Odds and Quads

August 2, 2012

The main illustration is taken from the Ripley Scroll (one of about 20 surviving copies) held by the Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge.

Drawing on the work of the author and alchemist Sir George Ripley (c.1415-90), such scrolls include exceptionally elaborate symbolic imagery as well as instructions on how to create the philosopher's stone.

Each scroll can be as long as 20ft.

The Fitzwilliam was founded in 1816 by the 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion, an alumnus of Trinity Hall, who donated 144 paintings, a substantial collection of books, music and medieval manuscripts, plus £100,000 to build an "unforgettable monument".

Finally opened in 1848, it now houses more than half a million objects and remains an integral part of the university. Send suggestions for this series on the treasures, oddities and curiosities owned by universities across the world to matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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