A Machine Reasoning Algorithm for the Digital Analysis of Alchemical Language and its Decknamen


Alchemical language has been addressed in several lexicographical studies, historically and recently. This paper discusses the current state of the field and proposes a digital distant-reading approach to the issue of decoding alchemical Decknamen. This paper presents an algorithm for the digital analysis of alchemical language using the corpus of printed works by Michael Maier (1568–1622). Alchemical language was used as a medium for negotiating authority, inclusion, and exclusion in alchemical and chymical communities and also as a tool for social and scholarly knowledge-making. This paper addresses the historical problem of understanding early modern alchemical language by computational analysis. Previous studies have applied close reading methodologies to decode Decknamen; however, this paper offers a machine reasoning approach to analyse patterns in alchemical language.

Ambix 69/1 = Special Issue: Alchemical Practice and the Chemical Humanities
Sarah A. Lang
Sarah A. Lang
Digital Humanities researcher

My research interests include leveraging Computational Humanities for the historiography of Alchemy and Chymistry. I am the author of the blog LaTeX Ninja’ing and the Digital Humanities.