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Natural Magick
(Magiae naturalis)
BY
John Baptista Porta
(Giambattista della Porta)
(1535-1615)


"The Preface To The Reader"
Courteous Reader,

IF 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.
J.B.P.
END OF "The Preface To The Reader"


 

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