Grand Rosicrucian Alchemical Formula, 1678
Since the first book in the series was published in 1997, millions of readers around the world have been captivated by J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. A new exhibition at LSU’s Hill Memorial Library (Special Collections), explores the real-life history that inspired Rowling. Occult Science & Philosophy of the Renaissance will be on display in the library’s lecture hall from Jan. 25 through Mar. 6.
Visitors will be able to view original copies of books printed as early as 1536. Highlights include a 17th-century edition of the works of Geber, the medieval Persian alchemist who is thought to have initiated the search for the “philosopher’s stone.” Other works related to alchemy include Sir Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum and a book published in 1662 by Isaac Newton’s colleague Robert Boyle, who, like Newton, secretly practiced alchemy. William Lilly’s Monarchy or No Monarchy in England introduces visitors to Renaissance astrology and prophecy. Other books explore monsters and magical creatures. A book by Joseph Glanvill, intended to be a “scientific” case history of ghosts and witches, influenced the Puritan minister Cotton Mather, whose Wonders of the Invisible World (1693) was written to justify the Salem witch trials.
A book by the Italian scientist Giambattista della Porta will be of interest to nature lovers. Della Porta’s ideas about plants and astrology were so strange that his books were temporarily banned by the Catholic Inquisition. The Swiss zoologist Konrad Gesner’s Historiae Animalium, published in 1551, contains large woodcuts of various animals, including a unicorn, which was thought to have medicinal value. Two items on display even explore the relationship between Louisiana, pelicans, and a 17th-century secret society called the Order of the Rose Cross.
Special Collections is open Mon.- Fri. from 9-5, Tues. 9-8, and Sat. 9-1. For more information, contact Michael Taylor, Assistant Curator of Books, at (225) 578-6547. This exhibition is being produced in conjunction with a traveling exhibition, Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic and Medicine, sponsored by the National Library of Medicine and on display at LSU’s Middleton Library, also from Jan. 24 to Mar. 6. For information on that exhibit, contact Peggy Chalaron, Education Resources Librarian, at (225) 578-2349.