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Robert Fludd-the great chain of beingRobert Fludd. Urtriusque cosmi maioris scilicet et minoris metaphysica, physica atque technica historia, in duo volumnia secundum cosmi differntiam diuisa. Vol. 1. Enlarged version. Frankfurt: J. T. Bry, 1624. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (157)

In this engraving, English physician and mystical philosopher Robert Fludd (1574-1637) portrays his idea of creation’s plan. God reaches out from a radiant cloud to hold the chain that binds Nature, the soul of the world. Nature holds a chain attached to the physical world, represented by a monkey. Humans, plants, animals, the arts, the four elements, and the planets all have their assigned place in what was known in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance as “the Great Chain of Being.” The outermost rings represent Paradise. Fludd was a prolific writer, and many of his works on alchemy, occult medicine, philosophy, and various scientific theories, such as this two-volume encyclopedic work, survive.

Library of Congress (www.loc.gov)