This introductory chapter discusses the theme of this book, which is about the history of alchemy in the Holy Roman Empire. The book investigates what kinds of people actually practiced alchemy in early modern central Europe and where they acquired their skills. It highlights the role of entrepreneurial alchemists in the economy of central Europe, explaining how the alchemists' work placed them firmly in the midst of the worldly negotiations of contracts, commerce, and state formation, and also discusses the case of the Betruger or fraud alchemist.
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