Alexius Pedemontanus

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Alessio Piemontese, also known under his Latinized name of Alexius Pedemontanus, was the pseudonym of a 16th-century Italian physician, alchemist, and author of the immensely popular book, The Secrets of Alexis of Piedmont. His book[1] was published in more than a hundred editions and was still being reprinted in the 1790s. The work was translated into Latin, German, English, Spanish, French, and Polish. The work unleashed a torrent of 'books of secrets' that continued to be published down through the eighteenth century.[2]

Piemontese was the prototypical 'professor of secrets'. His description of his hunt for secrets in the preface to the Secreti helped to give rise to a legend of the wandering empiric who dedicated his life to the search for natural and technological secrets. The book contributed to the emergence of the concept of science as a hunt for the secrets of nature, which pervaded experimental science during the period of the Scientific Revolution.[3]

It is generally assumed that Alessio Piemontese was a pseudonym of Girolamo Ruscelli (Viterbo 1500 — Venice 1566), humanist and cartographer.[4] In a later work, Ruscelli reported that the Secreti contained the experimental results of an 'Academy of Secrets' that he and a group of humanists and noblemen founded in Naples in the 1540s.[5] Ruscelli's academy is the first recorded example of an experimental scientific society.[6] The academy was later imitated by Giambattista Della Porta, who founded an ‘Accademia dei Secreti’ in Naples in the 1560s.


--- 1562 edition
--- Les secrets de reverend Alexis Piémontois, Anvers, 1557 (French)
--- The Secretes of the Reverende Maister Alexis of Piermont, 1558 (English, translated from the French version)
--- Kunstbuch Des Wolerfarnen Herren Alexii Pedemontani/ von mancherleyen nutzlichen unnd bewerten Secreten oder Künsten, 1616 (German)


  1. ^ De' secreti del reuerendo donno Alessio Piemontese, prima parte, diuisa in sei libri, In Venetia: per Sigismondo Bordogna, 1555.
  2. ^ W. Eamon, Science and the Secrets of Nature: Books of Secrets in Medieval and Early Modern Culture (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994).
  3. ^ W. Eamon, "Science as a Hunt", Physis 31 (1994), 393-432.
  4. ^ Gaetano Melzi. Alessio Piemontese, in Dizionario di opere anonime e pseudonime di scrittori italiani o come che sia aventi relazione all'Italia. Milano, L. di G. Pirola, 1848. vol. I (A-G), p. 32 [1].
  5. ^ G. Ruscelli, Secreti nuovi (Venice, 1567).
  6. ^ W. Eamon and F. Paheau, “The Accademia Segreta of Girolamo Ruscelli: A Sixteenth Century Italian Scientific Society,” Isis 75 (1984): 327 42

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