Thomas Charnock

Thomas Charnock, alchemist; Agnes Norden in 1562 at Stockland-Bristol, near Bridgewater, Somersetshire; at least 2 children (Absolon and Bridget)

  • Born c 1524 at Faversham, Kent, UK
  • Died April 1581 at Combwich, UK


Printed in Elias Ashmole's Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum:

Breviary of Philosophy. 1557. An autobiographical account of Charnock's alchemistic experiences

Aenigma ad Alchimiam. 1572.

Aenigma de Alchimiae. 1572.

Fragments coppied From Thomas Charnock's owne hand writing. 1574.

External references

  • Agnes Mary Clerke (1887) “Charnock, Thomas”. In Leslie Stephen, Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 10. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  • Anthony Wood, Athen Oxoniensis
  • Tom Morris, The Alchemists: Thomas Charnock “Intended to be the first in a series of short publications dealing with alchemy and the alchemists this is the biography of Thomas Charnock (1524,6 - 1581). At an early age he was left destitute by the machinations of his uncle who none-the-less awoke his interest by leaving him a library of alchemical books. He lived in relative poverty, his hopes of gaining the Philosopher's Stone constantly frustrated and, despite an ill-fated attempt to gain royal recognition, died in obscurity in a Somerset backwater.”
  • “16th century English astronomy. Title page of a 1558 book by the English alchemist Thomas Charnock (c.1524-1581). The artwork shows one astronomer (at right) using a sighting tube, while another (at left) holds an astrolabe. Stars, the Sun, and the Moon, are depicted above their heads. They are dressed in monks robes and hoods. An astrolabe was used both to predict the position of astronomical bodies such as the stars, Sun, Moon, and planets, and to tell the time from the position of the stars. The sighting tube, a precursor of the telescope, was used to make the observations of the stars and other astronomical bodies. Charnock lived in Somerset. His works included a treatise written for Queen Elizabeth I.”
  • F Sherwood Taylor, The Alchemists 0586082247
  • Goddesses and Queens: The iconography of Elizabeth I, eds Annaliese Connolly and Lisa Hopkins 0719076773 Indexed as “Charnock, Thomas 55–6”
  • Sienna Louise Latham “Lady Alcumy”: Elizabethan Gentlewomen and the Practice of Chymistry “Others sought employment in the royal household. Thomas Charnock dreamt of following in his uncle and namesake’s footsteps by becoming “the Queenes philosopher”. The elder Thomas Charnock had served as Henry VII’s confessor. More significantly, he claimed to have obtained the philosopher’s stone from a fellow Black Friar in 1515.39 His nephew’s 1565 “Booke Dedicated vnto the Queenes maiestie” promised Elizabeth the health and riches typically associated with the stone in exchange for a fourteen-year subsidy.40 Like Charnock’s other extant writings, this petition offers a vivid glimpse of its unlearned author’s life, beliefs and chymical experiences. He took an apocalyptic view of the Great Work, holding that successful transmutation was a harbinger of the Last Judgment, so it was perhaps fortunate that Elizabeth and her advisors declined to accept his offer. The queen may not even have seen the gold-tooled, leather-bound manuscript, which remains among William Cecil’s papers.”
  • Allan Pritchard, “Thomas Charnock’s Book Dedicated to Queen Elizabeth” in Ambix, Vol. 26, No. 1 (1979) “A book was dedicated to the Queen, at Stockland Bristol, Somerset, ‘by Master Thomas Charnock, student in the most worthy sciences, of astronomy, physick, and philosophy. Containing the work of natural philosophy’. Dedicatory Epistle to the Queen, to inform her of what Charnock can accomplish toward making the philosopher’s stone. Alchemy is false science; true science is the making of the stone. The rest of the book consists of a dialogue on December 10 between Charnock and ‘an Oxford man concerning the science and work of natural philosophy’. Charnock describes the specific proposals he wishes to make to the Queen, and the benefits she can expect by financing his work in the Tower of London. He goes on to describe the history of alchemy in England, then has a long passage of autobiographical verse. He hopes the Queen will command his book to be printed, will send for him, and he will ‘be called by the name of the Queen’s philosopher’. 53 folios. [BL Lansdowne MS 703]. Later Charnock noted that he delivered the book to Secretary Cecil, but because the Queen and Council had already set another man [Cornelius Lanoy] at work in Somerset House ‘my book was laid aside for a time’.”
  • Robert M Schuler, “Thomas Charnock (1524×6-1581),”
  • Allan Pritchard, “Thomas Charnock’s Book,” Lansdowne MS. 703. “Charnock’s book for the queen similarly described the sources of his knowledge; one teacher died after making Charnock his heir, while the other became deranged and blind as a result of the Great Work.”
  • H Stanley Redgrove, Alchemy: Ancient and Modern. Being a Brief Account of the Alchemistic Doctrines, And Their Relations, to Mysticism On The One Hand, and to Recent Discoveries In Physical Science on the Other Hand; Together With Some Particulars Regarding the Lives And Teachings of the Most Noted Alchemists (1911) “Thomas Charnock” p65
  • Sean Martin, Alchemy & Alchemists (2006) B01K17TWQE in Acknowledgements: “the Wardens of the Church at Otterhampton, Somerset, who provided fascinating insights into the life and work of Thomas Charnock, and showed me the lane that he lived on; Tim Hather, for driving me out to Charnock’s neck of the woods”; “Much is known about the life of Thomas Charnock, as he wrote an autobiography in verse detailing his pursuit of the Stone”; indexed as “Charnock, Thomas, 7, 67, 68, 69, 119, 124, 135”


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