The Secrets of Alchemy

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University of Chicago Press, Dec 10, 2012 - Body, Mind & Spirit - 296 pages
"This ele­gant, readable book…covers the history of alchemy from its shadowy origins in Hellenistic Egypt to its scholarly recovery in the 20th century” (Anthony Grafton, Science).
In The Secrets of Alchemy, science historian and practicing chemist Lawrence M. Principe dispels commonly held misconceptions about alchemy and sheds light on what it was, how it began, and how it influenced a range of other ideas and pursuits. Principe demonstrates the importance of alchemy during its heyday in early modern Europe, and explores 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.
Principe also introduces readers 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 to the present day. Through his discussion of alchemists and their times, Principe pieces together clues from obscure texts to reveal alchemy’s secrets, and uses them to recreate many of the most famous recipes in his lab, including those for the “glass of antimony” and “philosophers’ tree.”

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User Review  - neurodrew - LibraryThing

The Secrets of Alchemy Lawrence M. Principe Monday, March 11, 2013 According to Lawrence Principe, alchemy has been misunderstood as a fruitless quest by old men in stinking laboratories. His goal is ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - JBD1 - LibraryThing

A very good, up-to-date history of alchemical thought and practice. Principe has threaded the needle nicely here, with a book basic enough for someone with a casual interest in the subject but with ... Read full review


What Is Alchemy?
GrecoEgyptian Chemeia
Arabic alKīmiyaĝ
Medieval Latin Alchemia
Alchemy from the Eighteenth Century to the Present
Practicing Chymistry in the Early Modern Period
6 Unveiling the Secrets
7 The Wider Worlds of Chymistry

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About the author (2012)

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. His books include The Scientific Revolution: A Very Short Introduction and Alchemy Tried in the Fire: Starkey, Boyle, and the Fate of Helmontian Chymistry, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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