I don't know a simple book on electrochemistry. The topic itself is tricky, and I'm by no means an expert.
170V is indeed an awful lot in a bath, badly dangerous. I got once 110V (in Brazil) across the body in a shower and I testify one better avoids it. Very short time, not 240V, still alive. Do you have other means, like adding some electrolyte right from the beginning?
Do keep an insulation transformer. The mains and electrolytes don't go together.
The insulation doesn't need to come from a Power Factor Correction stage, and often the PFC doesn't insulate. PFC is "only" a legal requirement in Europe at the power you operate, not a technical one. You can just rectify and filter the mains, build a buck regulator, and obtain the output power from a secondary winding rather than using a simple coil. The inductive component (then a transformer) is marginally bigger, but for kW power, everybody would have a transformer, because an H full bridge can drive it, and then all components are smaller: transistors, diodes, inductive components.
I just wonder how used you are to power electronics, a difficult area. If you want to learn, that's perfect, and some good books exist. But if you hope to make a 1kW 12V supply as your first project, it will take you many months (with solid background in analog electronics and in electromagnetics, among others to estimate stray inductances and their effect at 83A 12V) and some money in destroyed components. So if it's merely a means to continue your electrochemistry experiments, stick to PC power supplies. As an other advantage, they are insulated.
What else happens if the voltage is too high? In short: nobody knows, but things do happen, and never what is desired.
12V is already too much and usually lets the electrodes react, in addition to heating the electrolyte. The useful processes take place at 1V to 3V. If the computed voltage is higher, the process is probably impossible in water. Hence my suggestion to use the 3.3V or maybe 5V outputs of the PC power supply.
The general way to increase the intensity is bigger electrodes closer to an other, and more concentrated electrolytes. The next step is many cells, then connected in series for convenient current and voltage.
(but I guess your experiments are more varied), what about heating it? I expect
much like CaO is produced from CaCO3
. Wiki suggests 851°Chttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_carbonate
which is accessible.