Fama Fraternitatis

(ca. 1610)

A masterpiece of Christian utopianism, the Fama Fraternitatis (or “Fame of the Fraternity”) first appeared as a German manuscript in 1610, almost certainly the work of a young German theologian named Johann Valentin Andreae. The Fama seemed to its readers to promise the fruit of a global reformation of science and religion, instigated by an enlightened secret society. This society had allegedly been founded by one “C. R.” at the dawn of the fifteenth century.

The manuscript of the Fama Fraternitatis was pirated and printed at Kassel, Germany, in 1614, immediately generating a pan-European furor. Dozens of pamphlets and short books were published, arguing for or against the work of the “Brothers R. C.” The initialism “R. C.” was taken to mean “Rosen Creutz,” or “Rosy Cross,” while “C. R.” was taken to be the name of the brotherhood’s alleged founder, “Christian Rosenkreutz.” Thus, enthusiasts for the Fama came to be called Rosicrucians. To this day, Rosicrucian organizations...

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The cartographer Gerhard Mercator (Library of Congress)

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