Insight into the Ancient Art of Alchemy
The word “papyrus” can refer to the plant, Cyperus papyrus; to the thin, paper-like material made from the plant; or to a particular document, such as the Leyden Papyrus X, a compilation of well over a hundred recipes for tingeing and transmuting base metals into silver and gold.
During the early decades of the nineteenth century, Johnan D’Anastasy, vice-consul to Sweden at Alexandria, acquired a remarkably well-preserved collection of papyri recovered from the tomb of a third-century CE Egyptian artisan. He sold most of the collection to the Netherlands government whereupon it was deposited in the Museum of Antiquities at Leyden in the Dutch province of South Holland. Known now as the Leyden Papyrus X, this compilation of well over a hundred recipes for tingeing and transmuting base metals into silver or gold gives us our earliest insight into the ancient art of alchemy.