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Joined: Fri Sep 14th, 2007
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I just came across this very interesting account of Nicolas Flamel.
The authors explore the existing documentation on Flamel and come to the conclusion
that he was not, after all a scribe, illuminator, bookseller and librarie jure of the University of Paris.
They do not investigate the idea that he was an alchemist.
Nigel Wilkins Nicolas Flamel Des livres et de l'or has already substantially demolished the image of Flamel as alchemist.
However, the myth always wins against the facts, and few people I know take a critical view on the reality of Flamel.

Patrons, Authors and Workshops: Books and Book Production in Paris Around 1400, edited by Godfried Croenen, Peter F. Ainsworth

GoogleBooks has a substantial section of the chapter on Flamel, though there are a few missing pages !

Last edited on Fri Sep 12th, 2014 12:52 pm by adammclean

Alexander Guthrie Stewart

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That's very interesting, it puts the history into the proper medieval context, and as you say demolishes the legend. 


Joined: Fri Sep 14th, 2007
Location: United Kingdom
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What is important is to correctly contextualise alchemical
material. The Flamel story is a construct of the early 17th
century and makes complete sense within that milieu, from
which also emerged the Basil Valentine and Salomon Trismosin
stories, among many others. It was important during this period
to establish a historical depth to alchemy and thus various
writers created these imagined characters. This is part
of the alchemy of that time. These contrivances were part
of the alchemical tradition, and we should not merely
dismiss them because they had no historical basis. Similar
contrivances happen in our own time - just think of Roswell.
These myths seem to rapidly outgrow their erroneous basis.

Scholars have to simultaneously keep both realities in
their head - the fact that the late 14th / early 15th
century Nicolas Flamel was not an alchemist, but there was
an important and influential body of 17th and 18th century
writings appearing under this name, that their authors
wanted to give some historical depth. Somehow these authors
felt that their insight and ideas about alchemy would not
be so well received by their contemporaries, so decided
to adopt the device of locating them deep in past history.

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