George Ripley (alchemist)
Sir George Ripley (ca. 1415–1490) was an English author and alchemist.
Ripley studied in Italy for twenty years, becoming a great favourite of Pope Innocent VIII. He returned to England in 1477 and wrote his work The Compound of Alchymy; or, the Twelve Gates leading to the Discovery of the Philosopher's Stone (Liber Duodecim Portarum), dedicated to King Edward IV and highly appreciated by him. The Cantilena Riplaei is one of the very first poetic composition on the subject of alchemy. His twenty-five volume work upon alchemy, of which the Liber Duodecim Portarum was the most important, brought him considerable fame.
Being particularly rich, he gave the general public some cause to believe in his ability to change base metal into gold. For example, Thomas Fuller in his Worthies of England, describes a reputable English gentleman who reported having seen a record in the island of Malta which stated that Ripley gave the enormous sum of one hundred thousand pounds sterling annually to the Knights of that island and of Rhodes to support their war against the Turks.
The Vision of Sir George Ripley
A commentary upon Ripley's works was written in a series of treatises by the English alchemist Eirenaeus Philalethes. Ripley's Vision, written in the Twelve Gates, became the subject of an exposition by Eirenaeus published in 1677 in London. The English form of the Vision gives a fair sample of the allusive style.
When busie at my Book I was upon a certain Night,
This Vision here exprest appear'd unto my dimmed sight:
A Toad full Ruddy I saw, did drink the juice of Grapes so fast,
Till over-charged with the broth, his Bowels all to-brast:
And after that, from poyson'd Bulk he cast his Venom fell,
For Grief and Pain whereof his Members all began to swell;
With drops of Poysoned sweat approaching thus his secret Den,
His Cave with blasts of fumous Air he all bewhited then:
And from the which in space a Golden Humour did ensue,
Whose falling drops from high did stain the soil with ruddy hue.... (etc.)
- George Ripley, Cantilena Riplaei
- George Ripley, Opera omnia chemica. Kassel, 1649.
- George Ripley, Liber duodecim portarum, also contained in J.J. Mangetus, Bibliotheca Chemica Curiosa (Geneva 1702), Vol. II, pp 275–285.
- AEyrenaeus Philalethus, Ripley Reviv'd; or, An Exposition upon Sir George Ripley's Hermetico-Poetical Works (London 1678).
The 'Ripley Scrowle'
There are approximately 23 copies of the Ripley Scroll in existence. The scrolls range in size, colour and detail but are all variations on a lost 15th century original. Although they are named after George Ripley, there is no evidence that Ripley designed the scrolls himself. They are called Ripley scrolls because some of them include poetry associated with the alchemist. The scrolls' images are symbolic references to the philosophers' stone.
- London, British Museum, MS Add. 5025, Four scrolls drawn in Lubeck 1588.
- London, Science Museum, A21950, 18th century.
- London, Wellcome Institute, 692 & 693, two scrolls 16th century.
- Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 276, 16th century.
- ref. also version of Ripley Scrowle by James Standysh, 16th century, B.M. London Add. MS 32621.
- de Rola, Stanislas Klossowski, The Secret Art of Alchemy (London, Thames & Hudson 1973).
- Carl Gustav Jung, Psychologie u. Alchemie (Rascher Verlag, Zurich, 1944).
- Charles Mackay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. Office of the National Illustrated Library, London (1852).
- The works of Sir George Ripley
- Full Yale version of Ripley Scroll at Wikimedia