Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Ripley Scroll

George Ripley (c. 1415-1495) was an English priest and noted alchemist, one of several fifteenth-century figures who were rumored to have created the philosopher's stone and turned lead into gold. (Nichoas Flameau was another.) He left England as a young man to study alchemy in Germany and then spent about twenty years in Rome, working for the papacy. In 1477 he returned to England and became a canon of Bridlington in Yorkshire. About twenty copies of his scroll survive, all made in the sixteenth or seventeenth century. The scroll purports to be an allegorical account of how to make the philosopher's stone. You can read a description of the scroll here that explains some of the symbolism. This is the Yale copy, which I found at BibliOdyssey.

Detail from a very large version of this scan. Below, a sample of Ripley's allegorical verse.
Of my blood and water I wish
Plenty in all the World there is
It runneth in every place
Who it findeth he hath grace

In the World it runneth over all
And goeth round as a ball
But thou understand well this
Of the worke thou shalt miss

Therefore know ere thou begin
What he is and all his kin
Many a name he hath full sure
And all is but one Nature

Thou must part him in three
And then knit him as the Trinity
And make them all but one
Lo here is the Philosophers Stone
Sorry the scroll doesn't look quite right; I had to cut it into pieces and it was hard to make them line up exactly; but then the leaves in the scroll don't line up perfectly anyway.

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