The International Hahnemann Center Torgau cares for a good number of books and memorabilia of early homeopathy. The messages from Meissen will present some of them to our community and in doing so you can become part of the exciting efforts taken at the place where Dr. Samuel Hahnemann was born. Read today about a work which got published in 1785 and get a hint of how fascinating medical history can be. This is a translation done by Hahnemann at a time when his doctor’s office hardly sufficed for earning a living for his young family.
In the year 1785, thirty-year-old Samuel Hahnemann published his translation of a book called “The Art of Distilling Liquor” (Der Liqueurfabrikant). When he started working on this book, he lived in Gommern where he had opened his doctor’s office.
A few years earlier, in 1782 in Dessau, he was still busy with his studies of a new science called chemistry. Probably because of this he became acquainted with a local pharmacist named Haeseler. In his house Hahnemann met a young lady, Henriette. She was Haeseler’s stepdaughter. He fell in love with her.
Now, in Gommern, after he started his office, he married her and enjoyed his new life as a husband. His first daughter, Henriette, was born in 1783 in Gommern. His income was lower than expected, so he had to earn his bread and butter also by writing books. Since chemistry, according to Hahnemann’s statement sweetened his life and as he was very well acquainted with the French language, he thought why not translate some of Demachy’s works?
Demachy was one of the first chemists of the time, a member of the academies in Paris and Berlin. The academy in France prompted the publishing of the two volumes of ‘The Art of Distilling Liquor’ because the manufacturing procedures he discussed were treated as secrets – especially by the Dutch manufacturers.
It was planned to introduce mass-production of liquor in France, which was an urgent need, just like in Germany. It was a meritorious act by Hahnemann not only to make these instructions available to his fellow countrymen but also to increase the usefulness of the book by his numerous elaborate supplementary additions.
After Hahnemann had completed his translation, another translation of the same book already had been published by Struve – also with additions. Demachy published the original work in 1775.
For his translation, Hahnemann now had to use the edition printed in 1780, because this one contained the comments given by Dr. Struve. Struve was a physician, chemist and mineralogist. He was co-founder of the Swiss Association for the entire Natural Sciences. Hahnemann included Struve’s contribution in his translation and discussed it, also.
The International Hahnemann Center Torgau (IHZT) got an offer from a dedicated homeopath. He had a copy of this book in his collection and gave us the chance to include it in our collection for a reasonable price. There was no way out, we had to accept. When I received the book, I was astonished to see a firm,
modern binding in my hand. It looks like a modern book from the bookstore around the corner. But this impression changed immediately when opening the book. What I saw was breathtaking.
This book is now 237 years old, almost two and a half centuries! What has happened since then? Just have a look at your history text books when you’ve been to high school and college.
This book is witness to a time period when the dark ages turned into modern times during the Age of Enlightenment. Those were tough years. And every page of this work wears traces of these difficult times. It is good fortune that this abraded book got into the hands of a lover of homeopathy and ancient books: the book was saved by a pretty skilled conservator.
You see water spotting on a good number of pages, side edges are eroded and they had to be supported by special tapes. Before handling such books, conservators have to disinfect all leaves in order to inactivate fungal spores. Finally, there is a book which is full of ‘scars’. Have you seen old people with leathery skin, the face covered with deep wrinkles, smiling and presenting loose teeth – but still displaying beauty and charisma?
It is the same with this book. It is a witness of a time period when one of the brightest scientists of all times shined on planet earth. We are proud and happy to care for this book. Certainly, collectors may have copies of the same book in very good condition. The spiritual value of this one is not a bit inferior.
And this is why membership at the IHZT is enriching for a dedicated homeopath: every member actively contributes to the preservation of such treasures. A member has immediate access to all exhibits in our collection. And a member is an active keeper of Dr. Samuel Hahnemann’s heritage.
Now let us have a closer look into the book. The following sections in this essay reflect the attempt to translate Hahnemann’s comments close to his original wordings.
The comments given by Hahnemann help us to get more acquainted with his spirit, character and philosophy in pre-homeopathic times.
Since many readers of Homeopathy For Everyone render homage to him, the International Hahnemann Center Torgau will share reading material which is not commonly available. In addition to this, the IHZT welcomes all comments by the Hpathy community to deepen its findings. We need to preserve as much information as possible about this genius.
In his initial introduction called ‘news’ Hahnemann wrote about the tremendous use of foreign liqueurs in Germany. Patriotic thinkers wanted to supersede the passive trade of importing these drinks. But adulterators of spirits in Germany deceived life, health and the wallet of their customers. Therefore, suitable modes in the preparation of liqueurs were urgently needed to get upright producers of liquors. They usually missed the knowledge of how to produce the tasty drinks in good quality.
For Hahnemann, only chemistry was able to provide dignity to this essential art. He said that chemistry is the irrevocable pillar on which the art of distillation will never totter.
In the introduction to the book, Hahnemann explained how distilled liquid could become the most commonly used drink – in company with water. He writes that with all peoples in the world there is a popularity of benumbing and cheery things. People love the sensuality in the lurch of the senses. They seek this deranging irritation of the nerves more than the intelligibleness of their sense.
But the benumbing cheering up of the senses is not the ‘purpose of human destiny’. This is why nature rarely serves pure narcotic drugs producing such an effect. They have to be produced with considerable effort and a lot of skills.
He writes that beer, wine and hard cider are the earliest enlivening foods bringing happiness to the people of the earth, especially due to their lovely taste. They benumb, arouse the bloodstream, excite the nerves for more vivid undulation.
The system of conception gets focused by easy-going and in a pleasant way. The inner perception of existence is put to concupiscence. Melancholic memories are superseded by more pleasant thoughts. No wonder that people seek for these narcotising agents.
What is the constituent in wine effecting these changes? Hahnemann assumes that it is a spiritual being penetrating the nerves. This being was invented when refining winy fluids by means of distillation. With brandy one obtained the spirit of winy drinks. Drowsiness got enlivened, melancholy forgot, ponderousness and unhappiness broke its chains. No wonder why spirits became the favourite drink in all nations.
When reaching for a glass of wine, people never think about the essence of the spirits disturbing the animalic machine, compromising health and turning nerves dull and apathetic.
The purest spirit, enriched with aromatic spices, not consumed in excess, will be convenient to health and milder with the addition of sugar. It means that liquour, when consumed in moderate quantities, will be and always remain an adequate stimulant, a delicious drink and a refreshment for intelligent people. We may not forget its medical effects.
The reader learns from Hahnemann’s footnotes on how to get pure alcoholic fermentation of grapes while avoiding the fermentation of vinegar. A slow fermentation is essential for obtaining source material for the distillation of good liquor. The additions by the translator include references by other authors as well.
And this is a quality which Hahnemann pursues during all his intellectual life: he was a master in learning from others and in compiling their knowledge to a new set of information. With this he formed his own picture of the subject matter which he completed with his own reasoning. The sum of these intellectual processes he finally shared in his works, thus publishing lessons of outstanding wisdom.
In the first volume of Demachy’s work Hahnemann comments in detail on the technical descriptions in the preparation of liquor. His knowledge as one of Germany’s leading chemists is a rich source for the optimisation of the manufacturing plant.
Hahnemann explains which materials are best suited for a still, and he also explains the best setup for such equipment. He discusses the best combustible material to be used and about the process of distillation. Problems, that may be encountered are described and solutions to overcome them are proposed. The comments also include details of what to observe in order to obtain a distillate of the best quality.
The additions written by Hahnemann are of interest in so far, that they clearly state mistakes in Demachy’s teachings. These are corrected not just by stating opposite opinions. The corrections usually include an elaborate description of the relevant topic and proper reasoning of why the original teaching is faulty. The reader is free to decide what he likes to adopt. It is amazing, just to give an example, that Hahnemann knows about distillation techniques as practiced in Switzerland. He describes their experience to obtain the best source material and how to avoid moulding.
In the next chapters the making of spirits from grapes is followed by the distillation of pears and from hard cider. There is not much that Hahnemann has to add. But he suggests the addition of some good yeast and honey to the perry (perry is the result of fermented pear juice) and the hard cider.
In one of the next chapters in the book Hahnemann describes a recipe for corn brandy. Like before, the translator adds in detail how the best setup for distilling corn brandy is built. Much is different from the distillation of alcohol from grapes. For this reason, this addition covers 41 pages in the book.
Distilling alcohol from other sources like rice is a further topic in Demachy’s work. Who will be surprised that Hahnemann has clear corrections to give again? He criticises the author once more, blaming him for not following real, profound chemical exploration.
Later in the book there is a discussion on how air fixed in fermenting fluids can be extracted. Hahnemann disagrees with the proposed method of stirring. He argues that in doing so it is not yet known which changes occur in the fluids. But it is clear that stirring accelerates the development of vinegar in fermenting fluids. This is to say that vinous fermentation changes to acetification.
Hahnemann suggests to considerably cool down the fluids instead. The gas will escape and when the fermenting substance is exposed to the most suitable temperature again, fermentation will restart.
When adding condiments to the fermenting fluid for developing a desired taste in a liquor, Hahnemann suggests methods for obtaining a soft and aromatic taste instead of tanginess. In order to render a mild taste to liquor, he proposes to add saccharic acid in such small quantities so that no sour taste will develop.
In some further comments, the translator blames adulterators of liquor for altering ingredients like coffee, chocolate, vanilla and others fraudulently. He lists some of their trickeries.
When the book begins to teach the making of lemonade, Hahnemann keeps on adding hints again on how to increase the quality of such drink. Back in 1785 he states that they recently had invented a dry powder from which to make lemonade. Another comment explains how to make such a powder. The food industry started early to sell denaturised products. Hahnemann was up to date.
This essay is not meant to reproduce the expertise which Samuel Hahnemann added for considerably improving the quality of this translation. It is rather so you should get an idea of how I felt, when I had a closer look into this book in order to write this essay.
Remember, the founder of homeopathy was hardly 30 years old when he did this translation. I was surprised to see that in 1785 the author already was an accomplished scientist with profound knowledge in many fields. What a great mind and spirit he was.
Holding an original print of the book in my hands makes me feel so small, so inferior. On the other hand, I feel privileged by getting so close to the master.
If you would like to have the same experience, then come to Meissen in Germany when the International Hahnemann Center Torgau has opened its Hahnemann exhibition. Or even better, think of becoming a member and of being part of our adventure tracing homeopathic history:
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