According to a 2016 book, “Science Without Borders: Human Imagination and Imagination’s Wonderful World,” the figure of the alchemist is the apotheosis of who we are as a society. Quoting Pliny, who wrote about these artists in the 50s, writer Michael Mees recommends the alchemist as the personification of the British-born Italian artisan living in the vineyards and far north of the Alps. Pliny’s words are taken from medieval scholars’ vivid imagination:

“The singular value of the alchemist is that he engenders in his works a distinct difference in value, helping with that fruitfulness of vision that gives to us humanity’s delight of inventing things such as that biscuit, the word apple, the invention of the modern cat, the invention of the hand at the same time as it also allows us to marvel at what the regular cloud produces!”

Pliny goes on to define the character of the alchemist with these words:

“He strives toward truth in searching for the truth; he regards himself in certain and respectable matters; he puts himself above contemporaries; his sense of vanity is well above that of others; he is intelligent; and his view is not influenced by vanity, he is not a hero, but a great one, yet he is not a great hero, neither is he an immoral man.”