Title page to a book on alchemy, 1672.
4 0 c m
actual image size: 18cm x 32cm

Title page to a book on alchemy, 1672.

© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library


Engraved title page, showing alchemical apparatus including alembics and other distillation vessels on shelves above furnaces. In the foreground are cornucopias (symbols of plenty) full of fruit and zodiacal symbols, with a pestle and mortar and a crucible. Alchemists used such equipment to attempt to transform base metals such as lead into silver and gold. Alchemy provided an early basis for the science of chemistry. Illustration, added later, from 'Chimia in artis formam redacta' ('Chemistry Reduced to the Form of an Art') by Zacharias Brendel (1592-1638), published in Leiden in 1671. This book included a section discussing the preparation of potable gold (aurum portabile). Drinkable gold was believed to be the essence of pure love and a powerful medicine.

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