Fascinated by Gold? Fun Facts about Alchemy
The Lafayette Sword by Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne plot has gold fever, Freemasonry, murders, the quest for a stolen priceless sword, and alchemy. Here are some interesting tidbits Anne Trager, founder of Le French Book, learned along the way. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll likely recognize the name Nicolas Flamel, who happens to be a real life famed alchemist.
I recently translated an entertaining action thriller by Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne called The Lafayette Sword. The plot has gold fever, Freemasonry, murders, and the quest for a stolen priceless sword. It also has alchemy. I learned a lot about that precious metal and about alchemy in the process. Here are some fun facts I picked up. Impress your friends.
- Ancient Persia—modern-day Iran—is the cradle of alchemy.
- Alchemy has been around for at least 2500 years, and some sources say much longer.
- It was practiced in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persia, India, China, Japan, Korea, Classical Greece and Rome, in the Muslim civilizations, and in Europe.
- Chrysopoeia is the transmutation of common metals into gold or silver, and was one of the goals of traditional alchemy. Alchemists were also seeking a panacea to heal diseases, an elixir of life to prolong life, and a universal solvent.
- What alchemists did find were new experimental techniques, medicines, and pigments.
- Three essential substances are needed for transmutation: salt, mercury and sulfur.
- The alchemical Great Work, or Magnum Opus, was the process of working with the prima materia to create the philosopher’s stone, which was needed for transmutation.
- The philosopher’s stone was not a stone, but similar to wax in consistency.
- The Magnum Opus originally had four stages: nigredo, a blackening or melanosis; albedo, a whitening or leucosis; citrinitas, a yellowing or xanthosis; rubedo, a reddening, purpling.
- Famous alchemists include Isaac Newton, who practiced the art his entire life, was fascinated by gold, and introduced the gold standard when he worked for the Royal Mint.
- Another famed alchemist is a medieval scribe shrouded in legend: Nicolas Flamel. He was quoted in Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, figures in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and is mentioned in The Da Vinci Code. (Now, that’s an odd combination of titles to have in one sentence.)
- Nobel laureate Glenn Seaborg transmuted tiny quantities of bismuth into gold in 1980.
- It would cost a quadrillion dollars to produce an ounce of gold using particle accelerators.
Anne Trager is the founder of Le French Book, a publisher dedicated to hand-picking, translating and publishing top crime fiction from Europe. Their recent release The Lafayette Sword is by Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne, who rank at the top of France’s best-selling thriller writers list. They owe their international renown (over 2 million copies sold) to their series about the Freemason Inspector Antoine Marcas, which made its U.S. debut last year with Shadow Ritual. Now, The Lafayette Sword is available in English. Following the murder of a Freemason brother, Antoine Marcas uncovers unsettling truths about gold and its power to fascinate and corrupt in a captivating plot that weaves alchemy and the Middle Ages into a modern-day thriller. Find out more here. Or read an extended sneak preview here.
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