Alchemical Connections in the UL: Jung and Eastern Alchemy

In my previous blog post, I examined a selection of the texts in the Bibliotheca Hermetica series, a recent addition to our catalogue. In this post, I wish to take a wider view of alchemy, and how the material connects people of different time periods. History is inherent to each manuscript, not only detailing the provenance and creation of each work, but also how the content shaped the lives of the people who read it. In this way, the collection of alchemical texts in the UL is a rich fabric of interwoven connections and textual interpretations, which spans centuries of academic understanding, creating almost a visual mind-map of human curiosity and giving the impetus to discover and learn more.

Carl Jung, circa 1935.

Carl Jung, circa 1935.

One particular example of how ideas interconnect across time, is Carl Jung, the Swiss 20th century psychiatrist, and The Secret of the Golden Flower (9840.b.17). Although psychology and alchemy may appear to be vastly different fields of enquiry, Jung’s approach to his specialism had a lot in common with the historical alchemists he researched. Like them, he was concerned with the unification of opposites, focusing primarily on the conscious and the unconscious, a theme he noted in a variety of Eastern archetypical images. Jung’s concept of individuation is also reminiscent of Western alchemical practices. In differentiating the self into conscious and unconscious elements, Jung was applying to psychology techniques which alchemists had applied to early approaches to natural science. Continue reading

The newly donated Bibliotheca Hermetica series: Alchemical Texts in the University Library

As part of a large donation from emeritus Art History Professor Jean Michel Massing, Cambridge University Library now possesses 13 works from the collection Bibliotheca Hermetica, an illustrated, encyclopedic collection of works on alchemy, astrology, and magic, dating across the Medieval to the late Renaissance period. Directed by René Alleau, with translations into Modern French, this collection, published in the 1970s, hoped to contribute to a greater understanding of traditional hermetic teachings.

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Early European Books Collections 3 and 4

Electronic Collection Management

The University Library is delighted to announce that the JISC has negotiated with ProQuest to make available to UK HE institutions collections 1-4 of the Early European Books resource.   This extends the access for Cambridge to include collections 3 and 4.

Collection 3 is substantially larger than the previous collections, containing 3 million pages in total, from more than 10,000 volumes scanned at four different libraries. It encompasses works in all major European languages, printed in the cities which led the explosion of the print industry in the early modern era, such as Nuremberg, Basel, Leiden, Paris and Venice. This breadth of scope gives a wide-ranging overview of the intellectual life and historical upheavals of early modern Europe. The collection contains the founding works of modern sciences such as botany, anatomy and astrology, together with accounts of travel, exploration and warfare, and influential works of literature, philosophy and humanist thought…

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