The pursuit of the Philosopher’s Stone and proving that metals could be transformed, enticed many blacksmiths to become alchemists. Working with metals was an important aspect of alchemy and the symbol of the forge and anvil are often seen in alchemy laboratories. Mercury and sulfur were frequently used in alchemical experiments. Many puffers succumbed to mercury poisoning.
Centuries after alchemy was discredited, the discovery of radioactivity validated the concept of the transmutation of metals.
Kunst–Büchlein, oder, Gründlicher Gebrauch von Etz–Arbeit, in und ausserhalb Feuers aus Alchymischen und natürlichen Grunde, nehmlich, Härten, Weichen, Schmeltzen, Scheiden, Abtreiben, Probieren, Löten, Etzen, Abformen, Abgiessen, &c. Franckfurth; Leipzig: Verlegts Johann Caspar Meyer, 1687.
This work on “The Proper Use of Alchemy” contains a list of metals and their symbols.
Ars transmvtationis metallicae: cvm Leonis X. ponti. max. et conci. capi. decemvirvm Venetorvm edicto. [Venetiis]: In aedibus Ioannis Tacuini impressorum accuratissimi Venetiis editum, 1519.
The Venetian priest Giovanni Agostino Pantheo (1517–1535) wrote this controversial work against “spurious” alchemy. This was the first alchemical text to be printed in Italy and is extremely rare; only three copies exist in Italian libraries and two in the United States. “Artis Metallicae Schema” is an interesting engraving of a circle divided up into parts with metallic symbols, a crescent moon (sulfur) in the center and the sun (mercury) towards the top.
Della tramvtatione metallica sogni tre. In Brescia: Appresso Francesco, et Piet. Maria Marchetti Fratelli, 1572.
This is the second edition of Giovanni Battista Nazari’s (c. 16th century) allegorical treatise on the transmutation of metals. Shown here is an engraving of the fish bodied–man with three tails with faces which represents “The Mercury of the Philosophers.”
[La ricerca e lo sfruttamento dei metalli]. [s.l. : s.n., 1540?]
Italian artist, Domenico Beccafumi (1486–1551) was primarily a painter. This work is also titled The Mysterious Labours of Alchemy. This remarkable collection of ten woodcuts illustrates alchemists performing various metallurgical tasks.