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Extra resources for Alchemy and Authority in the Holy Roman Empire
Duke Johann Friedrich of Württemberg (1582–1628) and his mother Sibylla (1564–1614), for example, signed such a contract in 1610 with three alchemists named Andreas Reich, Johann Andreas Hess, and Sebastian Hesch. ” 67 In some ways, contracts like these echoed the mythical adept-novice relationship of alchemical tradition, but they also transformed it. 69 Reich and his colleagues, on the other hand, were more generous and did not hesitate to share their expertise with the ducal family of Württemberg.
As the English alchemist Thomas Norton (ca. ” 58 According to legend, this transfer of divine wisdom was to occur face-to-face, never in writing, and traditionally was accompanied by vows of secrecy. When Norton narrated the story of his own education in the Ordinall, he drew on all of these elements to create a classic tale of alchemical initiation (fig. 2). Knowing that alchemy’s true secrets could only be had from an adept, Norton decided to seek out a master and wrote to the famed alchemist George Ripley (ca.
Successful alchemical works were rare and wondrous indeed, but not impossible. 25 G ch apter one Assembling Expertise H ow did one become an alchemist in early modern Europe? One might imagine joining the ranks of the adepts to be quite difficult. ” 3 Alchemy, it seemed, was shrouded in secrecy, available only to the lucky treasure hunter or to one worthy to receive a revelation. Complicating matters further, alchemy also fell between the two institutions that traditionally oversaw the transfer of knowledge and expertise in early modern Europe: guilds and universities.