Gold and silver: perfection of metals in medieval and early modern alchemy
- History of alchemy,
- precious metals,
- transmutation of metals
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For a long time alchemy has been considered a sort of intellectual and historiographical enigma, a locus classicus of the debates and controversies on the origin of modern chemistry. The present historiography of science has produced new approaches to the history of alchemy, and the alchemists’ roles have been clarified as regards the vicissitudes of Western and Eastern cultures. The paper aims at presenting a synthetic profile of the Western alchemy. The focus is on the question of the transmutation of metals, and the relationships among alchemists, chymists and artisans (goldsmiths, silversmiths) are stressed. One wants to emphasise the specificity of the history of alchemy, without any priority concern about the origins of chemistry.