“Incipit tractatus Aurora Consurgens intitulatus.” The words were familiar–“Here begins the treatise called the Rising of the Dawn”–but I still felt the shiver of pleasure associated with seeing a manuscript for the first time. “Everything good comes to me along with her. She is known as the Wisdom of the South, who calls out in the streets, and to the multitudes.” I read silently, translating from the Latin. It was a beautiful work, full of paraphrases from Scripture as well as other texts.
Ashmole 782 isn’t the only rare manuscript in the All Souls Trilogy. There’s Beinecke MS 408 (aka the Voynich Manuscript) in SHADOW OF NIGHT and THE BOOK OF LIFE–not to mention the Book of Life itself, and the holograph manuscript of Christopher Marlowe’s DOCTOR FAUSTUS.
The AURORA CONSURGENS is another mysterious manuscript bound up in the trilogy. Part alchemy, part mysticism, and part poetry, the AURORA is a work that is not only wondrous to read, it is stunning to look at.
Today, there are seven known copies of this alchemical work, all dating from the 15th century:
Zürich, Zentralbibliothek MS. Rhenoviensis 172
Glasgow, University Library MS. Ferguson 6
Leiden, Universiteitsbibliotheek, MS. Vossiani Chymici F. 29
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS. Parisinus Latinus 14006
Prague, Univerzitní knihovna, MS. VI. Fd. 26
Prague, Metropolitan Chapter, MS. 1663. O. LXXIX
Berlin, Staatsbibliothek Preußischer Kulturbesitz, MS. Germ. qu. 848
Matthew’s copy, which once belonged to his brother Godfrey, would be the eighth–and earliest–known version of the work, with mid-14th-century illuminations by Bourgot Le Noir.
Here is one of the Zurich illuminations from the AURORA, depicting the alchemical ouroboros in an athanor, or chemical vessel. I’ve also included an example of the work of the Le Noirs, father and daughter, so you can see how Matthew’s copy might have differed stylistically from the better known versions historians of alchemy study today. This is the prayer book of Bonne of Luxembourg, now owned by NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.