Colouring & Making in Alchemy and Chemistry

The final programme and abstracts of the papers to be presented at the 7th SHAC Postgraduate Workshop are now available and attached to this email.

The workshop will take place on Wednesday 26 October 2016 at Utrecht University, hosted by the ARTECHNE research group. The theme for 2016, ‘Colouring and Making in Alchemy and Chemistry’, seeks to highlight colour­ing and making as twin aspects throughout the history of alchemy and chemistry. During the workshop, we will explore how these activities relate to one another in a variety of ways throughout the ages. Keynote speakers are Ernst Homburg (Maastricht) and Tara Nummedal (Brown).

This workshop, including lunch and refreshments, is free, but the number of participants is limited. Please register until 15 October by emailing Thijs Hagendijk (Utrecht),

Sent on behalf of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry by Dr Anna Simmons, Acting Honorary Secretary and Membership Secretary

7th SHAC Postgraduate Workshop

Wednesday, 26 October 2016, 9:45–18:15 | Utrecht University, Sweelinckzaal, Drift 21, 3512 BR Utrecht at Maastricht University, having previously researched doctorates in chemistry and the history of science. His research focuses on the boundary between science and technology as well as interactions between industry and university. Alongside various editorial activities, he served on the Council of SHAC between 1996 and 2016. 

Alchemy Keynote

Prof. Tara Nummedal (Brown)
Early-Modern Alchemy as the Art of Colour

Tara Nummedal teaches early-modern history at Brown University. Having explored alchemical contracts and accusations of fraud in Alchemy and Authority in the Holy Roman Empire (2007), she is currently preparing a study on the sixteenth-century alchemist Anna Maria Zieglerin (ca. 1550–75) and previously edited a special issue of Ambix on ‘Alchemy and Religion in Christian Europe’.

For more information, please visit or contact Mike A. Zuber (Amsterdam),

Please register as a participant until 15 October by emailing Thijs Hagendijk (Utrecht),

Chemistry Panel 

Amélie Bonney (Oxford)
Creating Toxic Colours: Explosions, Poisoning and Occupational Hazards in the French and British Colour Industry, 1800–1914 

Industrialized Britain and France made use of a variety of by-products from the mining industry to create an alternative source of wealth: a range of new dyes and pigments. Colours made with arsenic, zinc or aniline were each marketed as a safer variety than their counterparts, causing specific chemical elements to become fashionable or, on the contrary, undesirable. For example, aniline dyes and pigments were initially marketed as being a safe alternative to colours made with arsenic, but they were later found to be dangerous both for the workers and for the environment.

This paper will investigate why this discourse on the toxicity or the benefits of colours changed throughout the nineteenth century, and argues that this was caused by a combination of the volatility of popular conceptions of toxicity, economic interests and the development of scientific and toxicological knowledge. An investigation of the narratives of workers, scientists and occupational health physicians reveals that the harmful side-effects were often well-known in the working environment long before regulation was implemented. Often these risks were minimised by companies and government authorities in order to make a colour more marketable until a new alternative was found. The effects for workers ranged from skin lesions to acute poisoning, while on an entirely different level there were cases of industrial explosions and large-scale pollution. This paper thus provides a new context in which to discuss the development of aniline dyes as well as pigments and further develops our understanding of risk management during the production of dyes and pigments in the colour industry.

Victor de Seauve (Paris, MNHN)
Edmond Becquerel’s First Colour Photographs Monitoring the Evolution of Colours

In 1848 Edmond Becquerel developed the very first colour-photographic process and was able to record the solar spectrum with its own colours, basing himself on Seebeck’s work on silver chloride. A few prints representing still-lifes, obtained with the same process, are still conserved in the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. The support is a silver plate similar to those used for daguerreotypes that underwent a sensitization step and the positive colour image is directly formed onto the sensitized plate. The exposure times were quite long, and the resulting photochromatic images could not be fixed which is why this invention was not widely used.

If this process was the first response to the problem of colour in photography, the origin of colours motivated a debate between scientists in the nineteenth century, an issue that remains unresolved in the twenty-first century. In order to gain insights on the colours of the photochromatic images, we try to relate the sub-microstructure to the optical properties of the images.

In this talk we will focus on the steps of the Becquerel’s process we reproduced according to his writings. The light exposure step of the process is studied with spectrocolorimetry and the resulting images with visible reflectance spectrometry. We will attempt to define the spectral sensitivity of the process and to describe the critical parameters to obtain the most beautiful colours.

Alchemy Panel 

Vincenzo Carlotta (Berlin, HU)
Chromatic References in the Making of the Transmutation Agent as Presented in the Dialogue of the Philosophers and Cleopatra

In the context offered by the Greco-Egyptian alchemical tradition, the Dialogue of the Philosophers and Cleopatra touches on distinctive topics, the importance of which has been progressively highlighted by recent scholarship. Nevertheless, the discussion about the sources of these features – and their possible influence on other works – is still open to debate.

The present paper aims at analyzing two closely related subjects: first, the relationship between the body, spirit and soul of the metallic substances, as presented by Cleopatra and her fellows; second, the role performed in this three-way relationship by the doxa of metals. This Greek word is not immediately intelligible, except through a careful analysis of its occurrences in context, and the present paper will point out how this word involves a direct reference to the outer appearance of metallic bodies – specifically, it refers to their ‘brightness’ as opposed to their ‘darkness’. Moreover, this aspect reveals the probable Christian influence on the alchemical text falsely attributed to Cleopatra vii so as to lead up to the more general, and still debated, study of the relationship between Greco-Egyptian alchemy and Christian thought. Finally, this particular case study proves to be especially fruitful since it involves both theoretical and practical issues of the discussion on metallic transmutation throughout the late classical and Byzantine eras.

Kathryn Kremnitzer & Siddhartha V. Shah (Columbia)
Making Emerald Imitation as Working Method

A recipe for making esmeraulde (emerald) appears as an illustrated marginal note under the heading Pierrerie (gemstones) in Ms. Fr. 640 at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris), followed by instructions for making other coloured stones, including ruby, hyacinth and topaz. These recipes confirm the larger scope of the author-practitioner’s wide-ranging ambition to reproduce the colour and refractive effects of precious materials, suggesting that imitation is both an artistic aim and a working method to replicate natural processes in form and character.

This paper explores the strong link between coloring and making at the intersection of craft and science, in the production of jewels, bringing together the long-documented history of imitation gemstone production with the findings of our own historical reconstruction. It further reconsiders unstable conceptions of real vs. fake and authentic vs. inauthentic in the early modern period and today, to question how the economic, artistic, and use value of these craft objects was and is determined.

Thijs Hagendijk (Utrecht)
Alchemy, Art and Antwerp Peeter Coudenberghe's Colour Recipes

From antiquity up to the early modern period, it is hard to tell where alchemical practices ended and artisanal practices began. One of the places where the hybridity between alchemy and art can clearly be seen at work is in artisanal recipe books that usually covered a wide array of different practices, ranging from colour-making to metallurgy.

In this paper I investigate a late sixteenth-century Antwerp manuscript that contains recipes for the making of different paints, inks and the production of stained glass. Although the manuscript has drawn the attention of several art historians and conservators, little attention has been given to the alchemical notions and recipes that can be found throughout the manuscript. For instance, the manuscript counts eight recipes for the making of the blue pigment azure. While six of these recipes describe historically accurate procedures, two recipes call for quicksilver and sulphur. Such ingredients would never yield a blue pigment, but instead seem to allude to alchemical transmutation as the underlying process of azure-making.

To better understand the interplay between alchemy and art in this manuscript, I will take a closer look at its author – recently identified as Peeter Coudenberghe (1517–99), an apothecary who lived and worked in Antwerp at a time during which the city flourished as an important international market for artists’ materials.


Selection Committee
Prof. Hasok Chang (Cambridge)
Dr. Peter Forshaw (Amsterdam)
Prof. Ernst Homburg (Maastricht)
Prof. Tara Nummedal (Brown)

Financial Support
In addition to the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry, the following institutions have generously made this workshop possible:

University of Amsterdam – ASH: Amsterdam School of Historical Studies – HHP: History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents

Utrecht University – ARTECHNE: Technique in the Arts, 1500–1950 (European Research Council, grant agreement nr. 648718)


Shakespeare, The Earls of Derby & the North West

An International Symposium with leading scholars of Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre culture, marking the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, Knowsley Hall. 

19th October, 2016

To purchase tickets, visit Shakespeare Symposium or call 0151 489 4827

This symposium is being held at Knowsley Hall, tickets are £75 and include; refreshments throughout the day and a 2 course hot and cold buffet lunch. Places for this event are limited and can be booked online by clicking here.


9.00am - Registration 9.20am - The Earl of Derby: Welcome

9.25am - Dr Stephen Lloyd (Curator of the Derby Collection and Chair of the morning Session)


9.30am - Professor Richard Wilson (Sir Peter Hall Professor of Shakespeare Studies, Kingston University and the Rose Theatre): The Only Shake Scene in a Country: William the Conqueror

10.00am - Dr David George (Emeritus Professor of English, Urbana University, Ohio) The youthful Shakespeare: out of the shadows

10:30am - Anthony Holden (Writer and Biographer) The 1590s: Shakespeare’s formative years

11.00am - Coffee Break


11.30am - Professor Lawrence Manley (William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of English, Yale University, New Haven) Magical Plays of the Derby Companies

12.00pm - Dr Edel Lamb (Lecturer in Renaissance Literature, School of Arts English and Languages, Queen’s University, Belfast) Patronage and Plays: The Revival of the Children of Paul’s in 1599

12.30pm - Professor Sally-Beth MacLean (Professor Emerita of English and Director of REED, University of Toronto) The 6th Earl of Derby and his touring Players: an illustrated overview

1.00pm - Lunch

Chair for afternoon sessions: Professor Elspeth Graham (Professor of Early-Modern Literature, Liverpool John Moores University)


2.00pm - Dr Vanessa Wilkie (William A. Moffett Curator of Medieval and British Historical Manuscripts, The Huntington Library, California) ‘To the Right Honorable...’: The Literary Patronage and Masque Culture of the Stanley Women

2.30pm - Dr Rebecca Bailey (Lecturer in English, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University) ‘Your name shall live / In the new yeare: as in the age of gold’: The Staging of Sir Thomas Salusbury’s Twelfth Night Masque, performed for the Stanley Household at Knowsley Hall in 1640/1, and its contexts

3.00pm - ‘Discoveries in Practice’: a short discussion with actors and director Professor Kathy Dacre on the first performance of the Knowsley Masque since 1641; part of the ‘Voicing Shakespeare’ research project at Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance

3.15pm - Tea


3.30pm - Julian Bowsher (Senior Archaeologist, Museum of London Archaeology) The Playhouse in Prescot as seen from the London Theatreland

4.00pm - Patrick Spottiswoode (Director, Globe Education, Shakespeare’s Globe) Education and Shakespeare’s Globe

4.30pm - Dr Nicholas Helm (Helm Architecture, London) Shakespeare and Architecture: What sort of a Replica?: The Playhouse in Prescot

5.00pm - Discussion 5.30pm - Closing Remarks

Liverpool John Moores University

British Milton Seminar, 15 October 2016: Programme

BMS 54, Saturday 15 October 2016

Venue: The Birmingham and Midland Institute. There will be two sessions, from 11.00 am to 12.30 pm and from 2.00 pm to 4.00 pm


Esther van Ramsdonk (Exeter): ‘Milton, Marvell and Anglo-Dutch Relations in the early 1650s’

Philippa Earle (Exeter): ‘True Fictions of Cosmology in Kepler and Milton’


Sarah Knight (Leicester): ‘The prosody of a verse among the rudiments of grammar? Milton and Ideas about Metre at Early Modern Cambridge’

Cedric Brown (Reading): ‘Milton’s Discriminatory Greek Test’

The Birmingham and Midland Institute (BMI) was founded by Act of Parliament in 1854, for ‘the Diffusion and Advancement of Science, Literature and Art amongst all Classes of Persons resident in Birmingham and the Midland Counties,’ and continues to pursue these aims. The BMI is located in the heart of Birmingham’s city centre, just a few minutes’ walk from Birmingham New Street, Snow Hill and Moor Street railway stations:

Birmingham and Midland Institute
Margaret Street
Birmingham B3 3BS

Please follow this link for a map of the BMI’s location, and for further information about the BMI and its Library:

For further information about the British Milton Seminar, please contact either:

Professor Sarah Knight (, or Dr Hugh Adlington (

Hugh Adlington and Sarah M. Knight (Co-convenors)

Kingston Shakespeare Seminar: Shakespeare and New Historicist Theory

Our first KiSS session on Thursday October 6 features Dr Neema Parvini discussing his book Shakespeare and New Historicist Theory, published by Bloomsbury in Arden Shakespeare’s Shakespeare and Theory series, coming out in January 2017. In our new format, the session will be an informal roundtable discussion with the author, chaired by Richard Wilson. We will convene at 6.30 pm at the Gallery of the Rose Theatre, Kingston. These sessions are free and open to everyone. See also the event page!

About Shakespeare and New Historicist Theory (from the publisher’s website):

Over the past three decades, no critical movement has been more prominent in Shakespeare Studies than new historicism. And yet, it remains notoriously difficult to pin down, define and explain, let alone analyze. Shakespeare and New Historicist Theory provides a comprehensive scholarly analysis of new historicism as a development in Shakespeare studies while asking fundamental questions about its status as literary theory and its continued usefulness as a method of approaching Shakespeare’s plays.

Dr Neema Parvini is a Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Surrey. He is the author of three books alongside the aforementioned Shakespeare and New Historicist Theory: Shakespeare’s History Plays: Rethinking Historicism (Edinburgh University Press, 2012), Shakespeare and Contemporary Theory: New Historicism and Cultural Materialism (Bloomsbury, 2012), and Shakespeare and Cognition: Thinking Fast and Slow Through Character (Palgrave, 2015). Moreover, check out his fantastic podcast series on Shakespeare and Contemporary Theory

'Shakespeare and Italy' Seminars at the Victoria and Albert Museum

11 October to 22 November from 14:00-16.30.
The Lydia & Manfred Gorvy Lecture Theatre, Victoria and Albert Museum.

An inter-disciplinary course that brings together leading scholars from English Literature, Italian Studies, Translation Studies and Comparative Literature, to offer an in-depth view of the fascinating dynamics between Shakespeare and Italian literary culture from the Elizabethan era to the present day.

Arranged chronologically, the sessions address the wide range of plays which Shakespeare situates in Italy, including Much Ado about Nothing, The Winter’s Tale, Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice and Othello. Besides providing close textual analyses of the individual plays, the course considers how Italian authors, actors, and composers repurposed a selection of Shakespearean characters for contemporary audiences, including the troupes of the Commedia dell’arte, Giuseppe Verdi, the first Sicilian dialect theatre company, and the recent ‘Shylock Project’. 

The course thus combines the study of a variety of disciplines with more practical-based sessions — including a Commedia dell’arte mask workshop — to explain and explore the vibrant and shifting currents of transnational exchange between Shakespeare and Italy.

For bookings, please see here.

Shakespeare and Italy: From the Early Modern Period to Today.  Tuesdays 14:00-16:30

11 October – Dr Chris Stamatakis
Shakespeare’s Italy: An Introduction
Much Ado about Nothing

18 October – Olly Crick
Shakespeare and the Commedia dell’arte

1 November – Dr Eric Langley
Shakespeare and Venice
The Merchant of Venice

8 November – Professor Helen Hackett
Shakespeare and Amore
Romeo and Juliet

15 November – Professor Rene Weis
Shakespeare and Italian Opera
Verdi’s Macbeth and Othello

22 November – Professor Loredana Polezzi and Dr Enza De Francisci
Translating Shakespeare in Modern Italy

UCL Renaissance Latin Reading Group

Timothy Demetris (UCL Italian) will be running the UCL Renaissance Latin Reading Group again this coming term (Term One of the new academic year).

The UCL Renaissance Latin Reading Group is a reading group focused on Latin texts from the Renaissance period for those wishing to improve their Latin through the reading and translation of historical texts. Each week a fifteenth- or sixteenth-century text will be introduced and a passage from it handed out to be translated as 'homework'. The following week translations will be compared and corrected and the text itself discussed.

Latin texts will include Enea Silvio Piccolomini's Epistolae, Pope Pius II's Commentarii, Cardinal Bessarion's Epistolae, Bartolomeo Platina's Liber de vita Christi ac omnium pontificum, the Contract for Ten Frescoes for the Sistine Chapel from the Vatican Secret Archives, Leonardo Bruni's Historiae Florentini populi, Pietro Bembo's Historiae Venetae libri XII, Jacopo Gherardi's Diario romano, Johann Burchard's Liber notarum and Sigismondo dei Conti's Historiae suorum temporum.

A previous acquaintance with the Latin language is required to engage with the Latin texts.

The reading group meets on Tuesdays at 6.00 p.m. in the Italian Seminar Room, Room 351, Third Floor, Foster Court, Malet Place.  Wine will be provided.

For further information, please see the UCL Renaissance Latin Reading Group webpage:

For any questions, please contact Timothy Demetris directly.

The first session of the reading group will take place on Tuesday 4 October. I looking forward to seeing some of you there.

Timothy Demetris
PhD candidate
Department of Italian
University College London

Institute of Historical Research: Society, Culture and Belief Seminar Season 2016-17

Seminars will take place in the John S. Cohen Room (203, second floor) at the Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, London, WC1, on the following Thursdays at 5.30 p.m. All are welcome!

13 October
Chris Kissane (London School of Economics)
The Eaters: Deciphering Early Modern Food Cultures

Long overlooked by historians, food has in recent decades become a prominent subject in historical study. Food cultures and 'foodways' have emerged as a growing focus of early modern cultural history. The study of food, however, often remains diffuse in its methodologies, and its relationship to wider cultural history is unclear. Examining fast-breaking events in Reformation Zürich, this paper asks how we can more rigorously approach and 'decipher' early modern food cultures.

10 November
Tawny Paul (University of Exeter)
Work culture, occupation and masculine identity in eighteenth-century Britain

It is well known that people in early modern Britain undertook multiple jobs in order to make a living. The occupational titles that men claimed in legal and institutional settings did not necessarily reflect the work that they undertook. While this relationship between title and work poses challenges for understanding men’s productive activities, it also opens up a number of questions related to identity. Work is often given a central place in accounts of masculine status. What happened, however, when men undertook multiple jobs? How did men account for their worth and status against plural employments? This paper draws on the diaries of three male artisans in the pre-industrial eighteenth century to investigate how men “accounted” for their work in social and cultural terms. It challenges some of the prevailing associations between occupation and masculinity, and investigates the interrelationship between labour, leisure, skill, income and status.

8 December
Jennifer Spinks (University of Manchester)
Magic, Emotions and the Global Supernatural in Sixteenth-Century Northern Europe

16th-century European Christians collected and circulated many reports of magical rites, figures and objects from beyond Europe’s borders. Chronologically, these coincided with an increasing fear of the Devil and of witchcraft within Europe. This paper draws upon a range of printed travelogues, wonder books and demonological treatises to explore the powerful emotions depicted in and roused by reports of non-European diabolical magic. It asks why this material gained so much polemical traction within northern European print culture, and examines what it can tell us about domestic European anxieties during an era transformed by religious conflicts and global encounters.

19 January
James Fisher (King’s College London)
The Creation of “Book-Farming”: Appropriating and Codifying Agricultural Knowledge in 17th & 18th-Century England

The growth of agricultural books in the early modern period is usually interpreted in terms of how they facilitated the spread of knowledge and contributed to innovations in the practice of farming. However, this focus on the relation between books and technological changes ignores their role in relation to social and institutional changes. This paper argues that agricultural books facilitated a redistribution of knowledge within rural society, by appropriating and codifying the knowledge possessed by common husbandmen in the interests of gentlemen landowners and large tenant farmers. It aims to highlight the hidden struggles around “book-farming”.

16 February
Richard Thomas Bell (Stanford University)
The Company of Inmates: Collective Identity and Self-government in the Seventeenth-century London Prison

This paper will analyse the collectives and customs through which inmates managed life in prison in seventeenth-century London, from the formal and officially sanctioned to the informal and subversive, uncovering their potential to ease hardships and provide solidarity, as well as exposing risks of inefficiency, constraint and corruption. It will discuss how and why prisoners laid claim to certain models of authority and communal identity—especially office-holding and the notion of prisons as ‘little commonwealths’—and the implicit claim to a place within wider civil society and politics that this entailed.

16 March
Jennifer Bishop (Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge)
Making a Record of the Self: Individual Stories and Collective Histories in the Archives of the London Livery Companies, c.1540-1660

11 May
Tim Wales and James Brown (University of East Anglia)
'Shamefully Disordered with Excessive Drinking': Clerical Intoxication in Early Modern England

Allegations of drunkenness in a range of social spaces loomed large in the trials of many clergymen prosecuted for misbehaviour in early modern England's ecclesiastical courts. However, the issue of clerical intoxication has received little sustained attention, either from church historians or within the burgeoning field of alcohol and drug history. Drawing on fresh archival research undertaken by the ESRC/AHRC research project 'Intoxicants and Early Modernity: England, 1580-1740' (, this paper uses systematic analysis of over fifty trials from the well-documented dioceses of Norwich and Chester to explore the practices, representations, and legal uses of the drunk vicar in the long 17th century.

Katharine Hodgkin
Professor of Cultural History
Director, Raphael Samuel Research Centre
School of Arts and Digital Industries
University of East London
Docklands Campus, University Way
London E16 2RD
020 8223 2934

CALL FOR PAPERS: 11th International Conference on the History of Chemistry (11ichc)

The programme committee especially encourages the submission of panel/session proposals, but also welcomes the submission of stand-alone papers. Session organizers and contributors are free to send their proposals on any topic on the history of chemistry, broadly construed as the cluster of molecular sciences, industry, technology and engineering. A non-exhaustive list of possible sessions could include historical papers on the development of all aspects of the material and life sciences, such as:
  • Chemistry, professors, textbooks and classrooms
  • Teaching and didactics of history of chemistry
  • Chemistry and law: controversies, expertise, counter-expertise, fraud and activism
  • Toxics regulation, risk assessment and public health
  • Environmental chemistry, energy and regulation
  • Chemistry, industry, and economy
  • Spaces and sites of chemistry
  • Instruments, collections and material culture
  • Biographies and prosopographies, and databases
  • Chemistry, war and exile
  • Representation of chemistry, and visual cultures
  • Alchemy, Chymistry and Early Modern Science and Medicine
  • Gender and chemistry
  • Proposal Guidelines

All proposals must be in English, the language of the conference. Submitted abstracts and session proposals will be subject to review by an advisory committee. Although the conference is open to individual paper submissions, preference will be given to organised sessions with three or more papers. All paper proposals must use the template provided below, and must include (1) an abstract of the session topic (up to 150 words), the name(s) of the organiser(s), and the proposed papers; (2) abstracts for each paper (up to 200 words); (3) a short CV of the organiser(s).

Please use the following template for panels and individual papers: template

All proposals should be submitted by email to:
Important Dates

Deadline for submitting proposals (both panels and individual papers): 31 January, 2017
Notification of acceptance: 31 March, 2017
Early Registration: 31 May, 2017
Conference dates: 29 August – 2 September 2017