(ALCHEMY) BERTHELOT [Pierre Eugene Marcellin]. Les Origines de L'Alchimie. (Paris: Georges Steinheil, 1885). First edition. Octavo. Original printed paper wrappers. Two plates of alchemical symbols. Small modern ownership stamp on three pages and inside front cover, late 19th c. paper library label at top of front cover. Short closed tear across spine (neatly repaired), a few small chips to wrapper extremities, but a strong, attractive copy of this fragile book. DUVEEN p.72. CAILLET I, 1067.
Berthelot (1827-1907) was a prominent chemist, as well as a prolific writer on historical subjects. He was the first to synthesize a wide variety of organic compounds and to prove, as a consequence, that they are governed by the same laws as inorganic compounds. His several valuable accounts of the early history of chemistry and alchemy are still unsurpassed. Of these, the present volume represents Berthelot's first effort; it grew out of a visit to Egypt, the country traditionally associated with the birth of chemistry, and Berthelot maintains in this account that alchemy had developed as a misunderstanding of the earlier empirical knowledge of the Egyptian metallurgists. Duveen calls the book a "monumental effort," and Caillet calls it a "superbe ouvrage prodiguieusement documente."