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The Rise of Alchemy in Fourteenth-Century England: Plantagenet Kings and the Search for the Philosopher's Stone
The Rise of Alchemy in Fourteenth-Century England: Plantagenet Kings and the Search for the Philosopher's Stone
by Jonathan Hughes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not worth buying if you are interested in alchemy, 28 Jan. 2014
Unfortunately there are multiple errors on each page in the introductory chapters, showing that the author is unfamiliar with the history of alchemy before the 14th century.
When we turn to the meat of the book in the 14th century, there are still some factual errors, but also many odd or unexamined interpretations which would mislead the casual reader into thinking there was good evidence for a link between alchemy and Royalty in the 14th century. When read critically, Hughes fails to make a good argument for his thesis and does not properly discuss a number of important and relevant aspects of the alchemy of the period such as the use of cover names.
There are also errors in his references, making it impossible to trace some of his claims, and many smaller statements are not referenced at all, no matter whether they are correct or not. (And many are either wrong, or debateable but there is no room given to the debate, you are just expected to accept what he wrote)
He has at least spent some time reading manuscripts and covering a wide range of secondary works, some of which were new to me and perhaps it has some value for that, but he has not put them together at all well.
Ultimately this book should be avoided unless you are prepared to do the work of sorting out what is accurate from inaccurate.
(A proper discussion of this book would take many thousands of words and not fit into this review section)
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 26, 2014 1:59 PM GMT


Compota Thesaurariorum Regum Scotorum. Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland 1473-1574 Volume 1
Compota Thesaurariorum Regum Scotorum. Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland 1473-1574 Volume 1
by Scotland. Treasury
Edition: Paperback

1.0 out of 5 stars I wouldn't bother unless you are desperate, 20 Oct. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Frankly, if I'd known it would be this poor I may well not have bought it. Sure, with an OCR copy I expect some issues with £sd and suchlike, but when the text runs on from page to page, with at least 2 original pages in one new printed one, it gets a bit harder. It also renders the original index useless.
Fortunately I have library access to the original, and whilst I was marking up the page boundaries to render it halfway useful I found that pages 33 and 35 of the original were missing.
Also I am apparently unable to download the free electronic copy, despite being in the UK where the original book was published well over a century ago and thus is guaranteed out of copyright or suchlike.

So I wouldn't waste your money on it unless you have no other access to it.


The Chemical Choir: A History of Alchemy
The Chemical Choir: A History of Alchemy
by P.G. Maxwell-Stuart
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Useful but ultimately lots of niggles in it, 10 Oct. 2012
This is one of the newer books on alchemy from a scholarly perspective. It is worth having simply because the author has made use of the preceding 30 to 50 years of research since the staples of information were published.(Holmyard, Sherwood Taylor, Multhauf) Any interested reader can use the references to follow up a topic of interest. But beware; the reference system is badly done, listing the references on a per paragraph basis without it being clear which reference is to which bit of information makes it hard to track down what you want to know.

The bibliography at least is comprehensive, and the structure of the book is alright. But it is a derivative work, an attempt at summarising what is known about alchemy, but in doing so it becomes both too dense and too out of touch with the material. There are a number of errors within it as well, and some of the authors own interpretations are of course not necessarily valid.
Moreover, the sources are too often secondary or lesser quality, and this damages the quality of the work.

Having said all that, someone approaching alchemy for the first time may well give it 4 stars; I'm harder to please because I know much more on the topic.


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