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

MS. Ash. Rolls 54

Summary Catalogue no.: 8447


George Ripley , Alchemical roll
Language(s): Latin

Physical Description

Form: roll
Support: paper


Miniatures (drawings added to one composition in woodcut). (P&A 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 by Elizabeth Solopova and Matthew Holford, based on 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) and supplementary sources.