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Priesner, Claus (2016): Legends about Legends: Abraham Eleazar's Adaptation of Nicolas Flamel. In: Ambix, Vol. 63, No. 1: pp. 1-27
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This paper explores the relationship between three illustrated alchemical treatises, all of which are associated with Jewish adepts: the famous Le Livre des figures hieroglyphiques attributed to Nicolas Flamel, and two treatises published in 1735 in Erfurt-the Uraltes Chymisches Werckh and the Donum Dei. The Werckh is supposedly written by Rabbi Abraham Eleazar, while the Donum Dei is attributed to an ancient alchemist-cabalist, Rabbi Samuel Baruch. I argue that these authors are fictitious, and that both works were in fact written in the early eighteenth century by their supposed editor, the probably pseudonymous Julius Gervasius. Gervasius connects the Werckh with the legend of Nicolas Flamel by suggesting that it is based on the original, Jewish manuscript which helped Flamel to find the Stone of the Sages. Gervasius used various strategies to confer a sense of Jewish "authenticity" on these works, borrowing from contemporary (non-Jewish) perceptions of Jewish ritual, Hebrew language, and Christian Cabala. The Werckh also borrows and adapts a sequence of allegorical illustrations from those in pseudo-Flamel's Livre, and I compare the two sets of figures and, where possible, interpret them. I conclude that the later works in fact teach us far more about the state of alchemy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries than they do about either medieval alchemy or Judaism.