The Epistle Dedicatory

The Art of Distillation John French 1651

The Epistle Dedicatory

To My Much Honored Friend, Tobias Garbrand, Doctor of Physick and Principal of Gloucester Hall in Oxford.

Sir ! It is my ambition to let the world know upon what score it is that I do especially honor men. It is not, Sir!, as they are highborn heirs of the great potentates, for which most honor them (and upon which account I also shall not deny them their due) but as they excell in honesty and are friends to art. That poor philosophers should take no delight in riches, and rich men should take delight in philosophy, is to me an argument, that there is more delight, honor, and satisfaction in the one than in the enjoyment of the other.

I once read of a nobleman's porter who let in all that were richly apparelled, but excluded a poor philosopher. But I should, if I had been in his place, have rather let in the philosopher, without the gay clothes, than the gay clothes without the philosopher. As long as I have sense or reason, I shall improve them to the honor of the art, especially that of alchemy. In the perfection thereof there are riches, honor, health and length of days. By it, Artefius lived 1000 years, Flamel built 28 hospitals with large revenues to them, besides churches for it, both they and diverse more were accounted philosophers, and wise men, which sounds with more honor in my ears than all the rattling and empty titles of honor whatsoever besides.

In the perfection of this art, I mean the accomplishing of the Elixir, is the sulphur of philosophers set at liberty, which gratifies the releasers thereof with three kingdoms, viz. Vegetable, Animal, and Mineral. And what cannot they do, and how honorable are they, that have the command of these? They may commend lead into gold, dying plants into fruitfulness, the sick into health, old age into youth, darkness into light, and what not? A month would fail to give you an account of their power and dominations. Now for the effecting of this I shall besides what I have advised in the Epistle to the Reader, say only this: court the mother, and you win the daughter. Prevail with nature, and the fair Diana of the philosophers is at your service.

Now, if you cannot prevail with nature for the fairest of her daughters, viz. the mercury of philosophers, yet she has other daughters of wonderful beauty also, as are the essences and magisteries of philosophers which also are endowed with riches, honor, and health, and any of these you may more easily prevail with their mother nature for. This art of alchemy is that solary art which is more noble than all the other six arts and sciences, and if it did once thoroughly shine forth out of the clouds whereby it is eclipsed, would darken all the rest (as the sun does the other six planets) or at least swallow up their light. This is that true natural philosophy which most accurately anatomizes nature and natural things, and visually demonstrates the principles and operations of them.

That empty natural philosophy which is read in the universities, is scarce the meanest hand-maid to this Queen of Arts. It is a pity that there is such great encouragement for many empty end unprofitable arts, and none for this, and such similar ingenuities which, if promoted, would render a university far more flourishing than the former. I once read or heard of a famous university beyond the sea that was fallen into decay through what cause I know not. But there was a general council held by the learned to determine how to restore it to its primitive glory. The medium at last agreed upon was the promotion of alchemy, and encouraging the artists, themselves. But I never expect to see such rational action in this nation, until shadows vanish, substances flourish, and truth prevails, which time I hope is at hand and desired by all true artists and, to my knowledge, especially by yourself, upon which account I truly honor you.

Now, to yourself therefore I crave to adumbrate something of that art which I know you will be willing, for the public good, to promote. I dedicate this treatise to you, not that it is worthy of your acceptance, but that it may receive worth by your acceptance of it. I present it to you (as men bring lead to philosophers to be tinged into gold) to receive the stamp of your favor and approbation that it may pass current, with acceptance among the sons of art, whereby you will continue to oblige him who is


Your most obliged servant,

John French.


November 25, 1650

Quote of the Day

“For Gold does Colour nothing besides itself, unless first its own Spirit be extracted out of its own Belly; and it be made Spiritual.”

Bernard Trevisan

Treatise of the Philosophers Stone