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Nature's Infinite Book: Alchemy, Astrology, and the Occult: Resources at the Becker

The history of medicine and magic are closely intertwined. This guide serves as a reference for those interested in exploring those connections.

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The Robert E. Schlueter - Paracelsus Collection


The Becker Medical Library is fortunate to have the Robert E. Schlueter-Paracelsus Collection on long-term deposit from the St. Louis Medical Society.  Robert E. Schlueter (1872-1955) graduated from the St. Louis College of Pharmacy in 1891. He was an avid bibliophile, amassing one of the world’s largest collections of works by and about the German Renaissance physician and philosopher Paracelsus (Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493-1541). Schlueter’s autobiography indicates that he purchased the first Paracelsus volumes around 1909 while traveling in Europe.

Schlueter’s Paracelsus collection, consisting of more than 400 books, was donated to the St. Louis Medical Society Library in 1938. In 1989 the Society deposited the collection at the Bernard Becker Medical Library. 

The Robert E. Schlueter Paracelsus Collection is not only valuable to researchers interested in the history of science and medicine, but for anyone interested in the early modern period.  The turmoil and the miracles of the Renaissance, the dawn of modern science, witchcraft and ingenious new ideas, farfetched prognostications and practical recipes, rude criticism and distinct morals are captured in these books. In addition to works by Paracelsus, the collection includes medical, alchemical and philosophical writings of his contemporaries, followers, biographers, enemies and admirers.

Works of particular interest include the Archidoxis magicae, contained within Opera, Bücher und Schriften (PARACELSUS Sudhoff 300 1616), which contains several alchemical formulae; Ex Libro de Nimphis, Sylvanis, Pygmeis, et Salamandris: Von Wasserleuten, Windleuten, Bergleuten, und Feuerleuten, which is part of the Philosophiae magnae (PARACELSUS Sudhoff 86) and describes several mythical creatures; and the Astonomia Magna (PARACELSUS Sudhoff 131), which goes into Paracelsus' philosophy of natural magic.


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Finding Resources

The Becker has several resources on this topic.  One of the best is the Robert E. Schleuter-Paracelsus collection, which has original 16th century monographs and translations, 20th century transcriptions, works by his followers and detractors, and secondary material written by scholars. This collection is available in Archives and Rare Books on the seventh floor.

ARB's other collections also have useful materials, as do the circulating collections.  These can be found through the online catalog.  Good keywords to search include Alchemy, Astrology, Occultism, Mysticism, and Magic.

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