Harry Potter's World: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine

Image of an owl next to text: Harry Potter's World, Renaissance Science, Magic and MedicineDrawing of trading cards

Images from Eskind's Collection: Alchemy

Pages from Kreuterbuch (1577), by Adam Lonicer.
Archidoxis Magicae

Not satisfied with using remedies directly from nature, 16th century European alchemists and physicians learned to distill plants, seeds, metals, and other substances to obtain their purified essence. Wine was a popular subject for distillation, as the resulting aqua vitae (or brandy) was thought to prolong life.

Images from The Newe Jewel of Health by Konrad Gesner (1576)
The Newe Jewel of Health The Newe Jewel of Health

Renaissance alchemists often rejected the popular association with magic and witchcraft, but were not above affirming the strange and secret aspects of their craft. As it turns out, many of these secrets consist of nothing more occult than distilling essential oils, or brandy from wine.

Pages from Archidoxis Magicae (1656), attributed to Paracelsus
Archidoxis Magicae

Originally published in the 16th century, this manual contains detailed instructions for carrying out Renaissance-era ceremonial magic, including remedies for gout and stroke. Not intended for amateurs, these spells require advanced knowledge of astrology, alchemy, metallurgy, and distillation.

Page from The Surgeon's Mate (1639), by Robert Woodall
The Surgeon's Mate

This handbook for ships' surgeons includes glossaries of symbols used in the preparation of medical and chemical remedies. Notice the entry for "philosopher's lead." Otherwise known as "adrop," this mysterious substance was said to be used in the preparation of the philosopher's stone itself.