Espagnet, John D'

, president of the parliament of Bourdeaux, a man of learning in the seventeenth century, acquired considerable fame by publishing in 1623, a book entitled “Enchyridion physicse restitutae.” He did not put his name to this, but it is proved to be his by several of his acquaintance, as well as by the device at the beginning, “Spes mea est in agno,” and before the treatise of chemistry, “Pene nos unda Tagi,” which are both anagrams of his name. It was the first work that appeared in France, professing to contain a complete system of physics contrary to that of Aristotle. The author, however, while he says that he has only re-established the ancient philosophy, has added many things of his own invention. He confutes the opinion of materia prima, which was held to be extended every where without being any where perceived, and incessantly tending to the uuion of forms without having any, being the basis and support of contraries, viz. of the elements which are said to be produced out of it. He shows that this system of nature is imaginary, that there is no contrariety in the elements, and that which is observed in them proceeds from the excess of their qualities, and that when they are tempered there is no contrariety in them. Yet he believes that there is a materia prima from whence the elements result and become the second matter of things, which are earth and water; for he holds neither air nor fire for elements. The elements, according to his notion, are not transformed into each other: water only becomes vapour, and vapour water, by circulation. He places the real fire of the world in the sun, which he calls not only the eye of the universe, but | the eye of the creator of the universe, by which he beholds in a sensible manner his creatures, and which is the first agent of the world. The rest of his book abounds in curious particulars concerning the origin of things, their subsistence and various alterations, relating to the design of this philosopher to treat of chemical matters. He therefore subjoins another treatise, entitled “Arcanum Hermeticae philosophic opus,” in which he discourses of the matter of the philosopher’s stone and its digestions, of the degrees of fire, of the figure of the vessels and furnace, of the composition of the elixir and its multiplication. This book was translated into French under the title of “La Philosophic des Anciens retablie en sa purete.” In 1616 he published an old manuscript, entitled “Le Rozier des Guerres;” and added to it a treatise of his own upon the institution of a young prince. This ms. was found at Nerac in the king’s closet. Mr. d’Espagnet thought his edition to be the first, but it had been printed in 1523, in folio, which edition is more complete than this of 1616. In the ms. of Nerac, was wanting all the second part, and the three last chapters of the first. For this account the reader is referred to Naude“‘s” Addition a Phistoire de Louis XI.“p. 72; and to” Syntagma de studio militari,“p. 73. The prologue alone suunces to convince us that Louis XI. is not the author of that work, as the title pretends, though he speaks in it as giving instructions to the dauphin his son. See the” Bibliotheque Choisie“of M. Colomie’s. In the publication of the” Rozier des Guerres,“he punctually retains the old spelling and in his advertisement to the reader gives this reason for it” This little tract, du Rozier,“says he,” seemed to me so good that I would not embellish or disguise it, but have left in its native simplicity: and though the language of it is not in use in our times, yet it may be understood, being so full of good sense and meaning, that with all its jargon it may silence the affected diction of the court and bar. 1 have also carefully preserved the orthography; because in adding or diminishing a letter, a word is often changed, and of ancient made modern. By this means, in my judgment, the language of Philip de Commines, in his history, has been corrupted: the editors, thinking to mend the spelling, and polish the diction, have destroyed the marks of its antiquity, so that the style of his book is not the style of his times; as we may judge both by this little | manuscript, and by many others of the same age, which are to be found in famous libraries, especially by the history of Charles VI. written by John Juvenal des Ursins, and lately published by the sieur de Godefroy. I imagine this error proceeds from the insufficiency of the correctors; who, pretending to correct the orthography, have adulterated it, and thereby rendered themselves plagiaries." 1


Gen. Dict.—Moreri.