The Secrets of Alchemy

The Secrets of Alchemy Alchemy the Noble Art conjures up scenes of mysterious dimly lit laboratories populated with bearded old men stirring cauldrons Though the history of alchemy is intricately linked to the history of

  • Title: The Secrets of Alchemy
  • Author: Lawrence M. Principe
  • ISBN: 9780226682952
  • Page: 286
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Alchemy, the Noble Art, conjures up scenes of mysterious, dimly lit laboratories populated with bearded old men stirring cauldrons Though the history of alchemy is intricately linked to the history of chemistry, alchemy has nonetheless often been dismissed as the realm of myth and magic, or fraud and pseudoscience And while its themes and ideas persist in some expectedAlchemy, the Noble Art, conjures up scenes of mysterious, dimly lit laboratories populated with bearded old men stirring cauldrons Though the history of alchemy is intricately linked to the history of chemistry, alchemy has nonetheless often been dismissed as the realm of myth and magic, or fraud and pseudoscience And while its themes and ideas persist in some expected and unexpected places, from the Philosophers or Sorcerer s Stone of Harry Potter to the self help mantra of transformation, there has not been a serious, accessible, and up to date look at the complete history and influence of alchemy until now.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.A concise but illuminating history, The Secrets of Alchemy is written for anyone drawn to the alchemical arts, those who are fascinated by the science as well as the fantastic stories and mysterious practitioners.

    One thought on “The Secrets of Alchemy”

    1. Lawrence M. Principe realmente entende do que está escrevendo. O livro passa pelo começo da alquimia até o seu fim, ou declínio, com o começo da ciência moderna. E o autor faz um excelente trabalho de explicar não só o que os alquimistas pensavam, como porque eles pensavam o que pensavam. Ao invés de ficar na exposição das ideias, na linha do "olha que ridículo o que achavam", suas explicações vão na linha do "claro que isso fazia sentido quando a referência que tinham desse proc [...]

    2. Like most modern people, I've thought of alchemy as something more magic than science, but Principe manages to walk us back to a time when science, philosophy, religion (and some slight of hand) were intertwined. Using the term "chymistry" to over-ride our our internal definitions of chemistry and alchemy, he presents an interesting history of the history of alchemy and the infancy of chemistry.

    3. I freely admit that I went looking for books on alchemy after watching Fullmetal Alchemist :)This is a very interesting, well written, and informative look at the history of alchemy. I had a vague idea that alchemy was a form of magic, with some haphazard chemistry thrown in (aka potions), but this book shows that alchemy was more rational, systematic, and socially productive than I ever would have guessed. The author recreates historical laboratory techniques and tests alchemical recipes, expla [...]

    4. I’ve been whining about “where were all these books on alchemy last year when I was doing the primary research for The Mystic Marriage? In this case, the answer is “not published yet”. There does seem to be a nebulous “interest in alchemy” front passing through, which I can only hope will be positive for the reception of my novel. This is exactly the sort of readable but solidly historical general history of the field that I was searching for. (The best I could find last year was a b [...]

    5. Interesting and informative. It is by no means (as the author himself states), a thorough treatise on the subject of alchemy. What he set out to do, he did very well, I thought. This book provides an excellent overview of a rather broad subject.

    6. Principe's book is very good, from the standpoint of a history of science. And for this very reason it fails to explain what were the cultural reasons for the belief in alchemy. As we can see, many of the described experiments of the alchemists rest on purely observational things: the "Hermes' Tree" is nothing but a reaction inside a tube that grows in a tree-like shape. This, however, is not sufficient. Principe - as the rest of the authors that follow a strictly "scientific history" agenda - d [...]

    7. Is it a paradox to say that a book titled The Secrets of Alchemy is open and brisk? Treatments of alchemy to this point have been either rationalist dismissals of the practice and all it represented, or dense historical works that get as lost in the details as the alchemists themselves did. In this book, Lawrence M. Principe lays out a targeted and clear (at least, as much as is possible!) history of the subject. He actually tried to carry out the described experiments, and when he encountered f [...]

    8. Principe's summary and evaluation of hermetic alchemy as understood by occult practitioners of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is at best myopic. He conveniently overlooks in this section natural poetical metonymy of language (though he appears to love the term Decknamen), the overt mythological and theological references in dozens of pre-nineteenth-century alchemical plates, paintings, and treatises, and Blake's, Scot's and others' treatments of alchemy years before the occult [...]

    9. The first thing to note about this book is that the title is somewhat misleading. It would be more accurate to call it a history of alchemy. I was nearly put off buying it because of its title, but in retrospect I'm glad I wasn't, because it's a very interesting book.What the author sets out to do is to restore an understanding alchemy of within its historical and cultural framework. I think he succeeds in this aim. There is in Western society a tendency to think of alchemy as being something va [...]

    10. This book provides a remarkably clear and readable history of alchemy from ancient to modern times. That's not to say that everything about alchemy is or can be clarified, but the author does an impressive job of conveying what scholars have learned (he points out that many recent books repeat errors that had long ago been cleared up by scholars writing in other languages) and places alchemical practices within their historical context(s). Rather dazzlingly, he even manages to unravel some of th [...]

    11. Textual history is freaking complicated From pg 31: "The exact origin of the /[Emerald] Tablet/ remains obscure. Most evidence indicates that it was written centuries after the bulk of the philosophical or technical /Hermetica/, and that it is an original Arabic composition dating from the eighth century. No Greek precursor or any earlier Greek citations of it have been located despite exhaustive searches. It first appeared appended to a work which itself has complex and obscure origins, the /Bo [...]

    12. What I thought was a book on the history of an occult subject, turned out to be to my surprise, was a book on the history of science! Chemistry specifically. And it was a great surprise.Turns out, alchemist were not pitiful tinkerers wasting time on an impossible goal.They were serious scientist for their time; at least how science at the time was understood.Before atomic theory, there was no reason why you could not to base metals into gold.Also, to my surprise, all that talk of alchemists conc [...]

    13. I feel like I'm repeating myself when I say my biggest complaint about a book is that I wanted more of it, but I can't help it; I really wanted more of this book. It's a slim little tome ( says 296 pages, but I think the main text barely topped 200) - in this small space the author fits in both a history of alchemy and several practical experiments he conducted following the ancient instructions. This is rather fascinating, not to mention pretty educational, and as alluded to above, my only grip [...]

    14. Very good high level review of the many eras of alchemy. Of course I'm biased because I though Prof. Principe was a great Organic Chemistry I and II professor back at Hopkins. I found it very interesting in how Dr. Principe relayed the results of performing the alchemical experiments in his own lab. He brought the reader through "disinformation" and hidden meaning of the original alchemists and explained how images in contemporary texts could be actual reagents.Dr. Principe took the mostly chron [...]

    15. This book lives up to its name - you will learn how to create the Philosopher's Stone. The downside is, it will also tell you how the mythology surrounding the fabled object came to be, and why it never worked as advertised. Not a fun or easy read - the author's style is quite dry, almost deliberately avoiding any sign of awe and wonder, no doubt to lend gravitas to a subject that has seen more than its fair share of fantasy and hyperbole over the years. In fact, so great are the lengths the aut [...]

    16. Essential and very comprehensive! I was particularly drawn to the medieval Arabic and Latin sections, but it's an exhaustive and concise study. While it seems to be aimed at both a general audience, it's still very intellectual, featuring some fascinating insights on the allegorical function of alchemy. The study and its practices are so well explained. It would be interesting to hear more about alchemy in a literary context rather than just scientific treatises (still endlessly fascinating thou [...]

    17. A useful and interesting introduction to the history of alchemy. Principe examines the theory and practice of alchemy over two millennia and makes the always useful point that people in the past did not think in the same way as we do.

    18. I've been researching the history of alchemy for a novel I'm writing and this is the first and only concise history I've found on this overwhelming topic. If you're interested in the history of medieval and early modern alchemy (as opposed to modern/spiritual interpretations) START HERE!

    19. One of the best "history of science" books I've ever read. It's well written, carefully researched, and really helped me understand this science from the perspective of those who practiced it.

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