Cambridge University Library

The Munby Fellow 2013-2014

Dr Anke Timmermann

Illuminating Nature: Alchemical Illustrations in Cambridge Manuscripts

Cambridge manuscripts contain a wealth of hitherto neglected images relating to alchemy. These are silent manifestations of historical approaches to alchemical theory and practice: they communicate knowledge, organise ideas and contain much implicit information about manuscript production in scientific contexts.
In this project, Anke Timmermann discovers the distinctive picture of the history of alchemy drawn by alchemical images from the ‘long alchemical Renaissance’ (fourteenth through mid-seventeenth centuries). Starting with significant volumes at Trinity College, the University Library and Gonville and Caius College she sets out to discover the evolution of visual alchemical expression from a bibliographical perspective. Further materials for her research are at St. John’s, Pembroke, Peterhouse, Corpus Christi and other Colleges which do not hold purely alchemical manuscripts, but medical and other scientific compilations incorporating alchemical materials. The bibliographical handlist she is compiling to record her findings is the first to make available the full range of rare alchemical resources and images in Cambridge collections to other researchers. Her critical studies are addressing the questions of why, when and how copyists of alchemica employed word or image to describe nature and its elements.

An alumna of the University and historian of alchemy, Anke Timmermann completed her PhD in History and Philosophy of Science in 2007. She has since worked and published on the connections between alchemy and medicine, on collections’ histories, in curatorial tasks and the digital humanities. Her first monograph, Verse and Transmutation (Brill), appeared in 2013.