Bodenstein, Adam Of

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(b. Kemberg/Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, 1528; d. Basel, Switzerland, March 1577), medicine, alchemy, natural history. For the original article on Bodenstein see DSB, vol. 2.

Research since 1970 has resulted in new information and insights about Bodenstein’s life and publications. Programmatic dedications and other texts by Bodenstein in numerous Paracelsian printed works have undergone additional editing and annotation. This subsequent research confirms Bodenstein’s central position in the field of early German Paracelsianism.

Life. The son of the theologian Andreas Bodenstein (A. Carolostadius/Karlstadt; 1486–1541) spent his youth in Basel, which had been his father’s workplace since 1534. He obtained his baccalaureate at the local university in 1546 and MA degree in 1548, then continued his studies in Freiburg, Leipzig, Mainz, and Ferrara, Italy, where he received his doctorate in medicine in 1550. In 1547 Bodenstein married Esther Wyss, who died in Basel in 1564. One year later he married Maria Jakobea Schenck zu Schweinsberg, who died in 1618 at Sinnershausen near Meiningen.

Following a stay in Vienna (1551) Bodenstein was, at least until 1559, in the service of Count Palatinate Ottheinrich (1502–1559; elector since 1556), a sovereign favorably disposed toward alchemical Paracelsianism. He appointed Bodenstein in 1553 to the position of “servant by order of the house” (not to the position of “court physician” [Trevor-Roper, 1990, p. 82] or “personal physician” and “colleague” of Thomas Erastus [Nutton, 1995, p. 112]), and “admonished” him several times around 1556 to read Paracelsus. In part because of certain successful therapies with Paracelsian medicine in Basel (1556), Bodenstein became, about this time, receptive to the medicina nova of Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim (Paracelsus). Whether he was already disseminating “Paracelsian thinking and writings” in the “1550s” (Nutton, 1995, p. 112) remains uncertain; there are no testimonies or proofs of documents. However, undoubtedly Bodenstein’s “Paracelsian turn” combined with an orientation toward alchemia transmutatoria metallorum(transmutational alchemy). Encouraged by an itinerant alchemist (possibly Denis Zecaire) and two friends from Basel, the councillor of the margrave Ludwig Wolfgang of Habsburg and the university mathematician Johannes Acronius. Bodenstein made himself out to be an expert on the philosopher’s stone (1559–1560) and published Paracel-sian writings from 1560 until his death.

Bodenstein was a professed follower of John Calvin and Théodore de Bèze (Geneva); he participated in religious-confessional controversies in Basel and accused Sebastian Castellio (1515–1563) of heresy (“Pelagianism”) and of a “libertinism” dangerous to youth (1563). At about the same time, Bodenstein’s editions of Paracelsus brought him into serious conflict with the Basel-based Consilium Facultatis Medicae ( Council of the Faculty of Medicine), to which he had belonged since November 1558. Because he was apparently adhering to Hohenheim’s “false doctrines,” on 27 January 1564 Bodenstein was excluded from the university faculty and the consilium owing to the decisive influence exerted by Theodor Zwinger (1533–1588). The claim that Bodenstein had been teaching “iatrochemistry at the University of Basel” (Walton, 2000, p. 319) lacks any firm basis.

By the 1560s many members of the res publica medica viewed Bodenstein as a leading figure of the Theophrastians that were gradually forming at the time. He combined his medical practice with the preparation of iatrochemical medications and spent time on the laboratory-based production of gold (around 1570 in collaboration with Pierre de Grantrye, the French royal envoy in Rhaetia), but he first devoted himself to an extensive publishing effort relating to Paracelsian writings.

Bodenstein was among the well-known personalities of early modern Basel. The number of his dedications to secular grandees (including Emperor Maximilian II, Arch-duke Ferdinand II, and Cosimo de’ Medici) and members of the urban elites—though not to the representatives of the humanistic educational elites at postsecondary schools—testify to Bodenstein’s wide-ranging network of connections extending beyond the German-speaking cultural area as far as Italy and France. In the course of both his pro-Paracelsian publishing offensive and his iatro-chemical practice, Bodenstein supported such famous Paracelsians as Michael Toxites, Gerhard Dorn, and Georg Forberger, as well as Samuel Schlegel, the personal physician of Georg Friedrich, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ans-bach, and other medical practitioners. After Bodenstein’s death (on Palm Sunday, 1577), Theodor Zwinger (then no longer an opponent but a sponsor of the Paracelsians) formulated a highly appreciative epitaph for his fellow traveler: “Adamus a Bodenstein, Theophrasti Paracelsi ut primus sic fidus scitusque et opere et ore interpres, palmam victoriae suae regi triumphanti oblaturus” (Adam of Bodenstein, about to offer the palm of his victory to the triumphant king, as the first and so faithful and wise interpreter of Theophrastus Paracelsus, both in deed and in speech.)

Work. During his literary beginnings Bodenstein dealt with Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa of Nettesheim’s De occulta philosophia, Book 3 (translation and commentary, produced before 1556; subsequently lost). He then entered the publishing market as a Galenic physician: Bodenstein increased the plethora of German-speaking prognostics with a translation of a practica for the year 1557 written by Luca Gaurico (Weyssagung Sibylle Tyburtine, 1557) as well as contributing to the literature on podagra (gout) and on astro-medicine (Wie sich meniglich vor dem Cyperlin … waffnen solle. Vnnd bericht diser kreüter/So den himmelis-chen zeichen Zodiaci zugeachtet, 1557). Soon, however, he emerged as an adherent of the pre-Paracelsian alchemia transmutatoria metallorum, believing himself to possess the deepest secrets of the philosopher’s stone (Isagoge to the Rosarium chymicum [Ps.-]) by Pseudo-Arnald of Villanova, 1559; with an Epistola to Anton, Johann Jacob, Georg, and Ulrich [Huldricus] Fugger). With the exception of a Philosophischer rhatschlag(a philosophical counsel on how to fight the plague, 1577), all of the writings Bodenstein published from 1560 onward were related to Paracelsian topics.

In terms of the history of science, Bodenstein gained significance as a publicizing herald of Hohenheim’s teachings. To foster understanding of Paracelsian technical terms, he compiled an Onomasticon (Strasbourg, 1566; Basel 1575, a revised separate edition), marking the beginning of printed lexicography on Paracelsus, and completed more than forty editions of Paracelsian writings. They reveal Bodenstein as a harsh opponent of the Aristotelian-Galenic natural history and medicine, who lent strong impulses to the Paracelsian revival by adopting the priscasapientia idea and further Neoplatonic didactic material, critically examining the basic concepts of the Aristotelian-academic philosophy of nature. In conjunction with the Paracelsus editions by M. Toxites, G. Dorn, and G. Forberger (partly supported by Bodenstein), his work played a crucial role in fostering the emergence and further development of European Paracelsianism. Certainly some of Bodenstein’s tracts are testimony, as Pearl Kibre wrote in the original DSB, to “the strength of tradition in both medicine and alchemy in the sixteenth century.” However, viewed as a whole, the subversive, pro-Paracelsian fundamentals of his publishing efforts, having an eroding effect on tradition, ensure Bodenstein’s standing in the history of science.

SUPPLEMENTARY BIBLIOGRAPHY. Bodenstein’s main literary achievements are the well over forty Paracelsian editions appearing between 1560 and 1576. These editions were recorded by Sudhoff, 1894 (standard); see also Jüttner, 1985. Numerous Paracelsian printed works offer programmatic dedications and other supplementary texts by Bodenstein. The bulk of these early testimonials of European Paracelsianism have undergone editing and annotation; see Corpus Paracelsisticum, edited by Wilhelm Kühlmann and Joachim Telle, 2001, nos. 6–30, pp. 104–544.


Weyssagung Sibylle Tyburtine … aussgelegt RECTE: auügelegt für das 1557 jar, by Luca Gaurico. Translated into German and edited by A. von Bodenstein, without place name (probably Basel), 1557.

Wie sich meniglich vor dem Cyperlin Podagra genennet waffnen solle. Vnnd bericht diser kreüter/So den himmelischen zeichen Zodiaci zügeachtet. Basel, Bartholomäus Stähelin, 1557;

Amberg, Michael Forster 1611. The statement in Kibre’s DSB article that this tract has not been “identified or located” in modern times is not correct.

Isagoge in excellentissimi philosophi Arnoldi de Villa Nova, Rosarium chymicum, per Adamum à Bodenstein … paraphratsticè et magna diligentia tradita. With Epistola … ad dominos Fuggeros, in qua argumenta Alchymiam infirmantia et confirmantia adducuntur, quibus et eam artem esse certissimam demonstratur, lapisque uerè inuentus ostenditur. Basel, Gabriel Ringysen, 1559.

Onomasticon: Theophrasti Paracelsi eigne ausslegung RECTE: auülegung etlicher seiner wörter vnd preparierungen. Basel, Pietro Perna 1575. Not an independent first version. In Paracelsus, opus chyrugicum. Strasbourg: Paul Messerschmidt 1566.

Herrlicher Philosophischer rhatschlag zu curirn Pestilentz/Brustgeschwer/Carfunckl. Without place name (Basel), 1577.


Jüttner, Guido. “Adam von Bodenstein.” In Die Deutsche

Literatur: Biographisches und bibliographisches Lexikon. Reihe 2:Die Deutsche Literatur zwischen 1450 und 1620, edited by Hans-Gert Roloff. Vol. 1, no. 43, part A, pp. 135–156; part B, p. 33. Bern: Peter Lang 1985.

Kühlmann, Wilhelm, and Joachim Telle, eds. Corpus Paracelsisticum. Vol. 1, Der Frühparacelsismus: Erster Teil. Early Modern Period, vol. 59, pp. 104–544. Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2001. Includes a biography and further readings.

Nutton, Vivian. “Der Luther der Medizin: Ein paracelsisches Paradoxon.” In Paracelsus: Das Werk, die Rezeption, edited by Volker Zimmermann. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1995.

Perifano, Alfredo. “Considérations autour de la question du Paracelsisme en Italie au XVIe siècle: Les dédicaces d’Adam de Bodenstein au Doge de Venise et à Côme Ier de Medicis.” Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et Renaissance 62 (2000): 49–61.

Sudhoff, Karl. “Ein Beitrag zur Bibliographie der Paracelsisten.” Centralblatt für Bibliothekswesen 10 (1893): 317–320; 11 (1894): 170.

———.Versuch einer Kritik der Echtheit der Paracelsischen Schriften. I. Theil: Die unter Hohenheim’s Namen erschienenen Druckschriften. Berlin: Georg Riemer, 1894. Reprographic reprint under the title Bibliographia Paracelsica: Besprechung der unter Theophrast von Hohenheims Namen 1527–1893 erschienenen Druckschriften. Graz, Austria: Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1958.

Telle, Joachim. “Adam von Bodenstein.” In Literaturlexikon, edited by Walther Killy. Vol. 2. Gütersloh and Munich: Bertelsmann Lexikon Verlag, 1989.

Trevor-Roper, Hugh. “The Court Physician and Paracelsianism.”

In Medicine at the Courts of Europe, 1500–1837, edited by Vivian Nutton, 79–94. London and New York: Routledge, 1990.

Walton, Michal T. “Iatrochemistry.” In Encyclopedia of the Scientific Revolution: From Copernicus to Newton, edited by Wilbur Applebaum. New York: Garland, 2000.

Joachim Telle

Adam of Bodenstein

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Adam of Bodenstein

(b. 1528; d. Basel, Switzerland, 1577)

medicine, alchemy.

Adam was doctor of arts and medicine at Basel, where he studied and practiced medicine. He was a follower of the doctrines of Paracelsus, who had taught medicine at Basel and had been known especially for his emphasis upon the relationship between medicine and minerals, being noted particularly for his advocacy of the use of metallic compounds in medicine. Adam participated with other scholars of his time, among whom were Michael Toxites, Adam Schröter, George Forberger, Balthasar Flüter, and Gerard Dorn, in the translation, editing and publication of works by Paracelsus still in manuscript. He preceded these editions with prefatory remarks of his own. His chief contemporary rival in the interpretation of Paracelsus was Leo Suavus (Jacques Gohory).

In close association with Paracelsus’ special predilection for the use of metallic compounds, Adam developed an interest in minerals, particularly in the traditional alchemical process of transmuting baser metals into gold. In the Epistola addressed to the Fuggers, he related the circumstances of the change in his opinion of alchemy from one of scorn and contempt for it as a suspect art and for those who wrote on it as evil men, to a belief in the verity of alchemy and of the philosophers’ stone. This change he attributed to his discovery of the famous alchemical tract, the Rosarium, of Arnald of Villanova. On reading that work and taking cognizance of the author’s orderly procedure and the presentation of the variety of theories, persons, and scientific paraphernalia involved in the art of alchemy, Adam was convinced that the contentions of the alchemists were valid and that the transmutation of baser metals into gold was possible. He strongly affirmed this conviction in the Isagoge, or introduction to Arnald of Villanova’s Rosarium, which he paraphrased or edited. Adam of Bodenstein went on to expound the traditional views set forth by Arnald that mercury (quicksilver) is the primary matter of metallic bodies and that sulfur and mercury, the constituents of gold, are found in the viscera of the earth. Hence, since art follows nature, one may learn to discern the causes of the transmutation of sulfur and mercury into gold by a close observation of the process in nature.

Besides the editions of Paracelsus’ works and the introduction to the paraphrase or edition of Arnald of Villanova’s Rosarium, Adam is credited with the composition of other tracts. His chief biographer, Melchior Adam, ascribed to him further tracts entitled De podagra (“On Gout”) and De herbis duodecim zodiaci signis dicatis (“On the Relation of Herbs to the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac”). Furthermore, the noted Swiss naturalist Conrad Gesner, who was Adam of Bodenstein’s contemporary, reported that he had learned about salmon from Adam.

On the whole, Adam of Bodenstein’s works contain little that is novel. Rather, as Lynn Thorndike pointed out, they demonstrate the strength of tradition in both medicine and alchemy in the sixteenth century. They do, however, exemplify the proclivity of the scholars of the time to carry on an active correspondence by means of which they exchanged views and the results of their scientific activities and discoveries.


1. Original Works. The following printed works are all at the British Museum in London and the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. Editions of Paracelsus are: Libri V de vita longa, cum dedicatoria epistola ([1562] Basel, 1566); Drei Bücher von Wunden und Schäden sampt allen iren Zufellen und derselben vollkommener Cur (Frankfurt, 1563); Spittal Büch (Mühlhausen, 1562; Frankfurt, 1566); Desserfarnesten Fürsten aller Artzeten Aureoli Theophrasti Paracelsi von ersten dreyen principijs... (Basel, 1563); Weyssagung Sibylle Tyburtine von... Lucas Gauricus... ausgelegt für das 1557 Jar, trans. by Adam of Bodenstein (Nuremberg [?], 1556[?]); Baderbüchlin... Mit fleyss Adams von Bodenstein publicirt (Mülhausen, 1562; Frankfurt, 1566, 1576); Libri quinque de causis, signis et curationibus morborum ex tartaro utilissimi Opera... (Basel, 1563); De gradibus, de compositionibus et dosibus receptorum ac naturalium...libri septem (Mylau, 1562; Basel, 1568); Das Buch Paragranum... Item, von Aderlassens, Schrepffens und Purgirens rechtem gebrauch (Frankfurt, 1562); Das Buch Paramirum (Mühlhausen, 1562); Praeparationum libri duo (Strasbourg, 1569); Metamophosis... der zerstörten... Artzeny restauratoris...(Basel, 1572); Opus chyrurgicum (Strasbourg, 1566; Basel, 1581); Operum latine redditorum tomus I (II), with preface by Adam of Bodenstein (Basel, 1575); Schreiben von tartarischen Kranckheiten, trans. into German and ed. by Adam of Bodenstein (n.p., 1563); Labyrintus und Irrgang der vermeinten Artzet (Basel, 1574); Libri duo; I. Defensiones septem adversus aemulos suos; II. De trataro sive morbis tartareis (Strasbourg, 1566, 1573); Drey Schreinben... von tribus principiis aller Generaten, Libro vexationum und thesauro alchimistarum, in B.G. Penot, Theophrastisch Vade mecum (Magdeburg, 1608); Pyrophilia vexationumque liber (Basel, 1568); Schreyben von den kranckeyten so die Vernunfft berauben als da sein S. Veyts Thantz hinfallender Siechtage; Melancholia und Unsinnigkeit (n.p., 1567); De tartaro libri septem...nunc vero auctiores et castigatiores denuo excusi (Basel, 1570); Schreiben von warmen oder Wildbäden (Basel, 1576); Zwey Bücher... von der Pestilentz und ihren Zufallen (Strasbourg, 1559); Herrlicher philosophischer Rhatschlag zu curirn Pestilentz Brustgeschwer, Carfunckl; Dardurch auch andere Gyfft... aussgetriben mögen werden (Basel, 1577).

Works on Arnald of Villanova and alchemy are: Isagoge in excellentissimi philosophi Arnaldi de Villanova Rosarium chymicum, paraphrastice manga diligentia tradita, Epistola operi praefixa ad amplissimos alchymian infirmantia et confirmantia adducuntur, quibus et eam artem esse certissimam demonstratur (Basel, 1559); also available in MS: British Museum Sloane 3737, 17th cent., ff. 96r-106r, “Ex Isagoge Adam å Bodenstein in Rosarium Arnaldi.”

The two tracts De podagra and De herbis duodecim zodiaci signis dicatis, noted by Melchior Adam (see below), have not been otherwise identified or located.

II. Secondary Literature. The principal modern account is Lynn Thorndike. History of Magic and Experimental Science, V (New York, 1959), 619, 636; VI, 267. Dr. Thorndike utilized for the biographical information Melchior Adam, Vitae medicorum Germanorum, 3rd ed. (Frankfurt, 1706), pt. 4, p. 104, the sole extended source of information on Adam of Bodenstein; also Conrad Gesner, Historia animalium (Frankfurt, 1604), p. 829, “lib, IV, qui est de piscium et aquatilium animalium natura.”

Pearl Kibre