De Alchimia

“De Alchimia” (English – About Alchemy) is the culmination of a lengthy and intensive 2019 project. I set out to create an “altered book” which by design, would occupy a great deal of my hobby time. For reasons not appropriate to discuss here, I found myself that year with much spare time for which to find a use.


My original intention was to smash/adapt a real world book and use it as a showcase for images created by digital collage. A collection of images was to be created and displayed in a faux grimoire or archaic book after the style of some 17th Century hermetic works on the subject of Philosophy and the “Great Work”. The inspiration for my project is the volume “Mutus Liber”  (the Silent Book) published in France in 1677.

I have now completed the project, and the real world grimoire exists – but something unplanned also emerged. Whilst photographing the images in the book for preservation, I realised that they actually looked better on screen than in “real” life. I have therefore adapted the project by adding a final stage whereby the “book” and its images are transitioned back into the digital realm.

The book cover exterior was created by pasting small pieces of crumpled tissue paper onto the original surface, painting over with black acrylic followed by layers of PVA-based glaze to give a faux leather effect. The metal embellishments and central cabochon frame were sourced from Ebay.

The inside of the book cover was decorated with an image of an antique book cover (sourced via which I gilded using copper and silver leaf.

The frontispiece was adapted from an image taken from the book “De Ossium Medulla” which is part of the Wellcome Collection – described therein as:

Aesculapius, representing medicine, receives homage from putti who bring him symbols of botany, natural history, chemistry and anatomy. Engraving by A. Nunzer, 1748.. The altered frontispiece reads:

De Alchimia

A polyptych of Iconographic Illustration being an Allegory in several Partes.


The Plates

The main book content was created as follows:

  1. The base of each image was created digitally, out of a miscellany of collage components including public domain artwork, old scientific, philosophical, and medical illustrations, real world photographs, mathematically generated fractals and other sources.
  2. The images were then printed on an inkjet printer, on 200g matte paper, at approximately A4 size.
  3. Each physical image was then embellished using a variety of mixed media techniques, including water-colour, acrylics, glue/size, metallic pens, and metal leaf.
  4. The retouched images where then mounted into the pages of the prepared book, and photographed.
  5. The photographed pages where then altered digitally to enhance colour, saturation and contrast, then cropped, sized and digitally framed.

I have awarded a Plate number and a Title to each image (mainly for reasons of identification) but – at least at this stage – no further explanation or commentary upon the subject matter.

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Downloading Images

When you select an image, the Image Carousel displays, allowing you to scroll/swipe left and right through the Gallery. If you want to download/copy the best resolution of a particular image, look for the Information icon within the Carousel view, tap/click it, and select “view full size”.)

Gallery – De Alchimia

Creative Commons licence.


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