Theophrastus of Eresos

Steve Seven / C. A. Browne

50pp plus pre- and post-lim.s.

Includes two full color tipped-in plates.

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    Theophrastus of Eresos (371—287 BCE) was one the of greatest but, at the same time, has become one of the most over-looked of the Athenian philosophers. The blame for this lies with the history and legacy of the Classical tradition. Of his extensive original catalog only a few scientific writings and his famous Characteres ethici were preserved, along with a certain number of fragments.
    As with his mentor, Aristotle, his universal scope of interests provided an important foundation to Theophrastus' alchemical genius. Especially his attention to the natural sciences.
Although Theophrastus is a neglected name in the modern field of philosophy, he is well-known in the botanical sciences and is often considered the "father of botany" for his works on plants. He is also the first scholar to have seriously studied tree and wood science and his treatise "On Stones" is considered to be the first methodical study of minerology.
    Another of Theoprastus' firsts was to manufacture white lead which was used as a pigment and cosmetic. One of his more interesting alchemical experiments lead to his discovery that Mercury “ ... is made by pounding cinnabar with vinegar in a copper mortar with a copper pestle.” According to this unusual recipe, one can make a metal without heat and smelting. He was also the first known writer to mention the pearl and the touchstone. This latter being used to test the quality of gold.
    Theophrastus was a leading figure of his day in the development of the physical aspects of alchemy and the transformation of base metals. However, his poem on the sacred art, (attributed to have come to us via the hand of the 7th century philosopher Stephanos) is a lengthy symbolic and philosophical treatise on the spiritual development and transformation of the individual.