ALCHEMICAL INTEREST AT THE PETRINE COURT
University of Turku
In 1717, whilst visiting The Hague, Peter the Great made one of his frequent excursions to inspect the curious and spectacular claims of a resident mathematician and experimental scientist, who boasted that he had invented a method for accurately calculating longitude.  To the disappointment of the Tsar, the claims of the scientist proved far-fetched and the demonstration ended in complete failure. However, far from chastising the intrepid, but unsuccessful, experimenter, the Tsar is reported to have invited him into Russian service in order to carry out further investigations on the usefulness of his machine and promised handsome rewards. Furthermore, he uttered the following intriguing remark:
I neither belittle nor revile an alchemist, the search for converting metal into gold, of the mechanic trying to find perpetual movement, and mathematicians soliciting to find out longitude (Ö) such types of people should be encouraged in every way, and not despised. 
How should one view this patently tolerant position on the practice of alchemy? Can it simply be regarded as an anomaly, uncharacteristic of a man and autocrat who sought to embody the epitome of enlightened and rational thinking; or alternatively did it actually testify to a genuinely tolerant and open attitude towards esoteric pursuits adopted by the Tsar during his reign? In the following paper, I will argue that the latter viewpoint is far closer to the truth, with the Tsar himself displaying a keen interest in alchemical experimentation from at least as early as his first Grand Embassy to Western Europe in 1697-1698. What is more, I will seek to reveal the manner in which three of the most important and trusted figures in the Tsar’s inner circle of confidantes and officials—Jacob Bruce (1669-1735), Feofan Prokopovich (1681-1736) and Robert Erskine (1677-1718)—were all deeply immersed in the rich and beguiling heritage of an experimental art form that had not withered away as Europe moved into the early modern era. 
These three individuals were standard bearers for the progressive nature of Petrine reform, and therefore it may initially seem paradoxical to cite them as the principle adherents of a worldview supposedly decidedly at odds with the rational and mechanistic tenets of modern science. If one rejects, however, the Kuhnian theory that a paradigm shift abruptly transformed scientific inquiry into its modern guise at the close of the seventeenth-century, one can regard their embrace of alchemy as neither incongruous nor anachronistic. On the contrary, one can view this as part of a wider phenomenon prevalent across Europe, in which chemistry, as a scientific discipline, had not been completely divorced from its roots in the irrational alchemical sphere. This sentiment is stressed by Lynn Thorndike, when concluding his chapter on alchemy between 1650-1700: chemistry was still a naïve child. It had not yet grown up and attained its scientific majority. Thus, it is the aim of this paper to revise our perception of the way in which alchemy was perceived at court in Petrine Russia, in much the same way as Betty Jo Teeter Dobbs has transformed our understanding of the importance of alchemy to Isaac Newtons scientific worldview.
The existence of alchemical practice or interest at the Petrine court has been almost entirely neglected by both Russian and Western scholars. Discussion has been strictly limited to oral legends stemming from the secretive ‘Neptune Society,’ which met at the Sukharev Tower in Moscow,  and which allude to meetings of a Masonic and alchemical nature in which participants allegedly included the Tsar himself as overseer, Prokopovich as the orator and Jacob Bruce.  It is impossible to verify what actually transpired at the meetings of this secret society and as a result accounts of alchemy in general in Petrine Russia have been of a speculative hue, wholly devoid of scholarly analysis.  Indeed, apart from these legends, the nearest one comes to an acknowledgement by any Western academic of even the faintest interest in alchemy can be found in W.F. Ryans historical account of magic in Russia, when he states:
Despite the evidence of occasional interest in alchemy, in particular at the level of the court, there are no further alchemical manuscripts in Russia, as far as I can tell, until the freemasons, Rosicrucians and Martinists of the eighteenth century, some of whom made translations of Basil Valentine, Roger Bacon, John Fludd, Paracelsus etc. 
Thus, Ryan essentially argues that for a period lasting approximately 130 years (between the departure of the alchemist Wendelin Sybelist (1597-1677), who was Tsar Mikhail Romanovs personal physician until his death in 1645, and the rise of Rosicrucian Freemasonry championed by the writer and publicist Nikolai Novikov in the 1770s), alchemical interest was essentially non-existent in the Russian empire. The perseverance of an inconsequential interest in alchemy at court level during the reign of Peter the Great is mentioned, but only in passing, and is not elaborated upon.
Up until recently, one would struggle to find any other mention of alchemy during Peter the Great’s reign in both Russian and foreign accounts.  This neglect has been partially redressed by the publication of a biography of Jacob Bruce by A.N. Filimon, entitled Iakov Brius (2003), which does draw attention to his alchemical interests (see p. 57 below for further discussion of this work). A study of the wider penetration of alchemy at the Petrine court has not been carried out, however, and therefore has not extended to include other eminent personages, such as Erskine and Prokopovich
The only other scholars to broach the subject of alchemy in Russia, prior to the rise of the mystical Freemasonry of the Novikov circle in Moscow, are N.A. Figurovski and John H. Appleby, who both highlight the alchemical activities of Arthur Dee (son of John Dee), who was personal physician to Tsar Mikhail Romanov between 1621-1635.  In Russia, historical studies on the general phenomenon of alchemy are also few and far between, with the most authoritative account still being Alkhimiia kak Fenomen Srednevekovoi Kulturi (Alchemy as a Phenomenon of Medieval Culture, 1979) by V.L Rabinovich.  The title itself indicates the authors reluctance to consider it as a part of the culture of the early-modern period.
(iii) Alchemy and Peter the Great:
The Grand Embassy undertaken by Peter the Great in 1697-1698 was an unprecedented event, as a Russian Tsar had never set foot outside Russian territory. Nowadays, this milestone in Russian history is best remembered for Peters passionate enthusiasm for mastering the art of Dutch and English shipbuilding at wharves in Zaandam, Amsterdam and Deptford. In both countries, however, he also availed himself of some of the most noted chemical experimenters of the respective countries. In Holland, for example, he called upon the eminent natural scientist and chemist Hermann Boerhaave (1668-1738) of the University of Leiden, who in 1732 still vouched for the excellent usefulness of the chemical Art in Alchemy.  Whether or not the subject of chemistry or alchemy was discussed is unfortunately unknown, as records only reveal that the Tsar surveyed the Dutchmans anatomical theatre. 
During the Tsars residence in England, however, a detailed record has been preserved of the Tsars encounter with Moses Stringer, a chemistry teacher at Oxford University.  This record takes the form of a Relation in J. Bradfords Little Britain and told of a sensational occurrence during Peters stay in London, which took place on 28 March 1698 (OS) and unfolded as follows: 
The Czar sent some days since for Mr Stringer, an Oxford Chymist (Ö) to shew him some of the Choicest Secrets and Experiments known to England; accordingly Mr Stringer drew up a Class (or Number) of Experiments, viz,(Ö)Some in Separating and Refining of Metals and Minerals, some Geometrical, some Medicinal, others Phylosophica, to the number of 24 Experiments; when they were drawn up , the Czar elected one to be done first; and it seems it was one of the most difficult Operations, which shews that the Czar is skill’d in Natural Philosophy. However he desired to see the Experiment done, which was performed to his satisfaction, It was to Melt Four Metals, with a destroying Mineral together: the Gold, Silver, Copper, and Iron with Antimony, into one Lump, then to dissolve them all, and then to separate each Metal distinct again, without destroying any one of them: It chanced after he had made him some Lead out of its Ore, and Silver out of that Lead, and called the Gold from the rest of the Metals mixt, being transported into a merry Vein, told the Czar, if his Majesty would wear that Gold in a Ring for his sake, he would make him an Artificial Gem of what colour he pleased to name, to set in it, out of an Old Broom staff and a piece of Flint, that lay by them; His Majesty being pleased with the Fancy, ordered it to be done, he saying by part of the time, and his Secretary the rest till it was done, and then it proved so hard, that it cut glass. 
This demonstration of the “extraordinary separation of metals and the artificial gem’ was carried out for the benefit of the Russian Tsar by an ‘alchemist’ of a decidedly Paracelsian colouring. The Tsar’s own skill in natural philosophy is further emphasized in an extended version of this encounter, which appeared in the Protestant Mercury. Herein, Stringer is quoted as saying: ‘if your Majesty knows so well how to elect or refuse, in these matters, you need not send for me nor any I know in England.’ However, he desired to see that experiment done, which was performed to his satisfaction.” 
Stringers debt to Paracelsian alchemy and medicine is revealed in three later letters to Dr. Woodrofe, the Master of Worcester College in Oxford, in which he states that his experiments for his elixir renovans quia a fatiagatione renovat was much affected by what Paracelsus reports concerning the force of medicines in Recovering Old Age.  Stringers subsequent career as Mineral Master General in England between 1709-1710 is also testament to the pivotal role Paracelsian Iatrochemists could still enjoy within the highest echelons of government institutions in early eighteenth-century Europe.
Peter the Great’s penchant for observing chemical knowledge and experiments was further demonstrated during his Second Embassy in Western Europe between 1716 and 1717. He once again visited Boerhaave in Leiden, who by this time was Professor of Chemistry. The Tsar arrived promptly at Boerhaave’s private abode at the appointed hour of 5 o’clock in the morning, after spending the night in his yacht on the Rapenburg Canal, and the pair proceeded to immediately converse for two unbroken hours, in which Boerhaave ‘had to go to some trouble to satisfy all the Czar’s interests’. 
Furthermore, on two consecutive days, whilst in Paris in June 1717, the Tsar also paid visits to two of France’s most acclaimed chemical experimenters (and rivals). On 18 June (OS) he went to observe chemical experiments carried out by Etienne-FranÁois Geoffroy (1672-1731), the Professor of Chemistry at the Jardin du Roi and of pharmacy and medicine at the College de France.  Whilst significantly less credulous than his predecessors at the Jardin du Roi in the seventeenth-century, Geoffroy still maintained distinct vestiges of a Paracelsian heritage. In 1704, for example, Geoffroy wrote in the Mémoires of the L’AcadÈmie Royale, with regard to combustion, that ‘a mixture of a sulfur (here an inflammable oil of vegetable origin), a vitriolic salt, and an earth always result in an ash that contains iron, which seemed to be synthesis of a metal’. 
The next day, 19 June (OS), the Tsar visited the French Academy of Science and was shown the effects of two curious chemical concoctions by Louis Lemery (1677-1743), a physician at the Hotel Dieu and the son of the famed chemical experimenter Nicolas Lemery (1645-1715). Lemery waged an on-going chemical dispute with Geoffroy vis-à-vis the latters claim that iron could be synthesized at the beginning of the eighteenth-century.  Lemery propounded a theory at odds with Geoffroy, but one that still reflected an alchemical heritage drawing on the production of a Tree of Diana  , and what many at the time still believed to be the encoded alchemy of the Greco-Roman myth of Vulcans metallic net.  Thus, he argued that iron is present in plants due to a growth process through which it enters roots and is raised through a plants vessels by its life force. This phenomenon, he argued, was similar to that discernible in a Tree of Diana. Furthermore, he added that he had personally discovered an iron equivalent: a Tree of Mars. 
It has mistakenly been assumed by some scholars that Peter the Great actually met Nicolas Lemery, rather than his son Louis, at the Academy of Science in 1717.  This is, of course, impossible, as the elder Lemery died in 1715. That Peter the Great was interested in the (al)chemical theories of Nicolas Lemery, however, is testified by his private library collection, which contains both a 1697 French edition and a 1698 German edition of his principle work, Cours de Chymie, first published in 1675.  This handbook for conducting chemical experiments ran to over 700 pages. The majority of the work concentrated on describing the three natural kingdoms. Twenty-three chapters are given over to discussing minerals, twenty are devoted to the vegetable kingdom and a mere four chapters to the animal kingdom. One also finds a glossary and definition of chemistry at the beginning with an account of furnaces, vessels and the degrees of fire.  Lemerys account reflects a deep interest in acids and alkalis and reveals the continued belief in an imperceptible universal spirit.
In addition to the two editions of the above work, Peters private library also held a small, but significant, collection of other alchemical, chemical and metallurgical tracts. Undoubtedly the most striking inclusion is a two-volume collection of the key alchemical works of the mysterious fourteenth-century figure, Basil Valentine, which includes The Twelve Keys and The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony.  The former work was adorned with twelve highly symbolic illustrations, and in the preface the author claimed that after many experiments he had come to understand the nature and properties imparted by God to minerals and metals, and their secret potency. Arguably even more influential was The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony, which is often regarded as among the most important and resplendent alchemical works of all-time. 
A further work of note in the Tsar’s library that addresses alchemical questions is the Theatrum Vitae Humanae by Theodor Zwinger, which also included a vast array of material on all manner of occult themes.  In addition, Peter the Great had works on metallurgy and mineralogy by Michael Mercati and Johann Christian Lehmann (1675-1739).
The Tsar evidently also had something of a passion for Ovids Metamorphosis, owning Latin, Russian, German and French editions, as well as Russian and German editions illustrating Ovidian figures.  The possibility of metamorphosis from one state to another not only fascinated alchemists on the level of the transmutation of base metals into silver or gold; it also reflected the possibility of the transformation of man on a far more mystical and spiritual plane. To many Renaissance adepts, such as Michael Maier, Ovids tale contained Hermetic wisdom that had survived from antiquity. 
Thus, I would argue that throughout his reign there is clear evidence suggesting the Tsar was curious at the very least regarding all manner of chemical experimentation. Rather than practicing alchemy himself however, I would argue that the Tsar was content to surround himself at court with curious scientific minds willing to embrace the esoteric. This is epitomised by the influential presence of Bruce, Prokopovich and Erskine at the heart of the Petrine hierarchical system.
(iv) Jacob Bruce (1669-1735): The Russian Faust
Jacob Daniel Bruce was born in Moscow in 1669 and was the son of William Bruce, a Scottish Protestant Jacobite who had left his homeland in 1647 to pursue a military career in Russian service. In his long and distinguished career at the heart of the Russian State, Jacob Bruce rose to the rank of Field Marshal in the military and was awarded the Order of St.Andrew the First-Named for his efforts at the Battle of Poltava in 1709. In the diplomatic sector, he was the chief representative of the Russian delegation at the vital Åland Congress with Sweden in 1718 and negotiated the eventual Nystad Peace of 1721, because of which he was honoured with the noble title of Count.
Bruce is also justifiably recognised as one of the most brilliant men of learning in Petrine Russia. His skills were utilised in a dazzling variety of ways: he was Director of the Mathematical and Navigation School in Moscow (the first of its kind in Russia when it opened in 1701), was appointed the Director of the Moscow Typography in 1706 and became the President of the newly created Mining and Manufacturing Colleges in 1717. Furthermore, in 1720 he was entrusted with the posts of Director of the St. Petersburg Mint and the General-Director of Fortifications. It should also be noted that he held the post of Governor of Novgorod in the early years of the eighteenth century and undertook numerous translations of scientific tracts, including Christiaan Huygens Cosmotheoros in 1717, as well as penning original works on military education and moral instruction for children.
Bruce was at the forefront of the Petrine reforms of the Russian State, and therefore it is all the more intriguing to note the myriad of myths that have emerged surrounding his long-lasting dalliance with the occult arts. In his unfinished novel The Arab of Peter the Great, for example, Alexander Pushkin refers to Count Jacob Bruce as the Russian Faust.  As L.M. Khlebnikov aptly notes, there is no other statesman in Russian history who has attracted so many extraordinary legends attesting to his mastery of the black arts.  The first recorded legend stems from the beginning of the nineteenth century, and was recited to a student of Moscow University, who wrote it down, by a soldier who had apparently heard it from an old shepherd whilst they were both sitting around a bonfire. It states that Bruce knew all secret herbs and miraculous stones and concocted various things from them.  This tale was only published in 1871, although many more oral legends were in circulation during the nineteenth century, for in addition to Pushkins characterisation of Bruce as a Russian Faust, the author Ivan Ivanivich Lazhechnikov also wrote the novel The Sorcerer at the Sukharev Tower in 1840.
The extent of the oral legends surrounding Bruce only became clear in the twentieth century, when Evgeni Baranov devoted a chapter of his book on Moscow legends to the subject of Bruce’s purported sorcery. By noting down the tales of Soviet workers in various tearooms in Moscow in the 1920s, Baranov assembled a fascinating account bearing witness to the continued vitality of the fantastical legends surrounding the figure of Bruce.  Therein one can read about Bruces ability to create a mute housemaid from flowers, his invention of a concoction which when poured from a vial brought a dead dog back to life and a similar concoction which restored youth to an old man. One can also read about how Bruce fashioned a sea eagle from iron lathes and springs and proceeded to fly over Moscow; how he brought a snowstorm to the same city during the height of summer and how he froze a lake to the astonishment of the assembled onlookers.
Few scholars in Russia have attempted to look beyond these copious legends to examine the actual nature of Bruces interest in esoteric pursuits. In the nineteenth century both Pekarskii and Khmirov avoided such discussion in their respective emphasis on astronomical and militaristic themes.  The post-war Soviet historian, Sergei Luppov, also commented on the very insubstantial number of anti-scientific publications in Bruces library.  A recent and notable exception, however, is A.N. Filimons biographical account of Bruces life, entitled Iakov Brius (2003). Here, for the first time, one finds a detailed study of Bruces actual interest in the mystical and the occult, vis-à-vis his library collection, carried out by A. Svionov. Even this welcome attempt, however, significantly underestimates Bruces interest in esoteric pursuits and is handicapped by its insistence on evaluating him through the guise of a modern rational researcher, and who had the hallmarks of a thoroughly rounded developed person.  In this way, any esotericism present in Bruces library is expunged of its living vitality.
In the West, Jacob Bruce has warranted little attention from scholars. The most detailed study of the man has been carried out by the Canadian academic, Valentin Boss, who regards Bruce as ‘Russia’s first Newtonian’.  According to Boss, Bruce was at the head of a movement in Petrine Russia, which sought to bring a ìmodernî character to science and language. He outlines Bruce’s debt to Newtonian science and observes that his ‘collection of books was acquired with a purpose’, that is, the furthering of a rational and secular state based on the pillars of empirical science.  The plentiful myths and legends prevalent in Russian popular and literary culture are completely bypassed in his bold attempt to portray Bruce in this light. What is more, the ample evidence in Bruce’s library indicating a distinct attraction to esoteric pursuits, such as alchemy, is wantonly overlooked. It is high time the image of Jacob Bruce is revised in the same manner as scholars, such as Betty Jo Dobbs, have transformed our perception of Sir Isaac Newton, revealing his interest in alchemy, Hermeticism and millenarianism. 
Chemical experimentation and an expert understanding of metallurgical matters were of central importance to Bruce in a number of his official capacities. His position as General Feldtseikhmeister of the Russian Artillery, for example, demanded a wide chemical knowledge of the techniques and methods necessary for the preparation of gunpowder and explosives. The importance of the alchemical art of separation is vividly stressed in an illustration at the head of the third part of the Uchenie i Praktika Artilerie, (Textbook in Practical Artillery, 1711), translated by Bruce himself. Here can be seen an alchemist at work, concocting chemical mixes in his laboratory.
Fig. 1 Illustration to Uchenie i Praktika Artilerie (1711). Source: Petrov, A.V., (ed.), Sobranie Knig izdannikh v Tsarstvovanie Petra Velikago: Izdanie Vtoroe dopolnenie s 34 Snikami (St. Petersburg, 1913).
An expert knowledge of chemical processes was also a prerequisite for an individual wishing to occupy senior posts concerning mining, metallurgy and monetary matters in any major European country. Even in Bruces era, however, many of the most eminent occupants of these positions still harboured an understanding of chemistry built on strong predilections towards alchemical lore. Late in the seventeenth-century, the official Berg-Meester of the Netherlands was the hermetic alchemist Goossen van Vreeswyk (1626-c1689). In England, the post of Mineral Master General, as mentioned above, was filled by Moses Stringer between 1709-1710, and the Warden of the Royal Mint in this period was none other than the alchemical enthusiast, Isaac Newton. In Sweden, the post of Councillor of Mines between 1689-1702 was occupied by the alchemist Johann Kunckel von Löwenstern (c1612-1702), whilst in 1716 the noted mystic Emanuel Swedenborg was awarded the rank of Extraordinary Assessor of the Board of Mines.
Thus, as President of the Mining and Industry Colleges and the Director of the St. Petersburg Mint, Bruce fulfilled posts within the Russian State system particularly attractive to men of learning with more than a passing interest in alchemy. Bruce also chose to live in homes with easy access to laboratories and foundries. It is entirely fitting that Bruce’s residence in St. Petersburg was situated on Liteinii Prospekt, in extremely close proximity to the city’s main foundry. 
Fig. 2 Bruce’s residence on Liteinii Prospekt, St. Petersburg. Source: G.N. Komelova (ed.) Kultura i Iskusstvo Petrovskogo Vremeni, Leningrad, 1977, p.125.
Bruce’s former residence in Moscow—the Sukharev Tower—was also closely linked with scientific experimentation. It was here that Bruce established Russia’s first astronomical observatory, and that allegedly the Neptune Society practised alchemy. The vast majority of the legends referring to Bruce’s tireless pursuit of various sorts of magic and alchemy describe the Sukharev Tower as his citadel, in which he tirelessly worked throughout the night in the laboratory, located in the cellar.  After his retirement from public service in 1726, Bruce moved to Glinka, a country mansion nowadays on the outskirts of Moscow. Here, he also built a specially constructed chemical laboratory in which to experiment.
The largest part of Bruce’s sizeable Cabinet of Rarities consisted in a considerable collection of minerals, metals and dry powders, suggesting chemical experimentation played a prominent part in his private life. Included in the last section of the inventory are minerals and metals retrieved from the St. Petersburg region and from Siberia. It also includes metals and minerals, such as Hungarian copper, tin, bismuth, white iron, silver, a white quartz and Hungarian quartz, steel cobalt, vitriol, a vitriolic mineral, vermilion, azure and emeralds. 
The most remarkable evidence of Bruce’s deep interest in alchemy can undoubtedly be found in his private library collection. Astonishingly, it is certainly on a par with the confiscated library of Nikolai Novikov, in its range of alchemical, hermetic and occult content. Indeed, the claim that Rosicrucianism and Rosicrucian texts were only brought to Russia in the 1770s and 1780s by I.G. Schwarz, an associate of Novikov’s, is severely undermined by the nature of Bruce’s library which contains many significant Rosicrucian-inspired volumes.  Overall, Svionov lists a total of some seventy-three occult and mystical texts in the Bruce library collection.  In fact, I have discovered 143 recognisable alchemical works alone, written by at least eighty-eight authors, without including the many other works present on subjects, such as, natural magic, geomancy and astrology. 
The oldest alchemical tomes in Bruces library are two works by Walther Ryff, which date from 1547 and 1558.  Bruce also possessed a German edition of Giorlamo Cardanos two principle works (De Rerum Varietate and De Subtilitate Rerum Libri XXI), published in 1559.  One also finds a rare 1568 edition of Alessio Piemonsteses famous book of alchemical secret recipes, De Secretis.  Alchemical tracts of a distinctly mystical and hermetic character abound in Bruces library; some fine examples being the Philsophica Mystica, published by the Rosicrucian sympathizer, Lucas Jennis, in Frankfurt in 1618.  This work actually included a number of separate tracts: the title tract itself by the renowned Paracelsus, as well as two tracts by the Rosicrucian proselytiser, Adam Haselmayr (Astronomia Olympi Novi Theophrasti and Theologia Cabalistica de Perfecto Homine), four tracts by Valentin Weigel and a preface by Johannes Siebmacher. Bruce also owned a number of other works by Paracelsus, including De Limbo and a Lucas Jennis edition of various tracts published in 1619, and Siebmachers Waterstone of the Wise, referred to by Carlos Gilly as one of the most fascinating alchemical-theosophical books ever printed.  Accompanying this text were two responses from the F.R.C., or in other words, the Rosicrucian Brotherhood. Bruce owned a further curious publication from the stable of Lucas Jennis: a 1618 edition entitled Libellus Theosophiae de Veris Reliquiis seu semine Dei in nobis post lapsum relicto.  A further direct link to the Rosicrucian movement, is the alchemical text by Samuel Richter, who under the pseudonym of Sincerus Renatus published I.N.J Göldene Quelle der Natur und Kunst (Golden Font of Nature and Art, 1711). In the previous year, this Silesian pastor published what Rafal Prinke has argued is a codification of the rites and grades of the German Rosicrucian Order. 
Other highly significant hermetic-alchemical inclusions in Bruces library are H.V.D. Tumba Semiramidis Hermeticae Sigillatae, which purports to reveal the secrets of the philosophers stone, Johann Neitholds Sancta Veritas Hermetica and various tracts by Johann Pharamundus Rhumelius, including his Compendium Hermeticum.  Furthermore, Bruce owned four key works by Jakob Böhme, the alchemical tracts of Basil Valentine and a work by the influential medieval figure Ramon Lull, entitled Lullius Redivius. 
It is also interesting to note the large amount of contemporary (and predominantly German) alchemical tomes in Bruce’s library, which reveal its continued popularity in the first decades of the eighteenth-century. Far from being a bygone pursuit, merely of interest to the curious bibliophile, it retained a powerful stimulus for many respected (and not so respected) scientists. One can count, for example, the work of at least nineteen German alchemists written and published after 1700: Johann Michael Faust, Christoph and Johann Otto von Hellwig, Friedrich Zobeil, Baro Urbigerus, Georg Ernst Stahl, Johann Jacob Rosenstegel, Stanislaus Reinhard Acxtelmaier, Johann Jacob Br”uner, Friedrich Hoffmann, Gottfried Roth, Christian Carl Schindler, Samuel Richter, Christian Friedrich Richter, Johann Neithold, David Kellner, Theodor Kerckring, Conrad Khunrath and George Friedrich Retzel.  All these authors wrote works seeped in alchemical theory and testify to Bruces interest in the area.
Thus, it appears the many legends telling of Bruce’s plentiful horde of rare and ancient magical tomes, from which he ‘took some things’ and ‘put together various powders and compositions’ are actually not far removed from the truth.  In this regard, one can agree with Bosss assertion that Bruces collection of books was acquired with a purpose. However, one must add the title of alchemist to those of mathematician, natural philosopher, astronomer and engineer, stated by Boss in his assessment of Bruce the man and intellectual. Indeed, without this crucial addition a full picture of this pioneering figure in Russian scientific history suffers from simplistic, blinkered projections of rational thought. If one can state that Bruce was Russias first Newtonian, it is more akin to the sense of Newton as a Janus faced genius, as described by Dobbs.
(v) Feofan Prokopovich (1681-1736)
Up until his death in 1736 Prokopovich, the Archbishop of Novgorod, remained a stalwart of the Petrine legacy in which he himself had played a pivotal role. Indeed, Prokopovich is commonly recognised as the chief ideologist of Petrine absolutism, epitomised in Pravda Voli Monarshei (1722) and reflected in numerous panegyrics devoted to the majesty of the Emperor between victory at Poltava in 1709 and his funeral in 1725. 
After his summons to St. Petersburg by Peter the Great in 1715, Prokopovich also became the spearhead for a programme of radical ecclesiastic reform. This came to fruition with the publication of the Dukhovnii Reglament ili Ustav (Ecclesiastical Regulation, 1721), which was quickly followed by the establishment of the Holy Synod in St. Petersburg, with Prokopovich as Vice-President. Henceforth, in all church services the name of the Patriarch was to be replaced by that of the Holy Synod, which was deliberately modelled on the new system of state colleges representing a new regulated and ordered government hierarchy. This ecclesiastic reform went hand-in-hand with educational reform, as outlined in the Reglament itself, which stated: learning that is good and well-grounded is beneficial both to the fatherland and to the church as the root and seed and foundation. 
Prokopovich was a consistent advocate of a broad-based education that incorporated all facets of learning and he saw absolutely no contradiction between the pursuit of science and religious faith. In fact, he actively encourages spiritual enlightenment through scientific enquiry in the Reglament. This passion for the advancement of learning through scientific endeavour also ensured that Prokopovich played an active role in the foundation of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, and from its first days gave help to its scholars.  Prokopovichs contribution to learning in Russia, however, has been squarely viewed within modern parameters of progressive enlightenment. Cracraft typifies this sentiment when he bestows upon Prokopovich the accolade of being the first authentic voice in Russia of the Early Enlightenment. 
However, if indeed Prokopovich was the first authentic voice of enlightenment in Russia; then it was a voice that was also distinguished by a marked interest in the seemingly less progressive nature of esoteric scientific inquiries, such as alchemy. Nowhere is this more strikingly symbolised than at his deathbed in 1736, where among only a handful of his closest associates was one of his pupils, Iakov Alkhimist, or Jacob the Alchemist.  This obscure character also appears as a prominent beneficiary in the official will of Prokopovich: listed at the head of the fourth row of inheritors (nasledniki).  This fact cannot be simply dismissed as an incongruity, unrepresentative of a shining example of the early phase of the enlightenment in Russia. On the contrary, if one examines the life and career of Prokopovich, it is apparent that the presence of an alchemist at his deathbed is entirely consistent with his open-minded and inquisitive approach to science and natural philosophy.
Prior to his arrival in St. Petersburg in 1716, Prokopovich had built his reputation as a Professor at the Kiev Academy, where in 1704 he had begun teaching theology, rhetoric, poetics and philosophy (which was subdivided into logic, natural philosophy, mathematics and ethics).  The surviving manuscripts of his lectures, conducted between 1707-1709, and only published in Kiev between 1979-1981, reveal a man who spoke and wrote with erudition about the latest developments in all fields of natural philosophy, including alchemy. 
Prokopovich devotes three pages of his Natural Philosophy to the subject of alchemy, providing something of a potted history and expressing views highly favourable to its practice and goals. In the opening paragraph of his discussion on alchemy, Prokopovich states that it is not necessary to object to the fact that the art may possess the power of nature and therefore I hold that it is not to be separated from nature.  Prokopovich then proceeds to acknowledge that alchemists, despite great persistence and remarkable stubbornness have not, up until his day, successfully created real gold.  Yet, whilst Prokopovich admits the failure of alchemists in the past to perfect their art, he certainly does not deny the possibility of them mastering it in the future. He gives a number of reasons to back up this stance, beginning with the argument that the art has the potential to imitate nature and providing a curious example:
Firstly, when the art imitates nature and on many occasions copies nature itself, then it obtains true powers and accommodates the power of nature to the extent that it is possible to be able to take the place of a thing, for example, (like) the possibility to engender bees from fresh guts covered by dirt. 
He then states: ‘is it not possible from this art to inherit from nature the creation of real gold?’ 
Prokopovich replies positively to his own question and provides truly extraordinary proof of the potential for alchemists to produce real gold. This proof comes in the form of angels, who are credited with the knowledge to foresee correct alchemical processes:
Angels by nature have the knowledge to foresee which material and which correlations are somehow necessary for the creation of real gold. Consequently when (alchemists) set everything correctly and mix at the right time, then real gold is created. 
Therefore, according to Prokopovich, ‘although alchemists up until now have not produced real gold in their furnaces, this does not have decisive meaning’ as in the future ‘human ability may establish the creation of real gold.’  What is more, chemists, in ‘breaking their heads to create gold’ have actually succeeded in revealing other scientific theories and inventions that may well even be more beneficial than gold. Prokopovich then cites the mastery of the separation of metals as an example. 
In his Natural Philosophy, Prokopovich also displays an expert knowledge of both the practical and theoretical nature and process of (al)chemical separation, writing an entire section on chemical elements and their powers. This section draws heavily on the work of Daniel Sennert (1572-1637), a fact demonstrated in his description of the chemical element Mercury: ‘Daniel Sennert names it a divine fluid or spirit, of which with great effort it is possible to separate from fine sulphur and very rare salt.’ 
Prokopovich defended his stance on alchemy, and scientific experimentation in general, by arguing that knowledge of nature is not opposed to Christ’s Laws. Indeed, God respects those who endeavour to study nature and faith provides the foundation for the intellect to aspire to knowledge. Prokopovich also states that true inspiration of reason is received from the consciousness of the divine harmony of nature, which seems redolent of a belief in the analogy of macrocosm and microcosm.  This sentiment is strengthened by what the Soviet historian V.M. Nichik calls Prokopovich’s ‘Neo-Platonic’ ideas about the origin of the world by the path of divine emanation. 
After his move to the Imperial capital in 1716, Prokopovich continued to display a keen interest in natural philosophy, and allegedly became the Orator of the so-called ‘Neptune Society’, with its links to scientific experimentation, alchemy and even Masonry.  What is more, he helped to found a literary-philosophical circle, ‘Uchenaia Druzhina’, (Brotherhood of Learning), which included Jacob Bruce and his protÈgÈ V.N. Tatishchev.  In St. Petersburg, Prokopovich also had the means to handsomely increase the scope of his bibliomania, amassing a library of over 3,000 tomes by his death in 1736.  The majority of this collection was of a theological nature, but it also contained a significant number of alchemical tomes, written by at least thirty-four separate authors, including Daniel Sennert, and many other works of a distinctly occult nature. When one considers that alchemical interest has been considered as an all but non-existent phenomenon in Petrine Russia, it is remarkable to note that one of its chief religious representatives actually harboured a notable stock of literature on the controversial theme.
Thus, apart from the above-mentioned Sennert, it is astonishing to find the principle works of such renowned authors of Renaissance occult magic as Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535), Levinus Leminus (1505-1568), Marcellus Palingenius, Girolamo Cardano (1501-1576) and Giovanni Battista della Porta (c.1535-1615) contained within Prokopovichs library.  All these authors wrote on alchemy, and in Portas Magiae Naturalis alone, for example, Prokopovich could find two of the four books devoted to curious experiments, such as the transmutation of plants and chemical experiments. 
Prokopovich also possessed a broad scope of Hermetic and Paracelsian alchemical works from the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which would have been the envy of any true adept. One finds, for example, a rare first edition of Petrus Severinus Idea Medicinae Philosophicae (1571), in which the author expounded and developed Paracelsian medicine and alchemy.  A first edition of Johann Vincent Fincks Dogmatic-Hermetic Handbook (1618) was also in Prokopovichs collection.  In this tome, the Archbishop could consult an impressive collection of chemical remedies edited by Finck into 38 chapters, and including such writers as, Paracelsus, Oswald Croll and Martin Ruland,  Prokopovich could also consult four editions of Johann Schröders Pharmacopoeia Medico-Chymica, first printed in 1641, to discover a veritable treasure-troth of fantastical information vis-à-vis all manner of alchemical recipes and experiments by the likes of Paracelsus, Croll, Quercetanus and Schröder himself.  Prokopovich also owned an edition of Theatrum Sympatheticum, which provided a compilation of tracts relating to sympathetic powders by various alchemists, including Robert Fludd, Kenelm Digby, Johannes Baptista van Helmont and Rodolphus Goclenius. 
A further significant alchemical work Prokopovich was able to consult in his library included a complete copy of the Emerald Tablet, the bible of the alchemists which was attributed to Hermes Trismegistus.  This is widely viewed as one of the most important sources of medieval alchemy and related to a legend in which Noah carried a tablet with him during the flood and was subsequently found by Abrahams wife, Sarah, in the hands of Hermes as he rested in his tomb.  Other alchemical tomes in Prokopovichs collection worthy of mention are Adrian Mynsichts influential Thesaurus et Armamentarium Medico-Chymicum, Otto Tachenius Hippocrates Chymiacus, Olaus Borrichius Hermetis Aegyptiorum et Chemicorum Sapientia, Johann Hartmanns Praxis Chymiatrica , Guerner Rolfincks Chimia in Artis Formam Redacta and Lazarus Rivieris Praxis Medicina. 
Prokopovichs alchemical collection may not be as large at that of his friend and colleague Bruce but it is highly significant nonetheless. It is hard to imagine any other ecclesiastical figure in Russia at the time being able to pursue a successful theological career whilst harbouring such dubious scientific interests. Prokopovichs hoarding of a significant alchemical collection in his library was a bold and risky move that certainly relied on the tolerant protection offered by the patronage of the Tsar himself. The protection of the Tsar was certainly crucial to Prokopovichs early career in St. Petersburg, where he faced considerable opposition from rival clergymen. His appointment as Bishop of Pskov in 1718, for example, was opposed by his bitter rival, Stefan Iavorskii, on the grounds that he was a heretic who advocated heterodoxy. This was still a serious accusation. It should be borne in mind that Quirinus Kuhlmann, the Protestant mystic who embraced alchemy, had been burnt for heresy on Red Square as relatively recently as 1689. That Prokopovich was able to avoid a similar fate is testament to the dramatic sea change that had been engendered by Peter the Greats wave of radical reforms.
(vi) Robert Erskine (1677-1718)
The Scottish physician Robert Erskine arrived in Russia during the summer of 1704, and went on to play a significant role in the country up until his relatively early death at the age of forty-one on November 30th 1718. After initially serving as Aleksandr Menshikovs personal physician, Erskine quickly rose to become the chief physician to the Tsar himself and the President of the Medical (or Apothecaries) Chancery. Within the auspices of this role, Erskine was the driving force behind the creation of Russias first wholly medicinal and botanical garden in St. Petersburg. What is more, in 1714 the Tsar appointed Erskine the first Director and Chief Librarian of the newly established Kunstkamera, or museum of rarities, and in 1716 he conferred upon the Scot the title of State Councillor, which brought with it the privilege of hereditary nobility. A mark of the high esteem in which Peter the Great held Erskine is reflected in the fact that he was awarded a full state funeral in January 1719 and was buried alongside the Tsars favourite sibling, Natalia Alekseevna, in the Aleksandr Nevskii Monastery.
Despite his glittering career in Russia, Erskine surprisingly remains a largely unsung personality in historical literature. Indeed, one is hard pushed to find more than fleeting reference to his achievements in modern accounts of Petrine Russia (both Russian and Western).  No doubt the lack of thorough scholarly attention on the career of Robert Erskine has helped to conceal the amazing fact that during his comparatively short life this eminent Scottish physician managed to amass one of the most extensive private alchemical collections in Europe for its day. In a collection of over 2,300 tomes, one can find at least 287 alchemical works by 157 separate authors, which accounts for over 12% of the total collection.  This total compares favourably with the contemporaneous (and nowadays renowned) collections of Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Hans Sloane, who held 169 and 204 separate alchemical tomes respectively. 
To many it might seem anachronistic that a respected physician—who had already ascended to the summit of the British medical establishment prior to his departure to Russia in 1704—could harbour a profound fascination for such an esoteric pursuit. Erskine had, after all, been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1703 and emanated from one of the most eminent Scottish Jacobite families in the kingdom. Closer inspection of the medical milieu of the day, however, yields a plentiful amount of evidence demonstrating the continued adherence of many respected physicians to a branch of medicine drawing on a mystical and Paracelsian Iatrochemical worldview nourished by alchemical principles. Tellingly, this was evident among a group of Scottish physicians from the same North Eastern part of the country as Erskine and who also shared the same Jacobite and Episcopalian background. These ‘mystics of the North East’, as G.D. Henderson referred to them, included George Cheyne, James Cunningham and James Keith, who all pursued highly successful medical careers in the English capital at the beginning of the eighteenth century. 
During Erskines medical training at Paris and Utrecht, between 1697 and 1700, one can also detect an atmosphere in which his Professors openly endorsed alchemy. In Paris, for example, Erskine could draw on the expertise of Moyse Charas (1619-1698), whose principle work, Pharmacopee Royale Galenique et Chymicque (1676), was a compendium containing a large number of alchemical remedies and formulas. Whilst studying in Paris, Erskine devoted considerable time to the study of chemical pursuits, as is revealed in a surviving notebook from the time. Within this book one finds lengthy handwritten extracts from the work of the chemist Jakob Le Mort (1650-1718), whose work was positively tinged with a great deal of alchemical belief. 
Erskine transferred to Utrecht in 1699, and at this time the medical and chemistry departments of the university were firmly under the sway of the charismatic Johann Conrad Barchusen (1666-1723). No records survive of who were Barchusens pupils, but O. Hannaway notes that most would have been medical students.  Thus, it seems unquestionable that Barchusen exercised considerable influence, vis-à-vis medicine and chemistry, over the young Scot at a pivotal moment in his career—a sentiment reinforced by the fact that Erskine owned all the principle chemical works of Barchusen published prior to 1718.  It is, therefore, highly significant to underline Barchusens staunchly Paracelsian chemical worldview, which advocated alchemy, or alchemistica, as one of the three main branches of chemistry, and aimed to to bring to light very many hidden facts which are useful in the arts and sciences.  Indeed, Barchusen accompanied his 1718 edition of Elementa Chemiae with a series of nineteen alchemical plates, which he attests he came upon in a monastery in Swabia. Aware of their alchemical import, he endeavoured to publish them, with his own interpretation of their meaning.  The highly mystical and religious relationship between an alchemist and God is highlighted below, in Emblem 2 (in the upper right-hand corner). One can clearly see here the divine nature of the alchemist’s art and the intriguing representation of God in human form accompanied by a symbolic triangle representing not only the divine trinity, but also the triunal nature of alchemy itself—divisible into three parts: (1) salt, (2) sulphur and (3) liquid:
Fig.3 The first plate, containing emblems 1-5, in Johann Conrad Barchusens Elementa Chemiae (1718).
Barchusens attempt to bring to light the secrets of the world is overtly mystical and espouses the pivotal roles of alchemy and observation of nature, both hallmarks of a Paracelsian worldview and in total harmony with Allen Debus description of a chemical philosophy: This Chemical Philosophy was to be a universal philosophy of nature founded on new observations and indisputable philosophical precepts, which conformed to religious truth. 
Furthermore, within Erskine’s own tight knit family one finds a link to a rich vein of hermetic alchemy, in the person of his Grandfather’s cousin, Sir George Erskine of Innerteil (c.1570-1646). He has been described as ‘the most important of a number of followers of hermetic philosophy or alchemy in the time of King James VI’.  One can also detect links to the mystical tradition of Scottish Jacobite Freemasonry, via his cousin, the Jacobite leader John Erskine, the Earl of Mar (1675-1732), and a family connection to Chevalier Andrew Ramsay (1686-1743), the renowned exponent of Scottish-Rite Freemasonry. 
Despite the fact that Erskine wrote no medical or philosophical tracts whilst in Russian service, it is still possible to detect, from a number of surviving sources, an Iatrochemical approach to his medicine. Indeed, Erskine, as head of the Apothecaries Chancery, had the opportunity to undertake a great amount of (al)chemical experimentation. In Moscow, he oversaw the construction of new headquarters for the Chancery between 1706 and 1709. Cornelius Le Bryn, the famed Dutch travel writer, gave an excellent description of the pharmacy as it stood in 1707, which he indicated included a room with a magazine of medicinal herbs and two halls acting as a laboratory and a library.  It is also explicitly stated that a responsibility of the director of the Kunstkamera, when it transferred to the Kikin Palace in St. Petersburg in July 1718 (OS), was to diligently fulfil chemical work.  An active interest in the practical construction of furnaces is also shown by the inclusion in Erskines library of Nicolas Gaugers La Mechanique du Feu (1714). 
An indication of Erskines predilection towards Iatrochemistry can undoubtedly be gleaned in a letter sent to Erskine in December 1711 by Albert Seba (1665-1736), the eminent Dutch apothecary and owner of a fine Cabinet of Rarities.  Seba wrote that a merchant had informed him of Erskines special predilection for exotic medicines and knowing that he had a rich supply of officinal drugs, both Chimica, Simplitia and Composita. Significantly, Seba also presented Erskine with a gift of one ounce of phosphorus in a glass.  Alchemists were particularly enamoured with this non-metallic element, discovered by a certain Henrig Brand of Hamburg in 1669.  Attracted by its ability to contain light, which alchemists perceived as the spirit, and to spontaneously burn, it was repeatedly referred to in mystical and spiritual terms. Johann Daniel Krafft described it as a perpetual fire in 1676, when performing natural magic to the Margrave of Brandenburg, Georg Caspar Kirchenmaier wrote of its divine nature and as a philosophic fire in 1680, whilst in 1682 the respected Journal des Scavans claimed that Christian Baldouin, who had written Phosphorus Hermeticus in 1675, had actually discovered the element, or as they called it, the Aurum Aurae.  Indeed, as Thorndike tellingly states: the discovery of phosphorus would seem to have encouraged rather than detracted from the pursuit of the philosophers stone. 
Erskine also wrote to a certain Dutch chemist, Johannes De Wilde, in Amsterdam in 1717 with regard to various ‘chimico-pharmaceuticals preparations’ and invited him into Russian service.  It is also curious to note that Jacob Bruce wrote to Erskine in 1712 requesting a ‘Spiritu Cephalico’, or a spirit for the head, and other medicines for his own use.  Knowing of both Bruce and Erskines penchant for alchemy, it is far from speculative to suggest that this Spiritu Cephalico was prepared using Iatrochemical techniques.
A surviving fifty-nine-page notebook made by Erskine recording his treatment of Peter the Great in Carlsbad and Teplice between October and November 1712 is also a revealing source of his medicinal methods.  Prior to reaching Carlsbad, Erskine had consulted the noted physiologist, Polycarpus Schacher, a professor at the University of Leipzig. Whilst in Teplice, Erskine recorded observations on acidity versus alkalinity, the mixture of salts and colour therapy. He also made meticulous notes regarding the colour and quantity of his patient’s urine, his food intake and the composition of the goblets of water he drank and even his stools. Appleby also rightly notes that Erskine had a particular interest in balneology. Not only did he treat the Tsar at spas in Carlsbad and Teplice; he also discovered curative spring water containing iron on the right bank of the Neva, near St. Petersburg, at a place called Bolshaia Okhta. He apparently found these iron-rich waters particularly relieving for headaches and nervous tension. 
It should be stressed that these treatments undertaken by Erskine in order to cure the Tsar are wholly in line with Iatrochemical and Paracelsian methods as developed in the seventeenth century by such practitioners as van Helmont, Rudolf Glauber and Francis de la B–e Sylvius. Friedrich Manz has recently noted that during the seventeenth century chemical experimentation changed the notion of nutrition and diet in northern Europe fostering the idea that salts resulted from a union of acids and bases. Thus, Manz writes that digestion came to be regarded as: ‘a succession of fermentations controlled by a balanced production of acids and alkali. Life seemed to depend on the equilibrium of acids and alkalis.’ 
Van Helmont developed the idea in the middle of the seventeenth century that diseases were the consequence of abnormal fermentations, which led to an excess of acid or alkaline in body fluids. As Manz further notes, this holistic concept of life as an equilibrium of acids and alkalis ‘had a profound influence on European history of the mind.’  This echoes the earlier sentiment of Debus, who states that Glauber’s dual concept of salt (acid-alkali) led to the belief that diseases form from the nature of their acidic or alkaline balance.  Erskine’s espousal of balneology is also entirely within a Paracelsian tradition. Hans Schadewaldt has noted, in this regard, that the famed Swiss physician can be ranked as ‘the real father’ of this science and a figure who described thermal springs in his native land incorporating the doctrine of the macrocosm-microcosm. 
Thus, if one bears in mind all the above-mentioned factors it becomes much more plausible to envisage Erskine as a respected physician drawn to alchemical theory and practice. Indeed, the sheer scale of Erskines alchemical collection goes significantly beyond the realms of a mere curiosity seeker and the fancies of a dilettante. Whilst a comprehensive survey of the alchemical collection in Erskines library is beyond the scope of this article, it is pertinent to highlight a number of remarkable inclusions that illustrate this point.
It is fitting to begin with Erskine’s extensive collection of rare works by the greatly revered sixteenth-century Swiss alchemist and physician, Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim (1493-1541), otherwise known as Paracelsus. The oldest volume—Theophrasti Paracelsi Philosophiae et Medicinae Utriusque Universae, Compendium—dates back to 1568 and was published in Basle by the Frenchman Jacques Gohorry (d.1576).  This compendium comprises the philosophy and medicine of Paracelsus and is accompanied by a biography, catalogue and scholia.  One also finds in Erskines library a work entitled Onomasticon published by one of the earliest and most vociferous defenders of Paracelsus, Adam von Bodenstein (1528-1577), in Basle in 1572.  Gerard Dorn was also an ardent Paracelsian proselytiser in the 1570s, and Erskine owned a 1578 edition of Theophrasti Germani Paracelsi, in which original German manuscripts were translated into Latin.  In addition to these 16th century texts, one can also find a 1616 edition of the complete works of Paracelsus by Johann Huser, published by Lazarus Zetzner in Strasbourg. 
If the inclusion of a number of Rosicrucian-inspired texts in Bruces library collection undermines the accepted theory that this movement, saturated with alchemical beliefs, came to Russia via Schwartz and Novikov in the 1770s, then the Rosicrucian texts in Erskines library collection provide even greater evidence of its much earlier penetration into Russia . The most outstanding examples being an extremely rare 1615 (second edition) of both the Rosicrucian Manifestos (the Fama and the Confessio), published in Frankfurt.  In addition to the manifestos, this edition also contained a chapter on the need for a general reformation of the world, drawn from Trajano Boccalinis Ragguagli del Parnaso (1612), which Erskine also owned in its entirety and four replies affirming the credibility of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood.  One of these replies was written by the renowned Rosicrucian sympathizer, Adam Haselmayer, who hailed them as theosophists who had rent the dark clouds obscuring the light of true wisdom, and regarded them as prophetic followers of Paracelsus. 
Not only did Erskine own the Rosicrucian Manifestos and various sympathetic replies, he also possessed a prized first edition of Johann Valentin Andreaes alchemical allegory, Chymische Hochzeit Christiani Rosencreutz 1459 (The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz, 1459), published in Strasbourg.  One also finds numerous other works closely linked to the hermetic and alchemical worldview of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood. This is demonstrated, for example, by the inclusion of a 1624 edition of the Rosicrucian and alchemical emblem book of Daniel Cramer, Emblemataum Sacrorum, published by the Rosicrucian sympathizer Lucas Jennis.  The illustration below comes from a recent reprint of the first edition of this work, edited by the Scottish hermetic expert, Adam McLean.
Fig. 4. Emblem 23 in Adam McLean & Fiona Tait (eds) The Rosicrucian Emblems of Daniel Cramer, York Beach, ME, 1991.
Erskine also owned a first edition of the famous Rosarium Philosophorum, which was published as part of De Alchimia Opuscula Complura Veterum Philosophorum in Frankfurt in 1550.  The Rosarium featured twenty symbolic woodcuts, accompanied with parallel texts, which can be viewed as a spiritual and physical representation of the process of both alchemical and inner transformation.
Fig. 5 The first emblem in Rosarium Philosophorum. Source: Coloured engraving by Adam McLean available at his website: www.alchemywebsite.com
The presence in Erskine’s library collection of The Waterstone of the Wise (already mentioned in relation to Bruce) and an edition of Franz Gassmann’s Tumulus Hermetis Apertus, (The Opened Hermetic Tomb, 1676), provide further proof of the Scottish physician’s fascination with hermetic alchemy. 
In addition, Erskine owned rare first editions by a plethora of other seminal alchemists of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Particularly noteworthy examples include a 1599 edition of Heinrich Khunrath’s Magneisa Catholica Philosophorum, a 1608 edition of Oswald Croll’s Basilica Chymica, published in Prague, a 1613 edition of Heinrich Nolle’s Systema Medicinae Hermeticae Generale, four original editions of work by the Rosicrucian sympathizer Robert Fludd—including a 1617 edition of Utriusque Cosmi Maioris, published in Oppenheim—and a posthumous 1648 edition of Johannes Baptiste van Helmont’s collected works, entitled Ortus Medicense, published by his son, Franciscus Mercurius van Helmont. 
The breathtaking scope of Erskine’s alchemical literary collection is strengthened further by the fact that he possessed many of the most prized anthological editions of the age, such as a 1707 edition of Jean-Jacques Manget’s Bibliotheca Chemico-Curiosa, edited by Conrad Horlacher.  This appeared in two large folio volumes (amounting to 1833 pages) and included a myriad of alchemical treatises by ancients and moderns alike. Erskine also owned a 1617 edition of Vigilantus de Monte Cubiti’s Dreyfaches Hermetische Kleeblatt, which included works attributed to Jacques de Nuysement, Marsilio Ficino and Samuel Norton, and an edition of Martin Ruland’s renowned Lexicon Alchemiae sive dictionarium Alchemisticum. 
This small sample of Erskine’s alchemical collection can only partially redress the scholarly neglect it has suffered over many years. Whatever the reasons were for this neglect in the past, the fact that this eminent Scottish physician harboured such a vast quantity of alchemical tomes is something that can no longer be ignored. After all, Erskine was not a peripheral or eccentric figure in Petrine Russia. On the contrary, he was highly valued by the Tsar and exercised considerable leverage in a variety of ways at the Imperial Court. Thus, it is of great import that such an alchemical aficionado was not only able to prosper in Russia, but was able to actively amass such a decidedly esoteric collection. As in the case of Prokopovich, this would not have been possible without the express personal approval—or at least tolerance—of the Tsar.
During the first quarter of the eighteenth century alchemy continued to be a subject of great interest throughout Europe. In the past twenty years this has been ably demonstrated by scholars such as Allen Debus and Betty Jo Dobbs, who have argued against a violent paradigm shift towards purely rational and mechanistic explanations. The perception of Petrine Russia to this day, however, has continued to be framed by the assumption that the Tsar inaugurated his great series of reforms precisely in order to enact such a paradigm shift, in which he forced Russia towards the West and a rational and mechanistic worldview. Whilst still accepting the Western orientation of Peter the Great, it can be argued, however, that the Europe he personally surveyed in 1697-98 and again in 1716-1717 had not systematically and suddenly abandoned the occult and alchemical heritage of the Renaissance. Indeed, evidence of alchemical interest can be found in all the countries he visited and the Tsar personally sought out many scientists sympathetic to such beliefs.
In this sense, there is no contradiction in the fact that three of the most educated and Western orientated individuals in Russia at the time—Bruce, Prokopovich and Erskine—were also the three individuals who provide the most plentiful evidence of alchemical interest at the apex of the Petrine Court. Thus, it appears that an active interest in alchemy, as demonstrated by the above-mentioned personages, was no hindrance to pursuing a successful career in Peter the Great’s Russia and did not stigmatize a devotee as a follower of an anachronistic pursuit. On the contrary, they provide excellent proof that the Tsar’s statement in The Hague in 1717, in which he professed that ‘such types of people’ as alchemists ‘should be encouraged in every way, and not despised’, was no hollow sentiment, but a true reflection of his personal convictions. 
 A.K. Nartov, Razkazi Nartova o Petr, ed. L.N. Maikov, St. Petersburg, 1891, p. 95.
 Nartov, p. 96.
 On the continued fascination in alchemy among early eighteenth-century experimental scientists and physicians see Allen G. Debus, Alchemy in an Age of Reason: The Chemical Philosophers in Early Eighteenth-Century France, in Ingrid Merkel & Allen G. Debus (eds), Hermeticism and the Renaissance: Intellectual History and the Occult in Early Modern Europe, Washington DC, 1988, pp.231-50. Also see Betty Jo Teeter Dobbs groundbreaking account of the alchemical preoccupation of Isaac Newton, in The Janus Face of Genius: The role of alchemy in Newtons Thought, Cambridge, 1991.
 One of the most recent references to the Neptune Society can be found in Anthony Cross, By the Banks of the Neva, Cambridge, 1997, p.175.
 F. Veselago, Ocherk Istorii Morskago Kadetskago Korpusa s Prilozheniem Spiska Vospitann Ikov za 100 let, St. Petersburg, 1852, p. 22.
 These accounts will be discussed in further detail in the section devoted to Jacob Bruce.
 W.F.Ryan, The Bathhouse at Midnight: Magic in Russia, Stroud, 1999, p. 366. The occasional interest stated by Ryan refers to Jacob Bruce.
 In English see, for example, Lindsay Hughes, Peter the Great ,London & New York, 2002, and Russia in the Age of Peter the Great London & New York, 1998; Paul Bushkovitch, Peter the Great, Lanham, MD, 2001; M.S. Anderson, Peter the Great, London, 1995; Robert Massie, Peter the Great: His Life and World, New York, 1980. In Russian see: Elena Pogosian, Petr I—Arkhitektor Rossiiskoi Istorii, St. Petersburg, 2001; N.I. Pavlenko, Petr Velikii, Moscow, 1994.
 See N.A Figurovski, The Alchemist and Physician Arthur Dee (Artemii Ivanovich Dii): An Episode in the History of Chemistry and Medicine in Russia, Ambix, XIII, 1965, 1; John H. Appleby, Arthur Dee and Johannes Banfi Hunyades: Further Information on their Alchemical and Professional Activities, Ambix, XXIV, 2, 1977, pp.96-109. Interestingly Appleby discusses the alchemical practices of other earlier English physicians at the Russian court, such as Mark Ridley and Timothy Willis: the first serving under Tsar Feodor Ivanovich and Boris Godunov until 1599 and the latter replacing him.
 See also by Rabinovich, Obraz mira v zerkale alkhimii, Moscow, 1981. In addition, see T. Rainov, Nauka v Rossii XI-XVII vekov, Moscow-Leningrad, 1940.
 H. Boerhaave, H, Elementa Chemiae, quae anniversario labore docuit, in publicis, privatisque, scholist, Hermannus Boerhaave, I, Leyden, 1732, pp. 123-24.
 See P.P Pekarskii, Nauka I literatura v Rossii pri Petre Velikom, I, Moscow, 1862, p.10.
 John H. Appleby, Moses Stringer (fl. 1695-1713): Iatrochemist and Mineral Master General, Ambix, 34, I, 1987, pp.31-45.
 A manuscript of this work can be found in the British Musuem (C.20.F.2/208). See also, Leo Loewenson, People Peter the Great me in England. Moses Stringer, Chymist and Physician, Slavonic and East European Review, 1959, 89, pp.459-68 (p. 459).
 Cited from Loewenson, 1959, p. 461.
 James Peller Malcolm, Anecdotes of the Manners and Customs of London from the Roman Invasion to the year 1700, London, 1811, pp.434-5.
 Appleby, 1987, p. 36.
 G.A. Lindeboom, Herman Boerhaave: The Man and his Work, London, 1968, p. 108.
 Pekarskii, I, p. 39.
 Allen G. Debus, The French Paracelsians: The Chemical Challenge to Medical and Scientific Tradition in Early Modern France, Cambridge 1991, p. 176.
 See Debus, p. 176.
 A Tree of Diana was produced by dissolving 1 ounce of silver in a few ounces of nitric acid, with the solution being evaporated to half its volume. It was then poured into a container with 20 ounces of water and was allowed to stand for 40 days. The result was an artificial Tree of Silver adorned with balls redolent of fruit. As Debus notes, this theory was used by chemical philosophers to offer proof of life in the mineral kingdom (Debus, 159-60). What is more, the period of 40 days of fermentation could easily be invested with religious overtones, symbolising the period of Lent. The name Diana derived from the association of silver with the moon, whose goddess was Diana.
 Vulcan was the Roman equivalent to the Greek craftsman-god Hephaestus. According to myth, Vulcan produced a metallic net to hang his wife, Venus, and her lover Mars, from the ceiling, after he had caught them together in bed, in order for all Olympians to see their shame. As William Newman, Professor of History at Indiana University, has described, many alchemists (including Isaac Newton) were fascinated with producing such a net, which George Starkey made from antimony regulus and copper. In alchemy, Venus refers to copper, Mars refers to iron and Vulcan is equated to fire. The antimony regulus added to the copper is reduced from a stibnite (antimony sulfide) by the addition of iron. See William Newmans project on Newtons Alchemy (www.indiana.edu).
 Debus, p. 176.
 See, for example, Alexander Vucinich, Science in Russian Culture: A History to 1860, London, 1965, p. 65.
 E. I. Bobrova, Biblioteka Petra I: Ukazatel-Spravochnik, Leningrad, 1978, p. 134, Nos. 1263 & 1264.
 Lynn Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science,VIII, New York, 1958, p. 146.
 Bobrova, p. 157, No.1563.
 See, for example, Diana Fernando, The Dictionary of Alchemy: An A-Z of History, People, Definitions, London, 2002, p. 171.
 Bobrova, p.162, No. 1663.
 Bobrova, pp. 35, 79, 141, Nos. 142, 605, 1368-71.
 See Lyndy Abraham, A Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery, Cambridge, 2003, pp.128-29.
 See L.M. Khlebnikov, Russkii Faust, Voprosi Istorii, 12, 1965, p. 195.
 Khlebnikov, p.195.
 Russkaia Starina, 8, 1871, pp. 167-70.
 Evgeni Zakharovich Baranov, Legendi o Grafe Briuse, Moscow, 2003.
 See Pekarskii, I, & M.D. Khmirov, Glavnie Nachalniki Russkoi Artillerii, Artilleriiskii Zhurnal, 1866, Nos. 2-4.
 S. P. Luppov, Kniga v Rossii v pervoi chetverti XVIII veka, Leningrad, 1973, p. 194.
 A.N. Filimon, Iakov Brius, Moscow, 2003, p. 275.
 Valentin Boss, Russias First Newtonian: Newton and J.D. Bruce, Archives Internationales d Histoire des Sciences, 15, 1962, pp. 233-65;
Newton & Russia: The Early Influence, 1698-1796, Cambridge, Ma, 1972.
 Boss, 1972, p. 33.
 See Betty Jo Teeter Dobbs, The Janus Face of Genius: The Role of Alchemy in Newtons Thought, Cambridge, 1991.
 The Russian word liteinii actually means foundry in English.
 See Baranov.
 Materiali dlia Istorii Imperatorskoi Akademii Nauk, Tom I, St. Petersburg, 1885, pp. 180-245.
 See In-Ho L. Ryu, Moscow Freemasons and the Rosicrucian Order: A Study in Organization and Control, in J.G. Garrard (ed.) The Eighteenth Century in Russia, Oxford, 1973, pp.198-232 (p. 203).
 Filimon, 245-76.
 This figure is derived from three separate sources: Elena I. Savelieva (ed.), Biblioteka Ia. V. Briusa: Katalog, Leningrad, 1989; Sirkka Havu & Irina Lebedeva (eds) Collections donated by the Academy of Sciences of St. Petersburg to the Alexander University of Finland in 1829, Helsinki, 1997; Materiali dlia Istorii Imperatorskoi Akademii Nauk, Tom V, 1742-1743, St. Petersburg, 1889.
 These works are entitled Confect Buch und Haus Apoteck and Der Funrembste respectively. See Savelieva, Nos., 589-90.
 Savelieva, p. 64, No.149.
 Savelieva, p. 23, No. 38.
 Havu & Lebedeva, p. 231, No.72.
 Havu & Lebedeva, p. 230, Nos. 70-1; Savelieva, No. 362; Carlos Gilly, Theophrastia Sancta: Paracelsianism as a religion in conflict with the established churches, <http://www.ritmanlibrary.nl/articles (accessed December 2004).
 Havu & Lebedeva, p. 228, No. 55.
 Rafal T. Prinke, Lampado Trado: From the Fama Fraternitatis to the Golden Dawn, Hermetic Journal, 30, 1985, pp. 5-14, (p. 11).
 Savelieva, p.82, No. 205; p.94, No. 242; pp.228-9, Nos. 559-60.
 Havu & Lebedeva, pp. 223-24, Nos. 21-4; Savelieva, p.32, No. 63; p.166, No. 439.
 Savelieva, p.100, No.259; pp.127-29, Nos. 335-8; p.129, No. 339; p.321-2, No. 795; Materiali, Tom V, p.205, No. 1001; Savelieva, pp.270-3, Nos. 667-4; p.237, No. 583; Materiali, Tom V, p.167, No. 409; Savelieva, pp.56-7, No. 131; pp.133-4, Nos. 349-51; p.238, Nos. 585-6; pp.250-1, No. 612; p.263, No. 648; pp.229-31, Nos. 562-5; p.94, No. 242; pp.141-2, Nos. 373-4; p.142, No. 375; pp.144-5, No. 380; Materiali, Tom V, p.227, No. 31;
 Baranov, p. 8.
 See Prokopovichs collected works entitled, Sochineniia, Moscow-Leningrad, 1961.
 Cited from, James Cracraft, The Church Reform of Peter the Great, London, 1971, p. 264.
 V.M. Nichik, Feofan Prokopovich, Moscow, 1977, p. 117.
 Cracraft, p. 54.
 I. Chistovich, Feofan Prokopovich i ego Vremia, St. Petersburg, 1868, p. 649.
 Chistovich, p. 649.
 Nichik, p. 9.
 See Prokopovich, Feofan, Feofan Prokopovich: Filosofski Tvori v trokh tomakh, Kiev, 1979-1981.
 Prokopovich, II, p. 155.
 Prokopovich, II, p.155.
 Prokopovich, II, p.155.
 Prokopovich, II, p.155.
 Prokopovich, II, p.156.
 Prokopovich, II, p. 156.
 Prokopovich, II, p.156.
 Prokopovich, II, p. 394.
 Smirnov, p. 45.
 Nichik, pp. 21-2.
 See fn. 5 above for an early reference to Prokopovichs role in the so-called Neptune Society.
 Nichik, p. 15.
 P.V. Verkhovskii, Uchrezhdenie Dukhovnoi Kollegii i Dukhovnii reglament, Tom, II, Rostov on the Don, 1916.
 Verkhovskii, p. 32, No.1659 (Agrippa, Opera Pars Posterior); p. 33, No. 1723; p. 35, No. 1808; p. 52, No. 2962 (3 editions of Leminus, De Miraculis Occultis Nature); p. 48, No. 2678 (Palingenius, Zodiacus Vitae); p. 32, No. 1661 (Cardano, De Rerum Varietate); p. 24, No. 1144 (Porta, Portae Neapolitani Magiae Naturalis).
 Thorndike, VI, 1941, p. 419.
 Verkhovskii, p. 31, No. 1530.
 Verkhovskii, p. 21, No. 925.
 Thorndike, VII, 1958, p. 175.
 Verkhovskii,, pp. 30-1, Nos. 1521-1524. See Thorndike, VIII, pp. 88-92, for information on Schröders text.
 Verkhovskii, p. 52, No. 2993.
 A full copy of the Emerald Tablet appeared in Johann Sperlings Physica Anthropologica. Prokopovich owned an impressive 5 copies of the 1684 Halle edition: see Verkhovskii, pp. 33 & 35, Nos. 1688, 1790-3.
 Abraham, p. 69.
 Verkhovskii, p. 30, No. 1518; p.35, No. 1814; p.31, No. 1553; p. 33, No. 1708; p.30, No. 1509; p. 33, No. 1721.
 In English the best modern source for information regarding Erskine can be found in various works by John H. Appleby. See, for example, ‘British Doctors in Russia, 1657-1807: Their Contribution to Anglo-Russian Medical and Natural History’, unpublished PhD dissertation, University of East Anglia, 1979, pp.32-85; ‘Robert Erskine—Scottish Pioneer of Russian Natural History’, Archives of Natural History, 10 (3), 1982, pp.377-398. In Russian see M.B. Mirskii, ‘Doktor Robert Erskin—Pervii Rossiiskii Arkhiatr’, Otechestvennaia Istoriia, 2, 1995, pp.135-45 & Meditsina Rossii XVI-XIX Vekov, Moscow, 1996, pp.67-84.
 The Erskine collection is divided between the St. Petersburg Biblioteka Akademii Nauk (BAN) and Helsinki University Library. See Katalog Knig Biblioteki Areskina R.K. 1719, f.158, op.1, d.214a & Havu & Lededeva, pp.167-98.
 See John Harrison, The Library of Isaac Newton, Cambridge, 1978; Edward J.L. Scott, Index to the Sloane Manuscripts in the British Museum, London, 1904.
 See G.D. Henderson, Chevalier Ramsay, Aberdeen, 1952.
 See Appleby, 1979, pp. 33-4.
 O. Hannaway, ‘Johan Conrad Barchusen (1666-1723)—Contemporary and Rival of Boerhaave’. Ambix, XIV, 1967, pp.96-111 (p.101).
 One finds a 1695 edition of Pharmacopeus Synopticus, two editions of Pyrosophia (1695 & 1698) and two editions of Acroamata (both 1703). See BAN, Areskine Libri Medici in Octavo et Duodecimo, No. 382; Areskine Libri Medici et Physiologici in Quarto 16, No. 213 & Areskine Libri Medici in Quarto 15, No. 168; 26ob Areskine Libri Medici in Octavo et Duodecimo, No. 381 & Areskine Libri Medici in Octavo et Duodecimo Medici, No. 416.
 Hannaway, p.105.
 Hannaway, p.103.
 Allen G. Debus, Chemistry, Alchemy and the New Philosophy, 1550-1700, London, 1987, p. 236.
 R. I. McCallum, Sir George Erskine of Innertiel (c.1570-1646) and The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, The Journal of The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, 32, 2002, pp.214-25 (p.219).
 See Henderson, p.6.
 Cornelius Le Bryn, Travels into Muscovy, Persia and parts of the East-Indies Vol. II, London, 1737, p. 179.
 T.V. Staniukovich, Kunstkamera Peterburgskoi Akademii Nauk, Moscow-Leningrad, 1953, p. 26.
 BAN, Areskine Libri Philosophici Histor. et Philologici in 8vo et 12o. 58, No. 484.
 Albert Sebas Cabinet was bought by Erskine and transferred to St. Petersburg. This was be discussed in more detail later in the chapter and in the last chapter.
 BAN, f. 120/1, No. 119.
 Thorndike, Vol VIII, 1958, p. 378.
 See Thorndike, Vol VIII, 1958, pp. 378-80.
 Thorndike, Vol VIII, 1958, p. 378.
 BAN, f. 120/1, No.37.
 BAN, f. 120/1, No. 20.
 BAN, MS 28.6.13. Also see Appleby, 1979, pp. 66-67.
 Appleby, 1979, pp. 66-67.
 Friedrich Manz, History of Nutrition and Acid-Base Physiology, European Journal of Nutrition, 40, 5, 2001, pp.189-99 (p.189).
 Manz, p. 190.
 Debus, 1991, p. 139.
 See Hans Schadewaldt, Paracelsus and Balneology, in Schweizerische Rundschau für medizin Praxis, 83 (13), 1994, pp. 371-76.
 BAN, Areskine Libri Medici in Octavo et 12mo 18, No.12.
 Thorndike, V, 1941, p. 636.
 BAN, Areskine Libri Medici in Octavo et 12o, No. 120.
 BAN, Areskine Libri Medici in Octavo et 12mo 18, No. 7.
 BAN, Areskine Libri Medici in Folio 8, No. 15.
 BAN, Areskine Libri Medici in Octavo et Duodecimo 27, No. 389.
 BAN, 42ob. Areskine Libri Philosoph. Historici et Philolog in Quarto, No. 200
 Cf. Donald R. Dickson, The Tessera of Antilia: Utopian Brotherhoods & Secret Societies in the Early Seventeenth Century, Leiden, 1998, p.75.
 BAN, Areskine Libri Medici in Octavo et Duodecimo 27, No. 390.
 BAN, Areskine Libri Theologici in Octavo et Duodecimo 59, No. 24.
 BAN, Areskine Libri Medici in Quarto 15, No. 167.
 BAN, Areskine Libri Medici in Octavo et Duodecimo 27, No. 392; Areskine Libri Medici in Octavo et 12o 30, No. 457.
 BAN, 20ob Areskine Libri Medici in Octavo et 12o, No. 121; Areskine Libri Medici in Quarto 15, No. 160; 18ob Areskine Libri Medici in Octavo et 12o, No. 38; Areskine Libri Medici in Folio 8, Nos. 20-23; Areskine Libri Medici in Quarto 12, No. 45.
 BAN, 27ob Areskine Libri in Octavo et Duodecimo Medici, No. 409.
 BAN, Areskine Libri Medici in Octavo et Duodecimo 27, No. 391; Areskine Libri Medici in Quarto 15, No. 169.
 See fn. 1.