Turn me over, brothers, I am done enough on this side

Alchemical Art of the Late Renaissance Period: The Ripley Scroll, 1570 (Beinecke Version)

The Red See The Red Sol The Red Elixer Vite

I have a hodgepodge file of interesting digital images that have come from here and there, that I’ve thrown found images into over the years.  Many of the art images are unattributed, so sometimes when I have some time to kill, I page through and look for something that strikes my fancy, and see if I can track down what it is.

I spent some time doing this yesterday and came across an image of a scroll, with gorgeous pictures and text in archaic English, that appeared to have something to do with alchemy.  The resulting search eventually led me to the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale, where they have an extensive digital collection, the majority of which is accessible online by the public.  It was there that, after following the standard internet rabbit trail of links to commerce sites and dead-end partial references, I found out the history of my mystery image.

The scroll is known as the Ripley Scroll, it was created around the year 1570, and the text is an English translation of the Visio Mystica, an alchemical text attributed to Arnold of Villanova.  There are online references to several different versions, from an original that is to date unknown, of the material represented in the scroll.  This version, with its particularly richly colored and detailed artwork, seems generally to be known as the Beinecke version, after the library that houses it.  Strangely, my original mystery image is much higher resolution that the one downloadable from the library, so I’ll use that one to show you what I’ve been going on about.  If you’d like to see more detail, right-click and open the image in a new tab, where you’ll be able to zoom in further.

Ripley Scroll Beinecke vsn Alchemy

The Ripley Scroll, Beinecke version. The Beinecke Library attributes this work to George Ripley,  d. 1490? / Richard Carpenter, d. 1670 / Arnaldus de Villanova, d. 1311

The Bede of Hermes Is Mi Name Eting Mi Wines To Make Me Tame

The site Compendium Naturalis has a page with information about some other versions of the Ripley Scrolls, and links to the libraries where they are currently housed.  This page also points to a site where you can read a “modernised and unified” version of the English text found in different variants on the different Ripley scrolls (for instance, while the text in the above Beinecke scroll clearly has the “Bede of Hermes” eating its “Wines,” it’s apparent from the imagery that the modernized/unified text’s reference to said “bird” eating its “wings” is sound).

My spidey senses have been handing me clues that our post-truth environment is probably fostering a resurgence of interest in alchemy, among other things.  That’s definitely not me, but I am interested in the history of what I suppose we might now call “pre-scientific” thought and its role in the development of modern science and scientific method, and of course in any and all interesting and beautiful artwork, particularly when it involves illustration and text interwoven!


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Categorised in: art, news / history

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