The Jewish Alchemists: A History and Source Book

Overview

In this monumental work, Raphael Patai opens up an entirely new field of cultural history by tracing Jewish alchemy from antiquity to the nineteenth century. Until now there has been little attention given to the significant role that Jews played in the field of alchemy. Here, drawing on an enormous range of previously unexplored sources, Patai reveals that Jews were major players in what was for centuries one of humanity's most compelling intellectual obsessions.
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Overview

In this monumental work, Raphael Patai opens up an entirely new field of cultural history by tracing Jewish alchemy from antiquity to the nineteenth century. Until now there has been little attention given to the significant role that Jews played in the field of alchemy. Here, drawing on an enormous range of previously unexplored sources, Patai reveals that Jews were major players in what was for centuries one of humanity's most compelling intellectual obsessions.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This scholarly work is the first attempt to trace the role of Jews in the field of alchemy from biblical times through the 19th century. A helpful introduction defines alchemy as more than the effort to transmit base metals into gold. The chronological presentation devotes several chapters to individual alchemists, while other chapters cover key manuscripts, treatises, and movements in the history of Jewish alchemy. In an especially absorbing chapter, the author describes the relationship of alchemy and kabbalism, with the latter introducing a mystical and spiritual context for alchemical theories. The conclusion asserts that pre-Enlightenment Jewish alchemists saw in alchemy a connection to their religious observance. Here alchemy comes to be seen as one of the few fields of intellectual endeavor where Jews were allowed to interact with gentiles on an equal basis. For larger Jewish studies collections.-Mark Weber, Kent State Univ. Lib., Ohio
From the Publisher

Winner of the 1994 National Jewish Honor Book in Scholarship

"Raphael Patai seeks to break what he sees as the code of silence surrounding the history of Jewish alchemy, and his book represents the findings of years of intense research in this little-known subject. . . . To the author's great credit he has marshaled a vast array of sources in an effort to reaffirm that which was proclaimed by both Jewish and especially non-Jewish alchemists until the rise of the 19th-century Jewish scholarship--namely, that the Jews played a seminal role in the history of alchemy."--John Efron, Forward

"Groundbreaking and highly original treatise. . . . Before Patai's monumental study, the exact knowledge of the Jewish input into alchemy was minimal. . . . [Raphael Patai] has brought the searching light of his extraordinary excavation skills into the unearthing of a dusty but now glimmering vein of the Jewish experience."--Arnold Ages, Midstream

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691603124
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 7/14/2014
  • Series: Princeton Legacy Library Series
  • Pages: 634
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Table of Contents

Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Abbreviations
Pt. 1 Prelude
Ch. 1 Introduction 3
Ch. 2 Biblical Figures as Alchemists 18
Ch. 3 Alchemy in Bible and Talmud? 41
Pt. 2 The Hellenistic Age
Ch. 4 Jews in Hellenistic Alchemy 50
Ch. 5 Maria the Jewess 60
Ch. 6 Zosimus on Maria the Jewess 81
Pt. 3 The Early Arab World
Ch. 7 Abufalah's Alchemy 98
Ch. 8 A Hebrew Version of the Book of Alums and Salts 119
Ch. 9 Pseudo-Khalid ibn Yazid 125
Pt. 4 The Eleventh to Thirteenth Centuries
Ch. 10 Artephius 141
Ch. 11 The Great Jewish Philosophers 144
Ch. 12 Kabbalah and Alchemy: A Reconsideration 152
Pt. 5 The Fourteenth Century
Ch. 13 Raymund de Tarrega: Marrano, Heretic, Alchemist 175
Ch. 14 The Quinta Essentia in Hebrew 204
Ch. 15 Flamel's Jewish Masters 218
Ch. 16 Two Spanish Jewish Court Alchemists 234
Ch. 17 Abraham Eleazar 238
Ch. 18 Themo Judaei 258
Pt. 6 The Fifteenth Century
Ch. 19 Simeon ben Semah Duran 264
Ch. 20 Solomon Trismosin and His Jewish Master 268
Ch. 21 Abraham ben Simeon's Cabala Mystica 271
Ch. 22 Isaac Hollandus and His Son John Isaac 289
Ch. 23 Johanan Alemanno and Joseph Albo 293
Ch. 24 Pseudo-Maimonides 300
Ch. 25 Three Kuzari Commentators 314
Pt. 7 The Sixteenth Century
Ch. 26 Esh Msaref: A Kabbalistic-Alchemical Treatise 322
Ch. 27 Taitazak and Provencali 336
Ch. 28 Hayyim Vital, Alchemist 340
Ch. 29 An Alchemical Miscellany 365
Ch. 30 Labi, Hamawi, and Portaleone 376
Ch. 31 The Manchester (John Rylands) Manuscript 381
Pt. 8 The Seventeenth Century
Ch. 32 Leone Modena, Delmedigo, and Zerah 399
Ch. 33 Four Seventeenth-Century Manuscripts 407
Ch. 34 Benjamin Mussafia 437
Ch. 35 Benjamin Jesse 447
Pt. 9 The Eighteenth Century
Ch. 36 Hayyim Shmuel Falck 455
Ch. 37 The Comte de Saint-Germain 463
Ch. 38 Jacob Emden; de Bar Ilan Manuscript 480
Pt. 10 The Nineteenth Century
Ch. 39 An Alchemical Manuscript from Jerba 492
Ch. 40 Mordecai Abi Serour 514
Conclusion: A Profile of Jewish Alchemy 517
Appendix: An Alchemical Vocabulary from Jerba 525
Notes 543
Index 589
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