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Tara Elaine Nummedal
Brown University (Providence, RI 02912-9100)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2005 – 6/30/2006

Alchemy's Contested Validity in Early Modern Europe's Holy Roman Empire

This project takes the problem of fraud as a point of entry into the world of alchemical practice in the sixteenth and seventeenth-century Holy Roman Empire. Fears of alchemical fraud responded to a vibrant market for alchemy in which ordinary practitioners flourished alongside learned alchemists. Drawing on criminal trials, patronage appeals, contracts and letters, this project reconstructs the lives of these ordinary alchemists who have been largely invisible in existing historiography. The debates about fraud, expressed in polemical treatises and in courtrooms, make it possible to examine how early modern Europeans distinguished true alchemists from impostors, as well as what was at stake in doing so.