Alchemical roll

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797–1851)

This Treasure is paired with: Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797–1851) (Creating life)

The humanoid figures in these flasks illustrate the idea that life could be generated from putrefaction. The child-like homunculus, endowed with special knowledge and powers, was said to generate from human semen sealed in a flask and putrefied over a gentle flame, fed for 40 weeks with a mixture containing human blood. The image appears in several surviving ‘Ripley Rolls’, thought to be based on alchemical work by George Ripley (died c. 1490).

This Treasure isn’t currently on display in the Weston Library.