Albertus Magnus and the Queen of the Elves: A 15th-Century English Verse Dialogue on Alchemy

Peter Grund 1
  • 1 Notre Dame, In


This article presents an edition of a Middle English verse tract on alchemy based on Trinity College, Cambridge, MS R. 14. 44 (15th century). The tract, entitled “Semita Recta Albertus peribet testimonium”, is structured as a dialogue between Albertus Magnus, the famous medieval scholar (c. 1200–1280), and Elchyӡell, the Queen of the Elves. In the dialogue, Elchyӡell instructs Albertus on how to produce an alchemical elixir that will produce silver or gold. Besides presenting the edition, this article also places the dialogue in the tradition of alchemical and scientific writing in Middle English. I argue that, as in the case of many other alchemical texts of the period, the author of this tract uses Albertus and the setting of the poem to bestow dignity and credibility on the text. Furthermore, it is shown that the tract exploits several presentation strategies common in other alchemical and scientific texts, such as the verse medium, the dialogue format, the recipe structure and coded language. However, I also demonstrate that this text appears to be unique in the way it utilizes and combines these presentation strategies.

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A renowned journal of English philology, Anglia was founded in 1878 by Moritz Trautmann and Richard P. Wülker. It is thus the oldest journal of English Studies in existence. Anglia publishes essays on the English language and linguistic history, on English literature of the Middle Ages and the modern period, on American literature, on new literatures in English, as well as on general and comparative literary studies.