Flamel was born sometime in the 1330s in France and became a scribe and manuscript dealer. In 1378, so the legend goes, he acquired a 21-page booklet from a relic seller. Over the next several years, Flamel and his wife translated the book’s arcane language and found themselves in possession of the ancient secrets of alchemy. They began creating gold and soon became wealthy philanthropists, noted for their generosity to the poor. But that was hardly the most remarkable recipe divined by Flamel from the pages of that ancient booklet, for he ultimately learned how to craft a Philosopher’s Stone, causing both he and his wife to become immortal.
In 1418, when he was in his 80s, Flamel presciently ordered his own casket and died soon thereafter. But a year later, a local priest, suspecting Flamel of faking his own death, hired a known grave robber to unearth Flamel’s body. The tomb was indeed empty. Flamel is rumored to still be living a quiet, unobtrusive life as a philanthropist. His house in Paris is still standing, and it is thought to be one of the oldest houses still standing in that city.
And there are those who believe that while someone named Nicholas Flamel may indeed have inhabited 14th century Paris, the whole story about his alchemical exploits was created from whole cloth by the editors of texts on alchemy in the 17th century.
I don’t know; I wasn’t there.
But I thought it was pretty cool of Rowling to work Flamel into her work of undisputed fiction.