Furnace and Fugue

A Digital Edition of Michael Maier's "Atalanta fugiens" (1618) with Scholarly Commentary
Edited by Tara Nummedal and Donna Bilak

An Innovative New Open-Access Resource

In 1618, on the eve of the Thirty Years’ War, the German alchemist and physician Michael Maier published Atalanta fugiens, an intriguing and complex musical alchemical emblem book designed to engage the ear, eye, and intellect. The book unfolds as a series of fifty emblems, each of which contains an accompanying "fugue" music scored for three voices. Historians of alchemy have long understood this virtuoso work as an ambitious demonstration of the art’s literary potential and of the possibilities of the early modern printed book.

Atalanta fugiens lends itself unusually well to today’s digital tools. Re-rendering Maier’s multimedia alchemical project as an enhanced online publication, Furnace and Fugue allows contemporary readers to hear, see, manipulate, and investigate Atalanta fugiens in ways that Maier perhaps imagined but that were impossible to fully realize before now. An interactive, layered digital edition provides accessibility and flexibility, presenting all the elements of the original book along with significant enhancements that allow for deep engagement by specialists and nonspecialists alike.

Three short introductory essays invite readers to get acquainted with early modern alchemy, and Michael Maier. Eight extended interpretive essays explore Atalanta fugiens and its place in the history of music, science, print, and visual culture in early modern Europe. These interdisciplinary essays also include interactive features that clarify and/or advance the authors’ arguments while positioning Furnace and Fugue as an original, uniquely engaging contribution to our understanding of early modern culture.

Supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Social Science Research Institute at Brown University.

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