This second article on the UK’s most significant collections of historical alchemica introduces the manuscripts collected by Sir Hans Sloane, which would become part of the founding collections of the British Museum. Sloane’s life from his first chemical experiments as a student at the London Apothecaries’ Hall to his friendship with Robert Boyle and his presidency of the Royal Society as Isaac Newton’s direct successor is set against the backdrop of the contemporary book and manuscript market, the parallel (and rival) collecting activities of Robert and Edward Harley, and the evolution of Sloane’s vast and varied collections.
With the help of other researchers’ new insights into materials she first researched for her doctoral thesis, Anke further discusses a group of particularly interesting notebooks written by William Butler (1535-1618) which illuminates the interactions between alchemy and medicine, between Galen and Paracelsus, at the turn of the seventeenth century.
The Summer Issue of The Book Collector is available in all good (institutional and private) libraries. More information may be found on The Book Collector website.
Dr Anke Timmermann of Type & Forme holds a PhD in History of Science from the University of Cambridge, and has worked extensively with manuscript collections for the past two decades. The abovementioned is the second in a series of four articles on the most significant single-owner collections of alchemical materials in Great Britain today. The first article investigated the alchemica of Elias Ashmole; future articles will examine and discuss the collections of James ‘Paraffin’ Young, and John ‘Soda’ Ferguson.