Cis van HeertumFebruary 1, 2013
As a seven-year-old, an intrigued Cis van Heertum conducted an alchemical experiment in her mother’s kitchen after having heard the headmaster at school speak about the wonderful properties of the element mercury. Once Home Alone, she lost no time dipping the kitchen thermometer in the pan of soup on the stove to see what would happen. As the glass broke and the shiny drops of mercury began to spread on the surface of the liquid, she experienced what her fellow alchemists centuries before her must have felt: excitement, wonder, but in her case also: shock, because the headmaster had so warned his class that mercury was very poisonous indeed…
Although understandably she has not made a name for herself as an alchemist, she has always remained intrigued about the Art of Arts, and where better a place to explore this fascinating subject than in and for The Ritman Library and with her beloved blogger Frank van Lamoen. She has published exhibition catalogues and articles on the collection in the past, including Philosophia Symbolica: Johann Reuchlin and the Kabbalah (2005), Alchemy on the Amstel: on Hermetic medicine in the Dutch Golden Age (2012), ‘”Schöne Buch-Stunden”: the correspondence between Walter Pagel and Gershom Scholem’ (2004) and ‘”This mysterious individual, William Stirling”: Unpublished letters relating to the author of The Canon‘ (2007)’. Currently she is working with Frank Mertens on the dramatic life and times of the brothers Adriaen and Johannes Koerbagh, members of Spinoza’s circle and enlighteners of the people. A copy of Koerbagh’s famous (though to the unenlightened: infamous) Bloemhof (1668) is on the shelves of The Ritman Library.
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