Brown Bag Lecture: “Science, Song, and the Philosophers’ Stone: Reading Michael Maier’s Alchemical Emblem Book, Atalanta fugiens (1618)”

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Date: November 12, 2013
Time: 12:00 to 1:00 p.m.

315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Event Type: Open to the Public
Fee: Free
RSVP Online: No Registration Required

A talk by Donna Bilak

The Othmer Library of Chemical History holds a copy of Michael Maier’s extraordinary alchemical emblem book, Atalanta fugiens (1618), which encodes the seven-stage laboratory process for making the philosophers’ stone using song and art. Maier’s expression of alchemical operations is unique within the alchemical corpus for his use of music-image-text to transmit information, thus engaging the reader’s auditory and visual senses. This talk explores the particular way that this multimedia work conveys alchemical theory and praxis apropos how the Atalanta is read and experienced. And, as Maier drew upon the hermetic corpus in its composition, this talk also considers the Atalanta as a bibliographic resource, examining this utilitarian aspect of the work from past and present perspectives.

Donna Bilak received her Ph.D. in cultural history from the Bard Graduate Center in New York City for her dissertation, “The Chymical Cleric: John Allin, Puritan Alchemist in England and America (1623–1683),” which focused on intersections between science, religion, and the material culture of the alchemical laboratory in the 17th-century British Atlantic world. Bilak is currently the Edelstein Fellow at CHFs Beckman Center, where she is conducting research into early Continental 17th-century science vis-à-vis her analysis of the Atalanta fugiens.

About Brown Bag Lectures

Brown Bag Lectures (BBLs) are a series of weekly informal talks on the history of chemistry or related subjects, including the history and social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Based on original research (sometimes still in progress), these talks are given by local scholars for an audience of CHF staff and fellows and interested members of the public.

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