The Alchemy of Al-Razi

The Alchemy of Al-Razi : A Translation of the Book of Secrets

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Over a thousand years ago, the Persian physician and chemist Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi presented his students with a book of alchemy instructions called the Kitab al-Asrar or Book of Secrets. For over seven hundred years this systematic text on managing chemicals, equipment, and procedures was copied and imitated throughout Europe. Using historian Julius Ruska's authoritative German translation, this book presents al-Razi's Book of Secrets in English for the first time and analyzes it from the perspective of a modern scientific laboratory. The Kitab al-Asrar offers a view into the understanding of chemistry and procedure organization in the tenth-century Islamic world. Yet a careful reading yields even more than that. As a laboratory manual, it gives intriguing clues into Persian culture under the Abbasid caliphate: the relationship of teacher and student; attitudes toward safety, labor, and quantification; tools and logical problem-solving; commerce and the availability of luxury goods; and the value of the written word. This is the Kitab al-Asrar.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 326 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 17mm | 435g
  • United States
  • English
  • black & white illustrations
  • 1507778791
  • 9781507778791
  • 1,674,448

About Ph D Gail Marlow Taylor

Gail Marlow Taylor began her graduate studies in history following a 25-year career in laboratory medicine. She completed her master's degree in 2008 with a thesis entitled: "Al-Razi's Book of Secrets: The Practical Laboratory in the Medieval Islamic World." This analysis, which included her English translation of the Book of Secrets, won the 2009 Outstanding Thesis Award at California State University, Fullerton. In June, 2014, she was awarded a doctorate in history at University of California, Irvine. Her dissertation analyzed the reception of New World medicinal plants in sixteenth-century Germany, and included a year of research in Wolfenbuettel on a Fulbright Scholarship. She lives with her husband Charles in Coto de Caza, California, where she enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren and writing her blog, "History's Edge."
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