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Atalanta Fugiens (Atalanta Fleeing) is an emblem book with an alchemical theme by Michael Maier (1568–1622), first published in 1617. Michael Maier (1568–1622) was a German alchemist, physician, and hermetic philosopher and was affiliated with the Rosicrucians. Maier was the author of numerous alchemical and Rosicrucian works, many illustrated with symbolic engravings of great beauty.
Atalanta Fugiens consists of 50 discourses with illustrations, each of which is accompanied by an epigrammatic verse, prose and a musical fugue. Maier retools Ovid’s legend of the fleet-footed virgin huntress Atalanta, whom Hippomenes hopes to best in a race by dropping three distracting golden apples in her path, as an alchemical allegory designed to engage the ear, eye, and intellect (and to teach readers how to make the philosophers’ stone).
The frontispiece contains a scene of the myth of Atalanta. Atalanta represents philosophical Mercury and Hippomenes's philosophical Sulfur, Maier explains. These are the two elemental qualities of matter that the alchemist must combine in order to produce the philosophers’ stone. The alchemist must bring Atalanta and Hippomenes together and transform them into lions, the process to obtain the philosophers’ stone. The book guides the reader through the entire story.
The emblems in Atalanta Fugiens are black-and-white prints from engravings, typical for the time in which they were published. A gifted modern-day American artist, Laura Lipton painted the emblems in color in 1998. Her paintings are very beautiful and highly realistic end detailed. She did change the design of each emblem to a certain degree to fit her own interpretation of the subject. I find them so much nicer than the original b/w emblems. Below are only 20 paintings. I have added the title of each emblem from the original text. The original text contains 50 emblems. The emblems can be seen in the light of the story of Atalanta, but each also carries their own alchemical interpretation.
If you want to view the original engravings and read the text that goes with it, there is a digital edition at Furnace and Fugue of an English translation of Michael Maier’s Latin text of Atalanta fugiens (1618). It retains all original spelling and grammatical features of the Beinecke manuscript (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University (Mellon MS 48) as well as a normalized transcription that lightly modernizes the spelling into current American usage. Clicking on the images will bring up the emblems with all the text associated with that emblem. It is a high quality scholarly edition.
The Wind carried him in his belly
The Earth is his Nurse
Shut up the Tree with the Old Man in a House of
Whiten Latona and tear your books.
Join the Brother & the Sister & drink to 'em in the Bowl of Love.)
The King is sitting in a Vaporous Bath, and is
freed from the Black Gall
Sow Your Gold in the white foliate Earth.
The Philosophical Child acknowledges three fathers, just as Orion.
Three things are sufficient for the Magistery:
The White Fume that is Water;
Having acquired White Lead, do the work of women, that is: Cook.
The Hermaphrodite, lying like a dead man in darknesse, wants Fire.
If you kill one of the four, they will all suddenly dye.
He that endeavours to enter into the
Philosophers Rosary without a key,
Make of the man and woman a Circle, of that a
Quadrangle, of this a Triangle, of the same
A wolf devoured the King, and being burnt it restored him to life again.
The Tree of Life is the fruit of Human Wisdom.
As the Salamander lives in fire, so also the Stone.
Adonis is killed by a Boar, to whom Venus hasting, tinges the Roses with her Blood.
Nature, Reason, Experience and Reading must be
the Guide, Staff, Spectacles and Lamp
Typhon kills Osiris by deceit, and disperses his
limbs. But the famous Isis
The Dragon kills the woman, and she kills it, & together they bathe in the blood.