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Duke Cosimo was the victim of a swindle carefully prepared
by a false alchemist who went by the name of himself Daniel von Siebenburgen. This Daniel
von Siebenburgen went to work on a long view, and himself sunk four thousand ducats in his
fraudulent enterprise. Out of the four thousand ducats he had prepared a powder which
nobody could easily recognize as gold and which he called the Usufur powder.
With this he began the first preparatory part of his fraud. He
had so to introduce and popularize the powder that every apothecary knew about it and
regarded it as well-known and not excessively dear medicament. To this end Daniel von
Siebenburgen traveled through the Italian towns and sold Usufur with other preparations to
the pharmacists, as a medicament. Then he set up as a physician, and made his patients
themselves fetch Usufur from the pharmacists for him to incorporate in the medicines he
prepared for them. In this way he got his gold back and at the same time quietly pushed
his powder into notice.
In 1555, when he felt the time was ripe, Daniel went to Florence and secured an audience
from Duke Cosimo. The alchemist showed plenty of self-assurance. He said he could offer a
recipe for making gold that contained only a few simple chemicals and required no long
period or difficult manipulations for production. The duke could himself have the
materials brought from any apothecary in the city. The duke saw on the list a Usufur
powder that was unfamiliar to him. But he found that the apothecaries all knew it. The
first test went smoothly and with perfect success. The metal refiners declared the product
to be pure gold. The duke himself made another test primarily for his own satisfaction,
with no worse result. No wonder Duke Cosimo hasten to purchase the recipe from the
alchemist. A formal agreement was drawn up under which Daniel von Siebenburgen bound
himself to make the new process known to no other person, and in return was to receive
from the duke an indemnity of twenty thousand ducats.
So Daniel von Siebenburgen was relieved for the time from all anxiety as to his means of
subsistence. But, as the duke could understand, the learned Daniel was a very busy man.
Many people must need his scientific counsel in these matters. So it was not surprising
that the great alchemist was soon summoned urgently to France for a consultation.
The Duke of Florence had no fear for his gold production. Without the alchemist having
anything to do with the work, the duke had himself sent again and again to the
apothecaries for the materials for the gold mixture, including the Usufur powder, and he
had thus already made gold to the value of a couple of thousand ducats. But, quite apart
from that, the duke had a great regard for the learned Daniel von Siebenburgen, and did
not want to lose him from his court at Florence. So Daniel had to promise the duke that he
would soon return. On the day of his departure a ducal barge conveyed him across the sea.
But Daniel did not return to Florence. Instead there came an impudent letter for the duke
in which the alchemist mentioned the limited world stocks of Usufur and intimated that he
was the only manufacturer of it.
[From The Goldmakers, by K. K. Doberer;
pages 109 to 110.]
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