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Meagan Allen, Science History Institute

Paleographical Approaches to Determining the Authenticity of Medieval Alchemical Manuscripts

Medieval alchemical manuscripts can present numerous problems for the researcher. One of the most pressing is the authenticity of a given manuscript. In this talk, I will present a case study – the questionable authenticity of a work often attributed to Roger Bacon – the Epistola de secretis operibus artis et naturae et de nullitate magiae. This work, which consists of 11 chapters, supposedly details Bacon’s thoughts on the ability of art to perfect nature in many forms, including the creation of machines, the prolongation of human life, and, of course, the creation of the philosophers’ egg and the ability of man to transmute metals. Numerous arguments have been provided for its provenance. I will describe the paleographical approaches that I have taken in examining the manuscripts to argue that there is no overwhelming reason to discount its authenticity, and that for the present, it should continue to remain a part of Bacon’s oeuvre.


Friday, March10, 2023, 12:00 -1:30pm EST (via Zoom)

Registration is required. There are 275 seats available.

Friday, March 10, 2023
12:00pm - 1:30pm
Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center
Lecture, SIMS

Event Organizer

Profile photo of Lynn Ransom
Lynn Ransom