Google Creates a Digital Archive of World Fashion: Features 30,000 Images, Covering 3,000 Years of Fashion History

Both the fashion and art worlds foster the creation of rarified artifacts inaccessible to the majority of people, often one-of-a-kind pieces that exist in specially-designed spaces and flourish in cosmopolitan cities. Does this mean that fashion is an art form like, say, painting or photography? Doesn’t fashion’s ephemeral nature mark it as a very different activity? We might consider that we can ask many of the same questions of haute couture as we can of fine art. What are the social consequences of taking folk art forms, for example, out of their cultural context and placing them in gallery spaces? What is the effect of tapping street fashion as inspiration for the runway, turning it into objects of consumption for the wealthy?

Such questions should remind us that fashion and the arts are embedded in human cultural and economic history in some very similar ways. But they are also very different social practices. Much like trends in food (both fine dining and cheap consumables) fashion has long been implicated in the spread of markets and industries, labor exploitation, environmental degradation, and even microbes. As Jason Daley points out at Smithsonian, “The craze for silk in ancient Rome helped spawn the Silk Road, a fashion for feathered hats contributed to the first National Wildlife Refuges. Fashion has even been wrapped up in pandemics and infectious diseases.




So how to tell the story of a human activity so deeply embedded in every facet of world history? Expansively. Google Arts & Culture has attempted to do so with its “We wear culture” project. Promising to tell “the stories behind what we wear,” the project, as you can see in the teaser video at the top, “travelled to over 40 countries, collaborating with more than 180 cultural institutions and their world-renowned historians and curators to bring their textile and fashion collections to life.” Covering 3,000 years of history, “We wear culture” uses video, historical images, short quotes and blurbs, and fashion photography to create a series of online gallery exhibits of, for example, “The Icons," profiles of designers like Oscar de la Renta, Coco Chanel, and Issey Miyake.

Another exhibit “Fashion as Art” includes a feature on Florence’s Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, a gallery dedicated to the famous designer and containing 10,000 models of shoes he created or owned. Asking the question “is fashion art?”, the exhibit “analyses the forms of dialogue between these two worlds: reciprocal inspirations, overlaps and collaborations, from the experiences of the Pre-Raphaelites to those of Futurism, and from Surrealism to Radical Fashion.” It’s a wonder they don’t mention the Bauhaus school, many of whose resident artists radicalized fashion design, though their geometric oddities seem to have had little effect on Ferragamo.

As you might expect, the emphasis here is on high fashion, primarily. When it comes to telling the stories of how most people in the world have experienced fashion, Google adopts a very European, supply side, perspective, one in which “The impact of fashion,” as one exhibit is called, spans categories “from the economy and job creation, to helping empower communities.” Non-European clothing makers generally appear as anonymous folk artisans and craftspeople who serve the larger goal of providing materials and inspiration for the big names.

Cultural historians may lament the lack of critical or scholarly perspectives on popular culture, the distinct lack of other cultural points of view, and the intense focus on trends and personalities. But perhaps to do so is to miss the point of a project like this one—or of the fashion world as a whole. As with fine art, the stories of fashion are often all about trends and personalities, and about materials and market forces.

To capitalize on that fact, “We wear culture” has a number of interactive, 360 degree videos on its YouTube page, as well as short, advertising-like videos, like that above on ripped jeans, part of a series called “Trends Decoded.” Kate Lauterbach, the program manager at Google Arts & Culture, highlights the videos below on the Google blog (be aware, the interactive feature will not work in Safari).

Does the project yet deliver on its promise, to “tell the stories behind what we wear”? That all depends, I suppose, on who “we” are. It is a very valuable resource for students of high fashion, as well as “a pleasant way to lose an afternoon,” writes Marc Bain at Quartz, one that “may give you a new understanding of what’s hanging in your own closet.”

We wear culture” features 30,000 fashion pieces and more than 450 exhibits. Start browsing here.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

New, Interactive Web Site Puts Online Thousands of International Folk Songs Recorded by the Great Folklorist Alan Lomax

These days everyone’s hung up on identity. But I don’t mean to talk politics, though my point is maybe inescapably political: the identities our jobs and incomes give us---the status or lack thereof---become so central to who we are in the world that they eclipse other essential aspects, eclipse the things we do strictly because it gives us pleasure to do them.

Music, dance, art, poetry.... These fall under what Alan Lomax called an experience of “the very core” of existence, “the adaptive style” of culture, “which enables its members to cohere and survive." Culture, for Lomax, was neither an economic activity nor a racial category, neither an exclusive ranking of hierarchies nor a redoubt for nationalist insecurities. Cultures, plural, were peculiarly regional expressions of shared humanity across one interrelated world.

Lomax did have some paternalistic attitudes toward what he called “weaker peoples,” noting that “the role of the folklorist is that of the advocate of the folk.” But his advocacy was not based in theories of supremacy but of history. We could mend the ruptures of the past by adding “cultural equity… to the humane condition of liberty, freedom of speech and religion, and social justice,” wrote the idealistic Lomax. “The stuff of folklore,” he wrote elsewhere, “the orally transmitted wisdom, art and music of the people, can provide ten thousand bridges across which men of all nations may stride to say, ‘You are my brother.’”

Lomax’s idealism may seem to us quaint at best, but I dare you to condemn its results, which include connecting Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie to their global audiences and preserving a good deal of the folk music heritage of the world through tireless field and studio recording, documentation and memoir, and institutions like the Association for Cultural Equity (ACE), founded by Lomax in 1986 to centralize and make available the vast amount of material he had collected over the decades.

In another archival project, Lomax's Global Jukebox, we get to see rigorous scholarly methods applied to examples from his vast library of human expressions. The online project catalogues the work in musicology of Lomax and his father John, who both took on a “life long mission to document not only America’s cultural roots, but the world’s as well," notes an online brochure for the Global Jukebox. Lomax believed that “music, dance and folklore of all traditions have equal value” and are equally worthy of study. The Global Jukebox carries that belief into the 21st century.

Since 1990, the Global Jukebox has functioned as a digital repository of music from Lomax’s global archive, as you can see in the very dated 1998 video above, featuring ACE director Gideon D’Arcangelo. Now, updated and put online, the newly-launched Global Jukebox web site provides an interactive interface, giving you access to detailed analyses of folk music from all over the world, and highly technical “descriptive data” for each song. You can learn the systems of “Choreometrics and Cantometrics”---specialized analytical tools for scientists---or you can casually browse the incredible diversity of music as a layperson, through a beautifully rendered map view or the colorfully attractive graphic “tree view,” below.

Stop by the Global Jukebox’s “About” page to learn much more about its technical specificities and history, which dates to 1960 when Lomax began working with anthropologist Conrad Arensberg at Columbia and Hunter Universities to study “the expressive arts” with scientific tools and emerging technologies. The Global Jukebox represents a highly schematic way of looking at Lomax’s body of work, and its ease of use and level of detail make it easy to leap around the world, sampling the thrilling variety of folk music he collected.

It is not, and is not meant as, a substitute for the living traditions Lomax helped safeguard, and the incredible music they have inspired professional and amateur musicians to make over the years. But the Global Jukebox gives us several unique ways of organizing and discovering those traditions---ways that are still evolving, such as a coming function for building your own cultural family tree with a playlist of songs from your musical ancestry.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Download 437 Issues of Soviet Photo Magazine, the Soviet Union’s Historic Photography Journal (1926-1991)

The early years of the Soviet Union roiled with internal tensions, intrigues, and ideological warfare, and the new empire’s art reflected its uneasy heterodoxy. Formalists, Futurists, Suprematists, Constructivists, and other schools mingled, published journals, critiqued and reviewed each other’s work, and like modernists elsewhere in the world, experimented with every possible medium, including those just coming into their own at the beginning of the 20th century, like film and photography.

These two mediums, along with radio, also happened to serve as the primary means of propagandizing Soviet citizens and carrying the messages of the Party in ways everyone could understand. And like much of the rest of the world, photography engendered its own consumer culture.




Out of these competing impulses came Soviet Photo (Sovetskoe foto), a monthly photography magazine featuring, writes Ksenia Nouril at the Museum of Modern Art’s site, “editorials, letters, articles, and photographic essays alongside advertisements for photography, photographic processes, and photographic chemicals and equipment.”

Soviet Photo was not founded by artists, but by a photojournalist, Arkady Shaikhet, in 1926 (see the first issue's cover at the top). Though its audience primarily consisted of a “Soviet amateur photographers and photo clubs,” its early years freely mixed documentary, didacticism, and experimental art. It published the “works of international and professional photographers” and that of avant-gardists like Constructivist painter and graphic designer Aleksander Rodchenko.

The aesthetic purges under Stalin---in which artists and writers one after another fell victim to charges of elitism and obscurantism---also played out in the pages of Soviet Photo. “Even before Socialist Realism was decreed to be the official style of the Soviet Union in 1934,” Nouril writes, “the works of avant-garde photographers,” including Rodchenko, “were denounced as formalist (implying that they reflected a foreign and elitist style).” Soviet Photo boycotted Rodchenko’s work in 1928 and “throughout the 1930s this state-sanctioned journal became increasingly conservative,” emphasizing “content over form.”

This does not mean that that the contents of the magazine were inelegant or pedestrian. Though it once briefly bore the name Proletarskoe foto (Proletariat Photography), and tended toward monumental and industrial subjects, war photography, and idealizations of Soviet life during the Stalinist years. After the 60s thaw, experimental photomontages returned, and more abstract compositions became commonplace. Soviet Photo also kept pace with many glossy magazines in the West, with stunning full-color photojournalism and, after glasnost and the fall of the Berlin wall, high fashion and advertising photography.

Fans of photography, Soviet history, or some measure of both, can follow Soviet Photo’s evolution in a huge archive featuring 437 digitized issues, published between 1926 and 1991. Expect to find a gap between 1942 and 1956, when publication ceased “due to World War II and the war’s aftereffects.” Aside from these years and a few other missing months, the archive contains nearly every issue of Soviet Photo, free to browse or download in various formats. “Dig deep enough,” writes photo blog PetaPixel, “and you’ll find some really interesting (and surprisingly familiar) things in there.” Enter the archive here.

 

via PetaPixel

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Browse Every Art Exhibition Held at MoMA Since 1929 with the New “MoMA Exhibition Spelunker”

More and more, museums around the world are opening up their vast archives for free on the internet. We can browse broad collections, or dig down deep into collections and examine individual works, or we can download hi-resolution jpgs of famous works and slap them on our new desktop as wallpaper. (Discussion: does this trivialize a work or help us appreciate it?)

Indeed, OpenCulture has linked to many of these and I’ve followed. And I’ve often returned overwhelmed or disappointed, not by the art, but by bad web design. Good intentions are one thing, but institutions often turn to coders first, not designers. And there’s a difference.




Recently we told you how the Metropolitan Museum of Art has put most of its nearly 90 years of exhibitions online. Our own Colin Marshall said:

The archive offers, in the words of Chief of Archives Michelle Elligott, “free and unprecedented access to The Museum of Modern Art’s ever-evolving exhibition history” in the form of “thousands of unique and vital materials including installation photographs, out-of-print exhibition catalogues, and more, beginning with MoMA’s very first exhibition in 1929.”

Yet the interface is quite lacking, showing a blank search bar with no clue to how much lies beneath. Where to start, if you just want to browse?

Enter the data visualization firm of Good, Form & Spectacle, who excel at presenting archives in different ways. Commissioned by MoMA to make something from the data, the firm’s “MoMA Exhibition Spelunker” offers 60 years of exhibition data that can then be searched by “curators, arrangers, designers, artists, and others” with connections available at every level.

For example, the second ever MoMA exhibit, “Painters by 19 Living Americans” (1929 - 1930), featured Edward Hopper. The official archive will show you the exhibition catalog and press release. But go spelunking and we discover that up until 1989 (the end of the archive for now), Hopper was featured in 61 exhibitions, including 1943 where he was featured in four exhibits in one year. What were those exhibits? Well, down the rabbit hole you go.

Coder (and, full disclosure, friend since high school) Phil Gyford spoke about his work on the page:
A spelunker, according to Chambers, is “a person who explores caves as a hobby” and we aimed to explore MoMA’s raw data and make it more visible and penetrable by everyone else. It’s hard to get a decent sense of the shape of lists of data so we set off to explore.

Good, Form & Spectacle have worked on other sleek and minimal sites, including a Netflix recommendation engine, a smaller spelunker for the Victoria & Albert Museum, and a larger one for the British Museum.

But if you're interested in exploring a century of exhibitions at MoMA, then spend as much time as you like with the “MoMA Exhibition Spelunker.”

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

20,000 Letters, Manuscripts & Artifacts From Sigmund Freud Get Digitized and Made Available Online

In his introduction to the 2010 essay collection Freud and Fundamentalism, Stathis Gourgouris defines fundamentalism as “thought that disavows multiplicities of meaning, abhors allegorical elements, and strives toward an exclusionary orthodoxy.” While there may be both religious and secular versions of such ideologies worldwide, we can trace the word itself to an Evangelical movement in the U.S., and to a set of beliefs that endures today among around a third of all Americans and has “animated America’s culture wars for over eighty years,” writes David Adams. The fundamentalist movement first took shape in 1920, just as Sigmund Freud wrote and published his Beyond the Pleasure Principle.




It was in that book that Freud introduced the concept of the “death drive.” Adams argues that “the ‘fundamentalist’ and the ‘death drive,’ are twins: they came into being simultaneously,” and “their simultaneity is not merely an accident. Both of these concepts are responding to the profound cultural and psychological crisis resulting from the First World War.” Every calamity since World War I has seemed to reanimate that early 20th century struggle between modernism—with its pluralist values and emphasis on creativity and experiment—and fundamentalism, with its compulsion for rigid hierarchy and destruction. And we might see, as Adams does, such cultural conflicts as analogous to those Freud wrote of between Eros—the pleasure principle—and the drive toward death.

The Great War turned Freud’s thoughts in this direction, as did the racism and anti-Semitism taking hold in both Europe and the U.S. His theory of an instinctual drive toward the destruction of self and others seemed to anticipate the horror of the World War yet to come. Freud integrated the concept into his social theory ten years later in Civilization and its Discontentsin which he wrote that “the inclination to aggression” was “the greatest impediment to civilization.” While meditating on the death instinct as a psychoanalytic and social concept, Freud also pondered his own mortality. Just above, you can see the draft of a death notice that he wrote for himself during the 1920s. This comes to us from the Library of Congress’s new collection of Sigmund Freud papers, which contains artifacts and manuscripts dating from the 6th century B.C.E. (a Greek statue) to correspondence discovered in the late 90s.

The “bulk of the material,” writes the LoC, dates “from 1891 to 1939,” and the “digitized collection documents Freud’s founding of psychoanalysis, the maturation of psychoanalytic theory, the refinement of its clinical technique, and the proliferation of its adherents and critics.” Much of this archive may be of interest only to the specialist scholar of Freud’s life and work, with “legal documents, estate records… school records” of the Freud children, and other mundane bureaucratic paperwork. But there are also letters representing “nearly six hundred correspondents,” such as Freud’s onetime protégé Carl Jung and Albert Einstein, with whom Freud corresponded in 1932 on the subject of “Why war?” (See Freud’s letter to Einstein above.)

The documents are nearly all in German and the handwritten letters, notes, and drafts will be difficult to read even for speakers of the language. Yet, there are also artifacts like the 1936 portrait of Freud at the top, by Victor Krausz, the pocket notebook Freud carried between 1907 and 1908, just above, and---below---a picture of a pocket watch given to Freud by physician Max Schur, whose family left Austria with Freud's in 1938. You can browse the online collection of over 20,000 items by date, name, location, and other indices, and all images are downloadable in high resolution scans. 

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Techie Working at Home Creates Bigger Archive of Historical Newspapers (37 Million Pages) Than the Library of Congress

"Real news, fake news, who cares, it's all the same, am I right?"

... Not to make light of an existential crisis in journalism and the public trust---a disturbing development. Cynicism threatens to erode the very foundations of... well, ring your own alarm bell. Perhaps it's time we (re)drew some hard lines around what we mean by the word “news.”

How to do that? I leave it to the experts—professors of journalism, reporters and archivists and historians who do the hard work of constructing genealogies and taxonomies of news, discovering its mutations and dead ends.




Journalism libraries around the country fulfill the needs of these scholars, as does the Library of Congress. But if you really want to dig into a comprehensive collection—one that bests even the august Federal government library (sort of)—you’ll need to visit the website of one Tom Tryniski, private citizen, retired “computer expert,” writes Jim Epstein at Reason, and dedicated amateur, “working alone.”

This being Reason, the preserve of “free minds and free markets,” you can expect a good bit of crowing about the entrepreneurial spirit of Tryniski’s accomplishment---an archive of 37,439,000 historic newspaper pages from the U.S. and Canada, “orders of magnitude bigger and more popular than one created by a federal bureaucracy with millions of dollars to spend.” The video above says it succinctly in a tagline: “Amateur beats gov’t at digitizing newspapers.”

Should you take an interest in what Tryniski---the sole employee of Old Fulton New York Postcards---spends, Epstein provides a full accounting of the site's impressively meager operating budget. Should you wonder where the LoC’s money goes, and why it uses so many more resources than one retiree, you may wish to do your own comparison between Tryniski’s site and the Feds’ online news archive, Chronicling America. (And maybe pay their place a visit in the flesh.) There's more to a library than numbers of pages and views.

port-chester-journal

In some ways, it's not a fair comparison. Tryniski may be a computer expert, but he’s not a web designer (or he’s an ornery, old-school purist). His site (last updated in 2014), with its frames and heavy use of Flash and GIFs, reflects the web’s anarchic 90s heyday. And where the LoC’s site chronicles all of America, Tryniski’s mostly sticks to New York, with local papers like The Port Chester Journal (above) represented heavily.

That said, the site’s search functions are much cooler than those of glossier competitors, with options for “fuzzy searching,” “phonic searching” (for those of us who can’t spell), “and “user-defined synonyms.” Tryniski also knows his way around microfilm and a microfilm scanner, despite (we’re expressly told for some reason in the video and Epstein's article) his being “a high school graduate.”

In this triumph of the everyman story, however, Tryniski does not introduce his own collection with fulminations of the “old man shakes fist at” variety. Instead he describes his collection as a means of time travel. “It’s the day-to-day life,” he says, “that you could not imagine today. Reading the actual newspaper seems to bring it back into current context. People... sit there and it’s like, they move back into that time, and it’s like they’re living in the same time as their grandparents and great-grandparents.”

Nobody needs to fix journalism, libraries, or federal spending to have this experience, and it’s one everyone should have—whether by traveling through the pages of old newspapers or a family trove of photos and letters. History can seem like little more than a story we tell ourselves about the past, but the primary documents have tales to tell that we could never imagine.

Learn more about Tryniski’s collection at Reason, and visit the quirky, deceptively fulsome Old Fulton NY Post Cards (named as such because the site began as a scanned collection of postcards from Tryniski's hometown of Fulton, NY). You’ll find in its charmingly clunky environs a fascinating repository of vintage news and photos. And remember, “If you did not read about it on Old Fulton NY Post Cards, IT DID NOT HAPPEN!!!”

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Isaac Newton’s Recipe for the Mythical ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ Is Being Digitized & Put Online (Along with His Other Alchemy Manuscripts)

17th-century-manuscript

In his 1686 Principia Mathematica, Isaac Newton elaborated not only his famous Law of Gravity, but also his Three Laws of Motion, setting a centuries-long trend for scientific three-law sets. Newton’s third law has by far proven his most popular: “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” In Arthur C. Clarke’s 20th century Three Laws, the third has also attained wide cultural significance. No doubt you’ve heard it: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Clarke’s third law gets invoked in discussions of the so-called “demarcation problem,” that is, of the boundaries between science and pseudoscience. It also comes up, of course, in science fiction forums, where people refer to Ted Chiang’s succinct interpretation: “If you can mass-produce it, it’s science, and if you can’t, it’s magic.” This makes sense, given the central importance the sciences place on reproducibility. But in Newton’s pre-industrial age, the distinctions between science and magic were much blurrier than they are now.

Newton was an early fellow of the British Royal Society, which codified repeatable experiment and demonstration with their motto, “Nothing in words,” and published the Principia. He later served as the Society’s president for over twenty years. But even as the foremost representative of early modern physics---what Edward Dolnick called “the clockwork universe”---Newton held some very strange religious and magical beliefs that we would point to today as examples of superstition and pseudoscience.

In 1704, for example, the year after he became Royal Society president, Newton used certain esoteric formulae to calculate the end of the world, in keeping with his long-standing study of apocalyptic prophecy. What’s more, the revered mathematician and physicist practiced the medieval art of alchemy, the attempt to turn base metals into gold by means of an occult object called the “Philosopher’s stone.” By Newton’s time, many alchemists believed the stone to be a magical substance composed in part of “sophick mercury.” In the late 1600s, Newton copied out a recipe for such stuff from a text by American-born alchemist George Starkey, writing his own notes on the back of the document.

You can see the “sophick mercury” formula in Newton’s hand at the top. The recipe contains, in part, “Fiery Dragon, some Doves of Diana, and at least seven Eagles of mercury,” notes Michael Greshko at National Geographic. Newton's alchemical texts detail what has long been “dismissed as mystical pseudoscience full of fanciful, discredited processes.” This is why Cambridge University refused to archive Newton’s alchemical papers in 1888, and why his 1855 biographer wondered how he could be taken in by “the obvious production of a fool and a knave.” Newton's alchemy documents passed quietly through many private collectors’ hands until 1936, when “the world of Isaac Newton scholarship received a rude shock,” writes Indiana University’s online project, The Chymistry of Isaac Newton:

In that year the venerable auction house of Sotheby’s released a catalogue describing three hundred twenty-nine lots of Newton’s manuscripts, mostly in his own handwriting, of which over a third were filled with content that was undeniably alchemical.

Marked “not to be printed” upon his death in 1727, the alchemical works “raised a host of interesting questions in 1936 as they do even today.” Those questions include whether or not Newton practiced alchemy as an early scientific pursuit or whether he believed in a “secret theological meaning in alchemical texts, which often describe the transmutational secret as a special gift revealed by God to his chosen sons.” The important distinction comes into play in Ted Chiang’s discussion of Clarke’s Third Law:

Suppose someone says she can transform lead into gold. If we can use her technique to build factories that turn lead into gold by the ton, then she’s made an incredible scientific discovery. If on the other hand it’s something that only she can do... then she’s a magician.

Did Newton think of himself as a magician? Or, more properly given his religiosity, as God’s chosen vessel for alchemical transformation? It’s not entirely clear what he believed about alchemy. But he did take the practice of what was then called “chymistry” as seriously as he did his mathematics. James Voelkel, curator of the Chemical Heritage Foundation—who recently purchased the Philosophers' stone recipe—tells Livescience that its author, Starkey, was “probably American’s first renowned, published scientist,” as well as an alchemist. While Newton may not have tried to make the mercury, he did correct Starkey’s text and write his own experiments for distilling lead ore on the back.

Indiana University science historian William Newman “and other historians,” notes National Geographic, “now view alchemists as thoughtful technicians who labored over their equipment and took copious notes, often encoding their recipes with mythological symbols to protect their hard-won knowledge.” The occult weirdness of alchemy, and the strange pseudonyms its practitioners adopted, often constituted a means to “hide their methods from the unlearned and ‘unworthy,’” writes Danny Lewis at Smithsonian. Like his fellow alchemists, Newton “diligently documented his lab techniques” and kept a careful record of his reading.

“Alchemists were the first to realize that compounds could be broken down into their constituent parts and then recombined,” says Newman, a principle that influenced Newton’s work on optics. It is now acknowledged that---while still considered a mystical pseudoscience---alchemy is an important “precursor to modern chemistry” and, indeed, as Indiana University notes, it contributed significantly to early modern pharmacology” and “iatrochemistry... one of the important new fields of early modern science.” The sufficiently advanced technology of chemistry has its origins in the magic of “chymistry,” and Newton was “involved in all three of chymistry’s major branches in varying degrees.”

Newton’s alchemical manuscript papers, such as “Artephius his secret Book” and “Hermes” sound nothing like what we would expect of the discoverer of a “clockwork universe.” You can read transcriptions of these manuscripts and several dozen more at The Chymistry of Isaac Newton, where you’ll also find an Alchemical Glossary, Symbol Guide, several educational resources, and more. The manuscripts not only show Newton’s alchemy pursuits, but also his correspondence with other early modern alchemical scientists like Robert Boyle and Starkey, whose recipe—titled “Preparation of the [Socphick] Mercury for the [Philosophers’] stone by the Antinomial Stellate Regulus of Mars and Luna from the Manuscripts of the American Philosopher”—will be added to the Indiana University online archive soon.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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