Alchemical and Rosicrucian Compendium ca. 1760 at the Beinecke Library

Alchemy entered into European popular culture in the late middle ages, with the translation of Greek and Arabic texts into Latin and the European vernaculars. Based on the tenets of the Corpus Hermeticum, a body of texts attributed to Hermes Trismegistus and meant to date to the age of Abraham, alchemy, or al-kimya in Arabic, can be summarized as the attempt to decipher a divine presence in the material world. Hermetic philosophy taught its practitioners to look to the natural world to discover the meaning of the macrocosm.

The Yale University Library collections of alchemical literature reflect the continuing presence of alchemical works in any well-furnished library, from the first donations of the alchemically inclined Bishop George Berkeley to a fledgling Connecticut college, to the gift to Yale in 1965 of Mary Conover Mellon’s collection of alchemical books and manuscripts.
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