Furnace and Fugue: An Alchemical Happy Hour

Fellow in Focus
Thursday, October 29, 2020
5:30 p.m.

Spend an evening immersed in Atalanta Fugiens, one of the strangest and most mysterious books in our library.

Written by alchemist Michael Maier in 1618, it reinterprets Ovid’s legend of Atalanta as an alchemical allegory in a series of 50 emblems, each of which contains text, an image, and a musical score. This remarkable book has recently been reimagined in multimedia form as Furnace and Fugue, a digital critical edition that allows contemporary readers to hear, see, manipulate, and investigate Atalanta Fugiens in ways that were impossible to realize in full before now.

How was Atalanta Fugiens imagined by its 17th-century author and reimagined in Furnace and Fugue? What secrets are unlocked when we look at an old book in a new way? In this program, hear from Furnace and Fugue’s editors, both former Institute research fellows, as well as scholars and librarians from our own Othmer Library. The event will also include performances of the music from Atalanta Fugiens by Loren Ludwig, Furnace and Fugue music director. To help us all feel more connected during this virtual program, everyone who registers will receive a recipe for a special alchemy-themed cocktail to enjoy at home!

This event is presented as part of the Rohm and Haas Fellow in Focus Lecture series.

About the Furnace and Fugue Editors

Donna Bilak is a historian of early modern science specializing in the study of 17th-century emblematics, alchemical laboratories, and the production and trade of chemical medicine in the British Atlantic world. She received her PhD from the Bard Graduate Center, and she is the creative director of 12 Keys Consultancy & Design, LLC. Furnace and Fugue builds on research Donna conducted as an Edelstein postdoctoral research fellow at the Science History Institute.

A professor of history at Brown University, Tara Nummedal is the author of Alchemy and Authority in the Holy Roman Empire (University of Chicago Press, 2007), Anna Zieglerin and the Lion’s Blood: Alchemy and End Times in Reformation Germany (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019), and coauthor of John Abbot and William Swainson: Art, Science, and Commerce in Nineteenth-Century Natural History (University of Alabama Press, 2019). Her work has been supported by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Science History Institute, and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation. She teaches courses in early modern European history and the history of science.

About Fellow in Focus

The Rohm and Haas Fellow in Focus Lecture series gives the Institute’s scholars an opportunity to present their work to a broad audience interested in history, science, and culture. Fellow in Focus lectures are presented by the Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry.