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By Tara Nummedal
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Additional resources for Alchemy and Authority in the Holy Roman Empire
This broad term encompasses not only what early modern Europeans called natural philosophy, the traditional focal point of the Scientific Revolution, but also the kind of knowledge and skill possessed by artisans, naturalists, collectors, instrument makers, navigators, gardeners, medical practitioners, and even artists and theologians, all of whom were actively engaged with nature in countless ways. As older systems that governed the pursuit of natural knowledge began to break down in the sixteenth century, these groups asserted numerous ideas about what might replace ancient and medieval knowledge.
Distilling furnaces, as depicted in [Peter Kertzenmacher], Alchimia das ist alle Farben, Wasser, Olea, Salia, und Alumina . . zubereyten (Frankfurt am Main: Bey C. Engenoffs Erben, 1570). (From the Roy G. Neville Historical Chemical Library, a collection in the Othmer Library, Chemical Heritage Foundation. Photo by Douglas A. ) mystical elements of the alchemical art. As the Paracelsian corpus came together, it began to offer a new framework for the practice of alchemy as chemical medicine. Finally, Kunstbüchlein such as Kertzenmacher’s treatise made alchemical knowledge accessible to a lay audience, one not fluent in the Latin of scholars but nonetheless interested in understanding and manipulating nature.
15 Following increased contact with the Muslim world, twelfth-century scholars in Europe began to translate Arabic natural philosophical and alchemical texts into Latin. ” 17 As supporters of the alchemical arts such as the philosophers Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, and pseudo-Geber defended their art in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, they produced a number of influential texts dealing with alchemy’s theoretical and practical elements. 18 Alongside this Latin scholastic debate about alchemy’s legitimacy, vernacular late medieval alchemical literature flourished as well.