Today’s Book Of The Day is The Experimental Fire: Inventing English Alchemy, 1300-1700 by Jennifer M. Rampling, published in 2020 by The University of Chicago Press.

The author, Jennifer M. Rampling, is an associate professor of history at Princeton University.

The Experimental Fire: Inventing English Alchemy, 1300-1700

This book is an extremely detailed and rich source about English alchemy in the years ranging from the late Middle Ages to the Early Modern period.

During those 4 hundred years in Europe, alchemy was practiced broadly and its practitioners looked for extraordinary chemical and physical transformations that could in turn have a transformative effect on men, too.

Of course, such a practice was a source of curiosity and awe for those who witnessed the results achieved by the alchemists in their quest for tangible results.

Jennifer M. Rampling successfully finds and describes the studies alchemists did during their research while putting their achievements in the proper context of scientific and cultural history.

Bringing many sources, the author talks about alchemists such as George Ripley, John Dee, and Edward Kelley, showing how they were able to develop new Alchemic approaches while seeking, on behalf of the English crown, the answers to an impossible question: could medicine rely on transmutation to heal?

The book demonstrates that Alchemy evolved during the centuries, improving itself while more scientific knowledge was acquired and new chemical methods were developed.

The picture that emerges from the chapters of this amazing book is one of Alchemy as a broadly developed and quite intricate network of relationships between practitioners and physicians dealing with their patrons and supporters to improve their amazing knowledge about philosophy, chemistry, and science.

I absolutely recommend this book for at least two reasons.
The first is because of the large amount of previously unpublished manuscripts, that the author found and studied in detail, putting them in the broader context of their scientific, historical, social, and religious contexts.
The second reason is that the book represents an extremely valuable and engaging source of information and knowledge about Alchemy, a subject sometimes neglected by academia.


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