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The Alchemy web site on Levity.comAdam's Alchemy Weblog
I have decided to start a weblog of my activities related to my work with alchemy and the alchemy website. The Alchemy Website www.levity.com/alchemy also mirrored at www.alchemywebsite.com was established in 1996 and is now the most established and authoritative site devoted to alchemy on the internet. It gets about 2000 hits a day and in the ten years it has been running has got well over one million hits.
19th December 2006
Spent a day in the University Library here in Glasgow. I went there mainly to look at an 18th century manuscript which I am considering for publication and also to look at the various editions of the famous Twelve Keys of Basil Valentine. The Valentine work is really interesting and almost totally misunderstood, its meaning occluded by modern esoteric twaddle, so I am thinking of either writing a book on the work or preparing a study course. I will see what comes of this next year. I also had a look at some emblem material, and especially at a catalogue of exhibition celebrating the life and work of Matthaeus Merian who created many engravings for alchemical works (most notably the Atalanta fugiens). In fact, Merian, sadly almost unknown to the art world, produced a wide variety of emblematic and illustrative material for many books in the early 17th century. This catalogue shows some examples of his sketches and drawings together with the finished engravings. I also looked at many emblems in the Cesari Ripa Iconologia, the Weiditz woodcut engravings to Petrarch (the Petrarca-Meister) of 1532. There is so much wonderful material out there that I ran out of time looking for good images of the Trionfi of Petrarch.
13th December 2006
Today started out with a potential disaster. Here in Glasgow we have had almost continuous rain for about a week. This morning I noticed drops of water coming through the ceiling in my library just over the main wall of bookshelves which houses my alchemical library. Luckily, I caught this in time and only a few books got splashed a bit with water. If I had been out for the day I would have come back to some more severly damaged books. I had to shift all the books from the bookcases and pile them up on the other side of the room. It is now total chaos, but the books are safe.
10th December 2006
I am trying to reorganise the prints section of my alchemy web bookshop, to make it easier for people to buy these using Paypal in pounds or dollars. I also hope, given time over the next few days, to sort of some new pages to make it easier for people to buy the larger format prints. It is taking much longer than I thought to organise this as there are over 800 pronts but only a few can be realistically made available in A3 large format.
25th November 2006
It is not often one hears a reference to alchemy on the BBC World Service Radio programme devoted to science, but my ears did not deceive me. This was a short piece based on an article in the recent issue of the UK science Journal Nature. This was about the recipe for high quality crucibles produced in Hesse from the late 16th century and well known to alchemists. A short summary of this can be seen on
23rd November 2006
Spend some hours reading through the translation of a 18th century French alchemical manuscript that I intend to publish. There were a few words that the translator found difficult to read, but I managed to work these out. It is a really interesting work with a series of large coloured illustrations, almost totally unknown, so I look forward to publishing this next year.
I had quite a few problems to deal with today. I had to strip down my gold blocking press which had got locked up mechanically. I couldn't see anything wrong, but as often happens with mechanical things once I put it together again, it worked okay. I also managed to fix my CD-Rom drive which began playing up a week or so ago, rejecting discs as unwritable. At first I thought I had a batch of bad discs, but then the drive crashed my computer a few times. I was about to go out and buy a new drive, then I thought I might try updating the drive's firmware and drivers. It seems to be working okay now, but if it has another problem I will just chuck it and get new.
22 November 2006
Today I received in the post from Amazon a copy of a new book on Paracelsus by Philip Ball The Devil's Doctor. As soon as I opened the package I saw the painted portrait of Paracelsus on the dust jacket. This is a painting I know very well as I have made a facsimile painting of this which you can see on http://www.alchemywebsite.com/paintings/McLean19.html. What really interested me was the note inside the book in which this painting is ascribed to the painter Jan van Scorel (1495-1562). The painting is in the Louvre and had previously been assigned to the Flemish artist Quentin Metsys (c.1465-1530). Paracelsus died in 1541 and thus the ascription to Jan van Scorel means that it could well have been drawn from life. He was born in 1493 and thus if the painting had been by Metsys then Paracelsus could not have been older than 37 and we do not know if Metsys was still painting in 1530 (when the artist would have been 65), whereas if it was by van Scorel, the artist could have seen Paracelsus at a later age. I am not entirely convinced by this new ascription as the Paracelsus portrait certainly looks in Metsys' style when one compares it to Metsys' other portraits. The famous woodcut portraits of Paracelsus depict him differently. I have already documented some of this at portraits of Paracelsus. It is a really interesting question as to how we picture a figure like Paracelsus to ourselves. Now I have to read the book !
21 November 2006
Today began well with the arrival by email of a translation which a colleague was making for me from French of an 18th century alchemical text. Hopefully I will find time later in the evening to read through this. It is a most interesting alchemical manuscript with a series of coloured illustrations which I have wanted to publish for many years. Now the translation has been made I hope to be able to publish this in my Magnum Opus series in January or February. Much of today will have to be taken up with bookbinding chores as I have a few orders for books to deal with. Later in the evening I set up an article for the website transcribed by Alan Pritchard from the Royal Society Transactions.