Michael Maier's alchemical emblem book, the Atalanta fugiens, is an extraordinary multimedial work that articulates the seven-stage alchemical laboratory process for making the philosophers' stone.
The images that you are about to encounter in Atalanta 101 are courtesy of the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF), Roy G. Neville Collection in Philadelphia, whose copy is remarkable as its first eleven copper-plate engravings are hand-coloured, though by a late 19th or 20th century hand.
Maier's story is told by way of the following four sections once you enter this exhibit. Introducing Atalanta provides details about the author and an explanation of the theme of the book. Understanding the Philosophers' Stone examines how Maier's story is organized and narrated through music and allegory. The Allegorical Laboratory examines three select emblems from Maier's Atalanta to illustrate how he expressed information about alchemical laboratory theory and process by embedding information in music and images for the reader to apprehend and decode. Lady Sapientia, an exploration of Emblem XXVI, concludes this exhibition.
Entrez-vous, and enjoy!
Donna Bilak (iconographic and text analysis); James Voelkel, CHF Curator of Rare Books (photography); Anthony Parenti, Latinist (Classics Major, Temple University); Robin Bier (University of York, early modern musicology). Special thanks to the Chemical Heritage Foundation and The Huntington Library for research fellowships that have made this project possible.