Book ID: CBB001250422

The Secrets of Alchemy (2012)


Principe, Lawrence M. (Author)

University of Chicago Press

Publication Date: 2012
Physical Details: 288 pp.; ill.; bibl.; index
Language: English

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 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.

Reviewed By

Review John C. Powers (2014) Review of "The Secrets of Alchemy". Bulletin for the History of Chemistry (p. 95). unapi

Review Grafton, Anthony (2012) Review of "The Secrets of Alchemy". Science (p. 1540). unapi

Review Garber, Margaret D. (2013) Review of "The Secrets of Alchemy". Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period (pp. 571-573). unapi

Review Sankaran, Neeraja (2014) Review of "The Secrets of Alchemy". British Journal for the History of Science (pp. 372-374). unapi

Review Beretta, Marco (2014) Review of "The Secrets of Alchemy". Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences (pp. 421-422). unapi

Review Everest, James (2015) Review of "The Secrets of Alchemy". Annals of Science: The History of Science and Technology (pp. 272-273). unapi

Essay Review Peterschmitt, Luc (2015) New Big Pictures of Alchemy. Ambix: Journal of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry (pp. 189-192). unapi

Review Martelli, Matteo (2015) Review of "The Secrets of Alchemy". Nuncius: Annali di Storia della Scienza (pp. 517-519). unapi

Review Forshaw, Peter J. (2013) Review of "The Secrets of Alchemy". Renaissance Quarterly (p. 1005). unapi

Review Sakamoto, Kuni (2014) Review of "The Secrets of Alchemy". Medical History (pp. 301-302). unapi

Essay Review Roos, Anna Marie (2013) The Experimental Approach towards a Historiography of Alchemy. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences (pp. 787-789). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Melehy, Hassan
Floyd-Wilson, Mary
Barbour, Reid
Matchinske, Megan
Feola, Vittoria
Guzzetti, Luca
Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Journal of Global History
Bruniana & Campanelliana: Ricerche Filosofiche e Materiali Storico-testuali
Atti e Memorie, Rivista di Storia della Farmacia
Franco Angeli
Office for Official Publications of the European Communities
Franz Steiner Verlag
Bodley Head
Science and politics
Natural history
Republic of Letters
Universities and colleges
Bure, Johan
Sendivogius, Michael
Rabelais, François
Montaigne, Michel Eyquem de
Browne, Thomas
Cardano, Girolamo
United States
Great Britain
17th century
18th century
Early modern
16th century
19th century
15th century

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