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Alchemy and Chemistry at the Worth Library:

An exhibition of  Chymical works at the Edward Worth Library,

Dr. Steevens’ Hospital, Dublin

To mark the 350th anniversary of the publication of Robert Boyle’s The Sceptical Chymist (London, 1661), the online exhibition for the year 2011-12 is on the theme of ‘Alchemy and Chemistry in the Edward Worth Library’. When Edward Worth (1678-1733) was collecting his books the relationship between these two areas was porous and hence the contemporary term ‘chymistry’ is also used throughout a website which explores Worth’s books on ‘alchemy’, chymistry at the universities, chymistry beyond the universities, chymical experiments, works by Robert Boyle and the nature of the chymical physician. This web exhibition, curated by the Librarian of the Edward Worth Library, Dr. Elizabethanne Boran, celebrates Edward Worth’s fascinating collection of works on chymistry, some of which will be on display in the Worth Library. It is the third in a series of websites exploring the holdings of the Library. For further details please contact our website:


Barckhausen Laboratory

Johann Conrad Barckhausen, Pyrosophia (Leiden, 1698), p. 63.

This illustration from Worth’s copy of Johann Conrad Barchusen’s Pyrosophia (Leiden, 1698) shows a late seventeenth-century laboratory. The issue of laboratory design had been of interest to sixteenth-century writers such as Andreas Libavius and Tycho Brahe and it was in this period that the laboratory, as we know it today, came into being. As Martinón-Torres (2007) argues, the rise of standardized vessels was essential if experiments were to be verified by duplication and certainly the principal message of this illustration was of the laboratory as a place for order and measurement.



Boran, Elizabethanne (2010), ‘The sceptical collector: alchemy and chemistry in early modern Irish medical libraries’ in Westerhof, Danielle (ed.) The Alchemy of Medicine and Print. The Edward Worth Library (Dublin), pp 75-88.

Hannaway, O. (1986), ‘Laboratory Design and the Aim of Science: Andreas Libavius versus Tycho Brahe’, Isis, 77, (1986), pp 585-610.

Martinón-Torres, Marcos (2007), ‘The Tools of the Chymist: Archaeological and Scientific Analyses of Early Modern Laboratories’ in Lawrence M. Principe (ed) Chymists and Chymistry. Studies in the History of Alchemy and Early Modern Chemistry (Chemical Heritage Foundation and Science History Publications).

Newman, W. R. and Principle, L. M., (1998), ‘Alchemy vs chemistry: the etymological originals of a historiographic mistake’, Early Science and Medicine 3, pp 32-65.

Newman, W. R. and Principle, L. M., (2006), ‘Some problems with the historiography of alchemy’ in W. R. Newman and A. Grafton (eds), Secrets of nature: astrology and alchemy in early modern Europe (Cambridge), pp 381-431.

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