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Transmuting Sericon: Alchemy as “Practical Exegesis” in Early Modern England

Author(s): Rampling, Jennifer M

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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 lead-based 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.”
Publication Date: 2014
Citation: Rampling, Jennifer M. "Transmuting Sericon: Alchemy as “practical exegesis” in early modern England." Osiris 29, no. 1 (2014): 19-34. doi:10.1086/678094.
DOI: doi:10.1086/678094
ISSN: 0369-7827
EISSN: 1933-8287
Pages: 19 - 34
Language: eng
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: Osiris
Version: Final published version. Article is made available in OAR by the publisher's permission or policy.

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