Transmuting sericon: Alchemy as “practical exegesis” in early modern England

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Abstract

An influential strand of English alchemy was the pursuit of the “vegetable stone,” a medicinal elixir popularized by George Ripley (d. ca. 1490), made from a metallic substance, “sericon.” Yet the identity of sericon was not fixed, undergoing radical reinterpretation between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries as Ripley’s leadbased practice was eclipsed by new methods, notably the antimonial approach of George Starkey (1628–65). Tracing “sericonian” alchemy over 250 years, I show how alchemists fed their practical findings back into textual accounts, creating a “feedback loop” in which the authority of past adepts was maintained by exegetical manipulations—a process that I term “practical exegesis.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)19-34
Number of pages16
JournalOsiris
Volume29
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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