‘Bottled Knowledge’

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A three-headed eagle in a crowned alchemical flask, representing mercury sublimated three times. (Wellcome Library no. 38823i)

The first seminar in the 2014-15 History of Pre-Modern Medicine academic seminar series, will take place on Tuesday 14th October.

Details: Dr Anke Timmermann (University of Cambridge / London),

‘Bottled Knowledge: Drawings of Flasks and Vessels in Alchemical Manuscripts’


Sketches of alchemical flasks and vessels permeate late medieval and early modern manuscripts. It has often been assumed that these drawings are meant to be realistic depictions of laboratory equipment: visual reminders to alchemists of the tools used in daily practice in the workshop. But beyond their deceptively generic appearance a untold story lies: the story of alchemy as seen through its practitioners’ eyes and pens, of the processes of writing and drawing about alchemy, in and around the workshop, and of the communication of craft knowledge.

This presentation will provide a survey of flasks and vessels in English manuscripts from the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries, and begin to unravel their complex histories and meanings.


The seminar will take place in the Wellcome Trust, Gibbs Building, 215 Euston Road, NW1 2BE.  Doors at 6pm prompt, seminars will start at 6.15pm. (Please note: this is a change of venue).

The seminar series is focused on pre-modern medicine, which we take to cover European and non-European history before the 20th century (antiquity, medieval and early modern history, some elements of 19th-century medicine).

Further details on the seminar series are available in a previous post.

Ross Macfarlane

Ross Macfarlane is the Research Engagement Officer at the Wellcome Library.

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