Book VI - The spagyrical anatomy of gold and silver

The Art of Distillation John French 1651



I shall first endeavor to show whence gold had its origin, and what the matter thereof is, as nature (says Sendivogius) is in the will of God, and God created her. So nature made for herself a seed, with her will in the elements. Now she indeed is one, yet she brings forth diverse things, but she operates nothing without a sperm. Whatsoever the sperm will, nature operates, for she is as it were the instrument of any artificers. The sperm therefore of everything is better and more profitable than nature herself. For you shall from nature do as much without a sperm as a goldsmith without fire or a husbandman without grain or feed. Now the sperm of anything is the elixir, the balsam of sulphur, and the same as humidum radicale is in metals. But to proceed to what concerns our purpose.

Four elements generate a sperm, by the will of God, and the imagination of nature. For, as the sperm of a man has its canter or the vessel of its seed in the kidneys, so the four elements by their indefinite motion (every one according to its quality) cast forth a sperm into the center of the earth where it is digested and by motion is sent abroad. Now the center of the earth is a certain empty place where nothing can rest. The four elements send forth their qualities into the circumference of the canter. As a male sends forth his seed into the womb of the female which, after it has received a due portion, casts out the rest, so it happens in the center of the earth that the magnetic power of a part of any place attracts something and the rest is cast forth into stones and other excrements. For something has its origin from this fountain, and there is nothing in the world produced but by this fountain. As for example, set upon an even table a vessel of water which may be placed in the middle thereof, and round about it set diverse things, and diverse colors, also salt, etc., everything by itself. Then pour the water into the middle, and you shall then see water to run every way, and when any stream touches the red color, it will be made red by it. If the water touches the salt, it will contract the taste of salt from it, and so of the rest. Now the water does not change the places, but the diversity of places changes the water. In like manner, the seed or sperm, being cast forth by the four elements from the canter of the earth unto the superficies thereof, passes through various places, and according to the nature of the place is anything produced. If it come to a pure place of earth and water, a pure thing is made.

The seed and sperm of all things is but one, and yet it generates diverse things, as it appears by the former example. The sperm while it is in the center is indifferent to all forms, but when it is come into any determinate place, it changes no more its form. The sperm while it is in the center can as easily produce a tree as a metal, and an herb as a stone, and one more precious than another according to the purity of the place. Now this sperm is produced of elements thus. These four are never quiet but, by reason of their contrariety, mutually act one upon another, and every one of itself sends forth its own subtlety, and they agree in the canter. Now in this canter is the Archaeus, the servant of nature which, mixing those sperms together, sends them abroad and by distillation sublimes them by the heat of a continual motion unto the superficies of the earth. For the earth is porous, and the vapor (or wind, as the philosophers call it) is by distilling through the pores of the earth resolved into water, of which all things are produced. Let therefore as I said before, all sons of Art, know that the sperm of metals is not different from the sperm of all things, being a humid vapor. Therefore, in vain do artists endeavor the reduction of metals into their first matter which is only a vapor. Now, says Bernard Trevisan, when philosophers speak of a first matter they did not mean this vapor, but the second matter which is an unctuous water which to us is the first, because we never find the former. Now the specification of this vapor into distinct metals is thus. This vapor passes in its distillation through the earth, through places either cold or hot. If through hot and pure, where the fatness of sulphur sticks to the sides thereof, then that vapor (which philosophers call the mercury of philosophers) mixes, and joins itself unto that fatness which afterwards it sublimes with itself. Then it becomes, leaving the name of a vapor, an unctuosity, which afterwards coming by sublimation into other places (which the antecedent vapor did purge) where the earth is subtle, pure, and humid, fills the pores thereof and is joined to it, and so it becomes gold. Where it is hot and something impure, it becomes silver. But if that fatness comes to impure places which are cold, it is made lead. If that place be pure and mixed with sulphur, it becomes copper. For by how much the more pure and warm the place is, so much the more excellent does it make the metals.

Now this first matter of metals is a humid, viscous, incombustible, subtle substance, incorporated with an earth subtlety, being equally and strongly mixed per minima in the caverns of the earth. But, as in many things, there is a twofold unctuosity (whereof one is, as it were, internal, retained in the canter of the thing lest it should be destroyed by fire which cannot be without the destruction of the substance itself wherein it is; the other is, as it were, external, feculent, and combustible). So in all metals except gold, there is a twofold unctuosity. One is external, sulphurous, and inflammable which is joined to it by accident and does not belong to the total union with the terrestrial parts of the thing. The other is internal, very subtle, and incombustible, because it is of the substantial composition of argent vive and, therefore, cannot be destroyed by fire, unless with the destruction of the whole substance, whence it appears what the cause is that metals are more or less durable in the fire. For those which abound with that internal unctuosity are less consumed, as it appears in silver and, especially, in gold. Hence, Rosarius says the philosophers could never by any means find out anything that could endure the fire, but that unctuous humidity only which is perfect and incombustible. Geber also asserts the same when he says that imperfect bodies have superfluous humidities and sulphureity generating a combustible blackness in them, and corrupting them. They have also an impure, feculent, and combustible terrestriety so gross as that it hinders ingression and fusion. But a perfect metal as gold, has neither this sulphurous nonterrestrial impurity, I mean, when it is fully maturated and melted. For while it is in concoction it has both joined to it, as you may see in the golden ore, but then they do not adhere to it so, but that it may be purified from them which other metals cannot, but are both destroyed together if you attempt to separate the one from the other. Besides gold has so little of these corruptible principles mixed with it that the inward sulphur or metalline spirit does sometimes and in some places overcome them of itself, as we may see in the gold which is found very pure sometimes in the superficies of the earth and in the sea sands, and is many times as pure as any refined gold.

Now, this gold which is found in sands and rivers is not generated there, as says Gregorius Agricola in his third book, De Re Metallica, but is washed down from the mountains with fountains that run from thence.

There is also a flaming gold found (as Paracelsus says) in the tops of mountains which is indeed separated of itself from all impurities and is as pure as any refined gold whatsoever. So that you see, that gold, although it had an extrinsical sulphur and earth mixed with it, yet it is sometimes separated from it of itself, viz., by that fiery spirit that is in it. Now this pure gold (as says Sendivogius) nature would have perfected into an elixir, but was hindered by the crude air, which crude air is indeed nothing else than that extrinsical sulphur which it meets with and is joined to in the earth, and which fills with its violence the pores thereof, and hinders the activity thereof. This is that prison which the sulphur (as says the aforesaid author) is locked up in so that it cannot act upon its body, viz., mercury and concoct it into the seed of gold, as otherwise it would do. This is that dark body (as says Penotus) that is interposed between the philosophical sun and moon and keeps off the influences of the one from the other. Now if any skillful philosopher could wittily separate this adventitious impurity from gold while it is yet living, he would set sulphur at liberty, and for this his service he should be gratified with three kingdoms, viz., vegetable, animal, and mineral. I mean he could remove that great obstruction which hinders gold from being digested into the elixir. For, as says Sendivogius, the elixir or tincture of philosophers is nothing else but gold digested into the highest degree. For the gold of the vulgar is as an herb without seed, but when living gold (for common gold never can by reason that the spirits are bound up and, indeed, as good as dead and not possibly to be reduced to that activity which is required for the producing of the sperm of gold) is ripened it gives a seed which multiplies even ad infinitum. Now the reason of this barrenness of gold that it produces not a seed, is the aforesaid crude air, viz., impurities. You may see this illustrated by this example.

We see that orange trees in Polonia do grow like other trees, also in Italy and elsewhere, where their native soil is, and yield fruit, because they have sufficient heat. But in these colder countries they are barren and never yield any fruit, because they are oppressed with cold. If at any time nature be wittily and sweetly helped, then art can perfect what nature could not. After the same manner it is in metals, for gold would yield fruit and seed in which it might multiply itself, if it were helped by the industry of the skillful artist who knows how to promote nature and to separate these sulphurous and earthly impurities from gold. For there is a sufficient heat in living gold which if it were stirred up by extrinsical heat, to digest it into a seed. By extrinsical heat I do not mean the heat of the celestial sun, but that heat which is in the earth and stirs up the seed, the living spirit that is in all subterranean sperms to multiply and, indeed, makes gold become gold.

Now this is a heat of putrefaction occasioned by acid spirits in the earth fermenting, as you may see by this example related by Albertus Magnus, but to which the reason was given by Sendivogius. There was, says the former author, certain grains of gold found between the teeth of a dead man in the grave, wherefore he conceived there was a power in the body of man to make and fix gold. But the reason is far otherwise, as says the latter author. He says argent vive was by some physician conveyed into the body of this man when he was alive, either by unction or by turbith, or some such as was the custom. It is the nature of mercury to ascend to the mouth of the patient and through the excoriation of the mouth to be avoided with the phlegm. Now, then, if in such a cure the sick man died, that mercury not having passage out remained between the teeth in the mouth. That carcass became the natural vessel of mercury, and so for a long time being shut up, was congealed by its proper sulphur into gold by the natural heat of putrefaction, being purified by the corrosive phlegm of the carcass, but if the mineral mercury had not been brought in thither, gold had never been produced there. This is a most true example that as mercury is by the proper sulphur that is in itself, being stirred up and helped by an extrinsical heat, coagulated into gold, unless it be hindered by any accident, or have not a requisite extrinsical heat, or a convenient place, so also nature does in the bowels of earth produce of mercury only gold and silver, and other metals according to the disposition of the place and matrix, which assertion is further cleared by the rule of reduction. For if it be true that all things consist of that which they may be reduced into, then gold consists of mercury, because (as most grant, Paracelsus affirms, and many at this day profess they can do) it may be reduced into it.

There is a way by which the tincture of gold which is the soul thereof, and fixes it, may be so fully extracted that the remaining substance will be sublimed like arsenic and may be as easily reduced into mercury as sublimate. If so, and if all mercury may be reduced into a transparent water, as it may (according to the process set down earlier, and as I know how another better and easier way to turn a pound of mercury of itself into a clear water in half an hour, which is one of the greatest secrets I know or care to know, together with what may be produced thence, and shall crave leave to be silent in) may not that water in some sense, if it be well rectified, be called a kind of living gold out of which you may perhaps make a medicine and a menstruum unfit for the vulgar to know.

It appears now from what is premised that the immediate matter of gold is probably mercury, and not certain salts and I know not what as many dream of, and that the extrinsical heat is from within the earth and not the heat of the sun, as some imagine (because in the hottest countries there is all or almost all gold generated) who if they considered that in cold countries also are and, as in Scotland were gold mines in King James' time, would be of another mind than to think that the celestial sun could penetrate so as to heat the earth so deep as most gold lies.

I now having in some measure discovered what the intrinsical and extrinsical heat and the matter of gold is, I shall next endeavor to explain what those three principles are, viz., salt, sulphur, and mercury, of which argent vive and gold consist. Know therefore that after nature had received from the most High God the privilege of all things upon the monarchy of this world, she began to distribute places and provinces to every thing according to its dignity, and in the first place did constitute the four elements to be the princes of the world and, that the will of the Most High (in whose will nature in placed) might be fulfilled, ordained that they should act upon one another incessantly. The fire therefore began to act upon the air and produced sulphur. The air also began to act upon the water and produced mercury. The water also began to act upon the earth and produced salt. Now the earth not having whereon to act produced nothing, but became the subject of what was produced. So then there were produced three principles, but our ancient philosophers, not so strictly considering the matter, described only two acts of the elements and so named but two principles, viz., sulphur and mercury, or else they were willing to be silent in the other, speaking only to the sons of art.

The sulphur, therefore, of philosophers (which indeed is the sulphur of metals and of all things) is not, as many think, that common combustible sulphur which is sold in shops, but is another thing far differing from that, and is combustible, not burning nor heating, but preserving and restoring all things which it is in. It is the calidum innatum of everything, the fire of nature, the created light, and of the nature of the sun, and is called the sun. Thus whatsoever in anything is fiery and airy is sulphur, not that anything is wholly sulphurous, but what in it is most thin and subtle, having the essence of the natural fire and the nature of the created light which indeed is that sulphur which wise philosophers have in all ages with great diligence endeavored to extract, and with its proper mercury to fix, and so to perfect the great magistery of nature. Now of all things in the world there is nothing that has more of this sulphur in it than gold and silver, but especially gold, insomuch that oftentimes it is called sulphur because sulphur is the most predominant and excellent principle in it, and being in it more than in all things besides.

Mercury is not here taken for common argent vive, but it is the humidum radicals of everything, that pure aqueous, unctuous, and viscous humidity of the matter. It is of the nature of the moon and it is called the moon and for this reason, viz., because it is humid, as also because it is capable of receiving the influence and light of the sun, viz., sulphur. Salt is that fixed permanent earth which is the center of everything that is incorruptible and unalterable, and it is the supporter and nurse of the humidum radicale with which it is strongly mixed. Now this salt has in it a seed, viz., its galidum innatum which is sulphur and its humidum radicale, which is mercury, and yet these three are not distinct or to be separated, but are one homogenous thing, having upon a different account diverse names. For in respect of its heat and fiery substance, it is called sulphur. In respect of its humidity it is called mercury, and in respect of its terrestrial siccity it is called salt, all which are in gold perfectly united, depurated, and fixed.

Gold therefore is the most noble and solid of all metals, of a yellow colon, compacted of principles digested to the utmost height and, therefore fixed.

Silver is in the next place of dignity to gold and differs from it in digestion chiefly. I said chiefly, because there is some small impurity besides adhering to silver.

Now, having given some small account of the original matter first, and second of the manner of the growth of gold, I shall in the next place set down some curiosities therein and preparation thereof. The preparations are chiefly three, viz., aurum potabile which is the mixtion thereof with other liquors; oil of gold which is gold liquid by itself without the mixture of any other liquor; and the tincture which is the extraction of the color thereof.


Dissolve pure fine gold in aqua regis according to art (the aqua regis being made of a pound of aqua fortis and four ounces of salt armoniac distilled together by retort in sand) which clear solution put into a large glass of a wide neck and upon it pour drop by drop oil of tartar made per deliquium, until the aqua aegis which before was yellow becomes clear and white, for that is a sign that all calx of gold is settled to the bottom. Then let it stand all night, and in the morning pour off the clear liquor, and wash the calx four or five times with common spring water, being warmed, and dry it with a most gentle heat.

Note, and that well, that if the heat be too great, the calx takes fire presently like gun powder and flies away to your danger and loss. Therefore, it is best to dry it in the sun, or on a stone, stirring it diligently with a wooden spatule. To this calx add half a part of the powder of sulphur. Mix them together, and in an open crucible let the sulphur burn away in the fire, putting a gentle fire to it at the first, and in the end a most strong fire for the space of an hour so that the calx may in some manner be reverberated and become most subtle, which keep in a vial close stopped for your use.

Then make a spirit of urine after this manner. Take the urine of a healthy man drinking wine moderately. Put it into a gourd which you must stop close, and set in horse dung for the space of forty days. Then distill it by alembic in sand into a large receiver until all the humidity be distilled off. Rectify this spirit by cohobation three times so that the spirit only may rise. Then distill it in sand by a glass with a long neck having a large receiver annexed and closed very well to it, and the spirit will be elevated into the top of the vessel like crystal without any aqueous humidity accompanying of it. Let this distillation be continued until all the spirits be risen. These crystals must be dissolved in distilled rain water and be distilled as before. This must be done six times and every time you must take fresh rain water distilled. Then put these crystals into a glass bolt head, close hermetically, and set in the moderate heat of a balneum for the space of fifteen days so that they may be reduced into a most clear liquor. To this liquor add an equal weight of spirit of wine, very well rectified, and let them be digested in balneum the space of twelve days, in which time they will be united.

Then take the calx of gold above said, and pour upon it of these united spirits as much as will cover them three fingers breadth. Digest them in a gentle heat until the liquor be tinged as red as blood. Decant off the tincture and put on more of the aforesaid spirits and do as before until all the tincture be extracted. Then put all the tincted spirits together and digest them ten or twelve days, after which time abstract the spirit with a gentle heat and cohobate it once. And then the calx will remain in the bottom like an oil as red as blood and of a pleasant odor, and which will be dissolved in any liquor. Wherefore this oil may be the succedaneum of true gold. If you distill the same solution by retort in sand there will come over after the first part of the menstruum the tincture with the other part thereof, as red as blood, the earth which is left in the bottom of the vessel being black, dry, spongy, and light. The menstruum must be vapored away and the oil of gold will remain by itself, which must be kept as a great treasure. And this is Dr. Anthony's Aurum Potabile.

Four or eight grains of this oil taken in what manner soever wonderfully refreshes the spirits, and works several ways, especially by sweat.


Take an ounce of leaf gold and dissolve it in four ounces of the rectified water of mercury. Digest them in horse dung the space of two months. Then evaporate the mercurial water, and at the bottom you shall have the true oil of gold which is radically dissolved.


Dissolve pure gold in aqua regis. Precipitate it with the oil of sand into a yellow powder which you must dulcify with warm water, and then dry it (this will not be fired as aurum fulminans). This powder is twice as heavy as the gold that was put in, the cause of which is the salt of the flints precipitating itself with the gold. Put this yellow powder into a crucible and make it glow a little, and it will be turned into the highest and fairest purple that ever you saw, but if it stands longer it will be brown. Then pour upon it the strongest spirit of salt (for it will dissolve it better than any aqua regis) on which dissolution pour on the best rectified spirit of wine, and digest them together. By a long digestion some part of the gold will fall to the bottom like a white snow and may with borax, tartar, and salt nitre be melted into a white metal as heavy as gold and, afterwards with antimony, may recover its yellow color again. Then evaporate the spirit of salt and of wine, and the gold tincture remains at the bottom and is of great virtue.


Take of the aforesaid yellow calx of gold precipitated with oil of sand, one part, and three or four parts of the liquor of sand or of crystals. Mix them well together and put them into a crucible in a gentle heat at first, so that the moisture of the oil may vapor away (which it will not do easily because of the dryness of the sand which retains the moisture thereof, so that it flies away like molten alum or borax). When no more will vapor away, increase your fire until the crucible be red hot and the mixture ceases bubbling. Then put it into a wind furnace and cover it so that no ashes fall into it. Make a strong fire about it for the space of an hour, and the mixture will be turned into a transparent ruby. Then take it out, beat it, and extract the tincture with spirit of wine which will become like thin blood, and that which remains undissolved may be melted into a white metal as the former.


Hang plates of gold over the fume of argent vive, and they will become white, friable, and fluxile as wax. This is called the magnesia of gold, as says Paracelsus, in finding out of which (says he) philosophers as Thomas Aquinas and Rupescissa with their followers took a great deal of pains, but in vain, and it is a memorable secret and indeed very singular for melting of metals that are not easily fluxible. Now, then, gold being thus prepared and melted together with the mercury, is become a brittle substance which must be powdered and out of it a tincture may be drawn for the transmuting of metals.


Take half an ounce of pure gold and dissolve it in aqua regis. Precipitate it with oil of flints, dulcify the calx with warm water and dry it, and so it is prepared for your work. Then take regulus martis powdered and mix it with three parts of salt nitre, both which put into a crucible and make them glow gently at first. Then give a strong melting fire and then this mixture will become to be of a purple colon, which then take out and beat to powder. Add to three parts of this one part of the calx of gold prepared as before. Put them into a wind furnace in a strong crucible, and make them melt as a metal. So will the nitrum antimoniatum in the melting take the calx of gold to itself and dissolve it, and the mixture will come to be of an amethyst colon Let this stand flowing in the fire until the whole mass be as transparent as a rubine which you may try by taking a little out and cooling of it. If the mixture does not flow well, cast in some more salt nitre. When it is completely done, cast it forth being flowing into a brazen mortar and it will be like an oriental rubine. Then powder it before it be cold. Then put it into a vial and with the spirit of wine extract the tincture.

This is one of the best preparations of gold and of most excellent use in medicine.


First make a furnace fit for the purpose which must be closed at the top and have a pipe to which a recipient with a flat bottom must be fitted. When this furnace is thus fitted, put in three or four grains, not above at once, of aurum fulminans which, as soon as the furnace is hot, flies away into the recipient through the pipe like a purple colored fume and is turned into a purple colored powder. Then put in three or four grains more and do as before until you have enough flowers of gold (that which fly not away but remain at the bottom, may with borax be melted into good gold). Then take them out and pour upon them rectified spirit of wine tartarizated, and digest them in ashes until the spirit be colored blood red which you must them evaporate and at the bottom will be a blood red tincture of no small virtue.


Take the purest gold you can get and pour on it four times as much aqua regia. Stop your glass with a paper, and set it in warm ashes. So will the aqua regia in an hour or two take up the gold and become a yellow water, if it be strong enough. (Be sure that your gold has no copper in it, for then your labor will be lost, because the copper will be precipitated with the gold and hinder the firing thereof). Then pour on this yellow water drop by drop pure oil of tartar made per deliquium, so will the gold be precipitated into a dark yellow powder and the water be clear. Note that you pour not on more oil of tartar than is sufficient for the precipitation, otherwise it will dissolve part of the precipitated gold to your prejudice. Pour off the clear liquor by inclination, and dulcify the calx with distilled rain water warmed. Then set this calx in the sun or some warm place to dry, take great heed and especial care that you set it not in a place too hot, for it will presently take fire and fly away like thunder and not without great danger to the standers by, if the quantity be great. This is the common way to make aurum fulminaris, and has considerable difficulties in the preparation. But the best way is to precipitate gold dissolved in aqua regis by the spirit of salt armoniac or of urine, for by this way the gold is made purer than by the other and gives a far greater crack and sound. Note that the salt of the spirits which is precipitated with the gold must be washed away and the gold dulcified as before.

A few grains of this being fired give a crack and sound as great as a musket when it is discharged and will blow up anything more forcibly far than gunpowder, and it is a powder that will quickly and easily be fired.

This is of use for physick as it is in powder, but especially it is used in making the foregoing tincture.


Take oil of sand, as much as you please, and pour upon it the same quantity of oil of tartar per deliquium. Shake them well together so that they be incorporated and become as one liquor of a thin consistency. Then is your menstruum or liquor prepared. Then dissolve gold in aqua regia, and evaporate the menstruum and dry the calx in the fire, but make it not too hot, for it will thereby lose its growing quality. Then take it out and break it into little bits, not into powder. Put those bits into the aforesaid liquor (that they may lay a finger's breadth the one from the other) in a very clear glass. Keep the liquor from the air, and you shall see that those bits of the calx will presently begin to grow. First they will swell. Then they will put forth one or two stems, and then diverse branches and twigs so exactly as that you cannot choose but exceedingly to wonder. This growing is real and not imaginary only. Note that the glass must stand still and not be moved.


Calcine fine gold in aqua regia so that it becomes a calx, which put into a gourd glass, and pour upon it good and fresh aqua regia and the water of gradation, so that they cover the calx four finger's breadth. This menstruum abstract in the third degree of fire until no more will ascend. This distilled water pour on it again and abstract it as before, and this do so often until you see the gold rise in the glass and grow in the form of a tree having many boughs and leaves.


Take leaves of gold and bury them in the earth which looks towards the east. Let it often be soiled with man's urine and dove's dung, and you shall see that in a short time they will be increased.

The reason of this growth, I conceive, may be the gold's attracting that universal vapor and sperm that comes from the canter through the earth (as has been spoken in the Anatomy of Gold) and by the heat of putrefaction of the dung putrifying and assimilating it to itself.


There is found a certain stone in Bononia, which some call a golden marcasite, some a salary magnes, that receives light from the sun in the daytime and gives it forth in the dark.

About this there has been much reasoning among philosophers, as whether light be really a body, or any kind of substance, or an accident only, and whether this stone had any gold in it or no, and what it did consist of. He that first discovered it thought that he had found a thing that would transmute metals into gold (by which it appears that there seemed to be something of gold in it or something more glorious than gold). But his hopes were frustrated by a fruitless labor, notwithstanding which I conceive there might be some immature or crude gold in it; for crude gold is a subject (being there is some life in it) that is most fit to receive the influences of the sun according to the unanimous consent of all philosophers and, therefore, is by them not only called salary, but sol, the sun itself.

It is prepared for the receiving of light thus. It is calcined two ways. First it is brought into a most subtle powder with a very strong fire in a crucible. Secondly, being thus brought into a powder, it is made up into cakes as big as a dollar or a piece-of-eight, either with common water alone or with the white of an egg. Put those cakes being dried by themselves into a wind furnace S S S with coals and calcine them in a most strong fire for the space of four or five hours. When the furnace is cold, take them out, and if they be not sufficiently calcined the first time (which is known by their giving but little light) then reiterate the calcination after the same manner as before, which is sometimes to be done thrice. That is the best which is made with the choicest stones that are clean, pure, and diaphanous, and gives the best light. With this being powdered, you may make the forms of diverse animals, of what shapes you please, which you must keep in boxes, and they will, receiving light from the sun in the daytime, give light in the night or in a dark place which light will vanish by degrees.


With the aforesaid preparations, the ancients did not only preserve the health and strength of their bodies, but also prolong their lives to a very old age, and not that only, but cured thoroughly the epilepsy, apoplexy, elephantiasis, leprosy, melancholy, madness, the quartain, the gout, dropsy, plurisy, all manner of fevers, the jaundice, lucs venerea, the wolfe, cancer, nolli nes angere, asthma, consumption, the stone, stopping of the urine, inward impostumes, and such like diseases which most men account incurable. For there is such a potent fire lying in prepared gold which does not only consume deadly humors, but also renews the very marrow of the bones, and raises up the whole body of man being half dead.

They that use any of these preparations for any of the foregoing diseases must take themselves to their bed for the space of two or three hours and expect sweating to ensue for, indeed, it will send forth sweat plentifully and with ease, and leave no impurity or superfluity in the whole body. Note that they must take it fourteen days together in appropriate liquors.

Let young men that expect long life take any of the aforesaid preparations once in a month, and in the morning, but they must abstain from neat and drink until the evening of the same day, for in that time that matter will be digested into the radical humor, whereby the strength of the body is wonderfully increased, beauty does flourish most wonderfully, and continues until extreme old age.

Let old men take it twice in a month, for by this means will their old age be fresh until the appointed time of death.

Let young women and maids take it once in a month after their menstrua, for by this means they will look fresh and beautiful.

Let women that are in travail take it, and it will help and strengthen them to bring forth without much pain, notwithstanding many difficulties.

Let it be given to women that have passed the years of their menstrua once or twice a month, and it will preserve them very fresh, and many times cause their menstrua to return and make them capable again of bearing children.

It cures the plague and expells the matter of a carbuncle by sweat most potently.

When I say that this, or it will do thus or thus, I mean any one of the forementioned preparations, viz., aurum potabile, oils or tincture of gold.


All the several preparations of gold may, except that of aurum fulminans, be applied to silver, of which being thus prepared the virtues are inferior to those of gold, yet come nearer to them than those of any other matter whatsoever, or howsoever prepared.

Note that silver has some peculiar preparations which neither gold nor any other metals are capable of.


Take fine silver and dissolve it in twice so much rectified spirit of nitre. Then abstract half of the said spirit in sand. Let it stand a day or two in a cold place, and much of the silver will shoot into crystals, and in oft doing, most of it.

These crystals are very bitter, yet may be made into pills and taken inwardly from three grains to twelve. They purge very securely and gently, and color the lips, tongue, and mouth black. If in this dissolution of silver before it be brought to crystals, half so much mercury be dissolved and both shoot together into crystals, you shall have a stone not much unlike to alum. This purges sooner and better, and is not so bitter. It colons the nails, hair, skin, if it be dissolved in rainwater, with a lovely brown, red, or black, according as you put more or less thereof.

Take of the aforesaid crystals of silver and mix with them a like quantity of pure saltpetre well powdered. Then put this mixture into the distilling vessel at the bottom of which must be powdered coals to the thickness of two fingers breadth. Then make a strong fire so that the vessel and coals be red hot. Put in a dram of the aforesaid mixture, and it will presently sublime in a silver fume into the recipient which, being settled, put in more and do so until you have enough. Take out the flowers and digest them in the best alcholizated spirit of wine so that thereby the tincture may be extracted which will be green.


Take of the abovesaid crystals of silver one part, of spirit of salt armoniac two or three parts, and digest them together in a glass with a long neck, well stopped, twelve or fourteen days. So will the spirit of salt armoniac be colored with a very specious blue color. Pour it off and filter it. Then put it into a small retort and draw off most of the spirit of ammoniac, and there will remain in the bottom a grass green liquor. Then draw off all the spirit, and there will remain in the bottom a salt which may be purified with spirit of wine or be put into a retort. Then there will distill off a subtle spirit and a sharp oil.

This green liquor is of great use for the gilding of all things presently.

If you take common rainwater distilled, and dissolve and digest the aforesaid crystals of silver for a few days, you shall after the appearance of diverse colors find an essence at the bottom, not so bitter as the former, but sweet. In this liquor may all metals in a gentle heat by long digestion be maturated and made fit for medicine. But note that they must first be reduced into salts, for then they are no more dead bodies, but by this preparation have obtained a new life, and are the metals of the philosophers.


Take of the aforesaid salts or crystals of silver and reverberate them in a very gentle fire. Then put them into a cellar on a marble stone, and they will in two months time be resolved into a liquor.


Take the aforesaid salt of silver, pour upon it the spirit of salt armoniac, dissolve it thoroughly, and it will do as abovesaid.

With a glass being full of this liquor you may condense the air into water in the heat of the summer, as also freeze water.


Take of the calx of silver made by dissolution of it in aqua fortis. Dulcify it, boil it in a lixivium made of soap ashes, and it will be white as any snow.


Take four ounces of aqua fortis in which dissolve an ounce of fine silver. Then take two ounces of aqua fortis in which is dissolved half an ounce of argent vive. Mix these two liquors together in a clear glass with a pint of pure water. Stop the glass very close and you shall see day after day a tree to grow by little and little which is wonderful pleasant to behold.

I have set down several vulgar preparations of gold and silver, and of almost all things else, I shall now crave leave to give an account of some philosophical preparations of the philosophers gold and silver. For indeed the art of preparing them is the true alchemy, in comparison of which all the chemical discoveries are but abortives and found out by accident, viz., by endeavoring after this. I would not have the world believe that I pretend to the understanding of them. Yet I would have them know that I am not incredulous as touching the possibility of that great philosophical work which many have so much labored after and may have found. To me there is nothing in the world seems more possible, and whosoever shall without prejudice read over the book entitled The New Light Of Alchemy shall almost whether he will or not (unless he resolves not to believe anything though never so credible) be convinced of the possibility of it. What unworthiness God saw in gold more than in other things that he should deny the seed of multiplication (which is the perfection of the creatures) to it, and give it to all things besides, seems to me to be a question as hard to be resolved, yea, and harder than the finding out the elixir itself, in the discovering of which the greatest difficulty is, not to be convinced of the easiness thereof. If the preparations were difficult many more would find it out than do (says Sendivogius) for they cast themselves upon most difficult operations and are very subtle in difficult discoveries which the philosophers never dreamed of. Nay, says the aforenamed author, if Hermes himself were now living together with subtle witted Geber and most profound Raimund Lullie, they would be accounted by our chemists not for philosophers, but rather for learners. They were ignorant of those so many distillations, so many circulations, so many calcinations, and so many other innumerable operations of artists nowadays used which, indeed, men of this age did find out and invented out of their books. Yet there is one thing wanting to us which they did, viz., to know how to make the Philosophers Stone, or physical tincture the processes of which according to some philosophers are these.


Take the mineral electrum, being immature and made very subtle. Put it into its own sphere so that the impurities and superfluities may be washed away. Then purge it as much as possibly you can with stibium after the alchemystical way, lest by its impurity you suffer prejudice. Then resolve it in the stomach of an estridge which is brought forth in the earth and through the sharpness of the eagle is comfortated in its virtue.

Now when the electrum is consumed, and has after its solution received the color of a marigold, do not forget to reduce it into a spiritual transparent essence which is like to true amber. Then add half so much, as the electrum did weigh before its preparation, of the extended eagle, and oftentimes abstract from it the stomach of the estridge, and by this means the electrum will be made more spiritual. Now when the stomach of the estridge is wearied with labor, it will be necessary to refresh it and always to abstract it. Lastly, when it has again lost its sharpness, add the tartarizated quintessence, yet so that it be spoiled of its redness the height of four fingers and that pass over with it. This do so often until it be of itself white, and when it is enough and you see that sign, sublime it. So will the electrum be converted into the whiteness of an exalted eagle, and with a little more labor be transmuted into deep redness, and then it is fit for medicine.


Take of our earth through eleven degrees, eleven grains, of our gold, and not of the vulgar, one grain, of our tuna, not of the vulgar, grains two. But be you admonished that you take not the gold and silver of the vulgar, for they are dead, but take ours which are living. Then put them into our fire, and there will thence be made a dry liquor. First the earth will be resolved into water which is called the mercury of philosophers, and in that water it will resolve the bodies of the sun and moon and consume them so that there remain but the tenth part with one part, and this will be the humidum radicale metallicum. Then take the water of the salt nitre of our earth, in which there is a living stream if you digest the pit knee deep. Take therefore the water of it, but take it clear and set over it that humidum radicals, and put it over the fire of putrefaction, but not so much as was that in the first operation. Govern all things with a great deal of discretion until there appear colors like to the tail of a peacock. Govern it by digesting of it, and be not weary until these colons cease and there appear throughout the whole a green color, and so of the rest, and when you shall see in the bottom ashes of a fiery color and the water almost red, open the vessel, dip in a feather, and smear over some iron with it. If it tinge, have in readiness that water which is the menstruum of the world (out of the sphere of the moon so often rectified until it can calcine gold). Put in so much of that water as was the cold air which went in. Boil it again with the former fire until it tinge again.


Take the matter and grind it with a physical contrition as diligently as may be. Then set it upon the fire and let the proportion of fire be known, viz., that it only stir up the matter, and in a short time that fire without any other laying on of hands will accomplish the whole work, because it will putrefy, corrupt, generate, and perfect, and make to appear the three principal colors: black, white, and red. And by the means of our fire, the medicine will be multiplied if it be joined with the crude matter, not only in quantity but also in virtue. Withall, they might therefore search out this fire (which is mineral, equal, continual, vapors not away, except it be too much stirred up; partakes of sulphur, is taken from elsewhere than from the matter; pulls down all things, dissolves, congeals, and calcines, and is artificial to find out, and that by a compendious and near way without any cost, at least very small, is not transmuted with the matter because it is not of the matter). And you shall attain your wish, because it does the whole work, and is the key of the philosophers which they never revealed.


True, without all falsity, certain and most true. That which is inferior is as that which is superior, and that which is superior is as that which is inferior, for the accomplishing of the miracles of one thing. And as all things were from one, by the mediation of one, so all things have proceeded from this one thing by adaptation. The Father thereof is the sun, and the Mother thereof the moon. The wind carried it in its belly. The nurse thereof is the earth.

The father of all the perfection of the whole world is this. The virtue thereof is entire, if it be turned into earth. Thou shalt separate the earth from the fire, the subtle from the thick, sweetly, with a great deal of judgment. It ascends from the earth up to heaven, and again descends down to the earth, and receives the powers of superiors and inferiors.

So you have the glory of the whole world. Therefore let all obscurity fly from you. This is the strong fortitude of the whole fortitude, because it shall overcome everything that is subtle and penetrate every solid thing, as the world is created. Hence shall wonderful adaptations be, whereof this is the manner, wherefore I am called Hermes Trismegistus, having three parts of the philosophy of the whole world.

It is complete, what I have spoken of the operation of the sun.


If I shall hereafter see that what I have here done shall deserve a second edition, I shall "hereunto add some other parts of chemistry, viz., sublimation and calcination which here I have omitted (except what I have written by the way of reference to the perfecting of any kind of distillation). For indeed distillation (which is the making, extracting, or purifying of liquors) is the chiefest subject of this discourse and, indeed, the whole, except some spagyrical experiments and curiosities set down in the fifth book.

Quote of the Day

“that the good delight to impart their knowledge to others, because it is the greatest joy to them to be useful.”

Gregory of Nyssenus

Helvetius Golden Calf, which the World Worships and Adores