A catalogue of Western manuscripts at the Bodleian Libraries and selected Oxford colleges

MS. Ash. Rolls 54

Summary Catalogue no.: 8447

Former shelfmark: MS. Ashmole 1771


George Ripley, Alchemical roll
Language(s): Latin

Physical Description

Form: roll
Support: paper


Miniatures (drawings added to one composition in woodcut). (Pächt and Alexander iii. 1213)

The process for preparing the philosopher's stone in four scenes (brown ink):

(1) hands of an alchemist, holding a hermetic vessel with eight roundels depicting stages in the alchemical process (originally there may have been another membrane showing the head and shoulders of the alchemist);

(2) 'philosophical tree' and grape vine planted in the centre of a heptagonal basin; the basin is surmounted by parapets upon which seven human figures examine contents of beakers which they hold; nude male and female figures ascend and descend the ‘tree’ or simply stand in water; this is supported by a column rising from a lower square pool, the front of which is decorated with a toad-spewing griffin; the columns at the corners of the pool are surmounted with beakers, containing the four elements (?): flames (?), water with fish, clouds and birds, landscape with a castle; nude male figure is preparing to climb the column; two nude female figures, one with wings, stand in water;

(3) two lions flanking the mouth of a furnace; sun with a face beneath a cloud; bird with the head of an old man crowned and bearded, standing on a globe;

(4) two scrolls left blank; sunburst design with three linked circles; crescent moon, held in the jaws of a dragon, perched on a winged globe; the dragon's blood descending to three circles at the bottom of the globe; frame for a text, left blank, flanked by two human figures, a king (defaced) and a commoner, with staffs.


Origin: 16th century, second half ; English

Record Sources

Summary description abbreviated from the Quarto Catalogue (W. H. Black, A descriptive, analytical, and critical catalogue of the manuscripts bequeathed unto the University of Oxford by Elias Ashmole Esq...., Quarto Catalogues X, 1845). Decoration, localization and date follow Pächt and Alexander (1973).

Last Substantive Revision

2017-07-01: First online publication.