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By Tara Nummedal

What unique the genuine alchemist from the fraud? this question lively the lives and labors of the typical men—and sometimes women—who made a dwelling as alchemists within the 16th- and seventeenth-century Holy Roman Empire. As purveyors of useful thoughts, innovations, and therapies, those marketers have been prized by way of princely buyers, who relied upon alchemists to reinforce their political fortunes. while, satirists, artists, and different commentators used the determine of the alchemist as a logo for Europe’s social and monetary ills.
Drawing on legal trial files, contracts, laboratory inventories, satires, and vernacular alchemical treatises, Alchemy and Authority within the Holy Roman Empire situates the typical alchemists, principally invisible to fashionable students earlier, on the heart of the advance of early smooth technological know-how and trade. Reconstructing the workaday global of entrepreneurial alchemists, Tara Nummedal exhibits how allegations of fraud formed their practices and customers. those debates not just exhibit greatly assorted understandings of what the “real” alchemy was once and who may perform it; additionally they attach a collection of little-known practitioners to the most important questions on trade, belief, and highbrow authority in early sleek Europe.

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30 Sömmering’s reading list demonstrates how print culture both preserved and invigorated this ancient and medieval alchemical tradition. As the sixteenth century neared its end, however, consumers of alchemical literature increasingly supplemented these older texts with more modern authorities. Thus, for example, when in 1578 the Bohemian nobleman and alchemist Bavor Rodovsky´ mladsˇí z Hustirˇan (1526–ca. 33 Rodovsky´’s desire to translate Paracelsus into Czech is an indication of the Swiss reformer’s importance as an alchemical authority in the decades after his death in 1541.

Complicating matters further, alchemy also fell between the two institutions that traditionally oversaw the transfer of knowledge and expertise in early modern Europe: guilds and universities. Towns did not organize alchemists into guilds as they did members of other professions, such as surgeons, butchers, or tailors, suggesting that alchemy was not quite a craft trade. If interested and hopeful adepts could not sign up for guild apprentisceships, neither could they enroll at a university to access alchemical secrets.

Paracelsus himself, in fact, was the best-known advocate of gathering wisdom from a variety of sources. ” 64 This model of education— from folk as well as learned sources—was profoundly influential for later practitioners of both medicine and alchemy. The alchemist Christoff von Hirschenberg probably had Paracelsus’s travels in mind when he appealed to the Bohemian magnate Vilém Rozˇmberk for patronage in 1583. ” 65 32 chapter one Princes themselves were unlikely to travel the Holy Roman Empire in search of bits of alchemical wisdom, but they could collect experienced alchemists who had.

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