Acquisitions Night

Acquisitions Night
Date: December 11, 2013
Time: 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Event Type: Invitation Only
Fee: Free
RSVP: See below

Join us for Acquisitions Night, and support CHF’s collections!

More than 40 recently acquired rare books, manuscripts, and artifacts will be on display, including 9 very early alchemy manuscripts, some dating from before the invention of printing. Curators will make short presentations and be available to answer questions, and guests will have the opportunity to “adopt” the displayed items.

R.S.V.P. required by December 9. For more information or to R.S.V.P. for this event, please contact Nancy Vonada, manager of events and donor relations, at or 215.873.8226.

View a sampling of the items by clicking on the images below, or see the full list of items here.

Sebald Schwärtzer, Chrysopoeia Schwaertzeriana

Schwartzer This book, published 120 years after the author’s death, purports to be Sebald Schwärtzer’s account of the making of the philosophers’ stone and of the furnaces necessary for making it.

Samuel Emmel, Sammelband of three alchemical treatises

Ars ChemicaSammelband of three alchemical treatises printed by Samuel Emmel in Strasbourg in the 1560s. All are extremely rare and scarcely held. The Ars Chemica, pictured here, is an extremely important work, noted for the many references to it in Isaac Newton’s alchemical notes.

Jean René Denis Riffault des Hêtres, Manuel de chimie

Riffault This book’s small format and Riffault’s subtitle, “an elementary précis of the science,” indicate it was meant for a general audience. This rare 1825 first edition is the only copy held in a North American library.


  About the Event

Your participation in Acquisitions Night will help us collect and preserve as much of the enormous cultural heritage of the chemical sciences and technologies as possible. 

If you choose to adopt an item, you will be identified as its donor in future on-site and online exhibits. We will also create an electronic bookplate to celebrate your gift in the Othmer Library’s online catalog.

Not able to attend?

If you’re interested in adopting an item, but you're not able to attend this event, please contact Ronald Brashear ( or Nancy Vonada ( They would be happy to arrange the adoption remotely.

Prefer not to adopt an item? 

Support CHF with a charitable gift. It's the perfect time of year to give: CHF will receive the full value of the contribution, and you will receive the full value of the tax deduction.

  Event Schedule

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

5:30 p.m.


6:30 p.m.

Presentations by Ronald Brashear, James Voelkel, and Lawrence M. Principe

7:15 p.m.

Display of recent acquisitions in the Jacobs Reading Room

8:00 p.m.

Dessert reception

 Speaker Biographies

Ronald Brashear

Ronald Brashear

Ronald Brashear is the Arnold Thackray Director of the Othmer Library of Chemical History at CHF. For the last 23 years he has held positions that merge the history of science and special-collections libraries. 

In 1988, with a B.A. and an M.S. in physics from the University of Louisville, and after studying for a Ph.D. in the history of astrophysics at Johns Hopkins University, Brashear became the first curator of history of science, technology, and medicine at the Huntington Library. In 1998 he became curator of the Dibner Library of the History of Science at the Smithsonian Institution Libraries, eventually becoming head of special collections in 2001. In 2006 Brashear joined CHF and began the process of turning the Othmer Library into a mature independent research library. He also transformed CHF’s Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry into the leading provider of history of science, technology, and medicine fellowships in the United States. 

Brashear has curated exhibits on the transits of Venus, the history of civil engineering, and the history of astronomy at the Huntington Library and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. He is currently the board chair of the Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science and vice chair of the board of directors for the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries, and he serves on the Huntington’s Dibner Program Advisory Council and Dames Fund Advisory Council.

Kristen Frederick-Frost

Frost headshot

Kristen Frederick-Frost is the curator of artifacts at CHF. After receiving her doctorate in physics from Dartmouth College, she spent a number of years as a research scientist and project engineer working on the design and testing of satellite instrumentation. As an experimentalist at heart, Frederick-Frost is fascinated by scientific instruments, both old and new. She returned to college to obtain a master’s degree in the history of science at the University of Oxford and has since endeavored to contextualize various experimental processes by researching and collecting historical and contemporary scientific instrumentation.

Lawrence M. Principe

Lawrence M. Principe

Lawrence M. Principe is the Drew Professor of the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University in the Department of the History of Science and Technology and the Department of Chemistry. His research focuses on the early modern period (1450–1750), especially in regard to chemistry and alchemy and the interaction of science and religion.

His recent publications include The Scientific Revolution: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011) and The Secrets of Alchemy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012), both written for a wide audience. He is the inaugural recipient of the Francis Bacon Medal for significant contributions to the history of science.

Principe earned undergraduate degrees in chemistry and liberal studies from the University of Delaware. He received a Ph.D. in chemistry from Indiana University in 1988 and a Ph.D. in the history of science from Johns Hopkins University in 1996.

James R. Voelkel

James R. Voelkel

James R. Voelkel is the curator of rare books at the Othmer Library of Chemical History and a resident scholar in the Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry at CHF. He is a historian of early modern science.

Voelkel is the author of The Composition of Kepler’s Astronomia nova (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001) and the biography Johannes Kepler and the New Astronomy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999). He is a longtime contributor to the Chymistry of Isaac Newton web project, for which he is currently a senior consultant. He also teaches an occasional course on the Scientific Revolution at the University of Pennsylvania.

He has degrees in astronomy and physics from Williams College and history and philosophy of science from Cambridge University. Voelkel received his Ph.D. in history of science from Indiana University in 1994. He held postdoctoral fellowships at the Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and Johns Hopkins University.

  Event Sponsors

CHF acknowledges the National Endowment for the Humanities for its significant support of our humanities activities strengthened through a challenge grant for the establishment of a permanent acquisitions fund.