George Ripley [1415?-1490] was one of the most important of English alchemists. Little is known about him, but it is supposed that he was a Canon at the Priory of St Augustine at Bridlington in Yorkshire during the latter part of the 15th century, where he devoted himself to the study of the physical sciences and especially alchemy. To acquire fuller knowledge he travelled in France, Germany and Italy, and lived for some time in Rome, and there in 1477 was made a chamberlain by Pope Innocent VIII. In 1478 he returned to England in possession of the secret of transmutation. He pursued his alchemical work, and is reputed to have given vast sums to the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem at Rhodes to defend them from the Turks. But his labours becoming irksome to the abbot and other canons, he was released from the order, and joined the Carmelites at Boston, where he died in 1490.
His name is attached to as many as five and twenty different works, most of which remain in manuscript. Whether or not they are all by him may be doubted, and it has been asserted that what is called the 'Vision' is not by him but is the work of an anonymous writer of the following century. Tanner has enumerated his books and manuscript with the libraries of Oxford and elsewhere, where they are preserved.
Ripley adopted an allegorical approach to alchemy, and his most important writings are his Compound of Alchemy in verse which describes the alchemical process as undergoing twelve stages or 'Gates', and his emblematic 'Ripley Scrowle'.
The Compound of Alchymy, was one of the most popular on the subject. it circulated widely in manuscript. It was first printed at London :
The title has a woodcut border; there is an ornamental capital E containing a portrait of Queen Elizabeth, to whom the book is dedicated, and there is an engraved diagram called Ripley's Wheel. Ashmole reprinted it in the Theatrum Britannicum and added a note upon the author. He also printed several other pieces by Ripley: 'Verses belonging to his Scrowle', 'The Mistery of Alchymists', 'the Preface to his Medulla, which he wrote Ann. Dom. 1476, and dedicated to Geo. Nevell then Archbishop of Yorke', and another 'Shorte Worke'. All of these, like the 'Compound of Alchymy', are in verse.
Bibliography of printed books
The Compound of Alchymy. Or the ancient hidden Art of Alchemie: Conteining the right & perfectest meanes to make the Philosophers Stone, Aurum potabile, with other excellent Experiments. Divided into twelue Gates. First written by the learned and rare Philosopher of our Nation George Ripley,... whereunto is adioyned his Epistle to the King, his Vision, his Wheele, and other his Workes, neuer before published:... Set foorth by Ralph Rabbards Gentleman... London Imprinted by Thomas Orwin, 1591, small 4to. 52 folios.
Opuscula quædam chemica. Georgii Riplei Medulla philosophiæ chemicæ. Incerti autoris Canones decem, mysterium artis mira brevitate et perspicuitate comprehendentes. Heliæ Monachi Franciscani Speculum alchymiæ. Ioan. Aurelii Augurelli Chrysopoeiæ compendium paraphrasticum. Artefi Clavis maioris sapientiæ. Ioan. Pontanti Epistola de lapide philosophorum. Galli Etschenreuteri medici Epistola ad Guilielmum Gratarolum. Omnia partim ex veteribus manuscriptis eruta, partim restituta. Francofurti: J. Bringer. 1614. 157 pages.
Trois tractez de la philosophie naturelle, non encores imprimez; sçavoir, La turbe des philosophes... Plus, La parole delaissee de Bernard Trevisan. Et un petit traicté... intitulé, Les douze portes d'alchymie, autres que celles de Ripla [Ripley]. Paris: J. Sara. 1618. 8vo.
Chymische Schrifften des hochgelehrten, fürtresslichen vnd weitberhümten Philosophi Georgii Riplaei, Canonici Angli. Darinnen vom gebenedeyeten Stein der Weisen vnd desselben kunstreicher praeparation gründlich gelehret wird, Zuvor durch den Hochgelahrten Herrn Nicolaum Barnaudum Chymicum zu Lateinischer Sprache publiciret, Jetzo aber allen Filiis doctrinae zum besten durch einen Liebhaber der Kunst in Deutsche Sprache gebracht, vnd in Druck gegeben Anno 1624. Gedruckt In verlegung Johann Birkners, Buchhändlers in Erffurt. 8vo. , 111 pages.
Opera omnia chemica, quotquot hactenus visa sunt, quorum aliqua jam primum in lucem prodeunt, aliqua MS. exemplarium collatione à mendis & lacunis repurgata, atque integrati restitua sunt... [With preface by Ludovicus Combach.] Cassellis: typis Jakob Gentschii, impensis Sebald Köhlers. 1649. 8vo. , 439 pages.
Chymische Schrifften, darinnen von dem gebenedeyten Stein der Weisen und desselben Kunstreichen Præparation gründlich gehandelt wird. Nach der Lateinisch- und Englischen Edition Herrn William Salmon... ins Teutsche übersetzet durch B. Roth-Scholtzen. (Artephii... geheimer Haupt-Schlüssel zu dem verborgenen Stein der Weisen... ins Teutsche übersetzet durch B. Roth-Scholtzen.-Das eröffnete philosophische Vatter-Hertz an seinen Sohn, welches er... nicht länger wollt vor ihm verschlossen halten, sondern... erklärte demselben alle das, was zu der... Bereitung des Steins der Weisen vonnöthen war... in Teutscher Sprache publicirt durch B. Roth-Scholtzen.) Nürnberg: Johann Daniel Tauber erben, 1717. 8vo. 231 pages.
Georgii Riplaei, Canonici in England zu Bridlington, Chymische Schrifften, Darinnen von dem gebenedeyten Stein der Weissen und desselben kunst-reichen Praeparation gründlich gehandelt wird. Nach der Lateinisch- und Englischen Edition Herrn William Salmon, Profess. Phys. ins Teutsche übersetzet durch Benjamin Roth-Scholtzen, Phil. & Med. Doct. Zu finden bey Johann Paul Krauss, Buchhändler in Wienn. 1756. 8vo. , 233,  pages. [Contains also: Artephius, Geheimer Haupt Schlüssel, p. 105. Das eröffnete Philosophische vatter-Hertz an seinen Sohn, p.153.]
Aurifontina Chymica [Sometimes ascribed to John Frederick Houpreght.] : or, a collection of fourteen small treatises concerning the first matter of philosophers, for the discovery of their (hitherto so much concealed) Mercury. Which many have studiously endeavoured to hide, but these to make manifest, for the benefit of Mankind in general. London: for William Cooper. 24mo. 22, 272 , 4 pages. [Item 4. A Treatise of Mercury and the Philosophers Stone. By Sir George Ripley.]
Collectanea Chymica: A Collection Of Ten Several Treatises In Chymistry, Concerning The Liquor Alkahest, The Mercury of Philosophers, and other Curiosities worthy the Perusal. Written by Eir. Philaletha, Anonymus, Joh. Bapt. Van-Helmont, Dr. Fr. Antonie, Bernhard Earl of Trevisan, Sir Geo. Ripley, Rog. Bacon, Geo. Starkey, Sir Hugh Platt, and the Tomb of Semiramis, see more in the Contents. London: Printed for W. Cooper. 1683-4. 12mo. , 193, , 32, 16 pages. [Item 6. George Ripley, Bosome-book.]
Eenige philosophische en medicinale tractaatjes beschrijvende de liquor alchahest, de mercurius der philosophen, en andere curieusheden. Door Eir. Philaletha [and others]. Uyt het engels vertaald door J. van de Velde. Amsterdam: Jacob van de Velde. 1688. 24mo. , 260 pages. [Item 6. George Ripley. Het Besem-Boek.]
Willam Salmon. Medicina Practica: or, Practical Physick. Shewing The Method of Curing the most Usual Diseases happening to Human Bodies... To which is added, The philosophick Works of Hermes Trismegistus, Kalid Persicus, Geber Arabs, Artefius Longævus, Nicholas Flammel, Roger Bachon, and George Ripley. All Translated out of The best Latin Editions, into English; and Carefully Claused, or divided into Chapters, and Sections, for the Pleasant Reading, and easier Understanding of those Authors. Together with a singular comment upon the first book of Hermes, the most Ancient of Philosophers. The whole Compleated in Three Books. By William Salmon, Professor of Physick... London: Printed by W. Bonny, for Tho. Howkins and John Harris. 1692. 8vo. [30, 696,  pages. [Item 8. George Ripley. The Marrow of Alchymie.]