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Ouroboros Press edition title page printed in red & black.

The Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum is a major collection of English alchemical texts which encapsulate the arcana of the Magnum Opus in poetic form. Originally gathered by Elias Ashmole from several rare medieval manuscripts, the text represents the largest collection of verse concerning the production of the Philosopher’s Stone to be brought together in one volume.

Ashmole’s pride in English literature was amplified through the consideration he gave to the project. In deciding which texts should be included in the book, he details ancient British examples among the Druids & the Bardic Tradition and explains that poesy is much better than mere verse.

Here we find well-known names in the alchemical corpus, among whom are included: Thomas Norton, George Ripley, Geoffrey Chaucer, John Daston, Pearce the Black Monke, Richard Carpenter, Abraham Andrews, Thomas Charnock, William Bloomefield, Edward Kelley, John Dee, Thomas Robinson, William Backhouse, John Gower, John Lydgate, W. Redman, and several anonymous authors. This who’s who of English alchemists is placed in historical context by a Prolegomena by Ashmole, which supports his thesis that England may be proud of its alchemical literary heritage. In addition, Ashmole has provided ample annotations and commentary on each of the texts as supplementary material in the concluding chapter of the book. The text has a new introduction by William Kiesel and a full bibliography of alchemical and bibliographic materials used in researching the text. [Click here for a full list of the contents].

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