printed edition published at Vienna in 1511 and the third edition which was printed at Freiburg in 1531.

The poem commences with the following lines:

Evax, king of the Arabs is said to have written to Nero,

Who after Augustus ruled next in the city,

How many species of stones, what name and what colours,

From what regions they came and how great the power of each one.

A reference to Evax, king of the Arabs, in almost the same words occurs in the Hellenistic lapidary attributed to Damigeron, which is one of the principal sources on which Marbodus has drawn. This Evax is also referred to by Pliny in the twenty-fifth book of his Natural History in the following words, "Evax a king of the Arabians, wrote a book as touching the virtues and operations of Simples, which he sent unto the Emperor Nero." Nothing further, however, is known of this person so frequently mentioned in the medieval lapidaries.

The sixty stones of which Marbodus treats are, in the first edition of his work, presented without any definite order, but in the third edition they are arranged alphabetically. A critical examination of the list shows that they may be classified in the following groups:

1st group:

Alabandina - staunches a flow of blood

Androdamas - dispels anger

Apistos - a heavy black rock with red lines - when heated retains the heat for seven days

Calcophonus - preserves and strengthens the voice

Chalazias - cannot be heated, cold by nature

Chrysopasius - shines brightly at night and is dark during daylight

Diadochus - when thrown into water causes spirits to appear who may be interrogated

Dionysias - prevents intoxication.

Galactites - cannot be heated

Gagatromeus - secures victory in conflict, a stone for soldiers

Hephestites - thrown into boiling water will freeze it, calms sedition

Hexacontalithos - small stones showing 60 different colours. Found in Libya in the land of the Troglodites

Hieracites - similar properties to Galactites

Lipares - gives success in hunting, the hunter can secure any animal

Medus - gives sight to the blind

Molochites - prevents accidents

Ophthalmius - cures blindness

Orites - cures wounds, gives protection against the pestilence

Pantherus - variegated in color and hence has the virtues of many other stones

Peanites - a female stone which at certain seasons brings forth young, assists women in childbirth

Sagda - originates at the bottom of the Chaldean Sea and rising through the water, attaches itself to the bottom of a ship which, through its influence, is quickly and safely brought to port. It is however impossible to detach the stone from the bottom of the ship except by cutting away the wood to which it affixes itself.

These 26 stones, making up approximately one-third of the whole, are mythical - or at least the description of them, when any is given, is so trivial that it is impossible to connect the name with any particular mineral.

2nd group (This comprises six "stones"):







These all come, or are supposed to come, from the body of some animal.

3rd group:

Cerauneus - falls from the Heavens, protects from lightning

Corallus - coral; preserves from tempest, gives abundant harvests, drives away demons

Aetites - aids childbirth

Unio - pearl, possesses many virtues, cures fever and epilepsy

The four members of this group are really not minerals.

4th group:

Achates - protects from serpents, makes men strong, handsome and eloquent

Amethystus - preserves from intoxication

Calcedonius - gives success in all undertakings

Chrysoprasus - may have virtues but if so these are unknown

Corneolus - cools anger, staunches blood

Crystallus - valuable for nurses

Enhydros - (see below)

Heliotropia - guards the body from poison and the soul from error. This stone was by others stated to make its wearer invisible. Dante in his Inferno sees the damned running about under a hail of fire, "No hope of hiding hole or Heliotrope."

The story in Boccaccio's Decameron told by Madame Eliza on the Eighth Day centers around the adventures of certain persons who "travelled to the Plaine of Mugnone to find the precious stone called Heliotropium, the vertue whereof is so admirable: as whosoever beareth it about him, so long as he keepeth it, it is impossible for any eye to discern him, because he walketh meerely invisible."

Iris - when the sun shines on it, it gives forth the colours of the rainbow

Jasper - seventeen varieties, each of which possesses its own properties.

Onyx - produces hate, evil visions, strife and bloodshed. The evil effects of the onyx are counteracted if one wears a sardonyx at the same time.

Prasius - has no special virtues.

These fourteen stones are all varieties of quartz - some coarsely crystalline and others cryptocrystalline and distinguished from one another chiefly by difference in color. They attracted attention probably because most of them were comparatively common minerals and because of their distinct and striking colors.

Achates - Marbodus, interpreting Virgil's "Fidus Achates" literally, ascribes, as already mentioned, the escape of Aeneas from his many perils to his having always carried an agate with him.

Enhydros - consists of quartz or of calcedonic or opaline silica which is deposited from heated waters and in which there are cavities partially filled with water, so that the inclusions of water can be seen within the substance of the transparent quartz or calcedony. This remarkable stone attracted widespread attention among the ancients. Marbodus says: "Enhydros perpetually sheds tears which drop as from an overflowing spring. It is," he observes, "extremely difficult to see how this comes about, for if the substance (water) is derived from the stone itself why does not the stone become smaller and turn completely into water. But if on the other hand the water finds its way in from the outside and flows out again, how is it that the external water is not prevented from entering by the water which is in the act of coming out?"

5th group:

Adamas - dispels evil dreams and saves its wearer from the influence of poison

Asbestos - (see below)

Beryllus - preserves and develops conjugal love and has other remarkable virtues

Carbunculus - shines in the dark (see below)

Chryselectrus - golden in color, resembling amber. The devouring flame is said to be its substance. For, held near a fire, it quickly kindles.

Chrysolitus - drives away evil spirits

Gagates - cures certain diseases, overcomes demons and magic arts

Haematites - cures various diseases of the blood and has other valuable properties

Hyacinthus - red, yellow or blue in color. (Some specimens were probably varieties of amethyst and others corundum.) Confers safety on the traveller and secures to him his just requests.

Magnes - (see below)

Pyrites - fire stone, burns the hand that roughly presses it

Saphirus - (see below)

Selenites - shows an image of the waxing and waning moon. Cures diseases of the chest

Smaragdus - includes emerald, malachite and probably other green stones. Enriches its wearer and makes him eloquent, wards off epilepsy and has many other virtues.

Topazius - staunches a flow of blood, if thrown into boiling water causes it to become cold.

The fifteen minerals of this group, with the exception of the fifth, bear the names of well-known mineral species. The designation Adamas is given by Marbodus to the diamond, which derives its name from its unconquerable virtue. Marbodus mentions four countries in which it is found: India, Arabia, Cyprus and Philippi in Greece. The specimens from these four countries differ from one another in character. The Indian Adamas is a diamond. The others were in all probability varieties of quartz. Marbodus repeats the statement of Pliny that if the stone is placed upon an anvil and struck with a hammer with all possible violence, the stone will remain unharmed but the anvil and hammer will fly to pieces. He also reiterates the story that if a diamond is placed in the warm blood of a stag, it will break to pieces. Asbestos is stated to have the color of fire and to be found in Arcadia. When once lighted, like the fires of hell it burns forever, hence its name. No magical or medicinal properties are assigned to it by Marbodus. He states that there are twelve varieties of Carbunculus. Under this name were included ruby, Balas ruby (spinel), brilliant red garnets and probably other stones resembling these in color. He says that the stone gives out light, shining in the darkness like a glowing coal, and that it comes from the country of the Troglodites. The statement that it shines by night is repeated by Lonicerus and also by Rosslin, who says that it turns night into day. Marbodus says that Saphirus is the "Gem of gems," possessing vast powers, medicinal, magical and spiritual. Heavenly blue in color, it is endowed with transcendent celestial powers. Not only does it preserve its wearer in health of body and mind but shields him from all error and breaks the chains of prisoners and sets them free. But Marbodus goes much farther and claims that it turns aside the anger of God and secures from Him a favorable answer to prayer. This statement, which represents, as it were, a shocking climax to the long series of talismanic powers which are assigned to the various gems in this interesting little book, aroused the disapproval and even the indignation of many churchmen, who endeavored to throw doubts upon the authorship of the work as being from the pen of a Bishop of the Christian church. But, as Thorndike observes, practically everyone at that time believed that marvelous powers had been divinely implanted in gems, and such being the case, why should not God be more easily reached through the medium of gems, since He had endowed them with their marvelous virtues?

In the third edition of the Lapidary of Marbodus, which was published in 1531, there are glosses appended to each chapter, also some introductory and concluding verses by Georg Pictorius. At the end of the book there is a short poem by the latter addressed to the millstone. Being evidently somewhat weary of the continued enumeration of the magical and mystical powers attributed to the precious stones in the work of Marbodus and probably harboring some secret doubts as to the reality of the powers in question, Pictorius turns as it were for relief to the common millstone, and addresses a concluding poem to it as a stone, which is indisputably full of virtue for mankind, and which renders inestimable services to the human race.


While the Lapidary of Marbodus was written at the very beginning of the Middle Ages, in fact a few years before the date which we have taken as marking the commencement of medieval times, the second lapidary which has been selected for more detailed consideration appeared when the Middle Ages were passing into the Renaissance. This is the Speculum Lapidum of Camillus Leonardus. The first edition was published at Venice in the year 1502 and this was followed by others printed at Venice in 1516, at Augsburg in 1533, at Paris in 1610 and at Hamburg in 1717. All these were in the Latin language, but an English translation (omitting Book III) was published in London as late as 1750. The book also figured in one of the most shameless cases of piracy in the whole history of letters, a well-known author, Lodovico Dolce, having made a literal translation of it into Italian, which he published at Venice as his own work, without making the slightest reference to the fact that Leonardus was the author of the book; in fact on page 3 he refers to it as mia fatica ["my work"].

Leonardus was physician to Caesar Borgia, to whom also he dedicates his book, so that as King (1867) observes, he "ought to know something about poisons."

His lapidary is divided into three books. The first treats of the nature and origin of stones, their beauties, colors and virtues. In the second there is a formal description of 279 minerals arranged in alphabetical order. As has been already mentioned, Leonardus includes in his lapidary almost every mineral mentioned by any previous writer, which gives to his book a special interest and value. Many of the minerals are, however, as is the case in all the medieval lapidaries, merely names to the modern student, and cannot be recognized as designating any mineral now known to be a true mineral species. Some are merely varieties of the same species, others are certainly altogether fabulous. In the third book the author treats of the figures engraved upon gems and other stones by the ancients, of the particular virtues of the engraved stones, how they absorbed the influence of the planets and constellations and why a stone engraved with any of the twelve signs of the zodiac is supposed to take its virtue from that sign, and what this peculiar virtue is. He mentions that the Israelites in the wilderness were the first who distinguished themselves in this art of engraving gems and that the Romans were the greatest masters of it.

In his lapidary Leonardus follows Albertus Magnus in adopting the Aristotelian theory of the origin of stones through the influences of the heavenly bodies. Gimma (1730), however, states that owing to the inclusion in it of certain ideas and certain statements drawn largely from Arabian sources, the book fell under the condemnation of the Church and was entered in the Index Expurgtorius.

The fear that the book might exercise a dangerous influence upon some of its readers also called forth the following warning on the part of the English translator:

But tho' what I have said, in regard to the Use and Excellence of this little Treatise, is incontestibly the Truth; yet I must give the Reader a Caution in the Perusal of it, which is this: That the Author living in an Age when Superstition universally prevail'd, and when the Study of Astrology, Palmistry, Charms, Spells, Sigils, &c. was greatly in Vogue, but which, in our Days, is entirely out of Use, at least is laid aside by the Learned: I say, the Author, falling in with the Maxims of the Age wherein he lived, has assigned such Virtues to particular Stones as will not be allowed by the Moderns; as that such or such a Stone shall give the Possessor of it, Courage, procure him Victory over his Enemies, make him successful in Love, in Litigations at Law, and other Undertakings, with other Fancies of the same Kind, which have long since been exploded. He, however, gives us this Caution, that in his Description of the Virtues and Properties of Stones, he has inserted nothing but what he has collected from the Writings of the most learned Men that have treated of the Subject; so that he exhibits nothing, or but very Little, as his own Opinion, nay, sometimes he banters and ridicules the extravagant Fancies of those whose Sentiments he quotes: So that when the ENGLISH READER meets with these odd Whimsies, he is to look on them in their proper Light, and to give a due Attention to the more weighty and important Design, and Use of the Book.

While Leonardus, as he himself states, garnered his material from a succession of older writers, he shows some indications of having come under the influence of the newer methods of study which were about to be advocated by Agricola and his followers, in that he treats of certain physical properties of minerals, such as "Perspicuity and Opacity, Hardness or Softness, Gravity and Lightness, Density and Porosity," and of the importance of these for the recognition of various stones. In fact the Speculum of Leonardus, which was one of the most widely read lapidaries of the time, in its successive editions bridged over the transitional period between the old and the new mineralogy, since the first edition appeared in 1502, or forty-four years before the publication of Agricola's De Natura Fossilium, while the last or English edition coming from the press in 1750, brings us nearly to the time of Werner. When Boyle wrote his Skeptical Chymist in 1677, the belief in the four elements of Aristotle was already seriously shaken. Boyle considered them as worthy of his trenchant criticism, so that about the time that the last edition of the Speculum Lapidum of Leonardus issued from the press, the belief in the Aristotelian theory of the origin of minerals and stones through the action of the celestial bodies flickered out. In fact, the third book of the Speculum was omitted in the English translation, since, as the translator remarks, "We judged it wholly impertinent to trouble our readers with speculations not agreeable to right reason nor indeed consistent with our religion."

That Leonardus did not repose implicit reliance on all the traditional stories concerning the virtues of stones, may be gathered from what he says concerning the stone Lippares:

Lippares, or Liparia, is a stone to which all Kinds of Animals come of their own Accord, as it were by a natural Instinct. Some say, that he who has this Stone, needs no other Invention to catch wild Beasts; it is frequently found in Lybia. Others say, that it has a wonderful Virtue in defending Animals. For when a Beast is pursued by Dogs and the Hunters, he hastens to find out this Stone, to which he flies as to his Protector and Defender. For so long as the Animal looks upon the said Stone, neither the Dogs nor the Huntsman can see him, which if it be so, is indeed very strange; yet it is affirmed by the Learned; and as to this, I believe the saying of Pliny is very true, That there is no Lie so impudent which is not vouch'd for by Authority.

Little or nothing is known of the life of this interesting author beyond what he himself tells us in the letter in which he dedicates his work to the "Most Illustrious and most glorious Prince Caesar Borgia." In it he states that he was a citizen of Pesaro and that he was busily engaged in the "Practice of Physic and Speculation." He goes on to say that:

Being governed by the desire to promote the Benefit and Utility of Mankind we have composed this little Treatise on the Nature of such Stones as contribute to the Health or Usefulness of Men, tho' at the expense of late hours, much labor and diligent enquiries, and tho' the materials of it were dispersed thro' many volumes by various authors. We have, however, with the utmost care, labor and attention, collected such things as have been handled in the writings of the most famous men into this small Tract, which we have entitled The Mirror of Stones: in which, as in a Looking-Glass we may behold their Nature, Powers and Sculptures and attain to the knowledge of many things.

The book was evidently highly prized by those interested in minerals and gems even at so late a date as 1750, and the translator's preface to the English version throws an interesting light not only on the scarcity of the work at the time the translation was made, but also on the high esteem in which it was held, as well as the difficulties in the path of a book collector in that age:

If the value of a book is to be rated by the scarcity of it, I am apt to think that there is not a Librarian in Europe can shew one of equal bulk that has a better title to the choice of the curious than this Mirror of Stones. For though the number of its Pages are but 244 in a small Octavo and printed in large Letters yet there is wrote on the cover of that which by a peculiar Favor I am possessed of, "This is a scarce book and has been valued at 100 Pistoles."

This is equivalent to eighty pounds. He goes on to say:

A certain Nobleman who is pleased to honor me with his Friendship sought for it in vain in the most noted Libraries in England; but being determined to have it if there was one in Europe, sent a gentleman to France, where he was to make the best Enquiry he was able among the Booksellers, and to search every Library where there was any probability of its being lodged: and if his Enquiries should prove unsuccessful there, he was to proceed to Italy, and so on to other countries till he should find it. After a long and expensive search he at last was so happy as to light upon two of them, which he purchased, tho' at an exhorbitant Price and brought them to his noble Master, who was so pleased with the purchase that he not only paid him generously for his time and expenses, but over and above as a Gratuity and Reward for his Diligence presented him with a Bank Note for [pounds]30.

It will be noted that these medieval lapidaries, although they are the most important source from which information concerning the mineralogy of the Middle Ages is derived, really supply relatively little knowledge concerning the actual character of the minerals of which they treat. The names used to designate certain minerals in the Middle Ages, in many cases at least, refer to other minerals than those which now bear the same names. Thus the term carbuncle in medieval times was used to designate a bright red, hard, transparent mineral, it might be a ruby, pleonast (or Balas ruby), an almandine, pyrope or allied variety of garnet or some other mineral resembling them. Smaragdus included not only emerald but malachite, green feldspar or other minerals which had a bright green color. The name sapphire was used also for lapis lazuli and probably also for a number of other blue minerals.

The lapidaries are essentially handbooks of magic and medicine. It was on account of their supposed magical and medicinal properties that minerals were prized, and it is thus interesting to note that the science of mineralogy arose from the study of magic and medicine, although it made no real advance toward the status of a true science until the rise and widespread development of the mining industry in Europe. All the old writers followed authority blindly and it was observation alone that could break this pernicious succession.

Many writers who treated of the magical powers of stones regarded these powers as having their origin in the substance of the stone itself. Others considered them to have been developed under favorable conditions in the mineral or stone by the action of one or more of the Aristotelian elements or by the influence of the planets or of the fixed stars. Others again state that in gems having these supernatural qualities a certain symbol (or sigil) engraved upon the gem will greatly intensify its power. This belief goes back to the most remote antiquity.

Albertus Magnus in his De mineralibus et rebus metallicis points out that it is important that sigils should be engraved on gems at a time when the constellations influencing the operation of the celestial influences are favorably situated in the heavens. Owing to the fact that the rays from the planets fall directly upon the equatorial regions and only obliquely upon the more temperate zones, the gems found in India and the East were believed to possess greater power and virtue than those found in more northerly or more southerly latitudes.

Lists and descriptions of such sigils are given by many of the ancient writers. Leonardus in the third book of his Speculum Lapidum reproduces those attributed to Rhagael, Chael, Hermes, Tethel and Solomon. Tethel was a Jewish astrologer presumably identical with Sahl ibn Bishr (first half of the ninth century) (Sarton, 1931).

Conrad von Megenberg in Book VI of his Buch der Natur, which appeared some one hundred and fifty years earlier than the work of Leonardus, treats of these engraved stones at some length and gives a German translation of a Latin edition of Tethel's book. This book, he says, "Written by a great Jewish man of learning named Tethel, claims to have been compiled by the Children of Israel during the time when they were journeying through the desert on their way to the Holy Land." The author of the Latin edition of Tethel is quoted as saying that in his opinion the book is not to be implicitly trusted and that the engraved figures were intended more for purposes of adornment than for any expectation that they possessed occult powers, since men should look to God alone for such mercies. "I am," continues von Megenberg, "of the same opinion, although the author states that the figures which are seen on these stones have been engraved solely by the art of man and never result from the powers of Nature. Herein he is in error, for many figures are to be seen in stones while they are still growing in the earth's crust." This same opinion is expressed by Albertus Magnus, who states that these sigils must for the most part at least have had their origin in the influence of the stars, since no material occurs in nature which is sufficiently hard to be used in engraving gems. Megenberg's book (quoting from Tethel) presents a long enumeration of gems and their sigils with the occult powers which they respectively possess. A few sentences will give an adequate picture of the contents of Tethel's treatise:

If one finds the stone called Jasper with the form of a man with a shield hanging from his neck or carried in one hand while he holds a spear in his other, with a snake at his feet, this is a protection from all enemies: A chrysolite with the figure of a woman holding a bird in one hand and a fish in the other has the power of furthering the wearer in all undertakings. A turtledove with an olive branch awakens love for all mankind. A white stone having a figure upon it which is half woman and half fish, holding a mirror in one hand and an olive branch in the other, makes its wearer invisible. A cross on a green jasper will prevent its wearer from drowning.


Other well-known lapidaries, all of which followed the same traditional treatment of the subject, appeared during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and may here be mentioned in the order of their succession.

Christophorus Encelius: De Re Metallica (1551). The author was a physician in Thuringia, a pupil of Luther and a friend of Agricola and Mathesius. The book is prefaced by a letter from Melanchthon.

Andrea Cesalpino - De Metallicis (1583).

Andrea Baccio - De Gemmis et Lapidibus (1603).

Anselm De Boodt - Gemmarum et Lapidum Historia (1609). This book, which appeared in the same year as that in which Kepler discovered the laws of planetary motion, is in many respects the most important lapidary of the seventeenth century and exerted a widespread influence. After De Boodt's death two further editions in Latin and two in French, edited with annotations by Andreas Toll, were published.

De Boodt was a citizen of Bruges and a man who occupied a high social position, being physician to the Emperor Rudolph II in Prague, and who also acted as his advisor in all matters relating to gems and precious stones, a subject in which the emperor was much interested. He was moreover not only a mineralogist but a philosopher and a theologian. In his views concerning the nature and origin of gems and other stones De Boodt follows the stream of medieval teaching but in several respects his work shows the influence of the newer age in which he lived. While refuting the assertions of those who deny that gems possess peculiar virtues, calling forth our wonder and admiration, he says that these gems, being themselves produced by nature, cannot in and of themselves produce supernatural effects. Such powers as they possess are not exerted by them but through them, the stones being merely the media or instruments through which the powers of good or evil act. These powers may come directly from God Himself or from Him through some good or evil spirit used by Him as an instrument, the former acting at His will and the latter by His permission. He however contemptuously dismisses the usual stories concerning the magical and medicinal properties of gems put forward by those who sell and trade in these stones.

He was evidently impressed with the necessity for the introduction of some adequate method of classifying minerals, and the recognition of this fact is in itself evidence that he was moving to break new ground for an advance in the science of geology.

The system of classification which he suggests and follows is, however, quite worthless, but one which might present itself to a person who like De Boodt was interested in the study of a class of objects of whose real composition, character structure and origin he was ignorant. He presents a scheme in which minerals are first divided into two classes, "Gems" and "Stones," according to their size, that is to say, according to whether they are minerals that are found in small individuals as for instance diamonds, or in larger individuals as in amethyst, agate or basalt. Each of these classes is again divided and sub-divided according to "rarity," "hardness," "beauty" and "transparity," with the result that minerals of the most diverse and unrelated kinds are thrown together in one and the same group. For those who do not approve of this classification he presents another which while somewhat different embodies many of the same features as the first and is open to similar objections. The book, however, marks a forward step in the development of the science. It is subdivided into chapters each treating of a division of the subject or of a mineral or group of minerals and is also illustrated by a number of woodcuts.

Two other important lapidaries which were written under the influence of De Boodt appeared shortly after the publication of his work. The first was by Joannes de Laet of Antwerp. De Laet, in his introduction, refers to De Boodt's book but expresses it as his opinion that much still remains to be said which is not to be found in the works of De Boodt and other authors and these deficiencies he hopes to supply in his own volume. It is a much smaller book than that of De Boodt and contains first an annotated translation of the work of Theophrastus "On Stones" from the original Greek into Latin and then passes on to describe the more important "fossils."

The second lapidary is that by Thomas Nicols, "Sometimes of Jesus College Cambridge," the son of Thomas Nicols, M.D., a Cambridge physician. A certain amount of confusion has arisen concerning this book owing to the fact that three issues of it appeared during Nicol's lifetime, each bearing a separate title. These are as follows:

1. A Lapidary, or the history of the precious stones by Thomas Nicols, Cambridge, 1652.

2. Arcula Gemmea, or a cabinet of jewels by Thomas Nicols, London, 1653.

3. Gemmarius Fidelis, or the Faithful Lapidary by Thomas Nicols of Jesus College in Cambridge, London, 1659.

All three are identical with the exception of the title pages.

Nicols follows De Boodt closely and quotes him frequently. He adopts his classification of gems and his views concerning the occult powers which certain of them possess, as derived from the divine Being, acting through good or evil spirits, the stones being intermediaries, and thus they are "Oft times the habitacles of daemones and intelligences which Johannes Langius in his epistle calleth syderum & orbium motores." The introduction to his chapter entitled Of the Emerauld or Smaragde is an interesting example of the quaint phraseology of the time:

The Emerauld is a precious gemme or stone of so excellent a viridity, or springcolour, as that if a man shall look upon the Emerauld by a pleasant green meadow, it will be more amiable than the meadow, and overcome the meadows glorie, by the glory of that spring of viriditie which it hath in itself: The largeness of the meadow it will overcome with the amplitude of its glory, wherewith farre above its greatnesse it doth feed the eie: and the virescencie of the meadow it will overcome with the brightnesse of its glory, which in it self seemeth to embrace the glorious viridity of many springs. This stone is known by its apparent coldness in the mouth, by its gravity being weighed; and in this, that being cast into a fire, it will not burn, nor send forth any flame, and that in the brightnesse of the Sunne, it will keep its excellent viridity and greenness.

And in referring to pearls he puts forward a quaint and charming theory of their origin, which however did not originate with him:

The Margarites and Unions differ in the manner of their generation, from the generating of other Gemms or pretious stones, for these are generated of the pearly drops of chrystall morning dew, drunk in by the shell fish called Scallops and Cheripo . . . and are increased by the new addition of fresh draughts of purest chrystall dew, even by fresh supplies of that purest restorative liquor taken in as morning draughts to serene and chearfull days.


Finally, in bringing this chapter to a close, two other books should be mentioned, those by Caesius of Modena and by Aldrovandus of Bologna. These differ in many ways from the lapidaries which have just been considered and of which they are the successors. The lapidaries are all small volumes; these are great folio tomes. Appearing toward the middle of the seventeenth century after the lapidaries had had their day and when the "New Learning" had already won its way in Europe, these encyclopedic works aim at presenting in its entirety the whole body of knowledge (or opinion) concerning the mineral kingdom which had been accumulated in times preceding their publication.

With regard to the work of Caesius, the estimate of it given by Webster in his usual blunt though forceful manner presents it in its true character:

The Jesuite Bernardus Caesius writ a voluminous Piece of Mineralogie, or Natural Philosophy; wherein, though he expatiated too far to fetch in all things that might seem any way of kinred to that kind of knowledge; and that it was but a meer Collection and heap stoln from other Authors, and hardly any thing except notions; yet is there something in it (especially concerning the signs of discovering Mines and Ores) that may advantage such a Reader, as hath the skill, or will take the pains to sever the tares from the wheat, and separate the gold from the dross.

The book is printed in double columns of rather small type but is excellently indexed so that while, as Webster says, it contains but little that is new, such detailed references are given to the original works from which its statements are derived that it is of great value as a guide to those who desire to explore the jungle of the earlier literature and find their way to the sources of the "notions" to which Webster refers.

Aldrovandus was one of the most renowned naturalists of the sixteenth century and occupied the chair of Natural History in the University of Bologna. He was a man of very wide learning who had travelled extensively and prosecuted his studies with great diligence. Being suspected at one time of coming under the influence of the teachings of Luther, "A heresy," his biographer Fantuzzi says, "whose poison was then permeating ever more widely through Italy," he was arrested by the Inquisition and imprisoned at Rome, but was subsequently liberated. He was the author of a number of great volumes on insects, fishes, birds and quadrupeds respectively, as well as one on serpents and dragons and left on his decease a large collection of unpublished papers. He refers to these in his will, which is reproduced in Fantuzzi's book and in which it is stated that one volume or package of these papers is labelled Geologia ovvero de Fossilibus.

It may be of interest to mention here that this is the first instance in which the word Geologia or Geology appears in literature when used approximately in its present sense. So far as is known at the present time, Lovell's work, Pammineralogicon or an Universal History of Minerals, etc. published in 1661, is the first work in the English language in which the word "geologia" appears.

The work of Escholt, written in the Danish language but published at Christiania in 1657, is the first printed work in which the word occurs.

But Aldrovandus employed the word, in some manuscript notes and in his will, essentially in the modern sense, at least as early as 1605, the year in which he died.

The word "geologia" was used at a much earlier time, but in an entirely different sense, by Richard de Bury, Bishop of Durham, in his interesting and entertaining little book, entitled Philobiblon, or the Love of Books. In this work, first printed at Cologne in 1473, and which was first translated into English by J. B. Inglis (London) in 1832 and by E. C. Thomas in 1888 (an issue of this translation was subsequently published by the De la Mare Press of London in 1903), the word "geologia," it is believed, made its first appearance in literature. It was apparently invented, if this term may be used, by de Bury, who used it in an entirely different sense from that in which it subsequently came to be employed. By it, he designated the study of Law, which faculty, he says, "We may call by a special term Geologia or the earthly science," in antithesis to the sciences which aid in the understanding of divine things, comprehensively speaking, Theologia.

Aldrovandus himself published nothing about "Geologia," but some forty years after his death, Bartholomeus Ambrosinus compiled from the material left by Aldrovandus the great folio volume bearing the title: Ulyssis Aldrovandi Patricii Bononiensis Musaeum Metallicum in Libros IIII distributum Bartholomaeus Ambrosinus . . . Labore et Studio composuit. This was published at Bologna in 1648. While the materials used in its preparation were in all probability those mentioned in the will of Aldrovandus under the title "Geologia Ovvero de Fossilibus," the word "Geologia" does not appear in the volume itself. The four books referred to in the title of the work are comprised in a single volume. Each book is divided into a number of chapters, each chapter dealing with the consideration of a separate "fossil" or with some special topic. In a paper by Lodovico Foresti (1887), this author gives the modern names and discusses the recent opinions concerning the identity of the various organic "fossils" described in this work. The four books treat respectively of metals, earths, succi concreti and stones. Under this latter designation are included what are now known as minerals, rocks and fossils. Within each book there is no definite order in which the subjects are treated. The work, however, is provided with a good index. In each chapter the object or subject is treated of under a regular series of headings. Some of these, as for instance Synonyms, Definition, Origin, Nature and Properties, Varieties, Mode and Place of Occurrence, Uses, Historical References, are such as might be found in a modern textbook. Others, however, as for instance, Sympathia et Antipathia, Mystica, Miracula, Moralia, Mythologica, Somnia, Symbola and Lapidati remind us that the book was written in an age far removed from the present.

As instances of sympathy and antipathy he gives the following: The diamond is said to have an antipathy to the lodestone or magnet, since when it is present iron is no longer attracted by the magnet, and if a piece of iron has already been drawn to itself by a magnet, a diamond brought near it will cause the magnet to repel the iron. Such was the opinion of Pliny, Marbodus and many other authors. Sympathy and antipathy are also seen among metals. Thus lead is wooed by gold and silver, for these when fused together unite readily; on the other hand bronze shrinks away from lead, as also does tin from gold and silver.

Under the head of Mystica he refers to various mystical references to stones in the Bible.

Under the heading of Somnia many portents indicated by stones or falls of meteorites seen in dreams are mentioned, drawn from the works of various ancient authors.

Under symbola he mentions symbolic teachings set forth in the rocks, as for instance in that great stone mentioned and figured by Costalius, which so long as it remained intact floated freely on the waters of the sea, but when broken at once sank to the bottom, symbolizing the importance of harmony and concord among peoples, acting for their protection when maintained but when broken leading to their ruin. Other examples of mystical and moral lessons drawn from amber will be found in Chapter XIII.

An outstanding feature of the great work of Aldrovandus is that it is copiously illustrated by hundreds of woodcuts. These are rather roughly executed but are full of interest, many of them occupying the whole folio page; most of them, however, are smaller. They represent all the varied objects which are referred to in the text. Since specimens of rocks and those of many minerals do not lend themselves easily to pictorial representation, some of these cuts can scarcely be said to illustrate the text, they rather require the text to explain them. The fossil shells, however, are much more clearly reproduced. Interspersed with these are drawings of imitative forms of plants and of all manner of animals, also of various members of the human body, hands, feet and the internal organs, whose spontaneous growth in the form of stones suggests the action of some hidden and mysterious force in nature. Also strange pictures (undoubtedly much elaborated by the imagination of the artist) representing various ecclesiastical subjects as well as the saints and even the Savior himself revealed on breaking open blocks of marble. Belemnites, teeth of mammoths, bezoar stones, the "Precious Jewel" which the toad bears in its head, gems engraved with mystical devices the Tartars with their sheep and camels all turned to stone, as well as many implements, weapons, domestic vessels, and idols of barbaric peoples (some of them of Neolithic age) but to him equally mysterious in origin are also depicted.

In reading Aldrovandus, however, one gathers the impression that he was writing at the opening of a new age and that the authority of the past did not exert the same binding influence upon him as it had done upon the writers of the old lapidaries. He sets forth nevertheless the medicinal properties of various rocks, minerals and gems of which he treats, when taken internally or applied externally, but in almost all cases cites certain ancient writers as responsible for the statements which he makes. He says very little concerning the occult properties of these bodies, and their value when used as amulets and charms, and unhesitatingly rejects (with Pliny) the power assigned by Marbodus and most of the medieval writers to the gem Heliotrope of rendering its wearer invisible. He, however, still retains a belief in the efficacy of certain gems as amulets, as in the case of the golden topaz which, when attached to the left arm or suspended from the neck so that it is in contact with the skin, will strengthen the vital powers and ward off bad dreams and melancholy, and also the stone jasper which, when carved into the figure of a dragon, may be used ad dolorem stomachi ["for stomach ache"].


Looking back, then, it will be seen that medieval mineralogy had its origin in classical sources and especially in Pliny, who in his turn gathered his material from earlier Greek writers, whose works, except those of Theophrastus, have been lost long since, as well as from a body of local gossip and tradition, which in its turn was probably derived from still more ancient and occult sources in Chaldea and elsewhere in the far east.

The minerals, gems and stones both in classical and medieval times were held in esteem and considered to be of value chiefly because of the medicinal and magical properties which they were believed to possess. With the infusion of Arabian learning in the Middle Ages, belief in the magical powers of minerals and especially of gems received an additional stimulus, for notwithstanding all its wonderful achievements, Arabic science belongs to the same world as the Arabian Nights - a world of magic and mystery - and the man of science was the man who could control these mysterious forces by the power of secret knowledge.

Each writer on medieval mineralogy based his statements on the authority of previous writers, and was in his turn quoted as an authority by those who followed him. Finally the later encyclopedists like Caesius and Aldrovandus (or rather Ambrosinus) made it their aim to bring together every fact and fancy which had been propounded by anyone anywhere and adding but little of their own, to incorporate it into one portentous whole. Osler says essentially the same thing about the history of medicine, "From Hippocrates to Hunter the treatment of diseases was a long traffic in hypotheses."

Medieval mineralogy in fact was not a science. It was not a solid tower of learning, as Gregory Reisch (1504) pictures the knowledge of his day, but a fairy castle, the insubstantial fabric of a dream, often quaint and even beautiful, but destined to crumble away because it had no foundation in reality. It was succeeded by a true science of mineralogy built upon the basis of close observation and diligent study of the materials of the earth's crust.

* Reprinted by permission of Dover Publications, [C]1938, copyright renewed 1966.


Editor's note: The following list of references is based on works mentioned or alluded to in the foregoing essay. In compiling these citations and annotations I have been aided primarily by (1) Sinkankas's Gemology, an Annotated Bibliography (1993) and (2) the catalog of the Mineralogical Record Library in obtaining information not present in Adams' usually fragmentary citations.

ADAMS, F. D. (1932) Earliest use of the term "geology." Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, 43, 121.

ADAMS, F. D. (1933) Further note on the use of the term "geology." Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, 44, 821.

ADAMS, F. D. (1938) Birth and Development of the Geological Sciences. Reprinted (1954)by Dover Books, New York, 506 p.

AGRICOLA, G. (1546) De natura fossilium. Basel. Later editions appeared in 1558, 1612 and 1657. English translation (1955) by M. C. Bandy and J. A. Bandy, Geological Society of America Special Paper 63.

ALBERTUS MAGNUS (1476) De Mineralibus. Padua. Other editions entitled Liber Mineralium Domini Alberti Magni (1518), De Mineralibus et Rebus Metallicis Libri Quinque, Cologne (1569).

ALBERTUS MAGNUS (1967) Albertus Magnus: Book of Minerals. English translation by D. Wyckoff, Clarendon Press, Oxford.

ALFONSO X (1278) Lapidario del Rey D. Alfonso X. Facsimile reprint by Blasco, Madrid (1881), taken from the unique manuscript in the Escurial Library, Madrid.

ANDROVANDI, U. (AMBROSINUS, B.) (1648) Ulyssis Aldrovandi Patricii Bononiensis Musaeum Metallicum in Libros IIII distributum a Bartholomaeus Ambrosinus compositum, edito Marco Antonio Bernia. Labore et Studio composuit. Bologna.

ANGLICUS, B. (ca. 1240) De Proprietatibus Rerum.

BACCIO, A. (1603) De gemmis et lapidibus pretiosis, eorumque viribus & usu tractatus, Italica lingua conscriptus. Frankfort.

BECKMANN, J. (1799) Marbodi liber lapidum seu de gemmis, varietate lectionis et perpetua annotatione illustratus a Joanne Beckmanno. Gottingen.

BERENGARIUS (no date) Lumen Animae.

BOETIUS de BOODT, A. (1609) Gemmarum et lapidum historia, qua non solum ortus, natura, vis & precium, sed etiam modus quo exiis olea, salia, tincturae, essentiae, arcana & magisteria arte chymica confici possint, ostenditur. Hanover. The second edition appeared in 1636, and the third in 1647; a French translation was published in 1644.

BOYLE, R. (1677) The Skeptical Chymist. London.

CANTIMPRATENSIS, T. (<1280) De Natura Rerum. Known only in manuscript.

CESALPINO, A. (1596) De metallicis libri III. Rome. A second edition was published in 1602.

CESI, B. (1636) Mineralogia, sive naturalis philosophia thesauri, in quibus metallicae concretionis medicatorumque fossilium miracula, terrarum pretium, colorum & pigmentorum apparatus, concretorum succorum virtus, lapidum atque gemmarum dignitas continentur Lyon.

CHOULAND (1858) Graphische Incunabeln fur Naturgeschichte und Medicin. Leipzig. Verlag der Munchner Drucke, Munich, 1924, 44.

CONRAD OF MEGENBERG (1475) Buch der Natur. Augsburg. Written before 1374.

CUBE, J. von (<1500) Hortus Sanitatus. Editions also known under the German title of Garten der Gesundheit.

DAWSON, C. (1934) Medieval Religion and other Essays. London, 88.

DOLCE, L. (1565) Libri tre di M. Lodovico Dolce ne quali si tratta delle diverse sorti delle Gemme, che produce la Natura. Venice. There was also a 1617 edition.

ENCELIUS, C. (1551) De re metallica, hoc est, de origine, varietate, & natura corporum metallicorum, lapidum, gemmarum, atque; usum deservientium, libri III. Frankfurt. A second edition appeared in 1557.

EVANS, J. (1923) Magical jewels of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Particularly in England. Oxford. Reprinted (1976) by Dover Publications, New York, 264 p.

FANTUZZI, G. (1774) Memorie della Vita di Ulisse Aldrovandi medico e filosofo Bolognese. Bologna.

FORESTI, L. (1887) Sopra alcuni fossili illustrati e descritti nel Musaeum Metallicum di Ulisse Aldrovandi. Soc. Geol. Boll., Italia, 81.

GIMMA, G. (1730) Della Storia Naturale delle Gemme, delle Pietre, e di tutti Minerali, ovvero della Fisica Sotteranea. Naples.

ISIDORE OF SEVILLE (1483) Etymologiae sive Origines. Venice.

KING, C. W. (1867) The Natural History of Gems or Decorative Stones. London.

LAET, J. de (1647) De gemmis et lapidibus libri duo. Quibus praemittitur Theophrasti Liber de Lapidibus. Leyden.

LEONARDUS, C. (1502) Speculum lapidum clarissimi artium et medicine Doctoris Camilli Leonardi Pisaurensis. Venice. Later Latin editions appeared in Venice (1516), Augsburg (1533), Paris (1610) and Hamburg (1717); an English translation was published in London (1750).

LONICERUS, A. (1557) Kreuterbuch, neu zugericht, kunstliche Counterfeytunge der Baume, Stauden, Hecken, Kreuter, Getreyde, Gewurtze . . . Item von furnembsten Gethiern der Erden, Vogeln und Fischen; auch von Metallen, Gummi und gestandnen Saften. Frankfurt-am-Main. Editions published in 1573, 1587, 1713, 1770 and 1783 are also known.

LOVELL, R. (1661) Panoryktologia, sive Pammineralogicon. Or an Universal History of Mineralls, containing the summe of all authors, both ancient and moderne, galenical and chymical, touching Earths, Mettals, Semimettals with their natural and artificial excrements, Salts, Sulphurs, and Stones, more pretious and lesse pretious &c. Shewing their Place, Matter, Names, Kinds, Temperature, Vertues, Choice, Use, Dose, Danger, and Antidotes. Oxford.

MAURUS, R. (<842) De Universo.

MARBODUS (1511) Enchiridion Marbodei Galli de Lapidibus Pretiosis. First printed edition, Vienna.

MARBODUS (1531) Marbodei galli poetae vetustissimi de lapidibus pretiosis enchiridion, cum scholiis pictorii villingensis. Freiburg.

MEYERHOFF, H. A., and FOSTER, M. L. (1936) The Power of Stones - a Thirteenth Century Manuscript. Preliminary list of Abstracts of Papers to be read at the meeting of the Geological Society of America held in Cincinnati, Ohio. In this abstract it is stated that the book has just been translated into English by M. L. Foster.

MIELEITNER, K. (1922) Geschichte der Mineralogie im Alterthum und im Mittelalter (in Fortschritte der Mineralogie, kristalographie und Petrographie.) Herausgegeben von der Deutschen Mineralogischen Gesellschaft, vol. 7, Jena.

NECKAM, A. (1863) De Naturis Rerum, with a poem by the same author, De Laudibus Divinae Sapientiae. Edited by Thomas Wright, London, ix (Rolls Series).

PANNIER, L., ed. (1882) Les lapidaires francais du moyen age des [XII.sup.e], [XIII.sup.e] et [XIV.sup.e] siecles reunis, classes et publies, accompagnes de prefaces, de tables et d'un glossaire. Bibliotheque de l'Ecole des hautes etudes, 52.

PLINY The Elder (77 A.D.) Natural History. English translation by D. E. Eicholz (1962), Harvard University Press, Cambridge.

REISCH, G. (1504) Margarita philosophica. Strassburg.

RIDDLE, J. M. (1977) Marbode of Rennes' (1035-1123) De Lapidibus, considered as a medical treatise, with text, commentary and C. W. King's translation, together with text and translation of Marbode's minor works on stones. Sudhoffs Archiv, 20, 144 p.

ROSSLIN, E. (1533) Eucharius Rosslin the Younger on Minerals and Mineral Products, Chapters from his "Kreutterbuch." Critical text, English translation and commentary by Johanna S. Belkin and Earle R. Caley, published by Waiter de Gruyter & Co., Berlin and New York, 418 p.

RUSKA, J. (1912) Das Steinbuch des Aristoteles mit literargeschichtlichen Untersuchungen nach der arabischen handschrift der Bibliotheque Nationale herausgegeben und ubersetzte. Heidelberg.

SARTON, G. (1931) Introduction to the History of Science. Carnegie Institution of Washington.

SAXO, ARNOLDUS (1220-1230) De Finibus Rerum Naturalium.

STELLA, E. (1517) Erasmi Stellae Libonothani Inter-praetamenti Gemmarum Libellus unicus. Nuremberg, Fredericus Peypus.

STEINPREIS (ca. 1510) Lapidarium omni Voluptate refertum: medicine plurima notatu dignissima experimenta coplectens. Vienna, printed by Io. Winterberger.

THEOPHRASTUS (315 A.D.) Theophrastus on Stones. English translation by E. R. Caley and J. E C. Richards (1956), Ohio State University, Columbus, 238 p.

THORNDIKE, L. (1929) History of Magic and Experimental Science. New York.

VINCENT OF BEAUVAIS (1240-1264) Speculum Mundi. A copy in the Osler Library was printed not later than 1478.

VOLMAR (1877) Das Steinbuch, Ein altdeutsches Gedicht von Volmar, mit Einleitung, Anmerkungen und einem Anhange. Published by Hans Lambel, Heilbronn.

WEBSTER, J. (1671) Metallographia; or, an History of Metals. London.
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Title Annotation:Mineral Books; book collecting
Author:Adams, Frank Dawson
Publication:The Mineralogical Record
Article Type:Bibliography
Date:Jul 1, 1995
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