Credible Resource(s) on the history of alchemy

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Postby Umpa Duze » 01/18/10 11:24 PM

Hi All,
I recently heard from an artist who is interested in learning more about the history of alchemy along with the relationship of alchemy and performance magic. I have no idea what to recommend.
Anyone have a suggestion. I am looking for more scholarly books that popular literature, but would be pleased with whatever you might suggest.
Thanks
Cheers,
Umpa Duze
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/18/10 11:46 PM

Magic as will in action in relation to magic as sham for amusement. And you want this in popular literature too?

Okay - have a look at "The Museum of Lost Wonder". It's in print, easy to read and discusses both perspectives in detail. Earlier writers from Borges all the way to Steven Milhauser (barnum's museum) have walked the serious student over this ground before. Anyway this book has been mentioned in Genii Magazine and discusses both amusement and the process of transformation.

History - check Bacon vs Popper. Newton was also in the middle of the transition.
Last edited by Jonathan Townsend on 01/18/10 11:55 PM, edited 0 times in total.
Reason: with words i distract.
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Postby Umpa Duze » 01/19/10 03:03 AM

Hi Jonathan,
Thanks for the recommendations. I have ordered the two books. Since this is not my request, I fear I may not have a sufficient understanding of her needs to narrow the focus. Your characterization "Magic as will in action in relation to magic as sham for amusement" is a nice way to put it. She specifically asked about alchemy. I am not sure Bacon and Popper are what she is looking for.

Cheers,
Umpa
Cheers,
Umpa Duze
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/19/10 09:02 AM

Alchemy and the great work became distinct from science back around the time of Newton and Bacon. The theatrical depiction of such things has been with us since rulers used clever engineers to set up spectacles in their palaces - see the reference to King Solomon's throne room for example. That sort of engineering has trickled down to theatrical presentations - see the start of Wagner's design for the opening of his Ring Cycle for example and the fate of Pepper's optical apparatus for another. By the time of JERobert-Houdin the time was right to move from "the great work (perfecting the self)" to the great work of mastering nature as often shown by folks like Tesla in the age of great engineering marvels tiny as with the clocks/automata and huge like bridges, the Eiffel tower etc.
Mundus vult decipi
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Postby magicam » 01/19/10 08:53 PM

Umpa Duze wrote:... I recently heard from an artist who is interested in learning more about the history of alchemy along with the relationship of alchemy and performance magic. ...
As far as the relationship between alchemy and "performance magic," the answer is simple: there is virtually none.

Try Arthur Waite's Alchemists Through the Ages for a decent, readable history of alchemy.
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