"The Works and Life of John Baptist Porta "
(Giambattista della Porta)
1658 English Translation - "Natural Magick"
"Preface To The Reader"
A Table Containing the General Heads of Natural Magick
John Baptist Porta
"The parts and members of this huge creature the World, I mean all the bodies that are in it, do in good neighborhood as it were, lend and borrow each others Nature; for by reason that they are linked in one common bond, therefore they have love in common; and by force of this common love, there is among them a common attraction, or tilling of one of them to another. And this indeed is Magick."
(John Baptist) Porta (1535-1615), was a Neapolitan scholar of notable ability who had devoted great attention to the study of natural and physical science. Porta visited most of his known world to gather and perfect the knowledge utilized in his writings. His first work, "Magia Naturalis"- "Natural Magick" was first published in 1558 in "four" books (written, according to the author, "Porta, " when he was fifteen years old, - see "Preface To The Reader" in "Natural Magick"). It was later expanded to twenty books compended into one volume in 1584. In this form the book had a great vogue, being translated from the original Latin into the principal European languages, and republished in the Latin edition in many places for a hundred years. The version presented here is the final compendium of his life's work, completed when he was fifty years old, transcribed from a original 1658 English translation.
The value this book gives the reader of the actual perspective of those early scientists and the way they perceived their known universe was as precious then as it is now. It should be remembered that few in Porta's time were free from credulity toward many marvels and superstitions which were inherited from the past and Porta's work shows that he was no exception, as much of the "marvelous" is found in his writings. On the whole, however, his information is definite and practical and his work is a good as could be expected of one not himself a practical experimenter or investigator, but a conscientious and scholarly student of literature, ancient and contemporary. This point is critical as it frees him of the certain prejudice a trained scientist may have given to different schools of thought. Therefore the reader is presented with a clear, unbiased view of the concepts, perception and achievements of a host of historically important scientists and philosophers through Porta's writings.
The two greatest tourist attractions of Naples about the year 1600 were, according to contemporary report, the baths at Pozzuoli and Giambattista Della Porta. Certainly Della Porta was one of the most famous men in Italy. The Emperor Rudolph and the Duke of Florence sent embassies, and the Duke of Mantua came in person to see the Neapolitan wonder-worker who had penetrated the secrets of nature and was expected at any moment to discover the philosopher's stone. He could count as friends, admirers, or detractors the most learned men of his time. Kepler, for example, and Sarpi, Bodin, Campanella, Peiresc, and Galileo. The literate world knew the results of Della Porta's investigations, experiments, and speculation through his heterogeneous publications, for the earliest edition of his Magiae naturalis (Neapoli, 1558) to De aeris transmutationibus (Romae, 1610), the last of his scientific works printed in his lifetime. He wrote on cryptography, horticulture, optics, mnemonics, meteorology, physics, astrology, physiognomy, mathematics, and fortification, and when he died at eighty, he was preparing a treatise in support of his claim to the invention of the telescope….
"We must also have a special care to know the right ministering of a compound, and how to find out the just proportion of weight therein; for the goodness of the operations of things, consists chiefly in the due proportion and measure of them: And unless the mixtion be every way perfect, it availeth little in working."
- GIAMBATTISTA DELLA PORTA (John Baptist Porta)