Article ID: CBB001451131

Distilling Reliable Remedies: Hieronymus Brunschwig's Liber de arte distillandi (1500) Between Alchemical Learning and Craft Practice (2014)


Hieronymus Brunschwig's Liber de arte distillandi, written in German and first published in Strasbourg in 1500, was the first printed manual on the distillation of medicinal waters. Although influential among early modern audiences and well known to modern scholars, its intriguing blend of intellectual and practical traditions has thus far received little attention. This paper identifies these strands in Brunschwig's technical instructions and shows how they intertwine in the production of reliable remedies. Exploring the intellectual dimension of Brunschwig's work, I argue that his concept of distillation is shaped by an alchemical understanding of matter, especially by the writings on `quintessence' of the fourteenth-century alchemist John of Rupescissa. To realise this concept in the workshop, Brunschwig emphasises the central importance of the body and its senses to ensure true craftsmanship. Brunschwig's printed manual was as much a product of skilled artisanal practices as the distilled waters it describes, and I argue that it was shaped by the same concerns about technical precision and reliability.

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Authors & Contributors
Sylvie Neven
Petersen, Sonja
Nummedal, Tara Elaine
Drago, Elisabeth Berry
Tomischko, Wolfgang
Aurélien Ruellet
Ambix: Journal of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry
Nuncius: Annali di Storia della Scienza
Mensch, Wissenschaft, Magie
Substantia: An International Journal of the History of Chemistry
Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
University of Delaware
University of Pennsylvania Press
Presses universitaires de la Méditerranée
Stanford University
Crafts and craftspeople
Natural philosophy
Formulas, recipes, etc...
Sennert, Daniel
Kurt Grotrian-Steinweg
Wijck, Thomas
Zieglerin, Anna Maria
Purling, Major Erasmus
Friedrich I, Duke of Württemberg
Time Periods
16th century
17th century
19th century
London (England)

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