Secrets of Alchemy

ISBN-10: 022610379X

ISBN-13: 9780226103792

Edition: 2013

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Description: In The Secrets of Alchemy, Lawrence M. Principe, one of the world’s leading authorities on the subject, brings alchemy out of the shadows and restores it to its important place in human history and culture. By surveying what alchemy was and how it began, developed, and overlapped with a range of ideas and pursuits, Principe illuminates the practice. He vividly depicts the place of alchemy during its heyday in early modern Europe, and then explores how alchemy has fit into wider views of the cosmos and humanity, touching on its enduring place in literature, fine art, theater, and religion as well as its recent acceptance as a serious subject of study for historians of science. In addition, he introduces the reader to some of the most fascinating alchemists, such as Zosimos and Basil Valentine, whose lives dot alchemy’s long reign from the third century and down to the present day. Through his exploration of alchemists and their times, Principe pieces together closely guarded clues from obscure and fragmented texts to reveal alchemy’s secrets, and—most exciting for budding alchemists—uses them to recreate many of the most famous recipes in his lab, including those for the “glass of antimony” and “philosophers’ tree.” This unique approach brings the reader closer to the actual work of alchemy than any other book.“The Secrets of Alchemy comes closer than any other single work to explaining the grounds—rational and empirical, as well as religious and wishful—for alchemy’s longevity. Lawrence M. Principe’s delightful writing style brings to life a depth of learning matched by few in the field. This expertise, coupled with the author’s determination to strip his topic of anachronism, sets The Secrets of Alchemy apart from the usual introductory tome. After comments on alchemy’s lingering popular appeal (think Harry Potter and Fullmetal Alchemist), Principe engages with the misconceptions that have long dogged his subject, particularly its association with magic, mysticism and quackery. A key premise of the book is that these are often modern associations. To understand how alchemy ‘worked’ for its practitioners, we must meet them on their own terms.”—Nature“A work that edifies and entertains. . . . Lawrence M. Principe’s attempts to replicate alchemy in a modern laboratory yield strange, wondrous, and yet thoroughly explicable phenomena.”—Bookforum “A historian of science and practicing chemist, Lawrence M. Principe provides a dazzling account of how scholarly opinion on the relationship between alchemy and chemistry has transformed in the last four decades. In the process he brings chemical knowledge and historical detective work to a subject that has too readily been dismissed as fraudulent nonsense.”—New Scientist

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Book details

List price: $15.00
Copyright year: 2013
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 11/18/2015
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 288
Size: 6.00" wide x 9.00" long x 1.10" tall
Weight: 0.880
Language: English

Lawrence M. Principe is the Drew Professor of the Humanities in the Department of the History of Science and Technology and the Department of Chemistry at Johns Hopkins University. 

Introduction: What Is Alchemy?
Origins: Greco-Egyptian Chemeia
Development: Arabic al-Kimiya'
Maturity: Medieval Latin Alchemia
Redefinitions, Revivals, and Reinterpretations: Alchemy from the Eighteenth Century to the Present
The Golden Age: Practicing Chymistry in the Early Modern Period
Unveiling the Secrets
The Wider Worlds of Chymistry
Epilogue
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index
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