Ripley, George (ca. 1415–1490)
British alchemist born in Ripley, Yorkshire, England, where
his kinsfolk appear to have been powerful and numerous. He
entered the Roman Catholic Church, became an Augustinian
monk, and was subsequently appointed Canon of Bridlington
in his native Yorkshire, a priory which had been founded in the
time of Henry I by Walter de Ghent.
Ripley’s priestly office did not prevent him from traveling,
and he studied physical science and alchemy in France, Germany,
and Italy, even voyaging as far as the island of Rhodes,
where he is said to have made a large quantity of gold for the
knights of St. John of Jerusalem.
Afterward he went to Rome, where he was dignified by the
Pope, the result being that when he returned to Bridlington,
he found his friends there intensely jealous of him. It was reported
that he even resigned his position and retired to a priory
at Boston, in Lincolnshire, but this story is probably unfounded,
the likelihood being that Ripley the alchemist was
confused with George Ripley, a Carmelite friar, who lived at
Boston in the thirteenth century and wrote a biography of St.
Botolph.
Ripley died in England in 1490, but his fame did not die
with him; his name continued to be familiar for many years
after his death. He was among the first to popularize the alchemical
writings attributed to Raymond Lully, which first became
known in England about 1445. An interest in alchemy was
increasing steadily among English scholars at this time—the
more so because the law against multiplying gold had lately
been repealed.
Ripley wrote a number of learned treatises himself, notably
Medulla Alchimioe, The Treatise of Mercury and The Compound of
Alchemie (first printed 1591), the latter work dedicated to King
Edward IV. A collected edition of his writings was issued at Kassel
Germany in 1649.
Sources
Ripley, George. The Compound of Alchemie. N.p., 1591.
———. Medulla Alchimioe. N.p., n.d.
———. The Treatise of Mercury. N.p., n.d.
Ripley Revived, or an Exposition upon George Ripley’s HermeticoPoetical
Works. London, 1978.