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new book by Lawrence Principe
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Alexander Guthrie Stewart
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 Posted: Wed Oct 24th, 2012 09:09 pm
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Yay!

Please let us know how it is, how much practical alchemy is in it, etc. 

I especially want to know how it fares as a general history of Alchemy.  Principe and his collaborators have some specific points of interest and views and I expect that to come out quite clearly.  We have needed a good up to date general history of alchemy for a while, and Maxwell-Stuarts book wasn't quite good enough.  (although I did give it 3 stars on amazon)

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Thu Oct 25th, 2012 04:07 am
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Price seems very reasonable:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Secrets-Alchemy-Synthesis-Lawrence-Principe/dp/0226682951/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1351137843&sr=1-1

http://www.libreriauniversitaria.it/secrets-alchemy-lawrence-principe-university/book/9780226682952

Alexander Guthrie Stewart
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 Posted: Thu Oct 25th, 2012 08:56 am
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You're right, that is ridiculously cheap for a hardcover. 

Rafal T. Prinke
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 Posted: Thu Oct 25th, 2012 09:48 am
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I will obviously let everyone know more details when it arrives -- but it may take some time depending on  whether it is dispatched from the US or from their warehouse in Germany. If the latter, I should have it next week, otherwise it may take up to 5 weeks.

I thought the book is subtitled "Synthesis" but now see it is the series title. But it will be a synthesis anyway and certainly one that will need to be taken into account for many years to come (even by those who tend to see things differently than the New Historiography of Chymistry). I agree with Alexander that "Maxwell-Stuart's book wasn't just good enough" -- even though he used much of the recent research, I had a feeling it was not "deep" enough.

The publisher's website also says there will be an e-book edition, so the price may be still lower (but not stated how much lower).



Last edited on Thu Oct 25th, 2012 09:49 am by Rafal T. Prinke

Laura OKeefe
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 Posted: Fri Oct 26th, 2012 07:59 pm
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I'm a librarian; Principe's Secrets of Alchemy is sitting on my desk now, in the process of being cataloged.  The publication date given on the title page verso is 2013!--obviously, it's arrived a little sooner than that.

While I'm very new to this field, this book looks to my untutored eye like a good scholarly overview/synthesis of the history of alchemy for a general audience.

Alexander Guthrie Stewart
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 Posted: Fri Oct 26th, 2012 08:33 pm
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Today, whilst trying to tidy up wikipedia*, in the Geber entry I found a link to Principe's book for a summary of the geber/ Jabir issue.  I realised quite a few people likely got their copy a little early...

 

And welcome Laura O'Keefe. 

 

 

* I've had some use of it over the years, I feel I may as well put a bit back into it and boy do my specialist areas need it. 

Laura OKeefe
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 Posted: Fri Oct 26th, 2012 08:41 pm
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Alexander Guthrie Stewart wroteAnd welcome Laura O'Keefe.
Thank you!  Happy to be here.

Last edited on Fri Oct 26th, 2012 08:43 pm by Laura OKeefe

Rafal T. Prinke
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 Posted: Mon Nov 5th, 2012 05:39 pm
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The book has arrived today! It looks really nice and knowing the excellent style of writing (and speaking) of the author from his other publications, I am looking forward to reading it. It is indeed a synthesis, covering Western alchemy but excluding Chinese and Indian for reasons explained in the introduction. An interesting rhetorical construction applied by Principe is following the topic chronologically up to the end of the Middle Ages and then jumping to the Englightenement and continuing to the most recent esoteric and other developments, only then to return to the "golden age" of the 16th and 17th centuries. Strange as it may look, perhaps it will prove to be a good decision -- I'll see when I read it.

Being a synthesis, it cannot discuss anything in depth -- but there are extensive references to relevant studies (36 pages of endnotes and 20 pages of bibliography).

Fragments from four publishers' reviews on the back cover are enthusiastic -- especially Bruce Moran says "This is a terrific book, absolutely essential for anyone interested in a historical understanding of alchemical theory and practice. [...] There is no other book on alchemy like this". And Tara Nummedal stresses the author's "characteristic erudition, wit, and lucid prose".

I confirm that my copy (like that reported by Laura) says it is Copyright 2013 -- which I don't think may be taken to mean that for the remaining two month of 2012 it is in Public Domain :D

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Thu Nov 15th, 2012 12:12 pm
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New Scientist blog calls it 'dazzling':

http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/culturelab/2012/11/the-true-story-of-alchemy.html

Alan Pritchard
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 Posted: Tue Nov 27th, 2012 12:21 pm
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And, very belatedly, as a retired librarian, it is good to see another one here!!!

Alan

Laura OKeefe
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 Posted: Tue Nov 27th, 2012 01:38 pm
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Alan Pritchard wrote: ... as a retired librarian, it is good to see another one here!!!

Alan

Thank you, Alan!  I hope this means that I may occasionally pester you with questions about subject headings, obscure printers, &c.  I've just begun cataloging a sizable collection of 16th and 17th-century books, many of which have to do with alchemy, and am finding it rough sledding.

Johann Plattner
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 Posted: Wed Nov 28th, 2012 08:53 am
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I received my personal copy approximately two or three weeks ago, however I had pre-ordered my copy via Amazon.com already in January of this year. Meanwhile I’m more than half-through of the book and I have to say that much of its content isn’t quite novel and could frequently be discovered within his earlier publications but also in different publications. For me, one of the most interesting subjects is his extraordinary explanation of one of the ‘Twelve Keys’ wherein the volatilization of the salt of gold (AuCl3) is described by Basil Valentine. Lawrence Principe actually could demonstrate that this process will really work if the necessary main condition will be fulfilled: The saturation of gaseous chlorine (Cl2) that is continually generated in the flask during the thermal decomposition of the salt of gold. A modern chemist would say that the thermodynamics equilibration needs to be shifted to the right side of the formula and thus indeed the residual chloride of gold sublimes like beautiful flowers to the top of the flask without beeing decomposed.

Alexander Guthrie Stewart
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 Posted: Wed Dec 5th, 2012 10:06 pm
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I now have a copy.  It is somewhat idiosyncratic in terms of it's layout and more so on the topics covered.  You can tell that Principe is an expert on post-medieval and early modern alchemy.

I was worried that a general reader would find it a bit hard going, after I glanced at a little of it and remembering Principe's previous works, but it is alright. 

Alexander Guthrie Stewart
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 Posted: Sun Dec 9th, 2012 06:18 pm
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I've now finished the book.  It is bang up to date (one reference being to something that will apparently be published in 2014) and includes a surprising number of references I haven't seen before.

Unlike some people I don't have a problem with the structure.  He also wisely doesn't go into too much detail on earlier periods such as Graeoco-Roman Egypt, possibly because they are not his specialist periods and the information from them is less definite.  What he does is summarise the important things to know, and he does so well.  I agree with the vast majority of what he has written and think that this is exactly the kind of synthesis of a book that we needed in order to make public the advances in the last 30 years of research. 

 

I have a wee quibble - I didn't like the inclusion of the stuff about Diocletian's alleged actions against gold makers, partly because it is one of those things of which there's no contemporary evidence yet you'd think there would be if it was real. 

And more importantly, he still doesn't tell us everything about his methods.  Not all the secrets revealed by any means.  Anyone wishing to re-create what he has worked on will be disappointed. 

But these are very minor issues. 

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Mon Dec 31st, 2012 02:57 pm
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For those who wish to sample it before buying a preview is now available on Google Books:

http://books.google.com/books?id=cs9_mXyN0OsC&dq=alchemy&lr=&source=gbs_navlinks_s


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