Alchemy and Authority in the Holy Roman Empire
What distinguished the true alchemist from the fraud? This question animated the lives and labors of the common men—and occasionally women—who made a living as alchemists in the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Holy Roman Empire. As purveyors of practical techniques, inventions, and cures, these entrepreneurs were prized by princely patrons, who relied upon alchemists to bolster their political fortunes. At the same time, satirists, artists, and other commentators used the figure of the alchemist as a symbol for Europe’s social and economic ills.
Drawing on criminal trial records, contracts, laboratory inventories, satires, and vernacular alchemical treatises, Alchemy and Authority in the Holy Roman Empire situates the everyday alchemists, largely invisible to modern scholars until now, at the center of the development of early modern science and commerce. Reconstructing the workaday world of entrepreneurial alchemists, Tara Nummedal shows how allegations of fraud shaped their practices and prospects. These debates not only reveal enormously diverse understandings of what the “real” alchemy was and who could practice it; they also connect a set of little-known practitioners to the largest questions about commerce, trust, and intellectual authority in early modern Europe.
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alche alchemical authors alchemical fraud alchemical laboratories alchemical practice alchemical processes alchemical texts alchemical tradition alchemy alchemy’s Alte Lusthaus Andreae Andreas Libavius argued artisans assaying Bestand A47 Betrug Betrüger Brant Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel central Europe Chemical Chicago claimed contracts court cultural cupels deceit distillation Dresden ducal Duke Friedrich Duke Julius early modern Europe economic entrepreneurial Ercker European Examen fucorum pseudo-chymicorum example false alchemists Fugger furnaces Georg Honauer German Graf Wolfgang gulden Heinrich Herzog Julius Hirschenberg Hohenlohe Holy Roman Empire HStA Stuttgart Ibid Johann Julius’s Khunrath Kraschewski Laboranten Latin Lazarus Ercker Libavius medicine medieval metallurgical metals Michael Maier mists Moran natural philosophy Newman NStA Wolfenbüttel Nüschler offered Paracelsian Paracelsus patronage patrons Petrarch Philipp Sömmering philosophers princes production profits pseudo-Geber Renaissance Rudolf saltpeter Saxony scholars Science Sebastian Brant secrecy secrets silver sixteenth century social Sömmering Sömmering’s Thurneisser tion transmutation treatise University Press Verlag Vilém Rozˇmberk Weikersheim Weyer Wolfenbüttel Württemberg