Knowledge about alchemy is often communicated through images. Two types of picture are used here as examples to reveal the potential of images as a means of argumentation:

a) The invention of the printing press meant that cover images became increasingly widespread as a graphic genre, and this included printed works on alchemy. Since these pictures were an effective means of advertising and publicity, it is important for the diversity of such images to be recorded and analysed.

b) A phial is the dramatic site of transmutation, and thus its use as a motif in the visual language of alchemy eloquently encapsulates this highly dynamic process and helps to give it a setting. The project reconstructs the changes undergone by this type of image in printed materials, starting with magnificent manuscripts about alchemy where the glass vessel features prominently as a visual device.


Funding: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation, DFG) – Temporary position for principal investigator
Duration: October 2016 – June 2021
Project participants: Dr Stefan Laube (team member), Dr Sergei Zotov (research assistant)