This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
A LC H E MY


The Birde of Hermes is my name: eating my winges to make me tame


Verse from a Ripley scroll, c.15th century


Read


Cobb C et al. The Chemistry of Alchemy: From dragon’s blood to donkey dung, how chemistry was forged. London: Random House; 2014.


Linden SJ. Mystical Metal of Gold: Essays on alchemy and Renaissance culture. New York: AMS; 2007.


The alchemical Mr Ripley


George Ripley (c.1415–90) was an Augustinian monk from Yorkshire, who travelled to Europe to further his education in alchemy. While it is unclear if he produced the entire Ripley Scroll, the poetic verses that accompany the illustrations on many copies are attributed to him. Despite writing 25 alchemical texts, Ripley reportedly considered the quest for the philosopher’s stone to be futile.


For Her Majesty


This copy of the Ripley Scroll bears an inscription written in a hand that some have identified as belonging to mathematician and astrologer John Dee (1527–c.1608): ‘This long rolle was drawne in colours for me in Lubeck in Germany 1588.’ Dee was revered at the court of Queen Elizabeth I, and the painting below shows him combining two elements in front of Elizabeth and Sir Walter Raleigh, among others. When first painted, Dee was shown standing in a circle of human skulls, a symbol of black magic that the artist later painted over.


Von Kerssenbrock-Krosigk D et al. Art and Alchemy: The mystery of transformation. Düsseldorf: Museum Kunstpalast; 2014.


The allure of alchemy


In his infamous memoir, eighteenth-century libertine Giacomo Casanova (1725–98) describes a visit to the marquise d’Urfé in her castle at Nancy. Madame d’Urfé is a crazy old alchemist, who shows him her alchemical manuscripts. Casanova has brought with him a virgin who he plans to seduce. The seduction is accomplished, with the marquise looking on, she ‘wishing to be present at an operation which would result in her own rebirth in nine months’ time.’


The Golden Pot


The central character in German author E T A Hoffman’s (1776–1822) Der Goldne Topf (The Golden Pot), a novella told in 12 parts, holds a job copying manuscripts in Arabic and ‘strange charac- ters’. Hoffmann’s story is set in an everyday world where metal comes alive, trees speak and your boss might well be a cursed salamander. It tells the tale of a man who falls in love with a snake and, like an alchemical substance itself, is imprisoned within a ‘well-corked crystal bottle, on a shelf in the library’.


Trading in receipts


The buying and selling of alchemical ‘receipts’, or recipes, was a busy trade in the Early Modern period. Most writers of learned texts collected and traded receipts, an early form of knowledge transfer.


Let men beware of all books and receipts that teach the multiplication of gold or silver


John Dee performing an experiment before Queen Elizabeth I Oil on canvas Henry Gillard Glindoni 47369i Wellcome Library


— 11 —


with common quicksilver...for they cannot be joined inseperably by


any medium, or means whatsoever. From Gabriel Plattes’s


A Caveat for Alchymists, 17th century


Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76  |  Page 77  |  Page 78  |  Page 79  |  Page 80  |  Page 81  |  Page 82  |  Page 83  |  Page 84  |  Page 85  |  Page 86  |  Page 87  |  Page 88  |  Page 89  |  Page 90  |  Page 91  |  Page 92  |  Page 93  |  Page 94  |  Page 95  |  Page 96  |  Page 97  |  Page 98  |  Page 99  |  Page 100  |  Page 101  |  Page 102  |  Page 103  |  Page 104  |  Page 105  |  Page 106  |  Page 107  |  Page 108  |  Page 109  |  Page 110  |  Page 111  |  Page 112  |  Page 113  |  Page 114  |  Page 115  |  Page 116  |  Page 117  |  Page 118  |  Page 119  |  Page 120  |  Page 121  |  Page 122  |  Page 123  |  Page 124  |  Page 125  |  Page 126  |  Page 127  |  Page 128  |  Page 129  |  Page 130  |  Page 131  |  Page 132  |  Page 133  |  Page 134  |  Page 135  |  Page 136  |  Page 137  |  Page 138  |  Page 139  |  Page 140  |  Page 141  |  Page 142  |  Page 143  |  Page 144  |  Page 145  |  Page 146  |  Page 147  |  Page 148  |  Page 149  |  Page 150  |  Page 151  |  Page 152  |  Page 153  |  Page 154  |  Page 155  |  Page 156  |  Page 157  |  Page 158  |  Page 159  |  Page 160  |  Page 161  |  Page 162  |  Page 163  |  Page 164  |  Page 165  |  Page 166  |  Page 167  |  Page 168  |  Page 169  |  Page 170  |  Page 171  |  Page 172  |  Page 173  |  Page 174  |  Page 175  |  Page 176  |  Page 177  |  Page 178  |  Page 179  |  Page 180  |  Page 181  |  Page 182  |  Page 183  |  Page 184  |  Page 185  |  Page 186  |  Page 187  |  Page 188  |  Page 189  |  Page 190  |  Page 191  |  Page 192  |  Page 193  |  Page 194  |  Page 195  |  Page 196  |  Page 197  |  Page 198  |  Page 199  |  Page 200  |  Page 201  |  Page 202  |  Page 203  |  Page 204  |  Page 205  |  Page 206  |  Page 207  |  Page 208  |  Page 209  |  Page 210  |  Page 211  |  Page 212  |  Page 213  |  Page 214  |  Page 215  |  Page 216  |  Page 217  |  Page 218  |  Page 219  |  Page 220  |  Page 221  |  Page 222  |  Page 223  |  Page 224  |  Page 225  |  Page 226  |  Page 227  |  Page 228  |  Page 229  |  Page 230  |  Page 231  |  Page 232  |  Page 233  |  Page 234  |  Page 235  |  Page 236