Session Title

The Matter of Alchemy: Deciphering Medieval Practices

Sponsoring Organization(s)

Special Session

Organizer Name

Jennifer M. Rampling

Organizer Affiliation

Princeton Univ.

Presider Name

Peter M. Jones

Presider Affiliation

King's College, Univ. of Cambridge

Paper Title 1

Reading the Books of the Sages: Byzantine Hermeneutics of Ancient Alchemical Recipes

Presenter 1 Name

Matteo Martelli

Presenter 1 Affiliation

Univ. di Bologna

Paper Title 2

"The Secret of Salt": Salts and Their Use in Medieval Arabic and Judaeo-Arabic Alchemy

Presenter 2 Name

Gabriele Ferrario

Presenter 2 Affiliation

Johns Hopkins Univ.

Paper Title 3

Getting Blood from the Stone: Alchemy as Decipherment in Medieval England

Presenter 3 Name

Jennifer M. Rampling

Start Date

13-5-2018 10:30 AM

Session Location

Bernhard 205

Description

Medieval alchemy promised a host of products and pursuits, from medicine to the transmutation of metals. One of the greatest obstacles to achieving these goals was the difficulty of identifying ingredients and processes. From late antiquity onwards, alchemical writers disguised the practical content of their recipes by substituting cover names, omitting or dispersing information, and employing metaphorical, even fantastical, language. This session asks how medieval alchemists attempted to extract practical instructions from these texts – whether Byzantine commentaries, Judaeo-Arabic recipe collections, or Latin and European vernacular verse. As our case studies show, alchemical practice did not remain static over time, but varied as practitioners became interested in new substances and techniques, sought new patrons, and translated recipes from one language or literary form into another.

Jennifer Rampling

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May 13th, 10:30 AM

The Matter of Alchemy: Deciphering Medieval Practices

Bernhard 205

Medieval alchemy promised a host of products and pursuits, from medicine to the transmutation of metals. One of the greatest obstacles to achieving these goals was the difficulty of identifying ingredients and processes. From late antiquity onwards, alchemical writers disguised the practical content of their recipes by substituting cover names, omitting or dispersing information, and employing metaphorical, even fantastical, language. This session asks how medieval alchemists attempted to extract practical instructions from these texts – whether Byzantine commentaries, Judaeo-Arabic recipe collections, or Latin and European vernacular verse. As our case studies show, alchemical practice did not remain static over time, but varied as practitioners became interested in new substances and techniques, sought new patrons, and translated recipes from one language or literary form into another.

Jennifer Rampling