George Ripley’s The Compound of Alchemy

George Ripley’s ‘The Compound of Alchemy’ or ‘The Twelve Gates’ (written 1471) describes the processes necessary to achieve the Philosopher’s Stone. The manuscript copy in the Edinburgh University Special Collections (Laing MS III. 164) dates to the late 16th/early 17th century. Written on paper, the hand attempts to imitate a 15th century style script. The copy evidences knowledge of the 1592 printed version of the text, helping to date it.

Opening with half of alchemical circle. (2v -3r)


Manicules, or small pointing hands, are evident throughout the text, drawing attention to parts of it, as well as inserting missing phrases.




The manuscript includes several alchemical wheels that describe steps in the process outlined in the text. The wheels vary in size and completion.




The small wheel shows evidence of compass use in its making, with a small prick at the centre of the wheel as well as the lines drawn with the compass point. The reverse of the folio also shows the impression of the wheel.




For More Information: 

Text Available:

Rampling, Jennifer. “Depicting the Medieval Alchemical Cosmos: George Ripley’s Wheel of Inferior Astronomy.” Early Science and Medicine 18 (2013), 45-86.

Rampling, Jennifer. “The Catalogue of the Ripley Corpus: Alchemical Writings Attributed to George Ripley (d. ca. 1490).” Ambix 57:2(2010), 125-201.

Rampling, Jennifer. “Establishing the Canon: George Ripley and Alchemical Sources.” Ambix 55:3 (2008), 189-208.

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