Ripley, George (DNB00)

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RIPLEY, GEORGE (d. 1490?), alchemist, was born at Ripley in Yorkshire of a family which seems to have become extinct during the fifteenth century. In his ‘Medulla Alchimiæ’ (Sloane MS. 1524) Ripley gives the names of nine places in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire where his kindred were found. According to his own account, he was an Augustinian and a canon of Bridlington, who had studied in Rome and at other places in Italy. In 1471 he was in England zealously pursuing the study of alchemy, and in 1476 he dedicated his ‘Medulla Alchimiæ’ to George Neville [q. v.], archbishop of York. He asked his patron for a home in some religious house. The death of the archbishop probably forced Ripley to return to Bridlington, where he seems to have been buried. What purports to be an early drawing of his grave is found in Cotton. MS. Vit. E. x.

Ripley was probably the first to popularise the works attributed to Raymond Lully, which were translated into Latin in 1445, and exerted great influence in England on the alchemical revival. He wrote several works, including ‘Concordantiæ Guidonis et Raimundi [Lullii],’ which appeared probably after 1471, and a cantilena in imitation of Lully between 1450 and 1470. In 1471 he compiled ‘The Compound of Alchemie,’ a treatise in English dedicated to Edward IV. This work illustrates the growing interest in alchemy which the relaxation of the law against multiplying gold encouraged, especially in London and Westminster. At the same time it shows traces of Platonist influences. Manuscripts are in the libraries of Corpus Christi College, Oxford (No. clxxii. fol. 17), and in University Library, Cambridge (Ff. ii. 23; a fragment is also in Cambr. Univ. MS. Kk. vi.30, ff. 42 b–46). It was first printed in 1591, ‘with certaine briefe additions … set foorth by Ralph Rabbards,’ and then by Ashmole in his ‘Theatrum Chemicum,’ 1652.

Ripley's ‘Medulla Alchimiæ’ was also very popular; the dedication alone to the archbishop of York is printed by Ashmole. Ripley was undoubtedly the most widely studied of the later alchemists. His works (‘Opera Chimica’) were printed in Latin at Cassel in 1649, and many of the English pieces appear in Ashmole's ‘Theatrum Chemicum,’ 1652. In 1678 there appeared an anonymous book of some interest, entitled ‘Ripley Reviv'd: or an exposition upon Sir George Ripley's Hermetico-Poetical Works,’ London, 1678, 8vo (Corser, Collectanea, ix. 197).

The alchemist Ripley has been confused with George (or Gregory) Ripley (d. 1400?), a Carmelite friar of Boston, and author of lives of St. Botolph and John of Bridlington and of ‘Historia Compassionis Mariæ.’ None of these works are known to be extant (Leland, ed. 1709, p. 383; Bale, 1557, p. 622).

[Coxe's Cat. MSS. in Coll. Aulisque Oxon.; Cat. MSS. in Univ. Cambr. Libr.; Vossius's Hist. Lat. 1651, p. 637; Oudin's Comment. de Scriptt. iii. col. 2672; Waite's Lives of Alchemystical Philosophers, pp. 134–6; Tanner's Bibl. Brit.; Warton's English Poetry; Fuller's Worthies of England.]

R. S.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.234
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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317 i 22f.e. Ripley, George: for 1719 read 1709 and for 1577 read 1557