The legendary physicist tried for years to turn lead into gold—and may have used a newly recovered manuscript in his quest.
Newton copied the recipe by hand from a text by American-born alchemist George Starkey, then scribbled his own lab notes on the back.
PHOTOGRAPH BY CHEMICAL HERITAGE FOUNDATION
Combine one part Fiery Dragon, some Doves of Diana, and at least seven Eagles of mercury, and what do you get? A key precursor to the Philosopher’s stone, according to a rediscovered manuscript handwritten by legendary physicist Isaac Newton.
Held in a private collection for decades, the 17th-century document is now in the hands of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The group is working on uploading digital images and transcriptions to an online database so more people can study Newton’s take on the alchemical text.
The recipe cryptically details how to make “sophick mercury,” a substance seen as a main ingredient for the Philosopher’s stone. The stone in turn could supposedly change base metals like lead into precious ones like gold.
While there’s no evidence that Newton actually made sophick mercury, the manuscript will help scholars understand how he interpreted alchemy’s often deeply encoded recipes, says science historianWilliam Newman of Indiana University. The document also underscores the fact that Newton—a father of modern physics and co-discoverer of calculus—was greatly influenced by alchemy and his collaborations with alchemists.
Newton wrote more than one million words about alchemy throughout his life, in the hope of using ancient knowledge to better explain the nature of matter—and possibly strike it rich. But academics have long tiptoed around this connection, since alchemy is usually dismissed as mystical pseudoscience full of fanciful, discredited processes.
Newton’s 1855 biographer questioned “how a mind of such power” could take seriously “the obvious production of a fool and a knave.” And the sophick mercury recipe is only now resurfacing in part because Cambridge University, Newton’s alma mater, turned down the opportunity to archive his alchemy recipes in 1888. The texts were sold at auction in 1936 for a combined total of just over 9,000 British pounds. Many ended up in private hands and out of scholarly reach.
“For many, many years, Newton’s alchemy was considered untouchable,” says Newman. But he and other historians now view alchemists as thoughtful technicians who labored over their equipment and took copious notes, often encoding their recipes with mythological symbols to protect their hard-won knowledge.
The newly uncovered recipe is no exception: Newton copied the strange text from manuscripts by the American-born George Starkey, a 17th-century alchemist better known under his romantic pen name Eireanus Philalethes (“the peaceful lover of truth”).
As translated by modern scholars, Starkey’s recipe for sophick mercury involves repeatedly distilling mercury and then heating it with gold. This process eventually produces an alloy with delicate, branch-like growths.
Starkey’s notes indicate that the strikingly tree-like structure made him think that the sophick mercury had become animated with life, indicating its power and importance. However, there’s no evidence that Newton correctly decoded Starkey’s recipe, much less succeeded in producing the alchemical “tree.”
The document’s true significance may lie on its back, where Newton scribbled his own procedure for alchemically subliming lead ore—a process that occupied many of his laboratory efforts to make the Philosopher’s stone, says Newman.
The historian adds that the recipe, which Newton obtained years before Starkey officially published it, may offer more evidence of Newton’s collaborations with other alchemists—which likely influenced his work on optics, the physics of light. Alchemical teachings may have inspired Newton’s groundbreaking discovery that white light is a mixture of various colors.
“Alchemists were the first to realize that compounds could be broken down into their constituent parts and then recombined. Newton then applied that to white light, which he deconstructed into constituent colors and then recombined,” says Newman. “That’s something Newton got from alchemy.”
So it may be fair to say that if it hadn’t been for Newton the alchemist, we might not have had some of the most famous discoveries from Newton the scientist.
Dear reader, at the end of his Tract on Vitriol, Roger Bacon mentions that because of the multiplication of the Tincture that is made from Vitriol, the lover of Art should acquaint himself with the Tract De Oleo Stibii. Therefore I considered that it would be good and useful that the Tract De Oleo Stibii follows next. And if one thoroughly ponders and compares these tinctures with one another, then I have no doubt that one will not finish without exceptional profit. Yet, every lover of Art, should mind always to keep one eye on Nature and the other on Art and manual labour. For, when these two do not stand together, then it is a lame work, as when someone thinks he can walk a long path on one leg only, which is easily seen to be impossible,
De Oleo Antimonii Tractatus.
ROGERII BACONIS ANGLI
Summi Philosophi & Chemici.
Stibium, as the Philosophers say, is composed from the noble mineral Sulphur, and they have praised it as the black lead of the Wise. The Arabs in their language, have called it Asinat vel Azinat, the alchemists retain the name Antimonium. It will however lead to the consideration of high Secrets, if we seek and recognize the nature in which the Sun is exalted, as the Magi found that this mineral was attributed by God to the Constellation Aries, which is the first heavenly sign in which the Sun takes its exaltation or elevation to itself. Although such things are thrown to the winds by common people, intelligent people ought to know and pay more attention to the fact that exactly at this point the infinitude of secrets may be partly contemplated with great profit and in part also explored. Many, but these are ignorant and unintelligent, are of the opinion that if they only had Stibium, they would get to it by Calcination, others by Sublimation, several by Reverberation and Extraction, and obtain its great Secret, Oil, and Perfectum Medicinam. But I tell you, that here in this place nothing will help, whether Calcination, Sublimation, Reverberation nor Extraction, so that subsequently a perfect Extraction of metallic virtue that translates the inferior into the superior, may profitably come to pass or be accomplished. For such shall be impossible for you. Do not let yourselves be confused by several of the philosophers who have written of such things, i.e., Geber, Albertus Magnus, Rhasis, Rupecilla, Aristoteles and many more of that kind. And this you should note. Yes, many say, that when one prepares Stibium to a glass, then the evil volatile Sulphur will be gone, and the Oil, which may be prepared from the glass, would be a very fixed oil, and would then truly give an ingress and Medicine of imperfect metals to perfection. These words and opinions are perhaps good and right, but that it should be thus in fact and prove itself, this will not be. For I say to you truly, without any hidden speech; if you were to lose some of the above mentioned Sulphur by the preparation and the burning, as a small fire may easily damage it, so that you have lost the right penetrating spirit, which should make our whole Antimonii corpus into a perfect red oil, so that it also can ascend over the helm with a sweet smell and very beautiful colors and the whole body of this mineral with all its members, without loss of any weight, except for the foecum, shall be an oil and go over the helm. And note also this: How would it be possible for the body to go into an oil, or give off its sweet oil, if it is put into the last essence and degree? For glass is in all things the outermost and least essence. For you shall know that all creatures at the end of the world, or on the last and coming judgement of the last day, shall become glass or a lovely amethyst and this according to the families of the twelve Patriarchs, as in the families of jewels which Hermes the Great describes in his book: As we have elaborately reported and taught in our book de Cabala.
You shall also know that you shall receive the perfect noble red oil, which serves for the translation of metals in vain, if you pour acetum correctum over the Antimonium and extract the redness. Yes not even by Reverberation, and even if its manifold Beautiful colors show themselves, this will not make any difference and is not the right way. You may indeed obtain and make an oil out of it, but it has no perfect force and virtue for transmutation or translation of the imperfect metals into perfection itself. This you must certainly know.
AND NOW WE PROCEED TO THE MANUAL LABOUR, AND THUS THE PRACTICA FOLLOWS.
Take in the Name of God and the Holy Trinity, fine and well cleansed Antimonii ore, which looks nice, white, pure and internally full of yellow rivulets or veins. It may also be full of red and blue colors and veins, which will be the best. Pound and grind to a fine powder and dissolve in a water or Aqua Regis, which will be described below, finely so that the water may conquer it. And note that you should take it out quite soon after the solution so that the water may conquer it. And note that you should take it out quite soon after the solution so that the water will have no time to damage it, since it quickly dissolves the Antimonii Tincture. For in its nature our water is like the ostrich, which by its heat digests and consumes all iron; for given time, the water would consume it and burn it to naught, so that it would only remain as an idle yellow earth, and then it would be quite spoilt.
Consider by comparison Luna, beautiful clean and pure, dissolved in this our water. And let it remain therein for no more than a single night when the water is still strong and full of Spirit,
And I tell you, that your good Luna has then been fundamentally consumed and destroyed and brought to nought in this our water.
And if you want to reduce it to a pure corpus again, then you will not succeed, but it will remain for you as a pale yellow earth, and occasionally it may run together in the shape of a horn or white horseshoe, which may not be brought to a corpus by any art.
Therefore you must remember to take the Antimonium out as soon as possible after the Solution, and precipitate it and wash it after the custom of the alchemists, so that the matter with its perfect oil is not corroded and consumed by the water.
THE WATER; WHEREIN WE DISSOLVE THE ANTIMONIUM, IS MADE THUS:
Take Vitriol one and a half (alii 2. lb.) Sal armoniac one pound, Arinat (alii Alun) one half pound / Sal niter one and a half pound, Sal gemmae (alii Sal commune) one pound, Alumen crudum (alii Entali) one half pound. These are the species that belong to and should be taken for the Water to dissolve the Antimonium.
Take these Species and mix them well among each other, and distill from this a water, at first rather slowly. For the Spiritus go with great force,, more than in other strong waters. And beware of its spirits, for they are subtle and harmful in their penetration.
When you now have the dissolved Antimony, clean and well sweetened, and its sharp waters washed out, so that you do not notice any sharpness any more, then put into a clean vial and overpour it with a good distilled vinegar. Then put the vial in Fimum Equinum, or Balneum Mariae, to putrefy forty (al.i four) days and nights, and it will dissolve and be extracted red as blood. Then take it out and examine how much remains to be dissolved, and decant the clear and pure, which will have a red colour, very cautiously into a glass flask. Then pour fresh vinegar onto it, and put it into Digestion as before, so that that which may have remained with the faecibus, it should thus have ample time to become dissolved. Then the faeces may be discarded, for they are no longer useful, except for being scattered over the earth and thrown away. Afterwards pour all the solutions together into a glass retort, put into Balneum Mariae, and distill the sharp vinegar rather a fresh one, since the former would be too weak, and the matter will very quickly become dissolved by the vinegar. Distill it off again, so that the matter remains quite dry. Then take common distilled water and wash away all sharpness, which has remained with the matter from the vinegar, and then dry the matter in the sun, or otherwise by a gentle fire, so that it becomes well dried. It will then be fair to behold, and have a bright red color. The Philosophers, when they have thus prepared our Antimonium in secret, have remarked how its outermost nature and power has collapsed into its interior, and its interior thrown out and has now become an oil that lies hidden in its innermost and depth, well prepared and ready. And henceforth it cannot, unto the last judgement, be brought back to its first essence. And this is true, for it has become so subtle and volatile, that as soon as it senses the power of fire, it flies away as a smoke with all its parts because of its volatility.
Several poor and common Laborers, when they have prepared the Antimonium thus, have taken one part out, to take care of their expenses, so that they may more easily do the rest of the work and complete it, They then mixed it with one part Salmiac, one part Vitro (alii. Nitro, alii. Titro), one part Rebohat, to cleanse the Corpera, and then proceeded to project this mixture onto a pure Lunam. And if the Luna was one Mark, they found two and a half Loth good gold after separation; sometimes even more. And therewith they had accomplished a work providing for their expenses, so that they might even better expect to attain to the Great Work. And the foolish called this a bringing into the Lunam, but they are mistaken. For such gold is not brought in by the Spiritibus (alii. Speciebus), but any Luna contains two Mark gold to the Loth, some even more. But this gold is united to the Lunar nature to such a degree that it may not be separated from it, neither by Aquafort, nor by common Antimonium, as the goldsmiths know. When however the just mentioned mixture is thrown onto the Lunam in flux, then such a separation takes place that the Luna quite readily gives away her implanted gold either in Aquafort or in Regal, and lets herself separate from it, strikes it to the ground and precipitates it, which would or might otherwise not happen. Therefore it is not a bringing into the Lunam, but a bringing out of the Luna.
But we are coming back to our Proposito and purpose of our work, for we wish to have the Oil, which has only been known and been acquainted with this magistry, and not by the foolish.
When you then have the Antimonium well rubified according to the above given teaching, then you shall take a well rectified Spiritum vini, and pour it over the red powder of Antimony, put it in a gentle Balneum Mariae to dissolve for four days and nights, so that everything becomes well dissolved. If however something should remain behind, you overpour the same with fresh Spiritu vini, and put it into the Balneum Mariae again, as said before, and everything should become well dissolved. And in case there are some more faeces there, but there should be very little, do them away, for they are not useful for anything. The Solutiones put into a glass retort, lute on a helm and connect it to a receiver, also well luted, to receive the Spiritus. Put it into Balneum Mariae. Thereafter you begin, in the Name of God, to distill very leisurely at a gentle heat, until all the Spiritus Vini has come over. You then pour the same Spiritum that you have drawn off, back onto the dry matter, and distill it over again as before. And this pouring on and distilling off again, you continue so often until you see the Spiritum vini ascend and go over the helm in all kinds of colours. Then it is time to follow up with a strong fire, and a noble blood red Oleum will ascend, go through the tube of the helm and drip into the recipient. Truly, this is the most secret way of the Wise to distill the very highly praised oil of Antimonii, and it is a noble, powerful, fragrant oil of great virtue, as you will hear below in the following. But here I wish to teach and instruct you who are poor and without means to expect the Great Work in another manner; not the way the ancients did it by separating the gold from the Luna. Therefore take this oil, one lot, [ancient weight unit used for the weighing of gold and silver coins - about 1/30 pound] eight lot of Saturn calcined according to art, and carefully imbibe the oil, drop by drop, while continuously stirring the calx Saturni. Then put it ten days and nights in the heat, in the furnace of secrets, and let the fire that this furnace contains, increase every other day by one degree. The first two days you give it the first degree of fire, the second two days you give it the second degree, and after four days and nights you put it into the third degree of fire and let it remain there for three days and nights. After these three days you open the window of the fourth degree, for which likewise three days and nights should be sufficient. Then take it out, and the top of the Saturnus becomes very beautiful and of a reddish yellow colour. This should be melted with Venetian Boreas. When this has been done, you will find that the power of our oil has changed it to good gold. Thus you will again have subsistence, so that you may better expect the Great Work. We now come back to our purpose where we left it earlier. Above you have heard, and have been told to distill the Spiritum vini with the Oleum Antimonii over the helm into the recipient as well as the work of changing the Saturnum into gold. But now we wish to make haste and report about the second tinctural work. Here it will be necessary to separate the Spiritum vini from the oil again, and you shall know that it is done thus:
Take the mixture of oil and wine spirit put it into a retort, put on a helm, connect a receiver and place it all together into the Balneum Mariae. Then distill all the Spiritum vini from the oil, at a very gentle heat, until you are certain that no more Spiritus vini is to be found within this very precious oil. And this will be easy to check; for when you see several drops of Spiritu vini ascend over the helm and fall into the recipient, this is the sign that the Spiritus vini has become separated from the oil. Then remove the fire from the Balneo, though it was very small, so that it may cool all the sooner. Now remove the recipient containing the Spiritu vini, and keep it in a safe place, for it is full of Spiritus which it has extracted from the oil and retained. It also contains admirable virtues, as you will hear hereafter.
But in the Balneo you will find the blessed bloodred Oleum Antimonii in the retort, which should be taken out very carefully. The helm must be very slowly removed, taking care to soften and wash off the Lute, so that no dirt falls down into the beautiful red oil and makes it turbid. This oil you must store with all possible precaution so that it receives no damage. For you now have a Heavenly Oil that shines on a dark night and emits light as from a glowing coal. And the reason for this is that its innermost power and soul has become thrown out unto the outermost, and the hidden soul is now revealed and shines through the pure body as a light through a lantern: Just as on Judgement Day our present invisible and internal souls will manifest through our clarified bodies, that in this life are impure and dark, but the soul will then be revealed and seen unto the outermost of the body, and will shine as the bright sun. Thus you now have two separate things: Both the Spirit of Wine full of force and wonder in the arts of the human body: And then the blessed red, noble, heavenly Oleum Antimonii, to translate all diseases of the imperfect metals to the Perfection of gold. And the power of the Spiritual Wine reaches very far and to great heights. For when it is rightly used according to the Art of Medicine: I tell you, you have a heavenly medicine to prevent and to cure all kinds of diseases and ailments of the human body. And its uses are thus, as follows:
AGAINST PODAGRA or GOUT
In the case of gout one should let three drops of this Spiritu vini, that has received the power of the Antimony, fall into a small glass of wine. This has to be taken by the patient on an empty stomach at the very moment in time when he sense the beginning or arrival of his trouble, bodily ailment and pain. On the next day and afterwards on the third day it should also be taken and used in the same way. On the first day it takes away all pain, however great it may be, and prevents swelling. On the second day it causes a sweat that is very inconstant, viscous and thick, that smells and tastes quite sour and offensive, and occurs mostly where the joints and limbs are attached. On the third day, regardless of whether any medicine has been taken, a purging takes place of the veins into the bowels, without any inconvenience, pain or grief. And this demonstrates a great power of Nature.
To begin with the patient is given six drops on an empty stomach. And arrange it so that the unclean person is alone without the company of any healthy people, in a separate and convenient place. For his whole body will soon begin to smoke and steam with a stinking mist or vapor. And on the second day his skin will start to flake and much uncleanliness will detach itself from his body. He should then have three more drops of the medicine ready, which he should take and use in solitude on the fourth day. Then on the eighth or ninth day, by means of this medicine and through the bestowal of Divine mercy and blessing, he will be completely cleansed and his health restored.
AGAINST APOPLEXIA OR STROKE
In the case of stroke, let a drop of the unadmixed tincture fall onto the tongue of the person in need. At once it will raise itself and distribute itself like a mist or smoke, and rectify and dissolve the struck part. But if the stroke has hit the body or other members, he should be given three drops at the same time in a glass of good wine, as previously taught in the case of Podagra.
AGAINST HYDROPE OR DROPSY
In the case of dropsy give one drop each day for six days in a row, in Aqua Melissae or Valerianae. On the seventh day give three drops in good wine. Then it is enough.
AGAINST EPILEPSIA, CATALEPSIA, & ANALEPSIA.
In case of the falling sickness, give him two drops at the beginning of the Paroxismi in Aqua Salviae, and after three hours again two drops. This will suffice. But if further symptoms should occur, then give him two more drops as above.
In case of consumption and dehydration, give him two drops in Aqua Violarum the first day. On the second day, give him two more drops in good wine.
In cases of all kinds of hot fevers, give him three drops in a well distilled St. Johnswort water or Cichorii at the beginning of the Paroxismi. Early in the morning on the following day, again give him three drops in good wine on an empty stomach.
In the case of pestilence give the patient seven drops in a good wine, and see to it that the infected person is all by himself, and caused to sweat. Then this poison will, with Divine assistance, do him no harm.
FOR THE PROLONGATION AND MAINTENANCE OF A HEALTHY LIFE.
Take and give at the beginning and entry of spring, when the sun has entered the sign of Aries, two drops; and at the beginning with God's help, be safe and protected against bad health and poisoned air, unless the incurred disease was predestined and fatally imposed upon man by the Almighty God.
But we now wish to proceed to the Oleum Antimonii and its Power, and show how this oil may also help the diseased and imperfect metallic bodies. Take in the Name of God, very pure refined gold, as much as you want and think will suffice. Dissolve it in a rectified Wine, prepared the way one usually makes Aquam Vitae. And after the gold has become dissolved, let it digest for a month. Then put it into a Balneum, and distill off the spiritum vini very slowly and gently. Repeat this several times, as long and as often until you see that your gold remains behind in fundo as a sap. And such is the manner and opinion of several of the ancients on how this oil may also help the diseased and imperfect metallic bodies.
Take, in the Name of God, very pure refined gold, as much as you want and think will suffice. Dissolve it in a rectified Wine, prepared the way one usually makes Aquam Vitae. And after the gold has become dissolved, let it digest for a month. Then put it into a Balneum, and distill off the spiritum vini very slowly and gently. Repeat this several times, as long and as often until you see that your gold remains behind in fundo as a sap. And such is the manner and opinion of several of the ancients on how to prepare the gold. But I will show and teach you a much shorter, better and more useful way. Viz. that you instead of such prepared gold take one part Mercurii Solis, the preparation of which I have already taught in another place by its proper process. Draw off its airy water so that it becomes a subtle dust and calx. Then take two parts of our blessed oil, and pour the oil very slowly, drop by drop onto the dust of the Mercurii Solis, until everything has become absorbed. Put it in a vial, well sealed, into a heat of the first degree of the oven of secrets, and let it remain there for ten days and nights. You will then see your powder and oil quite dry, such that it has become a single piece of dust of a blackish grey colour. After ten days give it the second degree of heat, and the grey and black colour will slowly change into a whiteness so that it becomes more or less white. And at the end of these ten days, the matter will take on a beautiful rose white. But this may be ignored. For this colour is only due to the Mercurio Solis, that has swallowed up our blessed oil, and now covers it with the innermost part of its body. But by the power of the fire, our oil will again subdue such Mercurium Solis, and throw it into its innermost. And the oil with its very bright red colour will rule over it and remain on the outside. Therefore it is time, when twenty years (sic) have passed, that you open the window of the third degree [The alchemical ovens had small openings at different heights, by means of which the heat was regulated.] The external white colour and force will then completely recede inwardly, and the internal red colour will, by the force of the fire, become external. Keep also this degree of fire for ten days, without increase or decrease. You will then see your powder, that was previously white, now become very red. But for the time being this redness may be ignored (is of no consequence), for it is still unfixed and volatile; and at the end of these ten days, when the thirtieth day has passed, you should open the last window of the fourth degree of fire, Let it stay in this degree for another ten days, and this very bright red powder will begin to melt. Let it stay in flux for these ten days. And when you take it out you will find on the bottom a very bright red and transparent stone, ruby colored, melted into the shape of the vial. This stone may be used for Projection, as has been taught in the tract on Vitriol. Praise God in Eternity for this His high revelation, and thank Him in Eternity. Amen.
ON THE MULTIPLICATION LAPIDIS STIBII.
The ancient sages, after they had discovered this stone and prepared it to perfect power and translation of the imperfect metals to gold, long sought to discover a way to increase the power and efficiency of this stone. And they found two ways to multiply it: One is a multiplication of its power, such that the stone may be brought much further in its power of Transmutation. And this multiplication is very subtle, the description of which may be found in the Tract on Gold. The second multiplication is an Augmentum quantitatis of the stone with its former power, in such a way that it neither loses any of its power, nor gains any, but in such a manner that its weight increases and keeps on increasing ever more, so that a single ounce grows and increases to many ounces. To achieve this increase or Multiplication one has to proceed in the following manner: Take in the Name of God, your stone, and grind it to a subtle powder, and add as much Mercurii Solis as was taught before. Put these together into a round vial, seal with sigillo Hermetis, and put it into the former oven exactly as taught, except that the time has to be shorter and less now. For where you previously used ten (alii thirty) days, you may now not use more than four (alii ten) days. In other respects the work is exactly the same as before. Praise and thank God the Almighty for His high revelation, and diligently continue your prayers fir His Almighty Mercy and Divine blessings of this Work and Art as well as His granting you a good health and fortuitous welfare. And moreover, take care always to help and counsel the poor.
LAVS DEO OMNIPOTENTI
The Treasure of Treasures for Alchemists.
By Philippus Theophrastus Bombast, Paracelsus the Great
NATURE begets a mineral in the bowels of the earth. There are two kinds of it, which are found in many districts of Europe. The best which has been offered to me, which also has been found genuine in experimentation, is externally in the figure of the greater world, and is in the eastern part of the sphere of the Sun. The other, in the Southern Star, is now in its first efflorescence. The bowels of the earth thrust this forth through its surface. It is found red in its first coagulation, and in it lie hid all the flowers and colours of the minerals. Much has been written about it by the philosophers, for it is of a cold and moist nature, and agrees with the element of water.
So far as relates to the knowledge of it and experiment with it, all the philosophers before me, though they have aimed at it with their missiles, have gone very wide of the mark. They believed that Mercury and Sulphur were the mother of all metals, never even dreaming of making mention meanwhile of a third; and yet when the water is separated from it by Spagyric Art the truth is plainly revealed, though it was unknown to Galen or to Avicenna. But if, for the sake of our excellent physicians, we had to describe only the name, the composition; the dissolution, and coagulation, as in the beginning of the world Nature proceeds with all growing things, a whole year would scarcely suffice me, and, in order to explain these things, not even the skins of numerous cows would be adequate.
Now, I assert that in this mineral are found three principles, which are Mercury, Sulphur, and the Mineral Water which has served to naturally coagulate it. Spagyric science is able to extract this last from its proper juice when it is not altogether matured, in the middle of the autumn, just like a pear from a tree. The tree potentially contains the pear. If the Celestial Stars and Nature agree , the tree first of all puts forth shoots in the month of March; then it thrusts out buds, and when these open the flower appears, and so on in due order until in autumn the pear grows ripe. So is it with the minerals. These are born, in like manner, in the bowels of the earth. Let the Alchemists who are seeking the Treasure of Treasures carefully note this. I will shew them the way, its beginning, its middle, and its end. In the following treatise I will describe the proper Water, the proper Sulphur, and the proper Balm thereof. By means of these three the resolution and composition are coagulated into one.
CONCERNING THE SULPHUR OF CINNABAR.
Take mineral Cinnabar and prepare it in the following manner. Cook it with rain water in a stone vessel for three hours. Then purify it carefully, and dissolve it in Aqua Regis, which is composed of equal parts of vitriol, nitre, and sal ammoniac. Another formula is vitriol, saltpetre, alum, and common salt.
Distil this in an alembic. Pour it on again, and separate carefully the pure from the impure thus. Let it putrefy for a month in horse-dung; then separate the elements in the following manner. If it puts forth its sign1, commence the distillation by means of an alembic with a fire of the first degree. The water and the air will ascend; the fire and the earth will remain at the bottom. Afterwards join them again, and gradually treat with the ashes. So the water and the air will again ascend first, and afterwards the element of fire, which expert artists recognise. The earth will remain in the bottom of the vessel. This collect there. It is what many seek after and few find.
This dead earth in the reverberatory you will prepare according to the rules of Art, and afterwards add fire of the first degree for five days and nights. When these have elapsed you must apply the second degree for the same number of days and nights, and proceed according to Art with the material enclosed. At length you will find a volatile salt, like a thin alkali, containing in itself the Astrum of fire and earth2. Mix this with the two elements that have been preserved, the water and the earth. Again place it on the ashes for eight days and eight nights, and you will find that which has been neglected by many Artists. Separate this according to your experience, and according to the rules of the Spagyric Art, and you will have a white earth, from which its colour has been extracted. Join the element of fire and salt to the alkalised earth. Digest in a pelican to extract the essence. Then a new earth will be deposited, which put aside.
CONCERNING THE RED LION.
Afterwards take the lion in the pelican which also is found [at] first, when you see its tincture, that is to say, the element of fire which stands above the water, the air, and the earth. Separate it from its deposit by trituration. Thus you will have the true aurum potabile3. Sweeten this with the alcohol of wine poured over it, and then distil in an alembic until you perceive no acidity to remain in the Aqua Regia.
This Oil of the Sun, enclosed in a retort hermetically sealed, you must place for elevation that it may be exalted and doubled in its degree. Then put the vessel, still closely shut, in a cool place. Thus it will not be dissolved, but coagulated. Place it again for elevation and coagulation, and repeat this three times. Thus will be produced the Tincture of the Sun, perfect in its degree. Keep this in its own place.
CONCERNING THE GREEN LION.
Take the vitriol of Venus4, carefully prepared according to the rules of Spagyric Art; and add thereto the elements of water and air which you have reserved. Resolve, and set to putrefy for a month according to instructions. When the putrefaction is finished, you will behold the sign of the elements. Separate, and you will soon see two colours, namely, white and red. The red is above the white. The red tincture of the vitriol is so powerful that it reddens all white bodies, and whitens all red ones, which is wonderful.
Work upon this tincture by means of a retort, and you will perceive a blackness issue forth. Treat it again by means of the retort, repeating the operation until it comes out whitish. Go on, and do not despair of the work. Rectify until you find the true, clear Green Lion, which you will recognise by its great weight. You will see that it is heavy and large. This is the Tincture, transparent gold. You will see marvellous signs of this Green Lion, such as could be bought by no treasures of the Roman Leo. Happy he who has learnt how to find it and use it for a tincture!
This is the true and genuine Balsam5, the Balsam of the Heavenly Stars, suffering no bodies to decay, nor allowing leprosy, gout, or dropsy to take root. It is given in a dose of one grain, if it has been fermented with Sulphur of Gold.
Ah, Charles the German, where is your treasure? Where are your philosophers? Where your doctors? Where are your decocters of woods, who at least purge and relax? Is your heaven reversed? Have your stars wandered out of their course, and are they straying in another orbit, away from the line of limitation, since your eyes are smitten with blindness, as by a carbuncle, and other things making a show of ornament, beauty, and pomp? If your artists only knew that their prince Galen - they call none like him - was sticking in hell, from whence he has sent letters to me, they would make the sign of the cross upon themselves with a fox's tail. In the same way your Avicenna sits in the vestibule of the infernal portal; and I have disputed with him about his aurum potabile, his Tincture of the Philosophers, his Quintessence, and Philosophers' Stone, his Mithridatic, his Theriac, and all the rest. O, you hypocrites, who despise the truths taught you by a true physician, who is himself instructed by Nature, and is a son of God himself! Come, then, and listen, impostors who prevail only by the authority of your high positions! After my death, my disciples will burst forth and drag you to the light, and shall expose your dirty drugs, wherewith up to this time you have compassed the death of princes, and the most invincible magnates of the Christian world. Woe for your necks in the day of judgment! I know that the monarchy will be mine. Mine, too, will be the honour and glory. Not that I praise myself: Nature praises me. Of her I am born; her I follow. She knows me, and I know her. The light which is in her I have beheld in her; outside, too, I have proved the same in the figure of the microcosm, and found it in that universe.
But I must proceed with my design in order to satisfy my disciples to the full extent of their wish. I willingly do this for them, if only skilled in the light of Nature and thoroughly practised in astral matters, they finally become adepts in philosophy, which enables them to know the nature of every kind of water.
Take, then, of this liquid of the minerals which I have described, four parts by weight; of the Earth of red Sol two parts; of Sulphur of Sol one part. Put these together into a pelican, congelate, and dissolve them three times. Thus you will have the Tincture of the Alchemists. We have not here described its weight: but this is given in the book on Transmutations6.
So, now, he who has one to a thousand ounces of the Astrum Solis shall also tinge his own body of Sol.
If you have the Astrum of Mercury, in the same manner, you will tinge the whole body of common Mercury. If you have the Astrum of Venus you will, in like manner, tinge the whole body of Venus, and change it into the best metal. These facts have all been proved. The same must also be understood as to the Astra of the other planets, as Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Luna, and the rest. For tinctures are also prepared from these: concerning which we now make no mention in this place, because we have already dwelt at sufficient length upon them in the book on the Nature of Things and in the Archidoxies. So, too, the first entity of metals and terrestrial minerals have been made, sufficiently clear for Alchemists to enable them to get the Alchemists' Tincture.
This work, the Tincture of the Alchemists, need not be one of nine months; but quickly, and without any delay, you may go on by the Spaygric Art of the Alchemists, and, in the space of forty days, you can fix this alchemical substance, exalt it, putrefy it, ferment it, coagulate it into a stone, and produce the Alchemical Phoenix7. But it should be noted well that the Sulphur of Cinnabar becomes the Flying Eagle, whose wings fly away without wind, and carry the body of the phoenix to the nest of the parent, where it is nourished by the element of fire, and the young ones dig out its eyes: from whence there emerges a whiteness, divided in its sphere, into a sphere and life out of its own heart, by the balsam of its inward parts, according to the property of the cabalists.
HERE ENDS THE TREASURE OF THE ALCHEMISTS.
1 The Sign is nothing else than the mark left by an operation. The house constructed by the architect is the sign of his handicraft whereby his skill and art are determined. Thus the sign is the achievement itself. - De Colica.
2 The earth also has its Astrum, its course, its order, just as much as the Firmament, but peculiar to the element. So also there is an Astrum in the water, even as in the earth, and in like manner with air and fire. Consequently, the upper Astrum has the Astra of the elements for its medium and operates through them by an irresistible attraction. Through this operation of the superior and inferior Astra, all things are fecundated, and led on to their end. - Explicatio Totius Astronomiae. Without the Astra the elements cannot flourish. ... In the Astrum of the earth all the celestial operations thrive. The Astrum itself is hidden, the bodies are manifest. ... The motion of the earth is brought about by the Astrum of the earth. ... There are four Astra in man (corresponding to those of the four elements), for he is the lesser world. - De Caducis, Par. II.
3 Aurum Potabile, that is, Potable Gold, Oil of Gold, and Quintessence of Gold, are distinguished thus. Aurum Potabile is gold rendered potable by intermixture with other substances, and with liquids. Oil of Gold is an oil extracted from the precious metal without the addition of anything. The Quintessence of Gold is the redness of gold extracted therefrom and separated from the body of the metal. - De Membris Contractis, Tract II., c. 2.
4 If copper be pounded and resolved without a corrosive, you have Vitriol. From this may be prepared the quintessence, oil, and liquor thereof. - De Morbis Tartareis. Cuprine Vitriol is Vitriol cooked with Copper. - De Morbis Vermium, Par. 6. Chalcanthum is present in Venus, and Venus can by separation be reduced into Chalcanthum. - Chirurgia Magna. Pars. III., Lib. IV.
5 There is, indeed, diffused through all things a Balsam created by God, without which putrefaction would immediately supervene. Thus in corpses which are anointed with Balsam we see that corruption is arrested and thus in the physical body we infer that there is a certain natural and congenital Balsam, in the absence of which the living and complete man would not be safe from putrefaction. Nothing removes the Balsam but death. But this kind differs from what is more commonly called Balsam, in that the one is conservative of the living, and the other of the dead. - Chirurgia Magna, Pt. II., Tract II., c 3. The confection of Balsam requires special knowledge of chemistry, and it was first discovered by the Alchemists. - Ibid., Pt. I., Tract II., c. 4.
6 It is difficult to identify the treatise to which reference is made here. It does not seem to be the seventh book concerning The Nature of Things, nor the ensuing tract on Cements. The general question of natural and artificial weight is discussed in the Aurora of the Philosophers. No detached work on Transmutations has come down to us.
7 Know that the Phoenix is the soul of the Iliaster (that is, the first chaos of the matter of all things). ... It is also the Iliastic soul in man. - Liber Azoth, S. V., Practica Lineae Vitae.