Preparing a PhD in modern and contemporary history at EPHE-PSL (Paris), I came to Oxford to consult a text contained in several medieval and modern manuscripts, but which has never been the subject of any study until now. This document, with a fluctuating title but which seems to be Expositiones statuae Josephi, is presented as a commentary on the Tabula chemica, an alchemical treatise translated from Arabic into Latin and quite famous in its time (Geoffrey Chaucer, for example, alludes to it in his Canterbury Tales). The author’s particular interest in the symbolic descriptions contained in the Tabula chemica leads me to believe that this commentary is an early but notable witness to the development of alchemical interpretations of religious architecture and iconography in the West, a particular exegetical practice to which I am devoting my thesis work. My aim is therefore to study the different versions of this text and to verify this intuition.
Could you please tell us a bit more about your scholarship/exchange programme?
I came to Oxford thanks to the hosting and cooperation programme for PhD students established between EPHE-PSL and the MFO. It allows me to benefit, for a term, from the remarkable services and infrastructures of the latter. Without this, I would not have been able to come and consult these non-digitised manuscripts, nor to get involved in the Oxonian scientific activities.
First impressions of Oxford/the University?
Libraries everywhere, old stones, and the English countryside: what more could you ask for to work serenely?