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Qu'est-ce que L'alchimie?
Everything about alchemy raises questions. Where and when did it originate? Are they still alchemists at work in our time? Was alchemy a form of knowledge, or a mere screen for hiding fraudulent practices such as money counterfeiting? Were alchemists of the Renaissance heretics? Were they actual, well-documented instances of conversion of base metals into gold? Was alchemy the prehistory of chemistry or its discredited ancestry? In this 21st century, do we stand to gain anything by studying such an archaic occult science? This essay seeks answers to those pertinent questions. It presents alchemy, predominantly during the period anterior to Lavoisier’Äôs chemical revolution, as a humanistic pursuit. We remain indebted to it for numerous concepts (the principle of transmutation, applicable to some chemical transformations, for instance) and for its daring exploration of the relations of science to language. This new edition, in French, includes a lexicon of key alchemical terms, which recapitulates some of the key notions.