John Baptista Porta
(Giambattista della Porta)
"The Preface To The Reader"
F this work made by me in my youth, when I was hardly fifteen years old, was so generally received and with so great applause, that it was forthwith translated into many Languages, as Italian, French, Spanish, Arabic; and passed through the hands of incomparable men: I hope that now coming forth from me that am fifty years old, it shall be more dearly entertained. For when I saw the first fruits of my labors received with so great alacrity of mind, I was moved by these good omens; and therefore have adventured to send it once more forth, but with an equipage more rich and noble.
From the first time it appeared, it is now thirty five years, and (without any derogation from my modesty be it spoken) if ever any man labored earnestly to discover the secrets of Nature, it was I; For with all my mind and power, I have turned over the monuments of our ancestors, and if they wrote anything that was secret and concealed, that I enrolled in my catalogue of rarities. Moreover, as I traveled through France, Italy, and Spain, I consulted with all libraries, learned men, and artificers, that if they knew anything that was curious, I might understand such truths as they had proved by their long experience. Those places and men, I had not the happiness to see, I wrote letters to, frequently, earnestly desiring them to furnish me with those secrets, which they esteemed rare; not failing with my entreaties, gifts, commutations, art and industry. So that whatsoever was notable, and to be desired through the whole world, for curiosities and excellent things, I have abundantly found out, and therewith beatified and augmented these, my endeavors, in "NATURAL MAGICK", wherefore by earnest study and constant experience, I did both night and day endeavored to know whether what I heard or read, was true or false, that I might leave nothing unassayed; for I have oft thought of that sentence of Cicero, It is fit that they who desire for the good of mankind, to commit to memory things most profitable, well weighted and approved, should make trial of all things. To do this I have spared no pain nor cost, but have expended by narrow fortunes in a large magnificence. Nor were the labors, diligence, and wealth, of most famous nobles, potentates, great and learned men, wanting to assist me; especially whom I name for his honor the illustrious and most reverend Cardinal of Estings: All which did afford there voluntary and bountiful help to this work. I never wanted for in my house an academy of curious men, who for the trying of these experiments, cheerfully disbursed their money, and employed their utmost endeavors, in assisting me to compile and enlarge this volume, which with so great charge, labor, and study, I had long before provided.
Having made an end thereof, I was somewhat unwilling to suffer to appear to the public view of all men (I being now old, and trussing up my Fardel) for there are many most excellent things fit for the worthiest nobles, which should ignorant men (that were never bred up in the secret principles of philosophy) came to know, they would grow contemptible, and undervalued; As Plato said, to Dionysius, "They seem to make Philosophy ridiculous, who endeavor to prostitute Her excellence to profane and illiterate men."
Also here are conceived many hurtful and mischievous things, wherewith wicked and untutored men may mischief others; what must I do? Let envy be driven away, and a desire to benefit posterity, vanquish all other thoughts; the most majestic wonders of nature are not to be concealed, that in them we may admire the mighty power of God, his wisdom, his bounty, and therein reverence and adore him. Whatsoever these are, I set them before you, hat you may discern my diligence and benevolence towards you; had I withheld these things from the world, I fear I should have undergone the reproach of a wicked man; for (Cicero derives his from Plato) we were not born from ourselves alone, but our country will challenge a part, our parents and our friends require their parts also from us. Wherefore such things as hitherto lay hid to the bosom of wondrous nature, shall come to light, from the store-houses of the most ingenious men, without fraud, or deceit. I discover those things that have been long hid, either by the envy or ignorance of others, nor shall you here find empty trifles, or riddles, or bare authorities of other men. I did not think fit to omit anything by erring honestly, or following the best leaders, but such as are magnificent and most excellent, I have veiled by the artifice of words, by transposition and depressions of them; and such things as are hurtful and mischievous, I have written obscurely; yet not so, but that an ingenious reader may unfold it, and the with of one that will thoroughly search may comprehend it. I have added some things that are profitable, and rarely known, because they are most rare. Sometimes from things from most known, and meanly esteemed, we ascend to things most profitable and high, which the mind can scarce reach unto: One's understanding cannot comprehend high and sublime things, unless it stand firm on most true principles. The mathematical sciences, rise from some trivial and common axioms, to most sublime demonstrations. Wherefore I thought it better to write true things and profitable, than false things that are great. True things be they ever so small, will give occasions to discover greater things by them. The infinite multitude of Things is incomprehensible, and more than a man may be able to contemplate.
In our method I shall observe what our ancestors have said; then I shall show by my own experience, whether they be true or false, and last of all my own inventions that learned men might see how exceedingly this later age has surpassed antiquity. Many men have written what they never saw, nor did they know the Simples that were the ingredients, but they set them down from other men's traditions, by ignorance and importunate desire to add something, so errors are propagated by succession and at last grow infinite, that not so much as the prints of the former remain. That not only the experiment will be difficult, but also a man can hardly read them without laughter. Moreover, I pass by many men, who have written wonders to be delivered to posterity, promising golden mountains, yet write otherwise then they thought. Hence most ingenious men, and desirous to learn, are detained for a very long time (and when they despair of obtaining what they seek for, they find that they spend their time, pains, and charge in vain) and so driven to desperation, they are forced to repent by leisure; others grown wise by other men's harms, learn to hate those things before they know them. I have divided these secrets into several classes, that every man finds what he likes. Lastly, I should willingly pass by the offending of your ear, if I had no care to retell the calumnies of detractors and envious men, that most immodestly wound me, calling me a Sorcerer, a Conjurer, which name from my tender youth I have abhorred. Indeed I always held my self to be a man subject to errors and infirmities; therefore desired the assistances of many learned men, and that if I had not faithfully interpreted, they would reprove me; but what I always feared cam to pass, that I should fall into the hands of some vile and hateful men, who by doing injury to others, justly or unjustly, labor to win the popular and base approbations, and applause of the vulgar, by whose venomed teeth, hose that are wounded do not consume, but by resorting the venom back upon them, they overthrow their own honor. A certain Frenchman in his book called "Daemonomania" ( terms me a Magician, a Conjurer, and thinks this book of mine, long since printed, should be burned, because I have written of the "Fairies Ointment," which I set forth only in detestation of the frauds of devils and witches; that which comes by nature is abused by their superstitions, which I borrowed from the books of the most commendable divines. What have I offended herein, that they should call me a Conjurer? But when I inquired of many noble and learned Frenchmen. that were pleased to honor me with their visits, what that man was, they answered he was a heretic, and that he had escaped from being cast headlong from a tower, upon Saint Bartholomew his day, which is the time appointed for the destruction of such wicked men. In the meantime I shall desire the grate and good God (as it becomes a noble and Christian man to do) that he may be converted to the Catholic faith, and may not be condemned while he lives. Another Frenchman who unworthily reviled all the learned men of his age, joins me among them, and holds, that only three physicians are his friends, are praise-worthy, as the most learned of all men of our times; and among them he reckons up himself; for the book is published in his name, it is a wonder what inventions that man has found out to win praise, who having no man to commend him, nor is he worthy of commendations, yet he has undertaken to commend himself. I pass over other men of the same temper, who affirm that I am a Witch and a Conjurer, whereas I never wrote here nor elsewhere, what is not contained within the bounds of nature. Wherefore, studious readers, accept my long labors, that cost me much study, travel, expense, and much inconvenience, with the same mind that I publish them; and remove all blindness and malice, which are wont to dazzle the sight of the mind, and hinder the truth; weigh these things with a right judgment, when you try what I have written, for finding both truth and profit, you will think better of my pains. Yet I am assured there will be many ignorant people, void of all serious matters, that will hate and envy these things and will rashly pronounce, that some of these experiments are not only false, but impossible to be done; and while they strive by arguments and vain disputes, to overthrow the truth, they betray their own ignorance; Such men, as vile, are to be driven from the limits of our NATURAL MAGICK For they that believe not natures miracles, do, after a manner, endeavor to abolish Philosophy. If I have over-passed some things, or not spoken so properly of them as I might; I know there is nothing so beautiful, but it may be adorned; nor so full, but it may be augmented.
END OF "The Preface To The Reader"
"Wherein are searched out the causes of things which produce wonderful effects"