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Walter Pagel and Gerschom Scholem

Walter Pagel and Gerschom Scholem

by Cis van Heertum

The alchemical and kabbalistic correspondence of Walter Pagel and Gershom Scholem

Zahlen Sie unbesorgt 15 £ für den Voysin, es ist ein seltenes Buch’, was Gershom Scholem’s advice to Walter Pagel when asked whether the price of a book offered by the London antiquarian bookseller Libris was reasonable: ‘Libris bot mir an Scholem Bibl. No 1159 Voysin Disput Cabbalist 1635 £ 15. Wenn das zurecht ist, schreiben Sie mir bitte eine Zeile!’ Scholem added in his brief reply to Pagel that he was happy to have been spared the natural anxiety of the book collector: ‘wie schön, dass mir die Gefühle der Eifersucht erspart bleiben’ – he already owned a copy, acquired in Tel Aviv in 1942.[1] Pagel bought Joseph de Voysin’s Disputatio Cabbalistica and enclosed Scholem’s favourable response in the book, where it remained when Sotheby’s sold the library of Walter Pagel in February 1984. The Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica acquired Voysin along with a great number of other books at this auction; the letter from Scholem to Pagel was a souvenir from collector to collector, which aroused my curiosity about any further correspondence between the two. Part of the correspondence between Pagel and Scholem has been preserved, and is kept at the Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem, and in the Wellcome Library, London.[2]


More than a decade of letters

The existing correspondence between Walter Pagel and Gershom Scholem covers the years 1961 to 1974. Although incomplete,[3] the preserved letters are very probably representative: if any additional letters were to be found, they would in all likelihood discuss the successful purchase of antiquarian books, books snapped up by others and sorely regretted, current research (and research queries), publications by Pagel and Scholem, and occasionally meetings with mutual acquaintances. The first letter, dated 23 October 1961, is by Walter Pagel and is posted from London, as are all his letters; the last letter, which does not give any indication that their correspondence is drawing to an end, is by Gershom Scholem and dated 14 August 1974, written from Sils-Maria, Switzerland. More than half of the letters that have been preserved date to the first three years of their correspondence.

Thomas Sparr, who edited the second volume of Scholem’s Briefe, dealing with his correspondence between 1948 and 1970, remarks that in this period, Scholem generally observes a formal tone in his letters.[4] This is not the case for the correspondence between the two ‘alte Berliner’, which is easy and friendly, no doubt partly as a result of the ‘amor librorum’ and birthplace uniting them.

Two ‘alte Berliner’

Scholem’s first letter to Pagel, dated 5 November 1961, is signed: ‘von Ihrem alten Mitberliner’. He and Pagel were both born in Jewish families in Berlin, not long after each other, Scholem on 5 December 1897, Pagel a year later on 12 November 1898. Pagel’s father was Julius Pagel, Professor of the History of Medicine at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Berlin; Scholem in Von Berlin nach Jerusalem characterized his family as belonging to ‘dem kleinen und mittleren jüdischen Bürgertum’ (p. 15). Scholem’s father Arthur was a printer and his son’s dissertation on the Buch Bahir was printed at his printing house in 1923, as Scholem recalled in an interview in 1980:

“Es gab ein Buch von mir – in Deutschland noch gedruckt in der Druckerei meines Vaters, wenn nichts zu tun war, so dass ich also in der Inflation ein Buch herausgebracht habe über den ältesten kabbalistischen Text”.[5]


Scholem’s life and work is well documented, by himself, in published diaries, an autobiography and letters,[6] and by others, in studies of Scholem. There is also a great deal of material relating to Pagel’s life and work, in his papers which were deposited in the Wellcome Institute Library, and catalogued by former assistant archivist Isobel Hunter, but there is no published biographical or autobiographical material, with the exception of a brief memoir by Pagel himself.[7]

Scholem left for Jerusalem in 1923, to pursue his momentous academic career in Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism. Pagel, a pathologist by profession, was expelled from his post at the University of Heidelberg on 2 August 1933 after the rise to power of the NSDAP. After a brief spell working in France, he settled in England the same year, with his wife Magda Koll and their son, Bernard. He became a British citizen in 1939 and worked as a pathologist, first in Cambridge until 1939, from 1939 to 1967 in London, for the last ten years as a consultant pathologist at Clare Hall hospital, Hertfordshire. His work as a medical historian, in which he followed in his father’s footsteps, was carried out in his leisure hours.

Johann Baptista van Helmont visits Pagel

One of Pagel’s first medical-historical works, already published in Germany in 1930, was a study on Johann Baptista van Helmont – a subject to which he hoped to return after his retirement in 1965, as he wrote to Scholem: ‘Vielleicht kann ich dann noch den lang versprochenen Van Helmont wieder anprüfen – er war schon ¼-½ fertig, als ich beschloss, erst mal den Harvey unter Fach zu bringen’.[8] Pagel apparently took his long neglect of Van Helmont to heart. In one of his last letters to Scholem, written almost ten years later, he records how Johann Baptista visited him in a dream:

“Ich habe wieder was weniges über den alten Helmont gearbeitet, i.e. alt (a) qua Vater und (b) seit vor 1930 von mir eisbergspitzenhaft immer wieder in seiner wohl verdienten Ruhe aufgestört. Es ging so weit, dass ich in einer Traumfahrt durch die Unterwelt von meinem Begleiter ihm vorgestellt wurde, worauf er: “Ich kenne den Mann gar nicht”, sich umdrehte und wegging”.[9]

Fritz Lieb: Paracelsian scholar

Most of the names occurring in the correspondence between Pagel and Scholem are names of authors from the past – Paracelsus, Valentin Weigel, Francesco Giorgio, father and son Van Helmont, William Harvey, to name a few. But there are also mutual acquaintances. A scholar to whom Scholem was introduced by Pagel was the Swiss Protestant theologian and amateur geologist Fritz Lieb (1892-1970). Lieb’s name first occurs in the correspondence early in 1963:

“es wird sie interessieren: a) dass Fritz LIEB, Theologe in Basel nicht nur entdeckt hat, dass Weigel der Verf. des apokryphen Paracelsischen De Secretis Creationis war, sondern auch sein Buch dem Andencken seine ‘Pariser Freunde aus dem Hause Israel Lev Isaakovitsch Schestov und Walter Benjamin’ gewidmet hat”.[10]

Lieb, who had been expelled by the Nazis from his Chair in ‘östliches Christenthum in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart’ at the University of Bonn in 1933, went to France the following year, where he was in close contact with a number of Russian emigrants, amongst whom the philosopher Lev Shestov (1866-1938). His friendship with Walter and Dora Benjamin dates from the same period; Lieb first met Walter Benjamin in the late summer of 1935 in Paris.[11] Pagel, a correspondent of Fritz Lieb from 1963 until the year of Lieb’s death, felt that Scholem and Lieb ought to make each other’s acquaintance. In one of his letters, Pagel copied a relevant passage from Lieb’s first letter to him for Scholem’s benefit. Lieb also indicated he would like to meet Scholem in person:

“Von G. Scholem hat er – Benjamin – zu mir oft gesprochen. (…) Ich wäre sehr dankbar, wenn ich mit Scholem zusammen kommen könnte. Seine Bücher (ausser den hebräischen) besitze ich – auch die Bibliogr. Kabbalist. und das Buch Bahir”.[12]

A month later, in May, Lieb is in London and spends a day at Pagel’s home. Pagel informs Scholem about the visit and about Lieb’s own apparently rather marvellous book collection:

“Der heutige Tag hat mich sehr an die schönen Buch-Stunden erinnert, die wir hier mit Ihnen verbracht haben. Lieb muss eine ungeheure Bibliothek über Mystik und Christliche Kabbalah haben und kennt fast alles”.[13]

The report about Lieb’s vast library had an immediate effect:

“Ich notiere mir Liebes Adresse. Was gäbe ich nicht für eine schöne Sammlung christlicher Kabbalah!? Und auch nur sie zu sehen, muss schon eine Wonne sein”.[14]

Exchanging each other’s books

When they began their correspondence, Scholem had already published many works in his chosen field; Pagel’s own vast bibliography until 1961 (by then already amounting to 191 articles, 132 reviews and 14 books) naturally largely reflects his professional career as a pathologist, but he had also already published a considerable number of medical-historical articles, mostly on Paracelsus. In the course of his medical career he published in 1958 his first book on Paracelsus. An introduction to philosophical medicine in the era of the Renaissance. The second Paracelsus book, Das medizinische Weltbild des Paracelsus. Seine Zusammenhänge mit Neuplatonismus und Gnosis, no. 1 in the series Kosmosophie, edited by Kurt Goldammer, was published by F. Steiner in Wiesbaden in 1962. Preparations for this second Paracelsus book are mentioned in letters to Scholem in December 1961;[15] Scholem will be the first to receive a complimentary copy: ‘Ich hoffe 25 Exempl. meines Gnost-Neuplat. Paracelsus zu erhalten: primum specimen ad te mittetur’.[16] Although Pagel continued to publish articles on Paracelsus, he wrote to Scholem in the year Das medizinische Weltbild was published: ‘Allerdings bin ich nicht mehr beim Paracelsus (obschon ich noch gern die Paracelsisten und post-Paracelsian Alchemisten “gemacht” hätte)’.[17] Only in his posthumously published work The smiling spleen. Paracelsianism in storm and stress (1984) did Pagel return to the Paracelsists full-scale. His next medical-historical book after Das medizinische Weltbild concerned William Harvey’s biological ideas (1967), a copy of which was also sent over to Jerusalem.[18] Scholem, too, frequently sent samples of his work to the ‘Mill Hill sage’, as he once called Pagel, who lived in the North London area of Mill Hill.

Reading each other’s books

The two correspondents also find much of benefit in each other’s works. Pagel for instance writes: ‘Ich habe noch in Ihren Geheimnissen d. Schöpfung ein paar Goldkörner (das Ganze ist massives Gold – aber diese Körner sind eben gerade für meine gegenwärtige Arbeit über die Prima Materia auspickbar) gefunden’.[19] Scholem for his part, when sent the book on Harvey, immediately struck gold while leafing through the book: ‘Die erste Seite, die ich aufschlug, handelte über Fludd’s mystische Anatomie, da kam ich gleich auf meine Kosten’.[20]

On one occasion Pagel regrets not having quoted from one of the works presented to him by Scholem. In 1971 he wrote a ‘retroduction’ for the facsimile edition of Aufgang der Artzneykunst of his ‘premier amour’ Johann Baptista van Helmont:

“Es erscheint in Kürze der Neudruck der besten Version der Opera Helmont, nämlich der Knorrsche AUFFGANG von 1683 – mit einer ‘Retroduktion’ über J.B. Van Helmont von mir. […] In einem kleinen Absatz über van Helmonts Visionen hätte ich auf Ihre Zelem-Arbeit hinweisen sollen, was ich leider vergessen habe. Helmont hebt hervor, dass die Erscheinung ohne Geschlechtsmerkmal war. Ich bringe das mit dem hermaphroditischen ‘Rebis’ der Alchemie und dem Idealzustand der sich mit Gott wiedervereinigenden Seele zusammen, die nach dem Thomas-Evangelium dazu – i.e. zur Vereinigung nur nach Aufhebung der Geschlechtsunterschiede in der Lage sei”.[21]


Specific queries relating to their respective disciplines are also regularly solved for each other. Thus Scholem to Pagel:

“1648 schreibt ein Kabbalist in Mainz gelegentlich einer Stelle über die Aura, die den Menschen umgibt: “und so heisst sie bei den ärzten” der umgebende (den Menschen umgebende) äther (oder Luft) Wo und wie steht das? Bei Ihrem Parazelsus? Dessen Jüngern. Gibt es spezielle Literatur (vor allem wissenschaftlich) über dieses Phänomen in der betreffenden Epoche”.[22]

Pagel replies by return of post:

“Ihr lieber Brief vom 19. ereilte mich gestern, hier die Antwort: AMBIENS NOS AER – TO PERIECHON HEMAS mit allen Einwirkungen, schädlich und nützlich, vital und tödlich, ist von GALEN”.

He also provides the ‘klassischer Locus’ in Paracelsus, in his Liber de nymphis (‘Diese bekannte Traktat ist no 7 der Philosophia de divinis operibus et factis. Die Stelle ist in Tract. 2 dieses Traktats, ed. Sudhoff vol. XIV, p. 125’), all of which is included and acknowledged in Scholem’s Von der mystischen Gestalt der Gottheit, published in Zürich in 1962.[23]

Pagel, who is working on Johann Baptista van Helmont, for his part asks Scholem whether certain kabbalistic terms used by Van Helmont in a polemical passage against Paracelsus are genuinely kabbalistic. When Scholem confirms that the terms are indeed ‘guter kabbalistischer Sprachgebrauch’, Pagel is happy that Van Helmont is vindicated as someone who knew and appreciated kabbalistic texts, unlike Paracelsus:

“ich möchte mich “spätestens sofort” für Ihren herrlichen Brief vom 28. April bedanken, den ich zu meiner grossen Freude vorgestern erhielt. Ich habe ihn soeben in einem sub-Kapitel zu meinem ach so gross angelegten und daher niemals erscheinen werdenden neuen Helmontianum incorporiert. Es ist eine hoch willkommene Bestätigung, dass er an Hebraicis intensiv interessiert war und etwas davon verstand. […] Wahrscheinlich wollte er – Helmont Senior – Kabbalistica gegen Paracelsus “ausspielen”, der dauernd die Kabbala im Munde führt, ohne je spezifischen Inhalt daraus anzuführen und sie noch dazu für unjüdisch (persisch) oder nur ganz allgemein als höchste scientia adepta erklärt”.[24]

Pagel had already noted in Paracelsus (1958) that although the term ‘Cabala’ occurred not infrequently in Paracelsus’ works, it was ‘used to denote the quest for the invisible meaning, the “divine seals”, in objects and phenomena in a general sense. Specific cabalistic methods and aims, however, such as the mystical interpretation of letters and their numerical value and the cabalistic cosmology as a whole are not elaborated. Paracelsus himself regarded the Cabalah as a Persian doctrine perverted by the Jews’.[25]

Book hunters

Research queries and news about forthcoming publications fill a considerable amount of space in the letters, but book collecting, a mutual and enduring passion, tops the bill, and the hunt for books, old, or sometimes new, via auctions, or through booksellers’ catalogues, is a very frequent focus of discussion – and occasionally regret. Thus Pagel wistfully notes: ‘Libris hatte schöne St Martins (deutsche übersetzung 1783 & später) auch Schelling Götte von Samothrace 1st 1815 – alles weg als ich sofort! Anrief’.[26] Earlier Scholem had a truly spectacular case of book loss to report:

“Neulich hatte ich Besuch von einem Herrn, der mein Herz durch die Mitteilung brach, er hätte kurz bevor er mich kennenlernte ein Exemplar des unbekannten Erstdrucks von Khunradhs Amphitheatrum Eternae Sapientiae, das er mir sonst natürlich geschenkt hätte, der Basler Bibliothek, die es nur unter Widerstreben überhaupt annahm, zum Geschenk gemacht. Der Herr war der Nobelpreisträger Thadeus Reichstein. So etwas muss mir passieren!”[27]


This copy, with the four (hand-coloured) engravings, which still rests in the Basler Universitätsbibliothek, is one of five known copies of Khunrath’s Amphitheatrum sapientiae aeternae, printed in Hamburg in 1595, to have survived. It was donated to Basel by the Nobel prize winner Tadeusz Reichstein in 1955. More copies have been preserved of the second enlarged edition, printed in Hanau in 1609 – Scholem owned a copy of this edition.[28]

It is of course mostly Pagel, with more immediate access to English catalogues, who informs Scholem about forthcoming auctions and books to look out for; sometimes the occasion for a letter lies in the perusal of a catalogue the contents of which will also interest Scholem.[29] The letter in which he alerts Scholem to a copy of Guillaume Postel’s Abrahami patriarchae liber Iezirah, printed in Paris in 1552, has not been preserved, but Scholem’s relieved response reads:

“besten Dank! Ich besitze Postels Jezira Gottseidank. Mein Exemplar sowie andere die ich seinerzeit verglichen habe, hat im Jezirateil 84 unpagierte Seiten, ein Exemplar mit 60 Seiten ist mir a) neu b) unverständlich, es sei denn es gäbe von 1552 zwei verschiedene Editionen was mir bisher unbekannt war. Es sind bei mir 5 Bogen a 16 Seiten (80) sowie von Bogen F noch 4 Seiten, dan folgt bis H4 eine andere Postelsche Schrift Restitutio rerum omnium. Falls also zwei Editionen, 1552, muss man beide genau beschreiben!”[30]

But on another occasion Scholem is inconsolable: ‘Ich bin untröstlich, dass wenn schon einmal eines meiner Desiderata in einer Versteigerung billig weggeht (denn 20 Pfund für den Riccius sind billig), es in die Hände eines reichen Kollektors fällt, der kaum ein Interesse haben wird, es mir abzutreten. Ich bin ganz unglücklich’.[31] The book mourned by Scholem was Portae lucis, the Latin translation, by Paulus Ricius, of Joseph Gikatilla’s Sha‘arei orah, printed in Augsburg in 1516. Pagel reported it was bought by the collector G.J. Leon: ‘Commiserationes maximas re: Riccius’.[32]


In another letter Pagel alerts Scholem to F.M. van Helmont’s Cabbalistical Dialogue, London, printed for Benjamin Clark, 1682, still to be had from Dawson’s of Pall Mall, but priced at £ 55 – ‘(here is the rub)’. He also spotted the first edition of Johann Reuchlin’s De arte cabalistica, printed in Hagenau in 1517, but has little hope for the book: ‘Soeben sah ich Reuchlins De arte Hagenau 1517 in einem deutschen Kat. für £ 35 – sicher zu spät’. Scholem replies he must forgo Van Helmont: ‘Den englischen Van Helmont kann ich nicht erschwingen!’, but is very interested in Reuchlin, if complete. Unfortunately Pagel’s reply to this letter is missing, and Reuchlin is not mentioned any further in their correspondence, but Scholem did not acquire this or any other copy of Reuchlin’s Ars cabalistica.[33]


The auction of Pagel’s books

Upcoming auctions are thus regularly referred to by Pagel to alert Scholem to relevant books, and Scholem, too, peruses the auction and booksellers’ catalogues in search of desiderata. In 1963 he still urges Pagel not to auction his own books:

“Bitte versteigern Sie nicht etwa auch Ihre Bücher, sondern bleiben Sie schön und ruhig auf ihnen sitzen, so dass unsereiner doch eine Freude von dem Anblick hat!”[34]

Pagel occasionally sold off books to invest in others, but otherwise sat quietly as instructed: part of his collection of printed books and manuscripts only came up for auction at Sotheby’s the year after his death, in 1984. The books on Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism collected by Scholem, who had died in 1982, remained together: they were acquired by the Jewish National and University Library. The auction catalogue of Walter Pagel’s library ran to 387 lots, both antiquarian and modern printed books, and some manuscripts, in all a few thousand books. In the field of alchemy, Walter Pagel’s collecting interests naturally centred around Johann Baptista van Helmont (lots 166-167, 170-178) and Paracelsus (lots 283-304), both original and modern editions, and reference works. He also collected works by Paracelsian alchemists (such as Oswald Crollius’ Basilica chymica, or Benedictus Figulus’ Pandora magnalia) and anti-Paracelsians (for instance Thomas Erastus’ Disputatio de auro potabili, or Jacques Aubert’s De metallorum ortu). There are also a few works by Helmontians (as for instance J. Polemann’s In deinem Lichte sehen wir das Licht). In addition to these specific collecting interests, he had a discriminating selection of alchemy books. He owned a fair number of alchemical compilations, from De alchimia opuscula to Roth-Scholtz’ Bibliotheca chemica. In the more ‘technical’ field he owned a copy of Geber’s Summa perfectionis, a few ‘Berg-Werck’ books by Georg Agricola, and an edition of Philipp Ulstad’s book on distillation Coelum philosophorum. He possessed a copy of Kenelm Digby’s Two treatises and a copy of the Theatrum sympatheticum, containing tracts pro and contra the sympathetic powder. The theosophical alchemy of the eighteenth century is represented by Georg von Welling’s Opus mago-cabbalisticum (the earliest edition, of 1719). Alchemical emblem books (e.g. Michael Maier’s Atalanta fugiens) are altogether absent. Pagel also owned works by Rosicrucians, probably because of the alchemical-Paracelsian context of one of the original Rosicrucian Manifestos: the Fama Fraternitatis, which was published in 1614, quotes the ‘Vocabulario Theoph: P. ab Ho’. as one of the Fraternity’s prized texts, and Rosicrucians were generally lumped together with Paracelsus and Paracelsians by opponents.[35]


The BPH Pagel collection

At the auction of Pagel’s collection in February 1984, the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica acquired 350 modern and 102 antiquarian printed books. The books acquired mostly relate to alchemy or its history, but among them are also Hermetic, Hebrew and Christian kabbalistic and Rosicrucian works. Some of these books now in the BPH were mentioned by Pagel in his correspondence: he had either just acquired them (or contemplated acquiring them, as in the case of Voysin), or he was using them for his research on Paracelsus and consulted Scholem on relevant passages. So far, a number of the books with Pagel provenance has been recorded in the online catalogue, their number will grow as the retrocataloguing of the pre-1800 collection progresses.

Cis van Heertum

[1] JNUL, Pagel to Scholem, 28 May 1963; BPH, Scholem to Pagel, 31 May 1963. Joseph de Voysin’s Disputatio Cabbalistica, Paris, Tussanus Du Bray, 1635, is no. 1159 in Gershom Scholem, Bibliographia Kabbalistica (Berlin 1933; first printed in Leipzig in 1927). It is no. 475 in The Library of Gershom Scholem on Jewish mysticism, eds. Esther Liebes & Joseph Dan, 2 vols. (Jerusalem 1999), hereafter referred to as Scholem’s library catalogue; it is no. 378 in Pagel’s auction catalogue: Printed books. The library of the late Dr. Walter Pagel, sold on Tuesday 7 February 1984, hereafter referred to as Pagel’s auction catalogue.

[2] The main repository for the letters is the JNUL, which has 39 letters by Pagel to Scholem, 38 letters from Scholem to Pagel, dating between 23 October 1961 (Pagel to Scholem) and 14 August 1974 (Scholem to Pagel). The number of letters in the Wellcome Library is much smaller, and they generally overlap those kept in Jerusalem, with the exception of 2 letters by Scholem to Pagel 24 May and 25 June 1963, 1 letter by Pagel to Scholem 29 May 1963.

[3] The number of letters between the two is virtually equal, but it is obvious that letters are lacking. Gershom Scholem Briefe II 1948-1970 , ed. Thomas Sparr (München 1995), p. 81, features the first letter by Scholem in response to Pagel’s two letters dated 23 October 1961. A Life in Letters 1914-1982, ed. Anthony David Skinner (Cambridge, Mass. 2002), does not include any letters to or from Pagel.

[4] ‘In seinen Briefen wahrt Scholem eine strenge Form. Seine Freude am Wortspiel, […] seine Reiselust und Freude an Ehrungen, an Erfolgen blitzen selten auf’. Sparr, op. cit. (n. 3), p. xxvi.

[5] ‘… und alles ist Kabbala’. Gershom Scholem im Gespräch mit Jörg Drews (München 1980), p. 38. Pagel acquired a copy of Buch Bahir, after advice from Scholem: ‘Für den Bahir zahlen sie unbedenklich was der Kerl verlangt. (Ich vermute, so um die 3-4 £ herum). Er ist heute nicht mehr aufzutreiben, weil in der Inflation nur in 500 Exemplaren gedruckt’. (JNUL, Scholem to Pagel, 9 May 1963). Pagel replied a week later: ‘Ja, mit dem BAHIR hatten Sie senk-recht. £3. Ein wunderbares Buch. Ich freue mich sehr, es zu haben’. (JNUL, Pagel to Scholem, 16 May 1963).

[6] Gershom Scholem, Walter Benjamin. Die Geschichte einer Freundschaft (Frankfurt 1975); Walter Benjamin/Gershom Scholem, Briefwechsel 1933-1940, ed. Gershom Scholem (Frankfurt 1980); Briefe an Werner Kraft (Frankfurt 1986); Betty Scholem-Gershom Scholem. Mutter und Sohn im Briefwechsel 1917-1946, ed. Itta Shedletzky (München 1989); Gershom Scholem, Von Berlin nach Jerusalem. Erweiterte Ausgabe, eds. Michael Brocke & Andrea Schatz (Frankfurt 1994); Gershom Scholem’s Briefe 1914-1982, eds. Itta Shedletzky (vol. 1 & 3) & Thomas Sparr (vol. 2) (München 1994, 1995, 1999); Gershom Scholem, Tagebücher 1913-1917, eds. Karlfried Gründer, Friedrich Niewöhner & Herbert Kopp-Oberstebrink (Frankfurt 1995); Tagebücher 1917-1923, eds. Karlfried Gründer, Friedrich Niewöhner, Herbert Kopp-Oberstebrink & Karl E. Grözinger (Frankfurt 2000).

[7]The scope of Walter Pagel’s papers and correspondence has been described by Dr Isobel Hunter in: ‘The Papers of Walter Pagel in the Contemporary Medical Archives Centre’ in: Medical History, 42 (1998), pp. 89-95. Marianne Winder, who edited two volumes of selected essays by Pagel (Religion and Neoplatonism in Renaissance Medicine and From Paracelsus to van Helmont, London 1985 and 1986), mentions his ‘autobiographical sketch’: ‘Erinnerungen und Forschungen’, published in Wege zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte 2, ed. Kurt Mauel (Wiesbaden 1982), pp. 45-66. Dr Lesley Hall (WL) kindly informed me there is no published material based on the holdings of the WL.

[8] JNUL, Pagel to Scholem, 15 May 1965. Walter Pagel, J.B. van Helmont. Einführung in die philosophische Medizin des Barock (Berlin 1930).

[9] JNUL, Pagel to Scholem, 15 April 1974. Pagel requited his outstanding debt to Van Helmont sr in 1982 with the publication of Johann Baptista van Helmont: Reformer of Science and Medicine. Between 1938 and 1952 Pagel recorded his dreams in a diary, see Hunter, art. cit. (n. 7), p. 93.

[10]JNUL, Pagel to Scholem, 5 February 1963. The book in question is Fritz Lieb’s Valentin Weigels Kommentar zur Schöpfungsgeschichte und das Schrifttum seines Schülers Benedikt Biedermann. Eine literarkritische Untersuchung zur mystischen Theologie des 16. Jahrhunderts (Zürich 1962). Pagel later writes to Scholem: ‘Sein Weigel-Biedermann Buch hat mir einen tiefen Eindruck gemacht. Es ist, glaube ich, ein major break-through in der Aufklärung der pseudo-paracelsischen Schriften, dass es ihm wie es scheint, gelungen ist, in Weigel der Verf. des De Secretis Creationis nieder zu nageln’. JNUL, Pagel to Scholem, 28 April 1963. Pagel’s review of Lieb’s book appeared in Ambix, 10 (1962), pp. 145-6, see ‘A bibliography of the writings of Walter Pagel’ compiled by Marianne Winder in Science, Medicine and Society in the Renaissance. Essays to honor Walter Pagel, ed. Allen G. Debus (London 1972), vol. 2, p. 317 (R148).

[11] Willem van Reijen & Herman van Doorn, Aufenthalte und Passagen. Leben und Werk Walter Benjamins (Frankfurt 2001), p. 161.

[12] JNUL, Pagel to Scholem, 28 April 1963.

[13] Pagel is very enthusiastic about Lieb: ‘Er ist ein ungemein interessierter und dabei persönlich sehr netter Gelehrter mit hoch interessanten Würfen über die Paracelsisten, von denen das Weigel-Buch erst ein erstes Instalment ist’. (JNUL, Pagel to Scholem, 16 May 1963).

[14] JNUL, Scholem to Pagel, 20 May 1963. Scholem visited Lieb in Basel later that year, on 13 October, where he had ‘zwischen vielen Reden über alle unsere gemeinsamen Freunde und Probleme auch einige Gelegenheit, seine wunderbare Bibliothek anzustaunen’. (JNUL, Scholem to Pagel, 28 October 1963).

[15] JNUL, Pagel to Scholem, 1 December 1961: ‘Mein Buch für die Kosmosophie Monographien ist endlich auf den Stand gebracht und soll endlich gedruckt werden’; see also JNUL, Pagel to Scholem, 26 December 1961: ‘Das neue deutsche Parazelsus-Buch soll nun wohl endlich bald gedruckt werden, ebenso die französische übersetzung des alten (englischen) Buches’.

[16]JNUL, Pagel to Scholem, 11 March 1962. The book arrived in Jerusalem early in August: ‘soeben, am Vortag unserer Abreise nach Europa, kommt Ihr dankbar empfangenes Buch über Paracelsus an, das ich noch gerade bestätigen kann. Es muss nun zwei Monate warten!’ (JNUL, Scholem to Pagel, 8 August 1962).

[17] JNUL, Pagel to Scholem, 3 November 1962.

[18] Walter Pagel, William Harvey’s biological ideas (New York & Basel 1967). JNUL, Scholem to Pagel, 27 January 1967: ‘quelle surprise agréable, sagte irgend eine Tante Buddenbrook, und ihr folgend rufe ich dasselbe aus, indem ich mich für das kostbare Geschenk bedanke, das Sie mir in Gestalt von William Harvey’s Biological Ideas haben zugehen lassen. Ich bewundere Ihre Energie in der Arbeit und die unglaubliche Gelehrsamkeit auf einem Gebiet, das so unendlich verzweigt ist wie die Geschichte der Medizin und Biologie’.

[19] JNUL, Pagel to Scholem, 23 October 1961. Scholem’s Geheimnisse der Schöpfung was first published in Berlin in 1935. Pagel’s article ‘The prime matter of Paracelsus’ was published in Ambix, 9 (1961), pp. 117-135, where Scholem’s Geheimnisse der Schöpfung is referred to on p. 133, n. 47, and p. 134, n. 49.

[20] JNUL, Scholem to Pagel, 27 January 1967. Fludd’s mystical anatomy is described on pp. 117-119 of William Harvey’s Biological Ideas (see n. 31).

[21] JNUL, Pagel to Scholem, 8 April 1971. ‘J.B. van Helmont. Seine Lehre und seine Stellung in der heutigen Wissenschaftsgeschichte’, in Aufgang der Artzney-Kunst (München 1971), pp. iii-xix. Gershom Scholem, Von der mystischen Gestalt der Gottheit (Zürich 1962), chapter 6: ‘Zelem; die Vorstellung vom Astralleib’. Evangelium nach Thomas, eds. G. Quispel et al. (Leiden 1959), logion 22.

[22] JNUL, Scholem to Pagel, 19 March 1962. Scholem also provides the locus: ‘Die Stelle, falls Sie das interessiert, steht im Kommentar Jad Jehudah des Juda Leib ben Schim’on zu Menachem Asarja Fano, ‘Assarah Ma’amaroth’, gedruckt Frankfurt 1648, fol. 49b’.

[23] JNUL, Pagel to Scholem, 24 March 1962. Scholem, op. cit. (n. 34), n. 42: ‘Das bezieht sich, wie mir Dr. Walter Pagel freundlichst mitteilt, auf die zeitgenössische Lehre von ambiens nos aër, der genau dem bei Galen geläufigen Begriff des to periechon hemas entspricht, von der auch in der Schrift des Paracelsus über die Nymphen, Sylphen und Pygmäen, Tract. 2, ed. Sudhoff XIV, p. 125, die Rede ist’. Pagel later returns to the subject, JNUL, 2 September 1962: ‘Sie fragten mich vor einiger Zeit über die PERIECHONTA (Luft etc.). Hier ist noch eine schöne Stelle dazu: Corpus Hermeticum XII, cap. 14 ed Nock & Festugière vol. I, p. 179 und Anmerkung 37 auf Seite 188’.

[24] Exchange of letters: JNUL, Pagel to Scholem, 15 April 1974, Scholem to Pagel, 28 April 1974, Pagel to Scholem, 6 May 1974. This discussion and the sources offered by Scholem eventually found a place in Pagel’s The smiling spleen. Paracelsianism in storm and stress (Basel 1984), pp. 63-64.

[25] Pagel, Paracelsus. An introduction to philosophical medicine in the era of the Renaissance (Basel 1958), p. 312, and n. 42, the source: Philosophia sagax. Pagel briefly returned to the subject of Paracelsus and the Kabbalah in ‘Paracelsus and Techellus the Jew’ in: Bulletin of the History of Medicine , 34 (1960), pp. 274-77, also reproduced in Religion and Neoplatonism (n. 7). For a recent appraisal of Paracelsus’ attitude see Udo Benzenhöfer & Karin Finsterbusch, ‘Antijudaismus in den medizinisch-naturwissenschaftlichen und philosophischen Schriften des Paracelsus’ in Paracelsus und seine internationale Rezeption in der frühen Neuzeit, eds. Heinz Scott & Ilana Zinguer (Leiden 1998), pp. 96-109.

[26] JNUL, Pagel to Scholem, 28 May 1963.

[27] JNUL, Scholem to Pagel, 18 December 1962. Carlos Gilly notes that until 1932, the first edition was bibliographically unknown, see his introduction to the forthcoming facsimile edition of Khunrath’s Amphitheatrum 1595 and 1609 (to be published by Frommann-Holzboog in Stuttgart).

[28] Carlos Gilly has found only five copies of the first edition, four in Europe (Basel UB, Darmstadt LB, Rostock UB, Vienna ÔNB), one in the US (Wisconsin UL), see the introduction (n. 44), in which he also notes that only few copies were printed of the first edition. Scholem’s copy of the 1609 edition is no. 3640 in Scholem’s library catalogue (see n. 1).

[29] JNUL, Pagel to Scholem, 15 April 1967: ‘Gelegenheitsursache, Ihnen heute zu schreiben ist eine am 8. Mai (Montag) am 11 a.m. stattfindende Auktion bei Sotheby hebräische Bücher & MS incl. einige Kabbalistica’, with a list of items.

[30] JNUL, Scholem to Pagel, undated, but, according to a note, probably written in 1962. The collation, as indicated by Scholem: 8¡, A-H4r. A1r title, A1v blank, A2r-A7v preface by Postel, A8r-D2v Barietha Libri Iezirah, F3r-H4r Restitutio rerum omnium conditarum. Sefer Jetzira is no. 1297 in Scholem’s library catalogue (see n. 1).

[31] JNUL, Scholem to Pagel, 23 July 1963.

[32] JNUL, Pagel to Scholem, 18 July 1963. Scholem never acquired the Latin Gates of Light: the copy of Gikatilla’s Portae lucis, no. 2511 in Scholem’s library catalogue (see n. 1), is a photocopy from the library in Göttingen. I am grateful to Dr Esther Liebes for this information.

[33] JNUL, Pagel to Scholem, 21 June 1963; WL, Scholem to Pagel, postmarked 25 June 1963.

[34] JNUL, Scholem to Pagel, 17 February 1963.

[35] Allgemeine und General Reformation der gantzen weiten Welt. Beneben der Fama Fraternitatis, Kassel, Wilhelm Wessel, 1614, p. 116. See Carlos Gilly, Cimelia Rhodostaurotica. Die Rosenkreuzer im Spiegel der zwischen 1610 und 1660 entstandenen Handschriften und Drucke (Amsterdam 19952 ), pp. 69-70.