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The compovnd of alchymy. Or The ancient hidden Art of Archemie: Conteining the right & perfectest meanes to make the Philosophers Stone, Aurum potabile,
with other excellent Experiments.

The search for the Philosopher’s Stone, an elixir of long life, has fascinated alchemists for centuries. The Warburg Library has many books on Alchemy and Chemistry, one such being George Ripley’s 1591 short work The compovnd of alchymy. Or The ancient hidden Art of Archemie: Conteining the right & perfectest meanes to make the Philosophers Stone, Aurum potabile, with other excellent Experiments (FGH 4920). Twelve chapters detail in rhyming verse each step or “gate” to create aurum potabile – a form of gold dissolved in water. The element was considered to be so chemically pure and indestructible that potable gold was prescribed as an elixir capable of curing all diseases and was employed in a wide range of illnesses. Referring back to Catalan philosopher Ramon Llull, George Ripley writes:

“And oyle is drawne out in colour of golde,
Or like thereto out of fine red lead,
Which Raymond sayd when he was olde,
Much more than golde would stand in stead:
For when he was for age nigh dead,
He made thereof Aurum potabile,
Which reuiued him as men might see.”

The compovnd of alchymy is part of the Innes collection, donated to the Warburg Library in 2012. Michael Innes was particularly interested in alchemy, and there are many more alchemical secrets waiting to be discovered by curious readers.

Read George Ripley’s work


"For Warburg what was most significant was that the powerful visual language of the deep past could be resurrected while the original message could be misremembered."

Jonathon Keats discusses the recreation of Aby Warburg's Bilderatlas Mnesmosyne in this Forbes article.

Read the article


Times of Festival - 'Residues and Reuse: a festival and its afterlife in an Indian metropolis'

Wednesday 16 June: 5.30-7.00pm | with Professor Tapati Guha-Thakurta (Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta)

Book your Place

Premodern Disability Histories - 'Learning How to See Crip: (Non-)Visual Cultures of Disability in the Middle Ages'

Thursday 17 June: 5.30-7.00pm | with Dr Bianca Frohne (University of Kiel)

Book your Place

Stargates Series - 'Hieroglyph, Anatomy and Cosmos: John Dee’s Monas Hieroglyphica'

Tuesday 22 June: 5.30-7.00pm | with Dr Stephen Clucas (Birkbeck College)

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Curatorial Conversation - 'The Torlonia Marbles: Collecting Masterpieces'

Wednesday 23 June: 5.30-7.00pm | scholar/curator Salvatore Settis and architect/designer David Chipperfield in conversation with Bill Sherman (Warburg Institute Director)

Book your Place

Explore what else is on at the Warburg


Modelling the Warburg Institute 1926-2021


Watch the digital launch for the international exhibition Warburg Models, together with a presentation of Haworth Tompkins’ architects model for the Warburg Renaissance project.

Architecture, interiors and technological systems were crucial for how Aby Warburg and his followers interrogated culture. Through a series of architectural models, the presentation shows how buildings commissioned and occupied by the Warburg Institute, from the Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek Warburg in Hamburg, to the Institute’s current home on Woburn Square, have projected a tie between architectural space, intellectual order and the examination of cultural survival.

Warburg Models has just closed in Oslo and will now travel to Hamburg, London and New York.

'The Theory and Practice of Talismans' presented by Charles Burnett


Thābit ibn Qurra, the great ninth-century Arabic mathematician, regarded talismans as being the culmination of the studies of geometry and philosophy. What did he mean by a talisman? And why was the science of talismanry so important? How was the theory of talismans put into practice and what was the effect? Part of the Stargates series, this lecture traces the science of talismanry from its Greek roots, through Arabic and into the Latin Middle Ages.

Curatorial Conversations: Looking Forward, Looking Back: The Heritage Collections at Parliament


The Heritage Collections at Parliament embody the past, present and future in one place. Recording Parliament’s history, its work and its people, they date from the site’s medieval origins as a Royal Palace to the present-day iconic institution. But what are the challenges of managing working collections within a historic building and what opportunities are there of using them to engage the public with the role, history and work of Parliament? Bill Sherman (Director, Warburg Institute) chats with Melissa Hamnett (Head of Heritage Collections and Chief Curator, Houses of Parliament) to unpack some of these topics and find out what work is already underway and what possibilities lie ahead.


GPT-3, Divine Writing and Other Realities

Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3 (GPT-3) is an autoregressive language model that generates text using algorithms that are pre-trained. It was created by OpenAI (a research business co-founded by Elon Musk) and has been described as the most important and useful advance in AI for years.

Last summer writer, speaker, and musician, K Allado-McDowell initiated a conversation with GPT-3 which became the collection of poetry and prose Pharmako-AI. Taking this collection as her departure point, Warburg PhD student Beatrice Bottomley reflects on what GPT-3 means for how we think about writing and meaning.

Read the blog

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