Encyclopedia of Early Modern Philosophy and the Sciences

Living Edition
| Editors: Dana Jalobeanu, Charles T. Wolfe

Alchemical Images

  • Peter J. ForshawEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-20791-9_472-1



The focus of this entry is on the visual imagery found first in Western alchemical manuscripts and later in print publications from the introduction of alchemy into Europe in the twelfth century until the heyday of emblematic alchemy in the seventeenth century.

Types of Alchemical Imagery

Alchemical imagery can be divided into various categories, the most prominent being (1) illustrations of laboratory apparatus (furnaces, vessels); (2) bestiary (dragons, lions, toads, birds); (3) religious analogies (Passion and Resurrection of Christ; Crowning of the Virgin Mary; Adam and Eve); (4) mythological analogies (e.g., Apollo and Diana; Venus and Mars; Vulcan); (5) geometric diagrams; and (6) glyphs or notae representing cosmic principles (e.g., four elements), alchemical substances, and processes. A great part of this imagery is concerned with Chrysopoeia...


Natural philosophy Astrology Religion Natural magic Emblematics 
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Bachmann M, Hofmeier T (1999) Geheimnisse der Alchemie. Schwabe, BaselGoogle Scholar
  2. Birkhan H (1992) Die alchemistische Lehrdichtung des Gratheus filius philosophi in Cod. Vind. 2372: Zugleich ein Beitrag zur okkulten Wissenschaft im Spätmittelalter. Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, WienGoogle Scholar
  3. Crisciani C, Pereira M (2008) Aurora Consurgens: un dossier aperto. In: Leonardi C, Santi F (eds) Natura, scienze e società medievali: studi in onore di Agostino Paravicini Bagliani. SISMEL., Ed. del Galluzzo, Florence, pp 67–150Google Scholar
  4. de Jong HME (2002) Michael Maier’s Atalanta fugiens: sources of an alchemical book of emblems. Nicolas-Hays, York BeachGoogle Scholar
  5. Eco U (1989) Lo Strano Caso della Hanau 1609. Bompiani, MilanGoogle Scholar
  6. Forshaw P (2006) Alchemy in the amphitheatre: some consideration of the alchemical content of the engravings in Heinrich Khunrath’s Amphitheatre of Eternal Wisdom (1609). In: Wamberg J (ed) Art and Alchemy. Museum Tusculanum Press, Copenhagen, pp 195–220Google Scholar
  7. Forshaw P (2010) Oratorium-auditorium-laboratorium: early modern improvisations on cabala, music and alchemy. Aries 10(2):169–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gabriele M (1997) Alchimia e Iconologia. Forum, UdineGoogle Scholar
  9. Jung C (1953/2014) Psychology and alchemy. (trans: Hull RFC). Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  10. Klossowski de Rola S (1988/1997) The golden game: alchemical engravings of the seventeenth century. Thames & Hudson, LondonGoogle Scholar
  11. Obrist B (1982) Les Débuts de l’Imagerie Alchimique (XIVe-XVe siècles). Éditions le Sycomore, ParisGoogle Scholar
  12. Obrist B (1990) Constantine of Pisa: the book of the secrets of alchemy: introduction, critical edition, translation and commentary. Brill, LeidenGoogle Scholar
  13. Obrist B (2003) Visualisation in medieval alchemy. Hyle Int J Philos Chem 9(2):131–170Google Scholar
  14. Pereira M, Spaggiari B (eds) (1999) Il Testamentum alchemico attribuito a Raimondo Lullo: Edizione del testo latino e catalano dal manoscritto Oxford, Corpus Christi College, 244. SISMEL, Ed. del Galluzzo, FlorenceGoogle Scholar
  15. Principe L (1987) “Chemical translation” and the role of impurities in alchemy: examples from Basil Valentine’s Triumph-Wagen. Ambix 34:21–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Principe L (2013) The secrets of alchemy. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  17. Purš I (2015) Perspective, vision and dream: notes on the plate “Oratory-laboratory” in Heinrich Khunrath’s Amphitheatrum sapientiae aeternae. In: Nejeschleba T, Michalík J (eds) Latin alchemical literature of Czech provenance. Univerzita Palackého v Olomouci, Olomouc, pp 50–89Google Scholar
  18. Rampling J (2014) A secret language: the Ripley scrolls. In: Dupré S, von Kerssenbrock-Krosigk D, Wismer B (eds) Art and alchemy: the mystery of transformation. Hirmer, Munich, pp 38–49Google Scholar
  19. Ronca I (1998) Religious symbolism in medieval Islamic and Christian alchemy. In: Faivre A, Hanegraaff W (eds) Western esotericism and the science of religion. Peeters, Leuven, pp 95–116Google Scholar
  20. Sherwood Taylor F (1958) The alchemists: founders of modern chemistry. Heinemann, LondonGoogle Scholar
  21. Taape T (2014) Distilling reliable remedies: Hieronymus Brunschwig’s Liber de arte distillandi (1500) Between alchemical learning and craft practice. Ambix 61(3):236–256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Telle J (1992) Rosarium Philosophorum: Ein Alchemisches Florilegium des Spätmittelalters. Faksimile der Illustrierten Erstausgabe, Frankfurt 1550. De Gruyter, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  23. Tilton H (2003) The quest for the phoenix: spiritual alchemy and Rosicrucianism in the work of Count Michael Maier (1569–1622). De Gruyter, BerlinCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Völlnagel J (2004) Splendor solis oder Sonnenglanz: Studien zu einer alchemistischen Bilderhandschrift. Deutscher Kunstverlag, MunichGoogle Scholar
  25. Völlnagel J (2012) Alchemie. Die Königliche Kunst. Hirmer, MunichGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for History of Hermetic PhilosophyUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

Section editors and affiliations

  • Hiro Hirai
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for the History of Philosophy and ScienceRadboud Universiteit NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands