Books of Secrets: Writing & Reading Alchemy

Books of Secrets

Detail from An Alchemist in His Laboratory, follower of Gerard Dou, 17th century, oil on panel. Courtesy of Roy Eddleman. Photo by Will Brown.

To modern ears the word alchemy evokes a contradiction: at the same time that we smirk at its foolish practitioners, we are drawn in by the beauty and mystery its images and symbols evoke. But while alchemy’s fantastical imagery is both scorned and celebrated, the story of a legitimate, human quest for scientific knowledge lies underneath.

Books of Secrets: Writing and Reading Alchemy sheds light on this search for knowledge by exploring many of the manuscripts and books vital to alchemists. The exhibit will highlight CHF’s collections of late medieval manuscripts, paintings, and early printed books, and illustrate the craftsmanship of these early written books, from the materials used to the symbols embedded.

Plan your visit

Books of Secrets: Writing and Reading Alchemy will be on display from December 5, 2014, to September 4, 2015.

Admission is free. The museum at CHF is open Monday–Friday, 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., and First Fridays, March to December, 10:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m.

Check our visitor information page for directions to the museum, information on accessibility, and additional details to help you plan your visit. Group tours are available by appointment.

Chemical Heritage

Receive CHF’s award-winning magazine three times per year with any donation.

Need Meeting Space?

CHF’s state-of-the-art conference center is in Philadelphia’s beautiful historic district.


Connect with CHF

Sensing Change

See your environment with fresh eyes through this online exhibit.


Listen to the latest episodes of CHF’s award-winning science podcast.


First Fridays at CHF

CHF joins its Old City neighbors in hosting special events on the First Friday of most months. Learn more about our First Friday schedule.