The Surreal Art of Alchemical Diagrams

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Derived from the Arabic root “kimia”, from the Coptic “khem” (referring to the fertile black soil of the Nile delta), the word “alchemy” alludes to the dark mystery of the primordial or First Matter (the Khem). The discovery of this elusive original matter, from which all others are deemed simply polluted variants (the purist being Gold), is considered the alchemist’s central goal — along with the discovery of the Stone of Knowledge (The Philosophers’ Stone) and the key to Eternal Youth. As you can imagine, not the simplest of day jobs. As well as reams of text, the ins and outs of the alchemist’s task, steeped as it is in a dizzyingly complex symbology, has given birth to a whole host of strange and wondrous imagery over the centuries. Here we pick out some favourites, many found on Wellcome Images and the brilliant Manly Palmer Hall collection at the Internet Archive.

Various: see source.
Underlying Work: PD Worldwide | Digital Copy: see source.
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From the Manly Palmer Hall collection of alchemical manuscripts, 1500-1825 — Source.


Two peasants hold a red robe; cherubs blow wind and Mercury rests on water below; representing a stage in the process of alchemy. Coloured etching, ca. 18th century — Source.


From Thesaurus of Alchemy, ca. 1725 — Source.


From Thesaurus of Alchemy, ca. 1725 — Source.


From Compendiolum de praeparatione auri potabilis veri, attributed to M[arcus] E[ugenius] Bonacina, ca. 1790 — Source.


From Donum Dei, a German or Austrian alchemical treatise, second half of the 15th century — Source.


From Donum Dei, a German or Austrian alchemical treatise, second half of the 15th century — Source.


From Compendiolum de praeparatione auri potabilis veri, attributed to M[arcus] E[ugenius] Bonacina, ca. 1790 — Source.


“Solvtio Perfecta”, illustration in Donum Dei: Ortus diviciarum sapiencie Dei, 17th century — Source.


From Splendor Solis, a German alchemical treatise, 1582 — Source.


Image of the “Black Sun”, from Splendor Solis, a German alchemical treatise, 1582 — Source.


Section of the Ripley Scroll, 16th century — Source.


From Aureum vellus, by Salomon Trismosin, 18th century edition — Source.


from Philosophia hermetica, linked to Federicl Gualdi, ca. 1790 — Source.


From Gemma Sapientiae et Prudentiae, 18th century — Source.


From the Manly Palmer Hall collection of alchemical manuscripts, 1500-1825 — Source.


From the Manly Palmer Hall collection of alchemical manuscripts, 1500-1825 — Source.


From the Manly Palmer Hall collection of alchemical manuscripts, 1500-1825 — Source.


From The Vessels of Hermes, ca. 1700 — Source.


From Von der Universal Tinctur, by Christian Wilhelm von Krohnemann, 1677 — Source.





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    Love these images!