The order of the treatises of the Corpus Hermeticum

Another problem that I ran into is the order of the treatises of the Corpus Hermeticum.
I thought that this order had long been fixed and agreed upon, but even fairly recent editions of the text, have different orders and different treatises even! I may have to let you down admitting that I own only two version of the text, which are the Dutch translation by Roelof van den Broek and Gilles Quispel (1990) who use the ‘official counting’ of I-XIV and XVI-XVIII, which I will explain lateron and the four books of Jan van Rijckenborgh (see below). Further, the internet, information of the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica by email (thank you Cis), the small library of the local temple of the Lectorium Rosicrucianum and later a book by Frank van Lamoen (see bookreviews section), have made me able to compare four other versions: Van Beyerland (1643), Everard (1650), Mead (1906), Van Rijckenborgh (1960-1965) and Copenhaver (1992, including Asclepius).

To start, I want to give you a short account of the history of the Corpus Hermeticum.

11th cent. Michael Psellus knows the Corpus Hermeticum as bundled treatises;
1463 Ficino finishes the translations of 14 treatises that he got from Cosimo de Medici;
1471 after having circulated for several years, the first publication follows;
– – – > more and more manuscripts turn up, some of which have more treatises than Ficinos;
1507 Ludovico Lazzarelli translates the current treatise XVI to Latin;
1554 the Greek text is published by Adrianus Turnebus. this version contains 16 treatises and 3 fragments from a compilation of Greek quotes that John Stobaeus made for his son;
1574 François de Foix republishes the Greek text with some corrections. also he leaves out the current treatises XVII and XVIII and puts in the Stobaeus quotes as treatise XV;
1494 Jacques le Fèvres d’Etaples meets Ficino and released the sixth (!!) printing with his own commentary;
1565 le Fèvres published the Corpus and the Asclepius in one book.

Many later versions used the De Foix Greek printing to translate the text, but left out the spurious Stobaeus texts without altering the numbering. Even the first scientific publishing of Nock and Festugière (1945-1952) uses the numbering I-XIV + XVI-XVIII.

This is also the reason that I expected all versions after 1574 to have the same order, but this is not true.

Let me give you the order of my “scientifically just” version of the Corpus Hermeticum, a Dutch translation based on the Greek text in the publishing of Nock and Festugière. Of course I only have Dutch titles of the treatises so the English versions are my own.

I Poimandres
Poimandres
II Een algemeen gesprek van Hermes met Asclepius
A general conversation of Hermes and Asclepius
III Een gewijde verhandeling van Hermes
A consecrated discourse of Hermes
IV Het Mengvat of De Eenheid
The Crater or Unity <“Mengvat” actually means “mixing-barrel”>
V God: onzichtbaar en toch goed zichtbaar
God: invisible and yet very visible
VI Het Goede is alleen in God en nergens anders
Goodness is in God alone and nowhere else
VII Onwetendheid aangaande God: het grootste kwaad onder de mensen
Ignorance concerning God: the biggest evil of mankind
VIII Van wat bestaat, vergaat niets
Nothing that exists shall perish
IX Inzicht en Waarneming
Insight and Perception
X Openbaring van de driewerf grote Hermes: Sleutel
Disclosure of the thrice greatest Hermes: Key
XI De Geest spreekt tot Hermes
The Mind speaks to Hermes
XII De Geest die het Al doordringt
The Mind that penetrates All
XIII De driewerf grote Hermes spreekt tot zijn zoon Tat
The thrice greatest Hermes speaks to his son Tat
XIV Het Wezen van het Al
The Being of All
XVI Aforismen. Een brief van Asclepius aan koning Ammon
Aformisms. A letter of Asclepius to king Ammon
XVII Beelden
Images (or Statues)
XVIII Lofrede op het Koningschap
Eulogy to Kingship

Please note that there is no treatise XV.
This order will be the basis of the comparisons of the other Corpus Hermeticums.

On 10 september 2005 I got a booklet with the coverage of a symposium about the Dutch inventor Cornelis Drebbel (1572-1633). Included is a fascimile of Drebbel’s book about his perpetuum mobile (Wonder-Vondt van de eeuwighe bewegingh 1607). This short text was followed by the earlierst translation of the Corpus Hermeticum in print in Dutch (in 1580 a manuscript in Dutch was present in Antwerpen). This translation is made by Gerrits Pieterz Schagen which on its turn is a translation of the Italian (Florentine) translation of Tomasso Benci. The order and titles of the “sermoenen” (sermons) are:

Mercurius Trismegistus / van de macht ende wijsheyt Gods. ghenaemt Pymander

I

Mercurius Trismegistus / of the power and wisdom of God. named Pymander
Sermoen universael / van Mercurio tot Esculapium. II. II
Universal sermon / of Mercuriu to Esculapium. II.
Dat heylighe Sermoen van Mercurio. Het III. Op die wijse : Het daghet upt den Oosten III
The holy sermon of Mercurio. The IIIrd. In this way : It dawns in the East
Mercurius tot Tagium / van die schale oft eewichyt. Dat IIII. Sermoen IV
Mercurius to Tagium / of the dish of eternity. The IIIIth Sermon
Mercurius tot Tagio / hoe dat God verborghen is ende openbaer/ Dat V. Sermoen. V
Mercurius to Tagio / how God is hidden and open / The Vth Sermon
Mercurius tot Esculapium / dat het goet alleen in Godt is / maer niet elders. Dat VI. Sermoen VI
Mercurius to Esculapium / that good is in God only / but not elsewhere. The VIth Sermon
Dat het meeste quaet van de Menschen is / Godt niet te kennen. Dat VII. Sermoen VII
That the most evil of Men is / not knowing God. The VIIth Sermon
Mercurius tot Tagio / datter niet en sterft van alle dinghen die daer sijn: Maer die Menschen bedroghen zijnde / hieten die veranderinghe den doot. Dat VIII. Sermoen. VIII
Mercurius to Tagio / that not dies all things that are there: But Men are deceived / those changes are called death. The VIIIth Sermon.
Van die verstandenis en de ghevoelen / dat in Godt alleen die schoonheyt is / ende dat goet / ende niet elders. Dat IX. Sermoen IX
Of sense and feeling / that only in God is beauty / and that good / and nowhere else. The IXth Sermon
Mercurius Trismegistus tot Tazio / zijnen Sone / die Sleutel. Dat X. Sermoen X
Mercurius Trismegistus to Tazio / his Son / the Key. The Xth Sermon
Hier nae volght van Godt ende die Weerelt / ende haerder ordonantie. Dat XI. Sermoen. Dat Ghemoet tot Mercurium. XI
Hereafter follows of God and the World / and her rules. The XIth Sermon. The Mind to Mercurium.
Mercurius spreekt tot Tazio in ‘t gheheym. Dat XII. Sermoen XII
Mercurius speaks to Tazio in secret. The XIIth Sermon
Mercurius spreekt tot Tazio / van die wedergheboorte / ende van die insettinghe van stilswijghen. Dat XIII. Sermoen XIII
Mercurius speaks to Tazio / of rebirth / and the keeping of silence. The XIIIth Sermon
Hier volght den Hymnus / ofte Lofsang van Hermes / ofte Mercurius Trismegistus / Op de wijse van die gratias: O Heer wij dancken dijner goedt. Uit den Italiaenischen verduytscht. Hymnus, dat is, een Lofsangh. Dat XIIII. Sermoen. ?
Here follows the Hymn / or the Praise of Hermes / or Mercurius Trismegistus / In the manner of grace: O Lord we thank your goodness. ‘Dutched’ from Italian. Hymn, that is, Praise. The XIIIIth Sermon
Een Epilogus / oft een verhalinghe van Mercurio tot Esculapium. Dat XV. Sermoen. XIV
An Epilogue / or a tale of Mercurio to Esculapium. The XVth Sermon.

Then we come to another Dutch translation, being that of
the Abraham Willemsz van Beyerland (1586-1648). I haven’t seen anything of the book,
but according to Van Lamoen, Van Beyerland used the Greek-Latin version of Francesco Patrizi (1529-1597, book released in 1591) who had a different order. More about this below.

The version of John Everard (1575-1650) can be found online at the site of Adam MacLean and as PDF from Hermetics.org
(look for “Corpus Hermetica”). It has 17 treatises, even though it is claimed to be a translation of Ficinos Latin version, which has only 14 treatises. According to Frank van Lamoen (see book reviews section), Everard used the Patrizi translation, but skips a few of his books.
Everard opens with a Stobaeus fragment. Then follow a few CH treatises in the alternative order. After this Everard skips Patrizi’s book XIII which is the Korè Kosmou fragment of Stobaeus and also skips Patrizi’s book XIV which is a compilation of eight Stobaeus fragments. Then follows an authentic treatise, Stobaeus fragments as books XIV and XV and two more authentic treatises. A.E. Waite used this translation in his “Collecteano Hermeticana”.
Here is the index of Everards translation, the right column is the numbering based on the ‘official’ numbering:

The First Book. ?
The Second Book – Poemander. I
The Third Book – The Holy Sermon. III
The Fourth Book – The Key. X
The Fifth Book – That God is not Manifest and yet most Manifest. V
The Sixth Book – That in God alone is Good. VI
The Seventh Book – His Secret Sermon in the Mount or Regeneration, and the Profession of Silence. XIII
The Eighth Book – That the greatest Evil in Man, is the not knowing God. VII
The Ninth Book – A Universal Sermon to Asclepius. II
The Tenth Book – The Mind to Hermes. XI
The Eleventh Book – Of the Common Mind to Tat. XII
The Twelfth Book – His Crater or Monas. IV
The Thirteenth Book – Of Sense and Understanding. IX
The Fourteenth Book – Of Operation and Sense. ?
The Fifteenth Book – Of Truth to His Son Tat. ?
The Sixteenth Book – That None of the Things that are, can Perish. VIII
The Seventeenth Book – To Asclepius, to be Truly Wise. XIV

Interesting point: “the first book” is Van Rijckenborghs (see later) fifth book and “the fifteenth book” is the same as seventeen of Van Rijckenborgh. Both books are Stobaeus fragments as we saw earlier. Everards 15th book is Stobaeus IIA.

Next version is that of G.R.S. Mead, whose translation can be found online on several pages, like this one or as PDF here. Mead has only 13 treatises which are part of a collection of “Hermetic texts”.

I. Poemandres, the Shepherd of Men I
II. To Asclepius II
III. The Sacred Sermon III
IV. The Cup or Monad IV
V. Though Unmanifest God Is Most Manifest V
VI. In God Alone Is Good And Elsewhere Nowhere VI
VII. The Greatest Ill Among Men is Ignorance of God VII
VIII. That No One of Existing Things doth Perish, but Men in Error Speak of Their Changes as Destructions and as Deaths VIII
IX. On Thought and Sense IX
X. The Key X
XI. Mind Unto Hermes XI
XII. About the Common Mind XII
XIII. The Secret Sermon on the Mountain XIII

Jan van Rijckenborgh wrote a series of four books with different Hermetic texts and his extensive commentaries. He has the Tabula Smaragdina and 17 treatises of the Corpus Hermeticum. According to Van Lamoen, Van Rijckenborgh used the 1706 German translation of a certain Alethophilius who on his turn used the Patrizi and Van Beyerland translations. Van Rijckenborgh sticked to the alternative order, but still comes out differently from Everard.
There is an English translation of the books, but I haven’t seen them, so the translations of the titles are again my own.

Het eerste Boek: Pymander

I

The first Book: Pymander
Het tweede Boek: Pymander tot Hermes XI
The second Book: Pymander to Hermes
Het derde Boek: Dat het grootste kwaad in de mensen is, dat zij God niet kennen VII
The third Book: That the biggest evil in mankind is, that they do not know God
Het vierde Boek: Hermes’ rede ter ere Gods III
The fourth Book: Hermes’ oration to God’s honour
Het vijfde Boek: Uit een rede van Hermes tot Tat ? (1)
The fifth Book: From an oration of Hermes to Tat
Het zesde Boek: Algemene dialoog tussen Hermes en Asklepios II
The sixth Book: General dialogue between Hermes and Asklepios
Het zevende Boek: Hermes tot Tat over de Crater en de Eenheid IV
The seventh Book: Hermes to Tat of the Crater or Unity
Het achtste Boek: Hermes tot zijn zoon Tat: Dat de onzienlijke God het meest openbaar is V
The eight Book: Hermes to his son Tat: That the invisible God is most public
Het negende Boek: Dat niets van hetgeen werkelijke bestaat verloren gaat, maar dat men in dwaling de veranderingen vernietiging en dood noemt VIII
The ninth Book: That nothing that excists shall parish, but that by mistake people call changes destruction and death
Het tiende Boek: Dat het Goede alleen in God en nergens anders te vinden is VI
The tenth Book: That Goodness is in God alone and nowhere else
Het elfde Boek: Over het verstand en de zintuigen IX
The eleventh Book: Of intellect and senses
Het twaalfde Boek: De sleutel van Hermes Trismegistos X
The thirteenth Book: The key of Hermes Trismegistos
Het dertiende Boek: Hermes Trismegistos tot Tat: Over het algemene Gemoed of de Heiligende Geest XII
The thirteenth Book: Hermes Trismegistos to Tat: About the general Mind or the Holy-making Spirit
Het veertiende Boek: De geheime Rede op den Berg, betreffende de wedergeboorte en de belofte van stilzwijgendheid XIII
The fourteenth Book: The secret Oration on the
Mountain, about rebirth and the promise of silence
Het vijftiende Boek: Hermes Trismegistos tot Asklepios: Over het juiste denken XIV
The fifteenth Book: Hermes Trismegistos to Asklepios: about the right thinking
Het zestiende Boek: Hermes tot Ammon: Over de Ziel XVI
The sixteenth Book: Hermes to Ammon: About the Soul
Het zeventiende Boek: Hermes tot Tat: Over de Waarheid ? (2)
The seventeenth Book: Hermes to Tat: On Thruth

(1) Van Rijckenborghs fifth book is the same as the first book (even before Poimandres) of Everard.
(2) Van Rijckenborghs seventeenth book is the same as the fifteenth of Everard.

The last version of the Corpus Hermeticum that I want to mention is that of Copenhaver. I got his index from Amazon.com,
but it is rather boring as you can see:

Corpus Hermeticum I I
Corpus Hermeticum II II
Corpus Hermeticum III III
Corpus Hermeticum IV IV
Corpus Hermeticum V V
Corpus Hermeticum VI VI
Corpus Hermeticum VII VII
Corpus Hermeticum VIII VIII
Corpus Hermeticum IX IX
Corpus Hermeticum X X
Corpus Hermeticum XI XI
Corpus Hermeticum XII XII
Corpus Hermeticum XIII XIII
Corpus Hermeticum XIV XIV
Corpus Hermeticum XVI XVI
Corpus Hermeticum XVII XVII
Corpus Hermeticum XVIII XVIII

To close off I want to give you a comparative table:

official order Schagen Van Beyerland Everard Mead Van Rijckenborgh Copenhaver
I I I ? (1) I I I
II II XI I II XI II
III III VII +
III
III III VII III
IV IV II X IV III IV
V V IV V V ? (1) V
VI VI V VI VI II VI
VII VII VIII XIII VII IV VII
VIII VIII VI VII VIII V VIII
IX IX IX II IX VIII IX
X X X XI X VI X
XI XI XII XII XI IX XI
XII XII XIII IV XII X XII
XIII XIII XIV IX XIII XII XIII
XIV ?   ?   XIII XIV
XVI XV   ? (2)   XIV XVI
XVII     VIII   XVI XVII
XVIII     XIV   ? (2) XVIII

(1) and (2) these books are the same, but can’t be found in most other versions of the Corpus Hermeticum, they are Stobaeus fragments, see text about the Everard translation above.

So now you can check if Everard or Van Rijckenborgh write: “the fourth book of Hermes says…”.


<2/11/03>
<12/11/03 first update: I found one more Van Rijckenborgh treatise and I got a few of his titles correct now>
<13/11/03 second update: three Hermetic scriptures added>
<17/11/03 the Hermetic texts section is enormously enlarged after the release of the book De Hermetische Schakel (the Hermetic link) of Jacob Slavenburg>
<19/11/03 now all Van Rijckenborg titles are correct>
<26/11/03 minor changes after an email of mr Slavenburg>
<03/12/03 “Minerva Mundi” added>
<10/12/03 I got myself the textual history of the CH of Frank van Lamoen and made the final (?) changes to the second part>
<11/12/03 final changes?>
<11/09/05 Schagen vertaling added>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

÷ 3 = 3