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Alchemical scroll, Europe, 1701-1800

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Illustrated with watercolours, this 6 metre long scroll shows alchemical practices such as distillation and crystallisation (still used today by chemists) as well as some mystical symbols. Alchemy was a secretive practice, and its aims included the search for the Philosopher’s Stone – believed to guarantee eternal life – and the transformation of metals such as lead into gold. Alchemy could only be learnt from person to person, or by someone with a key to the symbols used. Most alchemical writings remain a mystery to modern historians.

Object number:

A21950

 

Related links

Techniques and Technologies:

Glossary:

Glossary: alchemy

A form of medieval chemistry that incorporated aspects of philosophy. It was concerned with transforming metal, particularly into gold, and potentially creating an elixir to prolong life.

Glossary: distillation

A technique to remove or separate components in a liquid mixture. It works because chemicals have different boiling points. Vapours produced by boiling are cooled and then collected when condensed.

Glossary: scroll

A roll, as of parchment or papyrus, used especially for writing a document.