An internet portal was set up to facilitate access to the individual works (which date from the 15th to 18th centuries) as digital copies and to provide an in-depth catalogue of their contents. Over the course of the cataloguing process a thesaurus of alchemical terms was created. This facilitates the research conducted into the works on alchemy within the Wolfenbüttel holdings, while navigation tools make it possible to categorise the works’ contents in terms of their intellectual, scholarly and cultural history.

The HAB has undertaken this project as its contribution to research on the history of alchemy, which has long been of interest for researchers of cultural history on account of its conceptual and iconographic significance. Today, historical alchemy is viewed as an innovative and speculative approach to the understanding of nature in the early modern period. In this respect, it is pertinent to research into scholarship and knowledge addressing how natural history and the history of ideas are connected, while also analysing the working practices and networks of those involved.

The extensive holdings of old works in the HAB are being expanded on an ongoing basis as part of the Collection of German printed works, 1601–1700. In recent years around 250 antiquarian works on alchemy have been acquired, which also document the special significance of the 17th-century German book market in the distribution and reception of alchemical knowledge. The holdings were first catalogued in depth using an objective notation that makes it possible to conduct a systematic search in the library’s online catalogue.

Click here for the online portal to the HAB’s holdings on alchemy.



Funding: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation, DFG)
Duration: June 2014 – January 2017 (ongoing)
Project participants: Dr Petra Feuerstein-Herz (contact), Dr Ute Frietsch (contact)