Alchemist’s Laboratory IN: ‘Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae’ by Heinrich Khunrath, 1595.
[A]n alchemical classic, the best known of Heinrich Khunrath’s works. The work is infused with a strange combination of Christianity and magic, illustrated with elaborate, hand-colored, engraved plates heightened with gold and silver. The tension between spirituality and experiment, and the rich symbolism of Khunrath’s writings and their engravings brought condemnation of the book by the Sorbonne in 1625, and now attracts attention from scholars.”
The Alchymist, In Search of the Philosopher’s Stone, Discovers Phosphorus, and prays for the successful Conclusion of his operation, as was the custom of the Ancient Chymical Astrologers(1771) by Joseph Wright of Derby
Khunrath’s brushes with John Dee and Thölde and Paracelsian beliefs led him to develop a Christianized natural magic, seeking to find the secret prima materia that would lead man into eternal wisdom. The Christianized view that Khunrath took was framed around his commitment to Lutheran theology. He
also held that experience and observation were essential to practical
alchemical research, as would a natural philosopher.
His most famous work on alchemy is the Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae (Amphitheater of Eternal Wisdom), a work on the mystical aspects of
that art, which contains the oft-seen engraving entitled “The First
Stage of the Great Work”, better-known as the “Alchemist’s Laboratory”.
The book was first published at Hamburg in 1595, with four circular
elaborate, hand-colored, engraved plates heightened with gold and silver
which Khunrath designed and were engraved by Paullus van der Doort. The
book was then made more widely available in an expanded edition with
the addition of other plates published posthumously in Hanau in 1609. Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae
is an alchemical classic, combining both Christianity and magic. In it,
Khunrath showed himself to be an adept of spiritual alchemy and
illustrated the many-staged and intricate path to spiritual perfection.
Khunrath’s work was important in Lutheran circles.