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The Arcanum | [Janet Gleeson]

The Arcanum

Even at the dawn of the Age of Reason, some of the finest minds in Europe were still pursuing the alchemist's dream of discovering the arcanum, the secret formula for turning base metals into gold. By the eighteenth century, the quest for that arcanum turned toward the secret formula for making the exquisite porcelain that the Chinese and Japanese had been perfecting for one thousand years. An extraordinary episode in culture and scientific history comes to life in this fascinating story.
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Publisher's Summary

Even at the dawn of the Age of Reason, some of the finest minds in Europe were still pursuing the alchemist's dream of discovering the arcanum, the secret formula for turning base metals into gold. The quest attracted brilliant intellects, charlatans and princes, all drawn in by the promise of unlimited wealth. By the eighteenth century, the quest for that arcanum was beginning to give way to another: the secret formula for making porcelain, the exquisite ceramic that the Chinese and Japanese had been perfecting for one thousand years, so precious that vast fortunes were spent on it. To own the secret of its making would be to command wealth and prestige to an unimaginable degree. An extraordinary episode in culture and scientific history comes to life in this fascinating story of genius, greed, and exquisite beauty.

©1998 by Janet Gleeson, All Rights Reserved, (P)1999 Time Warner AudioBooks; ©1999 Time Warner AudioBooks (Packaging Elements Only), A Division of Time Warner Trade Publishing

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  •  
    Jim OxfordUnited Kingdom 12-20-04
    Jim OxfordUnited Kingdom 12-20-04 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    73
    ratings
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    "Superb."

    I must admit I bought this book in error as I was in a rush to leave for a flight. The book turned out not to be what I thought, but instead I got one of the most riveting historical books I have ever read. If you have ever been curious about alchemy I can highly recommended this. However, into the bargain you will also find out why porcelain was synonomous with wealth, get an insight into the polital intrigues and wars of 18th century europe and a very human story of the unfortunate protagonist. Don't let the fact that this is in essence the history of the meissen porcelain factory put you off, it is a facinating history! The narration is also excellent.

    13 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    B. Allen Santa Barbara, CA USA 09-12-04
    B. Allen Santa Barbara, CA USA 09-12-04 Listener Since 2001
    HELPFUL VOTES
    18
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    "A great book"

    This little known audio book is superb. One of the most interesting historical audiobooks you'll ever hear. Its a facinating story of the first european to learn to manufacture porcelain and break the Asian monopoly and how the kings of europe fought to control him and his secrets. A very well told story which keeps your interest the whole way through.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Die Falknerin 05-24-11 Member Since 2008

    Painter, musician, bibliophile...

    HELPFUL VOTES
    408
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    "A must-read for lovers of porcelain"

    I had the hardcover book for many years but never got around to reading it, but when I saw David McCallum was narrating the audio edition, I had to try it. As a devotee of both German history and porcelain, I was delighted from start to finish. The personal and political intrigues, alchemical pursuits, and the competition among rogues, artists, and dreamers bring vivid color to what might have been a dry history in the hands of a less gifted storyteller. If you love porcelain, this is a must-read. I wish I hadn't waited so long!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
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