Alchemy and Other Curiosities

July 6, 2018

This year’s Madison Early Music Festival, with its theme “A Cabinet of Curiosities: Journey to Lübeck,” offers us the opportunity to showcase our many books of curiosities from the 16th-18th centuries. One of the most curious is Heinrich Khunrath’s Amphitheatrum sapientiæ æternæ, solius veræ. Thanks to our colleagues in UW Digital Collections, especially Jesse Henderson and Steven Dast, a newly digitized version of Khunrath’s masterpiece, from our Duveen Collection, is now available in full.

Alchemist’s laboratory. From Heinrich Khunrath, Amphitheatrum sapientiae aeternae (Hamburg?, 1595). Duveen Collection, Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The oft-reproduced hand-colored engraving of the alchemist’s laboratory in one of the plates

alchemist's laboratory from Khunrath (1595). Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

features musical instruments in the foreground — appropriate for the Madison Early Music Festival.

An exhibit in the first floor lobby of Memorial Library also calls attention to more holdings from Special Collections and Mills Music Library related to cabinets of curiosities, early music, and early music printing. Please join us in the first floor lobby on Monday, July 9, at 11:30 AM for a gallery talk by our colleagues Carly Sentieri of Special Collections and Jeanette Casey of Mills Music Library.

The digital version of Khunrath’s work available through UWDC also includes, thanks to Arvid Nelson, a preliminary transcription of the engraved text surrounding the four plates. > More on Khunrath’s work.

— R. Rider