17th century alchemist’s manuscript to sell

This is an ultra-rare 17th century alchemist’s manuscript.

The document, auctioning at Christie's on December 13, is a copy of the Ripley Scroll, by the British alchemist George Ripley (1415-1490).

It’s essentially a cryptic recipe for turning base metals into gold and producing the elixir of life.

Alchemist scroll auction

This manuscript features the writings of 15th century alchemist George Ripley 

However, anyone seeking to decode its many allusions to toads and human headed birds is likely to be in for a rough and ultimately fruitless ride.

That didn’t stop many people, including Sir Isaac Newton, having a good go.

“Up to the 18th century, alchemy was viewed as a proper scientific discipline, regarded perfectly seriously”, said Kay Sutton, Christie’s director of medieval manuscripts.

"Alchemists had two objectives.

“One was to manufacture the Philosopher’s Stone, a sort of mythical entity — magical, wonderful, and capable of transmuting a base metal into gold.

“The other aim was to manufacture the elixir that would give you eternal life and cure all ills.”

This is the sole copy of the Ripley Scroll left in private hands, hence its estimate of up to £300,000 ($400,000).

While that rarity would be enough to secure interest, this is also one of the best around.

Sutton says: “The manuscripts we see are usually much more conventional. This is wonderfully, colourfully, exotically, wacky.”

Are cryptic manuscripts your bag? You’re going to love our selection.

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