By Tara Nummedal
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Extra resources for Alchemy and Authority in the Holy Roman Empire
Precisely because there was no alchemical guild or college to regulate practice and licensing, or an alchemy faculty at the universities to prescribe an authoritative curriculum, no single method of alchemical training prevailed. This lack of consensus opened the door to an unusually varied group of aspirants drawn from many segments of society; it also increasingly created battles over alchemical authority as the sixteenth century neared its end. ” 7 Although some natural philosophers, physicians, and other medical practitioners were increasingly looking beyond the written word and observing nature directly in the sixteenth century, texts were still a primary locus of natural knowledge.
As we might expect, some practitioners gained alchemical expertise by reading all or part of the vast corpus of treatises on the subject. Books were not the only resource, however. Overlapping fields such as metallurgy and medicine provided an invaluable source for essential skills and tools, as did the expertise of fellow practitioners of the alchemical arts. Although some alchemists argued that certain of these paths to alchemical wisdom were more legitimate than others, practitioners lacked the institutional authority to enforce those norms.
Sömmering urged his patron to begin with the Catalan physician, religious reformer, and diplomat Arnald of Villanova (ca. 9 According to Sömmering, the medieval physician explained the generation of metals and minerals in the earth and “describes splendidly” the basic components of all metals, mercury and sulfur; Arnald (or rather pseudoArnald, for it is unlikely that he wrote the texts that appeared in his name) also offered practical explanations of the “philosophical fi re” and how to multiply metals by means of art (künstlich).
Alchemy and Authority in the Holy Roman Empire by Tara Nummedal