Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Rare Books on Amazon

Forgot to mention another book that I'm currently reading, along with the Newman/Principe. This is a book that's apparently so rare that the Britisih Library don't even have one, and I never expected to find a copy. One Saturday morning recently I was at my computer having the usual breakfast surf, when I found myself doing searches on Amazon, and I decided to try my luck with said rare tome - Alchemists and Gold by Jacques Sadoul (Published in France as The Treasure of the Alchemists) - and to my immensense surprise, I found it listed. Not only that, but someone was selling a near mint copy! I bought it on the spot.

The book is important for Elias purposes, as it reproduces a letter written by Spinoza in March 1667, declaring that he feels confident that the transmutation performed by John Frederick Helvetius (one of the novel's main characters) was indeed genuine. And you won't find this listed in any of the mainstream biographies of Spinoza, as all the authors of those books don't know what to make of the fact that one of the fathers of the Enlightenment and Rationalism was making claims for something so apparently un-Enlightened and irrational. I, however, do. Spinoza's letter is massively important: thematically speaking, it's like the casting of the bell at the end of Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev...

Friday, August 05, 2005

Starkey and Van Helmont

No posts for a while, as I've been up to my eyeballs in my new (nonfiction) book, which I have to get finished in the next two weeks.

But my thoughts have been never far from Elias. I recently picked up a copy of Alchemy Tried in the Fire by William R. Newman and Lawrence M. Principe, which focusses on C17th lab practice, paying particular attention to Van Helmont and George Starkey, the heroes of parts II and III of Elias. It's very gratifying to know that there actually was a link between the two characters in real life (Starkey was a huge fan of Van Helmont's work, although the two never met), which makes me a feel that there is something 'right' about Elias. I can't put my finger on it any more than this. It's almost as if someone or something actually wants me to write it for reasons or purposes I've yet to divine.