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Alchemical symbols in Torbern Bergman's 1775 Dissertation on Elective Affinities

Alchemical symbols, originally devised as part of alchemy, were used to denote some elements and some compounds until the 18th century. Note that while notation like this was mostly standardized, style and symbol varied between alchemists, so this page lists the most common.

Contents

Three primesEdit

According to Paracelsus (1493–1541), the three primes or tria prima – of which material substances are immediately composed – are:[1][2]

Four basic elementsEdit

Western alchemy makes use of the Hellenic elements. The symbols used for these are:[1]

Seven planetary metalsEdit

Seven metals are associated with the seven classical planets, and seven deities, all figuring heavily in alchemical symbolism. Although the metals occasionally have a glyph of their own, the planet's symbol is used most often, and the symbolic and mythological septenary is consistent with Western astrology. The planetary symbolism is limited to the seven wandering stars visible to the naked eye, and the extra-Saturnian planets Uranus and Neptune are not used.

The Monas Hieroglyphica is an alchemical symbol devised by John Dee as a combination of the planetary metal glyphs.

Mundane elementsEdit

 
The Squared Circle: an Alchemical Symbol (17th century) illustrating the interplay of the four elements of matter symbolising the philosopher's stone

Alchemical compoundsEdit

 
A table of alchemical symbols from Basil Valentine's The Last Will and Testament, 1670

Alchemical processesEdit

 
An extract and symbol key from Kenelm Digby's A Choice Collection of Rare Secrets, 1682

The alchemical magnum opus was sometimes expressed as a series of chemical operations. In cases where these numbered twelve, each could be assigned one of the Zodiac signs as a form of cryptography. The following example can be found in Pernety's 1758 Mytho-Hermetic Dictionary:[3]

UnicodeEdit

Unicode 6.1 adds support for an Alchemical Symbols block.

Alchemical Symbols[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+1F70x 🜀 🜁 🜂 🜃 🜄 🜅 🜆 🜇 🜈 🜉 🜊 🜋 🜌 🜍 🜎 🜏
U+1F71x 🜐 🜑 🜒 🜓 🜔 🜕 🜖 🜗 🜘 🜙 🜚 🜛 🜜 🜝 🜞 🜟
U+1F72x 🜠 🜡 🜢 🜣 🜤 🜥 🜦 🜧 🜨 🜩 🜪 🜫 🜬 🜭 🜮 🜯
U+1F73x 🜰 🜱 🜲 🜳 🜴 🜵 🜶 🜷 🜸 🜹 🜺 🜻 🜼 🜽 🜾 🜿
U+1F74x 🝀 🝁 🝂 🝃 🝄 🝅 🝆 🝇 🝈 🝉 🝊 🝋 🝌 🝍 🝎 🝏
U+1F75x 🝐 🝑 🝒 🝓 🝔 🝕 🝖 🝗 🝘 🝙 🝚 🝛 🝜 🝝 🝞 🝟
U+1F76x 🝠 🝡 🝢 🝣 🝤 🝥 🝦 🝧 🝨 🝩 🝪 🝫 🝬 🝭 🝮 🝯
U+1F77x 🝰 🝱 🝲 🝳
Notes
1.^ As of Unicode version 10.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points
Miscellaneous Symbols[1]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+260x
U+261x
U+262x
U+263x
U+264x
U+265x
U+266x
U+267x
U+268x
U+269x
U+26Ax
U+26Bx
U+26Cx
U+26Dx
U+26Ex
U+26Fx
Notes
1.^ As of Unicode version 10.0

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c Eric John Holmyard. Alchemy. 1995. p.153
  2. ^ Walter J. Friedlander. The golden wand of medicine: a history of the caduceus symbol in medicine. 1992. p.76-77
  3. ^ Antoine-Joseph Pernety. Dictionnaire mytho-hermétique, dans lequel on trouve les allégories fabuleuses des poètes, les métaphores, les énigmes et les termes barbares des philosophes hermétiques expliqués. 1758. p.99

External linksEdit

  Media related to Alchemical symbols at Wikimedia Commons