Gotha manuscript workshop: Alchemy in the Islamicate world – Gotha, 28./29.09.2018

Forschungsbibliothek Gotha/ Juni 13, 2018

Alchemy was a widespread practice in the Islamicate world that was taught from early on to the 19th/20th century. In spite of its popularity attested to by historical references as well as the wealth of alchemical manuscripts that have come down to us, the study of Arabo-Islamic alchemy has been neglected for several decades. Notwithstanding a renewed interest in the field in recent years, scholars are still struggling to come to terms with seminal alchemical texts and central aspects of Islamic alchemy like the terminology and codes used by alchemists, or alchemy as a practice and science in its social contexts.

The workshop, organized jointly by Prof. Dr. Regula Forster, University of Zurich, and Gotha Research Library, aims to close some of these research gaps by bringing together established and younger scholars working on alchemy and by providing them with the opportunity to engage directly with the alchemical manuscripts of the Gotha collection. The panels will focus on the Gotha collection, the foundations of Islamicate Alchemy, on Decknamen, Terminology, and Codes, on alchemy as a practical art and science, as well as on alchemy as literature and visual art. By addressing these topics we also hope to lay the foundations for future transregional research on alchemy.

The workshop is organized by the Gotha Research Library in collaboration with the project “Between Religion and Alchemy. The scholar Ibn Arfaʿ Raʾs (d. 1197) as a model for an integrative Arabic literary and cultural history”, University of Zurich.

To attend the workshop please register at


Conference Conveners:
Monika Hasenmüller, Gotha Research Library, University of Erfurt
Prof. Dr. Regula Forster, University of Zurich

Monika Hasenmüller
Forschungsbibliothek Gotha der Univ. Erfurt
Tel.: +49(0)361/737-5566


Friday, September 28
9:00-9:15 Kathrin Paasch (Gotha): Welcome
9:15-9:30 Regula Forster (Zurich): Introduction

Session 1: The Gotha Collection – Manuscript Session
9:30-10:15 Svetlana Dolgusheva (Zurich), Regula Forster (Berlin/Zurich), Richard Todd (Birmingham): Ibn Arfaʿ Raʾs in Gotha
10:15-11:00 Bink Hallum (London): Zosimos of Panopolis at the Forschungsbibliothek Gotha? Or The Alchemy of Religious Pluralism: Risāla fī Bayān Tafrīq al-Adyān
11:00 Coffee/tea break

Session 2: The Foundations of Islamicate Alchemy
11:30-12:15 Marion Dapsens (Louvain-la-Neuve): The works of the prince Khālid ibn Yazīd in light of the alchemical manuscripts
12:15-13:00 Thijs Delva (Leuven): The Historicity of Jābir ibn Ḥayyān: An overview of the external sources
13:00 Lunch break

Session 3: Decknamen, Terminology, and Codes
14:30-15:15 Matteo Martelli (Bologna): Making sense of the alchemical terminology: Two Syriac dictionaries on alchemy
15:15-16:00 Godefroid de Callataÿ (Louvain-la-Neuve) and Sébastien Moureau (Louvain-la-Neuve): In Code We Trust. The concept of rumūz in Andalusī alchemical literature and related texts
16:00 Coffee/tea break

16:30-17:15 Lutfallah Gari (Yanbu): Deciphering Alchemical Texts: Medieval Arabic works on alchemical terminology
17:15-18:00 Nicholas G. Harris (Newark): Poetry as Code, Poetry as Epigraph: ʿIzz al-Dīn Aydemir al-Jildakī and his commentaries on alchemical poetry
18:00 Visit to the Library

Saturday, September 29
Session 4: Alchemy as a Practical Art and Science
9:00-9:45 Salam Rassi (Collegeville/Oxford): From Sinjār to Istanbul: The Intellectual Context and Transmission of One Pseudo-Aristotelian Epistle on the Craft
9:45-10:30 Gabriele Ferrario (Baltimore): Alchemy in Medieval Cairo: New evidence of theory and practice in the Judaeo-Arabic fragments from the Cairo Genizah
10:30-11:15 Christopher Braun (Zurich): The Recipe in Arabic Alchemy: Some remarks on the alchemical composite manuscript Gotha Ms. orient. A 1162
11:15 Coffee/tea break

11:45-12:30 Natalia Bachour (Zurich): The Microcosmos-Macrocosmos-Analogy and the Preparation of the Philosopher’s Stone
12:30-13:15 Malihe Karbassian (Bonn): al-Aṣnām al-Sabʿa: its content and influence in Arabic and Persian alchemical heritage
13:15 Lunch break

Session 5: Alchemy as Literature and Visual Art
14:45-15:30 Vicky Ziegler (Bonn): Literary aspects in “Garden of the Divine, Noble and Secret Art” and “Boasting of Stones” by the Andalusian alchemist Maslama b. Qāsim al-Qurṭubī
15:30-16:15 Juliane Müller (Zurich): The Alchemical Symbols in the Manuscripts of the “Mirror of Wonders” (Mirʾāt al-ʿajāʾib)
16:15-16:45 Final discussion




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