The Centre for the History of European Discourses was incorporated in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities in August 2015.

The information in this website is therefore out of date but retained for archival and staff purposes.

Late in the seventeenth century, a new journal founded by a society of physicians in the Bohemian and German territories, the Miscellanea curiosa, circulated articles on chrysopoeia, the art of transmuting base metals into gold. In 1670, the secretary of this new society, Philipp J. Sachs von Lewenheimb, launched the journal's first volume with a trenchant defense of chrysopoeia and addressed it to fellow adepts and philosophers of fire. Sachs's entry, the Aurum chymicum, rebutted Athanasius Kircher's critique of the art, and offered, as proof of its legitimacy, a history of successfully executed transmutations as witnessed by imperial, regional, and local authorities. His essay and its posthumous review in 1678 by Friedrich Hoffmann provided strong defenses for the crafts and craftsmen involved in gold-making, but did not distinguish cons from adepts. By the turn of the century, the journal's contributors displayed a conscious effort to discern fraud. For example, Georg Wolfgang Wedel, chair of theoretical medicine at Jena, not only provided defenses of the art in his journal entries, but also explained how to discern the fallacies of chrysopoeian cons in his Introductio in Alchimiam (1706). At a time when chemistry was in its academic infancy, the journal offers a fluctuating view of a social space in transition, a space in which natural philosophy and alchemy were brought into close proximity. The paper explores the boundaries of this space and asks how authority was redistributed to define physicians as adepts and charlatans as cons.

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