Recipes for “Natural Magick”

(This is our second blog entry in The Recipes Project’s virtual conversation, “What is a Recipe?” For a bit of background or to read the first article, on a 19th Century recipe manuscript from Lancaster, PA, click here.)

Magia Naturalis, or Natural Magick, written by Giambattista della Porta was first published in 1558 in Naples when the author was fifteen years old. Della Porta was an Italian scholar and playwright known for his expertise and knowledge of a wide variety of subjects, and for having contributed many advances to the fields of agriculture, optics, pharmacology, hydraulics and more.

The edition held at The Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia is the first English translation published in 1658, 100 years after its initial publication. It contains some of the additions added by della Porta in subsequent editions, most notably, the first published description of the convex lens and camera obscura. Though he did not invent these, his work in perfecting and describing them, and their inclusion in Natural Magick, contributed to the dissemination of this knowledge.

But, you may be asking by now, what does this have to do with recipes? A quick look at almost any page in volume reveals the answer.


Bread recipes from Natural Magick

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[Al]chemical symbols, anyone?

This is the second blog post about this manuscript asking for help from the medieval and/or history of medicine and/or history of science communities.  The table below is found on f. 12r of the second volume of 10a 131.  I don’t believe they are alchemical symbols, but perhaps abbreviations for chemicals.

Table of chemical [?] symbols, vol. 2, folio 12r. Composite volume of medical texts, Italy, 14th & 15th c. Call number 10a 131.

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