Between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries, alchemy reached its full maturity in the West. Alchemists mastered high professional skills, being able to handle a wide set of natural and artificial substances: they developed techniques aimed at transmuting base metals into gold and silver and were expert in the production of medicines, tinctures, pigments, and glasses. These practices were embedded in a complex and diversified natural philosophy, which relied on specific theories of matter and was to different degrees influenced by contemporary religious and medical ideas. Although never included in the curriculum of medieval universities, alchemy was an important and controversial topic in the Middle Ages. Metallic transmutation was a matter of philosophical discussion, part of the wider scholastic debate on the relations between art and nature. Fourteenth-century alchemical treatises show an increasing influence from religious themes and imagery, which start molding the very descriptions of alchemical operations. A century later, elements of Ficino’s Neoplatonic philosophy and Christian cabala had a significant impact on the humanistic writings on alchemy, which was significantly reconfigured. Moreover, medical uses of the alchemical elixir were strongly emphasized by fourteenth- to fifteenth-century alchemists, who anticipated the development of Paracelsian iatrochemistry. After Paracelsus’s medical reorientation of alchemy, the fierce debate on his system left its mark in sixteenth- to seventeenth-century alchemical and medical writings, which led iatrochemistry to find a new institutional home, namely, early modern universities.

Alchemy

Martelli, Matteo
2015

Abstract

Between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries, alchemy reached its full maturity in the West. Alchemists mastered high professional skills, being able to handle a wide set of natural and artificial substances: they developed techniques aimed at transmuting base metals into gold and silver and were expert in the production of medicines, tinctures, pigments, and glasses. These practices were embedded in a complex and diversified natural philosophy, which relied on specific theories of matter and was to different degrees influenced by contemporary religious and medical ideas. Although never included in the curriculum of medieval universities, alchemy was an important and controversial topic in the Middle Ages. Metallic transmutation was a matter of philosophical discussion, part of the wider scholastic debate on the relations between art and nature. Fourteenth-century alchemical treatises show an increasing influence from religious themes and imagery, which start molding the very descriptions of alchemical operations. A century later, elements of Ficino’s Neoplatonic philosophy and Christian cabala had a significant impact on the humanistic writings on alchemy, which was significantly reconfigured. Moreover, medical uses of the alchemical elixir were strongly emphasized by fourteenth- to fifteenth-century alchemists, who anticipated the development of Paracelsian iatrochemistry. After Paracelsus’s medical reorientation of alchemy, the fierce debate on his system left its mark in sixteenth- to seventeenth-century alchemical and medical writings, which led iatrochemistry to find a new institutional home, namely, early modern universities.
Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy
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Martelli, Matteo
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11585/625246
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