Digital archive concerning alchemy in Byzantium and in Greek-speaking communities of the Ottoman Empire

DACALBO project addresses a significant gap in the current historiography of sciences, by exploring and carefully mapping the Byzantine and post-Byzantine alchemy through the creation of a comprehensive, open access, digitized, and searchable database and metadata material. Specifically the project aims to:

a) Identify, collect, digitize and classify all surviving manuscript and printed primary sources relevant to alchemy in Greek language during the periods of Byzantium and of the Ottoman Empire.
b) Collect and classify the secondary bibliography.
c) Create prosopographical entries for every identifiable author.
d) Evaluate the modifications or transformations which Byzantine alchemical tradition has undergone, and to ascertain its relations with Hellenistic, Arabic, or Latin alchemy.
e) Determine what twists in the development of alchemy have taken place after its introduction in the cultural context of Greek-speaking communities of the Ottoman Empire, from the 15th to the 18th century and the passage to “Chymistry”.

Visit of Alain Touwaide

Historian of Greek medicine and botany Alain Touwaide is the recipient of one of the ten "Foreign Fellowships" awarded by the Onassis Foundation for the year 2015-16. He will be in residence for six months at the National Hellenic Research Foundation in Athens, and will work in close collaboration with the Program on History, Philosophy and Didactics of Science and Technology of the Institute for Historical Research directed by NHRF scholar Efthymios Nicolaidis.

Catalogue of alchemical manuscripts.

  • Athens, Benaki Museum Τ.A. 250
  • (ff. 111v-113v) Michaelis Pselli Πρὸς τὸν πατριάρχην κῦρ Μιχαὴλ περὶ τοῦ ὅπως ποιητέον χρυσόν.
    Title: Βυζαντίου τινός πρός τόν π(ατ)ριάρχην Μιχαήλ περι χυμικὴς ἤτοι χρυσοποιΐας.
    Cf. BIDEZ (ed.), “Psellus, Chrysopée”.



  • Athens, Byzantine and Christian Museum ΒΧΜ 19520
  • Title: Περὶ τῆς ἀρχυροχρ(υσο)ποιΐας καὶ Ἱερᾶς τέχνης Ποίημα Στεφάνου Ἀλεξανδρέως οἰκουμενικοῦ διδασκάλ(ου) καὶ φιλοσόφου:~

    1. (ff. 2r-7v) Synesii philosophi Πρὸς Διόσκορον εἰς τὴν βίβλον Δημοκρίτου ὡς ἐν σχολίοις.
    The text is acephalous.
    Inc.: … βλέπεις ἐν τῇ εἰσβολῇ τῆς χρυσοποιΐας τί εἶπε, Σελήνη ἀπὸ κινναβάρεως κ(αὶ) χρυσοκόλλας.
    Cf. MARTELLI (ed. & trans.), Pseudo-Democritus, 122-149.

    (ff. 8r-63r) Stephani Alexandrini Περὶ χρυσοποιΐας. Lectiones IX.
    Title: Στεφάνου Ἀλεξανδρέως οἰκουμενικοῦ διδασκάλου κ(αὶ) φιλοσόφου· περὶ (χρυσοποιΐας).

Dacalbo final Workshop and Symposium ‘Greek alchemy: From the late Antiquity to the early Modernity’
Athens, NHRF, 25-27 June 2015.

At the Workshop the following themes will be discussed:
- the catalogue of Greek alchemical manuscripts and the inventory of manuscripts containing Greek texts that are relevant to alchemy,
- the relationships between alchemy and natural philosophy in Byzantine times, and the mutations of alchemy and the development of ‘chymistry’ in the post-Byzantine era,
- the educational applications of the historical material and on the reproduction of alchemical procedures.

The Workshop will be followed by the Symposium, ‘Greek alchemy: From the late Antiquity to the early Modernity’

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