Lead is worth about five cents per pound and gold about three hundred dollars per pound or six thousand times as much. Even though the process be costly, the conversion of the base metal into the precious one would yield a fabulous profit. This transformation has been accomplished by the few who have discovered or inherited the precious secret; to attain it the only requisites are industry and piety, therefore we shall devote our lives to the undertaking. Such was at once the creed and the goal of the alchemists for more than five centuries. Is it possible to imagine a more attractive belief, a more enticing occupation ? The doctrine of the transmutation of metals prevailed in many nations at an early period of their intellectua ldevelopment. It seems to have been an outgrowth of primitive notions concerning the constitution of matter, one element or principle being regarded as fundamental and capable of giving birth to the others. Water, air, fire and earth were severally regarded as the first principles of all things by Greek philosophers, and these four were adopted by Aristotle.
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