From Alchemy to Chemistry:
Five Hundred Years of Rare and Interesting Books

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Rare Book Room Exhibit

LIBAVIUS, ANDREAS (ca. 1560 - 1616). Alchemia Andreae Libavii. Frankfurt, 1597.

Scarce, first edition of the first chemical text book in the modern sense. Arguably the single most read alchemical work of the late 16th and early 17th centuries, the Alchemia culled what was most viable in the unwieldy body of alchemical writings and introduced it into the modern laboratory. "Libavius's Alchemia is an excellent practical text-book in the sense that the author shows a full mastery of his sources and a clear, concise and sensible style, entirely different from the rambling, bombastic, and obscure verbosity of Paracelsus or the alchemical authors. Alchemy is defined as the art of extracting perfect magisteries and pure essences from mixed bodies; it is valuable in medicine, in metallurgy and in daily life. In this work, Libavius sought to wrest the initiative from the Paracelsians by exhaustively articulating chemical technique and practice; he undercut their claims to unique illumination by ranging encyclopedically over the literature on chemical arts; and he rescued prescription from the secretiveness of the adept by bringing chemistry into the light of day and placing it within a historical tradition of established discourse. Libavius was also influential in formulating the physical design and ethos of what became the modern scientific laboratory, stressing its democratic character and the general utility of its work to society.

Partington II.249 (and generally following); DSB; O. Hannaway, Isis 1986, 584ff; Martayan Lan 25, 116.

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