chapter  7
26 Pages

Madame de la Martinville, Quercitan’s Daughter and the Philosopher’s Stone: Manuscript Representations of Women Alchemists

ByPenny Bayer

This chapter introduces a series of related alchemical manuscripts originating in France or the Swiss Cantons, with various active female subjects, named as Madame de la Martinville, Quercitan's Daughter, Mr de Chenis Quercitan's daughter, la docte damoiselle de France and Neptis. The actuality of women alchemists in the circle around Joseph du Chesne, who was the most significant figure in the French Paracelsian movement. Historical evidence supports the feasibility that the daughter of Joseph du Chesne could have been an alchemist and that other named women in his circle also engaged in philosophical and practical alchemy. The philosopher's daughter provides an analogy for the revived androgynous body of the philosophers' stone, which is now raised to the spiritual realm. A series of nine manuscripts now in libraries in Copenhagen, Glasgow, London and Oxford comprise alchemical letters, discourses or poems, written between 1609 and the mid-seventeenth century, with references to active female subjects.