“In order to bring all this mass of material together, Hepburn must have had a wide range of source material to study, and it seems most likely that this material was available in the Vatican Library itself. As to what Hepburn’s motives were for publishing such a collection of alphabets, we can only speculate. He certainly produced these in a form which gave it scholarly respectability and also by heading it with the figure of the Virgin Mary, using the pun ‘Virga’ Rod-Virgin, gave it credibility in terms of the Church. The timing of the publication, 1616, right at the centre of the Rosicrucian/hermetic publishing period, suggests that Hepburn in his own way may have been responding to that impulse. Under the guise of the Virgin Mary heading the plate, Hepburn was able to publicly reveal the symbolism of many alphabets, and in particular, magical alphabets. If we further take into account Hepburn’s interest in the Kabbalah, and his translation and publication of a Solomonic occult text, I think we are justified in assuming that Hepburn may have, in some small way, contributed to the public revelation at that time of the esoteric wisdom of the past. At the very least one can suggest that he was inspired by this movement into producing the Virga Aurea. As librarian at the Vatican, he certainly would have received early copies of the Rosicrucian publications. The Virga Aurea, although a single large engraving contains such a mass of detail that an exhaustive analysis will be left till later.” By Adam McLean. First published in the Hermetic Journal 1980.
For more images and to read more about the Virga Aurea, follow the link to the article on Adam McLean’s website, below