A Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery
Cambridge University Press, $49.95pb, 249 pp
Blessed are the compilers of dictionaries, writers of reference books and encyclopedia entries – how would we access knowledge without them? But if they work in the Australian university system, they are not blessed by the Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs, which awards no research points whatsoever for such activities. Lindy Abraham’s esoteric-sounding dictionary of alchemical imagery is a fine example of the kind of scholarly labour that doesn’t fit well with bean-counting bureaucrats’ notions of ‘productive’ research. With her assistance, we gain access to a world-view that had its roots in Hellenistic Egypt in 300 BC but, during the Renaissance, re-emerged as a powerful intellectual force: a precursor to modern science, as well as a systematic form of philosophy.