The sources I use for making the work I show vary: some of it comes from my research into prehistoric British megalithic sites, and the correspondences I find there with Pythagoras, alchemy and archaic religions. Imagery from alchemy is so mystifying that it requires study to understand what the writers mean by their language and illustrations, which mix an allegorical mystical philosophy firmly grounded in an early renaissance Christian foundation with early chemistry practice veiled in secret symbolism. My interest in alchemy predominantly comes from the Pythagorean philosophy I have found there, and I must admit that I love Elizabethan England! 

Paradoxical Emblems



I’ve started collecting alchemical texts that have been translated and hand-bound in leather by the incomparable Adam McLean, who has been quietly working away for several decades to translate and print alchemical texts that have languished unstudied for hundreds of years. I have his edition of Robert Fludd’s “Divine Numbers”, which is an English translation of two books about number philosophy derived from Pythagoras but in a mystical Christian frame. They’ve been taken from his great “Utriusque Cosmi Historia”, an encyclopedic study of natural science published in Latin in 1617.

Next I purchased a copy of Adam’s “The Book of Distillation – the First Book” by Hieronymous Braunschweig, published in 1500. This is an alchemical manual written for the educated public, simplifying the process of distillation of herbs so that it could be readily understood and making early herbal medicine available to ordinary people.

Today I opened a copy of “The Paradoxical Emblems of Dionysius Andreas Freher”, a delightful series of alchemical mandalas expressing in drawings Pythagorean number philosophy. Each image is intended to be studied and meditated upon. Adam has cleaned up the images from the original dodgy prints and translated the Latin.

One of the joys of receiving books from Adam is that they arrive from Scotland sealed in cardboard packages that upon opening them release the most delicious fragrance of the leather binding the texts. 

About pearce

Michael Pearce is an artist, writer, and professor of art. He is the author of "Art in the Age of Emergence."
This entry was posted in Alchemical work, Making work and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.