or the Fifth Being:
That is to Say
(Sloane MS. 73, fol. 10. Brit. Mus.)
Translated from an edition published 1866 by the Early English Text
Society, Frederick J. Furnivall, Editor.
The Book of Quintessence is a work that presents magic as it actually
claims to have been practiced in the latter part of Europe's medieval
period. It isn't a comprehensive survey of medieval magic, but it does
open a window onto the mindset of a medieval mage. The manuscript probably
dates to the middle 1400's, and the tone and constant invocations of God
found in the work are typical of European magical writings of this period.
Some may object to the fact that I have made my translation of this work
prosaic and "un-spiritual", especially given the spiritual and metaphorical
bent of modern interpretations of alchemy. I am simply translating this
work as it was written. If it hid spectral metaphors in its practical
language, they are not my provenance to ferret out.
I have tried to preserve the author's voice, but it is sometimes
impossible to do so and make the text comprehensible to a modern reader.
This is only partially explained by the changes that occurred in English
usage since the author's time and our own. The plain fact is that the
author of _The Book of Quinte Essence_ was a terrible writer. His prose is
often stilted. He adores breathlessly stringing along sentence after
sentence with "and". Where these and other problems become completely
intolerable, I have stepped in.
The original manuscript uses the word "man" in many contexts, I have
tried to render the individual meanings by substituting "humanity",
"people", or "mortal" where appropriate. This is not from a misguided
liberal revisionism but for a more accurate rendering of the apparent
intentions of the author each time "man" was used.
Those section headings that are enclosed in square brackets are my own
addition. Section headings not so enclosed are a part of the original.
Those times when I had to deviate more than I would like from the original,
I have enclosed in square brackets. I have also appended a few footnotes.
With the might, wisdom, and grace of the Holy Trinity, I write to you a
treatise in English, abridged from the book of _quintis essenciis_ (in
Latin), which was revealed by an angel of god sent to Hermes
[Trismesgistus], father of philosophers, the prophet and king of Egypt,
after the flood of Noah. I do this so the wisdom and science of this book
should not perish but be preserved to the end of the world and be kept
[safe] by all holy men from all wicked people and tyrants, because of the
great perils that might occur [should the wicked get this knowledge]. For
within this brief treatise, with the grace of God, I will speak more of
practice than of theory(1), although both are necessary.
The first, and greatest secret that God, the Creator, ordained for Man's
need: How old, virtuous(2) men with feeble bodies might be restored and
regain the strength of their youth in the same manner as in all bodies and
be made perfectly whole, except [from injury had] by lightning-stroke or
violent injuries or the hardships of too much fasting. Also excepting
dangerous falls, too much abstinence(3), or other unfortunate accidents to
the body. Furthermore, the term set by God may not be escaped. As Job
said in Latin: "Breves dies hominis sunt etc."(4).
The philosophers call the purest substance of many corruptible(5) things
made from the elements the "quintessence". That is to say, mortal heaven,
extracted by human craft. The quintessence is superior. That is, our Lord
God's heaven, in regards to the four elements, is incorruptible and
unchangeable, so the quintessence occupies a similar place regarding the
lower world. That is to say, mortal heaven is incorruptible in regards to
the four qualities of the human body(6), and so it is naturally proven that
our quintessence, that is, mortal heaven, is incorruptible in itself. So
it is not hot and dry in fire, nor cold and wet in water, nor hot and moist
in air, nor cold and dry in earth. On the contrary, our quintessence is as
incorruptible as heaven.
But understand that our quintessence is not as incorruptible as is the
heaven of our Lord God, but it is incorruptible in regards to compounds
made of the four elements. Also, it has three names from the
philosophers(7). That is to say: Burning water, the soul in the spirit of
wine, and water of life, but if you wish to conceal it then call it
"quintessence", for this name, and the accompanying nature, would be told
by very few philosophers. Instead, the truth would surely be buried with
Know well that it is called burning water, but it is not burning water,
for it is not moist nor cold like common water. Furthermore, it burns and
common water does not. No, it is not hot and moist like air, for air
corrupts a thing at noon, which is well shown by generation of flies and
spiders and other such. Surely it is always incorruptible if it is kept
closed from evaporation.
Also, it imparts incorruptibility and keeps a thing from corruptibility
and rotting. The proof is thus: If a piece of meat, fish, or dead bird is
put into [quintessence] it will not corrupt nor rot while it is therein.
Furthermore, it will keep the living tissue of the human body from all
manner of corruptibility and rotting. This is our quintessence, that is to
say, mortal heaven, that God made for the preservation of the four
qualities of the human body, just as He made His heaven for the
preservation of the whole world. Know for certain that many philosophers
and physicians that now live know nothing of this quintessence, nor the
truth thereof since God did not want them to know it, because of their
great burning greed and wicked living.
As the Superior Quintessence, that is to say, the heaven of our Lord God
does not give preservation and wonderful influences by itself, alone, to
the world, but by means of the sun, planets, and other stars, so our
quintessence, that is, mortal heaven does its work with the sun mineral,
fine, shining, incorruptible, and of such quality that fire will not
impair, corrupt, nor destroy. This is the gold gathered from the mine,
from the earth, or from the stream. For gold of alchemy, made with
corrosives, destroys the body--as Aristotle and many other philosophers
Therefore, good natural gold of the mine of the earth is called "sol" in
Latin by philosophers, for it is the sun of our heaven like Sol the planet
is in heaven above. For this planet gives to gold its influence, nature,
color, and an incorruptible substance. And our quintessence, mortal
heaven, is of the nature and the color of heaven. And our Sol, that is,
fine gold of the mine, will make it beautiful and functional(9). And so
these two joined together shall influence in us the conditions of heaven
and of heavenly sun, inasmuch as it is possible in our deadly world,
preservation and restoration of lost nature and renewal of youth. And it
shall give abundant health.
As it is proven by astrology(10), the stars that have influence upon the
human head and neck, specifically the stars of Aries, Taurus, and Gemini,
have singular influence upon _Gerapigra galieni_(11), and, therefore, it
has particular strength by the ordinance of God to draw away superfluous
humors(12) from the head, the neck, and the chest, but not from the body
regions beneath this. So I say that spices that draw humors from the
knees, the legs and the feet receive particular influence of the stars of
Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. This applies to other areas, etc.
Do not reveal this book of divine secrets to wicked and greedy men but
keep it secret.
[The Science of Making Burning Water and the Quintessence from Burning
Take the best wine that you may find, if you have some money. If you
are poor, then take corrupt wine, that is, rotten, of a watery nature, but
avoid any that is sour(13), for the quintessence is naturally incorruptible
and will be drawn out by sublimation(14). The four elements, as it were,
the rotten feces of wine, will be left in the bottom of the vessel. But
first you must distill this wine seven times, and then you'll have good
burning water(15). In truth, this is the watery matter from which is drawn
You must then make, in an "ash furnace"(16), a one-piece glass still
with a hole at the top where the water will be put in and taken out. This
is an excellent instrument in which volatiles, by virtue of heat, ascend
and distill within the vessel _per canales brachiales_, that is by pipes
linked to arms, to be borne again and ascend and descend continually day
and night till the burning water has been turned into quintessence. And
so, by continual ascent and descent, the quintessence is removed from the
corruptible composition of the four elements. Even before it is twice
sublimed, the quintessence is more glorious, and more subtle, and far from
the corruptions of the four elements when it has ascended only once. So
repeat 1,000 times so that by continual ascent and descent, by which it is
sublimed to a height of glory, it will be an incorruptible medicine, almost
as heaven above and be of the nature of heaven. Therefore, our
quintessence is worthy of the title "mortal heaven".
After it has distilled in the subtle glass vessel, you should open the
hole in the vessel's head that was sealed with the seal of lute of wisdom,
made of the finest flour, egg whites, and moist paper, made so that nothing
could evaporate out. And when you open the hole, if a heavenly sweet aroma
sufficient to attract any natural person emerges, remove the distillate.
You have our quintessence. Otherwise, seal the vessel and put it on the
fire again until you have it.
Another method of obtaining quintessence is this: Take the noblest and
the strongest burning water that you may have distilled from pure, mighty
wine and put it into a glass amphora with a long neck. Close the mouth
securely with wax. Make sure that it is no more than 1/3 to 1/2 full and
bury it in horse dung. Make sure that the neck of the amphora is turned
downward and the bottom be turned upward. By virtue of the horse dung the
quintessence ascends up to the bottom, and the gross matter of the water
descends downward to the neck. After many days, when you take it out,
gently lift up the amphora as it sits [without changing its position], and
you will see a difference between the sublimed quintessence and the gross
matter that is in the neck.
The trick of separating one from the other is this: Take a sharp
pointer or iron pick and pierce the wax that hangs in the mouth of the
amphora, against the earth. When you have pierced to the bottom of the
water, take out the pointer or pick. The earthly water that is in the neck
will first come out until it reaches the interface between the water and
the quintessence, that is, mortal heaven sublimed. When you see that the
quintessence would run out after the earthly water was poured off, quickly
put your finger over the hole and turn the amphora right side up. You then
have our quintessence and the earthly water has been removed. This is an
extremely important secret.
The third manner is that you take a large glass amphora and seal it
well. Bury it in the womb of a horse and the purity of the quintessence
will be sublimed above and the gross matter will sit in the bottom. Take
out gently as above and whatever is left behind should be put to the fire.
The fourth manner is this: Take a glass or thick-glazed earthenware
vessel and attach a foot-long tube of glass with a leg [into the vessel].
Seal the vessel with its cover so that the foot-long rod of glass within
the vessel hangs in air so that the quintessence ascends to the cover in
the manner of a boiling pot and descends by the glass. You may make this
instrument without great cost.
The fifth manner is to distill the burning water ten times by continual
digestion in horse dung.
The science of making heat without fire, by which you can make our
quintessence without cost our trouble and without cost or loss of time:
Take the best horse dung that is well-digested that you can find and put
it within a vessel or else a pit made in the ground and coated with a paste
made of ashes. Mix the dung well in this vessel or pit. Set the
distillation vessel in the middle of this dung, up to the vessel's center.
It is necessary that the top of the vessel be in cold air so that the
quintessence that ascends by virtue of the heat of the dung will thereby be
turned into water by virtue of the coldness of the air and fall down again
and ascend. Thus you have heating without fire, with little trouble.
Another method of heating: Set your vessel in the strong rays of the
sun in summertime and let it stand there night and day.
[Instilling the Virtues of Gold into Burning Water]
Here I will teach you have poor, virtuous men may have, without cost and
almost for nothing, the gracious influence of gold and the manner of fixing
it into our heaven, that is, our quintessence. If you are poor, ask a rich
man who is your friend to lend you a good Florentine Florin(17). Anneal it
onto an iron plate as iron is annealed. Have an earthenware vessel filled
with the best burning water that you can find and put the still-hot
annealed florin into the water. Be careful to quickly quench the fire so
that the water isn't wasted and be careful that the iron does not touch the
water except after that florin has already been put in. Do this one or
more times, for the more often done, the better it is. If you see that too
much of the water is gone, exchange it for new and do so several times.
When you have quenched the metal, combine all the waters. You should
understand that the virtue of burning water is such that it naturally draws
out all the virtues and properties out of gold and holds incorruptibly and
an even heat. Then mix this burning water thus gilded with our
quintessence and use it.
Be careful not to quench the florin in our quintessence for then it
would be lost. If you do not have burning water ready, then quench the
florin in the best white wine that may be had. The philosophers surely say
that wine also has the properties to retain the influence in virtues of
gold. When you have finished your work note that the florin is still good
and almost of the same weight as it was before. Therefore, use gilded wine
or burning water so that you may be whole and grow happy and be young(18).
Thus you have our heaven and the sun is fixed in it to the preservation of
human bodies and the fixation of our heaven. That is our quintessence.
How to gild burning water or wine more effectively than I previously
taught, whereby the water or wine shall strongly take the influence and the
virtues of fine gold.
Take the calx of fine gold (as I will hereafter in this book show how to
make) and put it in a silver spoon. Anneal it at the fire and then put the
gold calx in the burning water or in wine one time as I taught you before
with the florin. Your liquor should be 100 times better gilded than with
the florin because fire works more strongly and better on small particles
than it does on a whole plate. Also, burning water or wine draws out the
properties of gold 1,000 times better from small annealed particles than it
does from a thick plate. Understand that wine doesn't hold only the
properties of gold but all meltable substances if they are quenched
therein. This is an important secret because if you quench Saturn (lead)
liquified in wine or in common water seven times and afterwards quench Mars
(iron) many times in that wine or water then Mars shall take on the
softness of Saturn and the same will happen to Venus (copper) and all other
meltable substances. If you quench Mars in white wine or in common water
many times and afterward add liquified Saturn, then without doubt you will
find that the Saturn is made quite hard(19). Therefore, the properties of
all meltable substances may be transferred to wine or water but much more
effectively into good, precious burning water.
Making a fire without coal [or coals], without lime, without light, that
works against all matter with the sharpness or action of visible fire, just
as the fire of Hell.
(This secret is so important that the virtues thereof may not all be
declared.) Thus it is made:
Take mercury that is sublimed with vitriol [hydrated ferrous sulfate,
cuprous sulfate, or zinc sulfate], common salt [sodium chloride], and sal
armoniac [ammonium chloride] that has been sublimed seven or ten times.
Mix them together in equal proportion and grind it fine. Leave it out upon
a marble stone. At night set it in still, clean air or else in a cold
cellar. It will then turn into water. Then gather it together into a
strong glass vessel and keep it(20).
This water, in truth, is so strong that if a little drop of it would
fall upon your hand, it would pierce it through. It would do the same if
it were to fall on a plate of Venus [copper] or Jupiter [tin]. It also
makes these metals like pearl. If this fire could ever be prepared in a
gentle manner, without doubt it would quickly quench the burning sickness
called the fire of Hell(21). Also it would heal every corrosive sickness.
Many philosophers call this thing _sal amarus_(22) in their books, although
they do not teach the mastery thereof. If it happens that this fiery water
breaks the glass and runs out into the ashes, then gather together whatever
has made a past in the ashes and lay it upon a marble stone as before, and
it will turn into water. This is a great secret.
The Science of Making Calx of Gold
Take fine gold and make it into fine shavings. Take a crucible with a
good quantity of mercury and set it on a small fire (do not permit vapors
to rise from it). Put the gold shavings into this and stir it well.
Afterwards, within a short time, you will see all the gold within the
mercury turn into earth as fine as flour. Then increase the flame so that
the mercury evaporates off, or you may distill it and gather the mercury,
using a lembic(23). In the crucible you will find the gold calcined and
reduced into earth. If to do not want to make gold shavings, then make as
fine and thin a gold plate as you can and put hot mercury within it, then
you will have your desire. You can also work silver in this same manner.
Take the calx of these two bodies and carry them openly, and nobody will
know what they are. If you wish to carry them more secretly, without
anyone knowing, then mix them with melted pitch or wax or else gum. Then
no-one will know what it is. When you want to dissolve any of these calces
out of its matrix, put either by itself on heat or else the pitch or the
wax it is in. It will soon come out as much gold or silver as it was
Now I would teach you the mystery of removing gold from silver when they
Know well that there are many items in which gold and silver are mingled,
as in the gilding of utensils and jewelry. Therefore, when you would
remove one from the other, put the mixture into a strong water made of
vitriol and saltpeter [ammonium nitrite] and the silver will be dissolved
and not the gold. Then you have removed one from the other. If you want
to dissolve the gold, then put it and corrosive sal ammoniac into corrosive
water and that water will without a doubt dissolve gold(24).
The Science to Draw Quintessence from Gold
First, reduce gold into calx as I have related before. Then take distilled
vinegar or old urine (that has no feces in it) and put it into a glass
vessel. The liquid should be at a height of four inches. Put the calx of
gold into this and set it under strong sunlight in summertime. You will
soon see a liquid like oil ascend to the top as a film. Gather that film
with a small spoon or a feather and put it into a glass vessel that already
has water in it. Gather it thus many times in the day until it no longer
ascends. After pooling the samples, evaporate the water via heating. The
quintessence of the gold will stay behind. Many philosophers call this
quintessence an incombustible oil. That is a great secret.
If you fix this quintessence in our heaven [the 1000-time distilled
"mortal heaven" outlined previously] it will without doubt restore a man
again to his lost faculties and restore the virtues of the strength of
youth and also lengthen his life into the last term of life set by God.
Now, I have told you the greatest secret and restoration of mankind.
This great thing must not be displayed. For this oil, that is to say
quintessence of gold, has extreme powers to soothe and remove the ache of
wounds and to heal wounds, old sores, and many horrible evils.
You may also draw quintessence out of silver in the same manner.
The Science to Draw Quintessence from Antimony, that is, Mercasite of Lead.
This quintessence is a great mystery and a secret of all secrets.
Take antimony mineral and make a fine powder as you can from it. Then
take the best distilled vinegar and put the powder of antimony into it and
let it stand in a glass upon a small fire until the vinegar turns red.
Then remove that vinegar and keep it and put more distilled vinegar onto
the antimony and heat until this vinegar is red. Do this several times.
When all your vinegar is colored put it in a still and first the vinegar
will ascend. Then you will see a marvel, for you will see, as it were, a
thousand drops of blessed wine descending in the manner of red drops, as if
it were blood, at the pipe of the lembic. Gather this liquid in a
routemen(25) and then you have a thing that all the treasure of the world
is worthless in comparison to. Aristotle calls it lead in the book of
secrets and does not reveal it to be antimony. This does away with the
pain of all wounds and heals wonderfully. Its virtues are incorruptible
and marvelously profitable. It needs to be putrefied [fermented] in a
routemen and sealed in dung, then it works great secrets. The quintessence
of this antimony, which is red, in which is the secret of all secrets, is
sweeter than any honey or sugar(26).
The Science of Extracting Quintessence from Blood and Flesh and Eggs
I say that, in every composite thing, the quintessence remains incorrupted.
It will then be a wonderful thing if I teach you how to draw it out from
human blood (obtained from surgeons when they draw blood), also from the
flesh of all brute beasts and from all eggs and other such things. As much
as human blood is the most perfect thing within us for the restoration of
that which has been lost, it is certain that the quintessence of blood is
so perfect that without any other great preparations it converts blood into
flesh outside the veins. This quintessence is so fine that it is the best
Marvelous virtues of our heaven are stored within it and it works divine
miracles for the cures of the human body--as I shall tell you. Therefore,
obtain blood via surgeons from good-natured or angry young men who drink
good wines. Let the blood rest and discard the serum. Mix it in a 10:1
ratio with common salt that is of medicinal quality and put it into a glass
vessel called an amphora. Finely seal it and put it within the womb of a
horse, prepared as before and renew the dung once a week, or more. Let it
putrefy until all the blood turns into water. It shall be done at the most
in 30-40 days, more or less. Then put it in a lembic and distill it on a
good flame. Collect whatever ascends and put on pounded feces. Mix on a
marble stone. Distill and mix with pounded feces several times. When you
have this nobilized blood, wherein the quintessence has been drawn out, put
it into a circulating still until it produces as heavenly a savor as did
the burning water. This is the divine fifth being [quintessence] of blood,
and miracles more than one may believe if he sees it [can be done with
Now will I teach you how to draw the fifth being from capons, hens, and
all manner of the flesh of brute beasts and from all manner of eggs from
fowls that are wholesome and appropriate for human consumption. Grind some
of these aforementioned things, whatever you wish, as strongly as you can
in a mortar with 1/10th part of medicinal quality common salt. Put it into
the womb of a horse, as I have described before, until it turns to water.
Distill as previously described and recirculate the water in the
circulating still until it is brought to the aforementioned sweet heavenly
savor and smell.
The Science to Draw out the Fifth Being of Every of the Four Elements and
to Separate each by itself, and That is Right Marvelous
I will not refuse to show a great secret, how you may draw the fifth being
from each of the four elements of the things previously mentioned and
profitably show them. The manner is thus: Take a thing that has been
putrefied and brought into water, whatever you wish, as I previously taught
you, for example, human blood brought into water. Put that water, or that
putrefied blood, into a glass still and set it within a pot of water and
heat until the water of blood [for example] is distilled via the lembic's
pipe into a clean glass amphora. When nothing more ascends from heating,
you can be certain that you have drawn out all of the element of water.
This is because a heated bath hasn't the strength to sublime air, or
fire, or earth. Take the three remaining elements and set in the heated
bath seven days so that they are well mixed and nothing is left to distill.
After the seven days, take the still and put it on an ash-furnace that is
stronger than the marienbath [heated water bath], and the water will ascend
as an oil as shiny as gold. After nothing more will ascend, you then have
two elements in your collection chamber, that is to say, water and air.
You can remove one from the other by heating in the bath, wherein only
clear water will ascend, and air will remain in the bottom of the vessel in
the likeness of gold oil. This gold oil is the air. Put it aside.
The fire and earth remain. To remove fire from earth, put four pounds
of water onto one pound of [the] earth [you have made] and put it onto a
marienbath for seven days. Afterwards, put onto a strong flame and red
water will ascend. Gather this so long as anything ascends. The earth
will be black and will remain in the bottom. Gather this earth.
Distill the red water since this is a mixture of two elements, water and
fire. Distill this and clear water will ascend and red water, that is, the
element of fire, will remain in the bottom. You now have one oil, that is,
air, and water, and fire, and earth. Note well that the element of water
is added to draw out fire and air from earth, for they will not ascend
without the aid of water.
Bring each into its fifth being with the re-distiller as previously
outlined, or else rectify it, making it ascend seven times by an other(27),
but you must first put the black earth in a glass furnace or else calcine
it for 21 days.
I speak to you no more of this science but rejoice with you and thank
our glorious Lord God for these things that you have.
The Science to Fix all Earthly Things into Our Quintessence, That is to
Say, Our Heaven, That by their Influence, They may Give their Properties
and their Hidden Virtues thereto.
Our glorious God has given this virtue to our quintessence: That it may
draw the virtues, properties, and natures that God made out of every fruit,
tree, root, flower, herb, flesh, seed, spice, and every medical thing; and
all within three hours.
Now, I have shown you an extreme secret, how you may draw out, with our
heaven, every quintessence from all things aforementioned. Therefore, put
any necessary ingredients for every syrup into our quintessence, and within
three hours this water will be such a syrup, understand this well, better
by a hundred times than it would be without our quintessence. So I say of
comfortatives, digestives, laxatives, restrictives, and all other
medicines. Because, if you put seeds, flowers, fruits, leaves, spices,
cold, hot, sweet, sour, moist, whether they be good or evil, into our
quintessence, since our quintessence is the instrument of transmuting the
virtues of all things if they be put into it, the virtues of the thing are
increased a hundredfold(28).
_Explicit pars prima tractatus quinte essencie:_(29)
(1) This makes the Book of Quintessence a somewhat unusual and dangerous
work for the time. Alchemetical practice was often couched in highly
symbolic and theoretical language. In other words, this book was the
alchemetical equivalent of an instruction manual in practical demolitions.
(2) Throughout the MS. I have translated "evangelik" with "virtuous".
While the term "evangelical" exists in modern English, its meaning is a
good deal altered from the 15th century.
(3) Modern readers with heads full of nonsense regarding the philosophy of
the Medieval period (and England, 1450 was still medieval), should note
that the author of this work believed that one could take fasting and
abstinence too far. There was a point after which it was not a good thing.
(4) This roughly translates as "Man's days are brief, etc.".
(5) It should be understood that "corruption" in this work is a broader
term than in the modern day. It does not only mean moral failing but
physical "corruption" in the sense of disease and rotting. Unfortunately,
there is no modern English word with both meanings in common use.
(6) The "four qualities" were alchemetic extensions of the four humors of
Galenic medicine. The following table summarizes:
Quality Bodily Fluid
Depression "Black Bile" (Choler)
(7) The author uses "philosopher" to both refer to what we call
"philosophers" and to what we would call a "mage" or an "alchemist". To
his mind, they were identical.
(8) Our author had a very good working knowledge of the chemistry of his
day to realize that "alchemetical gold" was not to be mistaken for the real
thing. A good deal of the "gold" produced "with corrosives" by alchemists
were toxic metal salts that happened to have a yellow sheen. For example,
some lead and mercury salts are yellowish.
(9) The original word here is "fair"--which basically meant both beautiful
(10) The original term is "astronomy", but the author clearly refers to
what we now call "astrology".
(11) I am not sure what this means, since "Gerapigra galieni" is actually
a transliteration of a Greek phrase, and my Greek is almost nil. I would
guess that it is a reference to the writings of Galen.
(12) The Galenic "humors", to be precise. "Fluid" might be a more
accurate literal translation, but "humor" still holds a bit of the broader
(13) The instructions that follow lead me to believe that this form of the
"quinte essencia" is ethanol. Therefore, the proscription against sour
wine is quite sensible, since soured wine would probably have had much of
its alcohol replaced by acetic acid (vinegar) or lactic acid (sour
(14) When the author refers to "sublimation" he is actually referring to
repeated distillation, NOT the modern process of "sublimation", which is
the heating of something directly from solid to vapor without melting.
(16) Ethanol. WARNING: Ethanol and ethanol vapors are flammable and
explosive. I do not suggest, state, nor intimate that anyone reading this
should distill wine. In fact, I warn against it. I speak from personal
experience as to the volatility of pure ethanol.
(16) The original is a "furnace of ashes"--probably a hearth.
(17) The Florin was a gold coin of the time. Those from Florence were
generally of high purity.
(18) I would be pretty darn jolly if I regularly dosed myself with high-
concentration ethanol, regardless of gold content.
(19) Either the author partook of a great deal of burning water when doing
these experiments or he neglected to mention that one left the first metal
in the bath so to permit some sort of alloying.
(20) The author describes purifying sulfuric acid from one of the hydrated
metal sulfur salts known as "vitriol". Any acid so produced would be
highly contaminated with mercury--thus it would be both corrosive AND
(21) I have no idea what this illness is--some kind of fever?
(22) Literally: "Bitter Salt"
(23) Mercury vapors cause irreversible brain damage and can prove lethal.
(24) Aqua Regia, which can dissolve gold, is a mixture of nitric and
hydrochloric acids. The author's "corrosive water" may be the "fire of
Hell" that he described making earlier in the manuscript. This plus
ammonium chloride may give a crude aqua regia.
(25) I do not know what this piece of equipment is.
(26) Antimony is very toxic. I don't know if it has neurological or
hallucinatory effects, but it will kill humans if ingested. Lead is also
quite toxic, and some lead compounds have a notoriously sweet flavor--which
is what attracts children to eat old lead-based paint flecks.
(27) I am not familiar with this piece of equipment.
(28) This is simply a florid description of tincturing, or extraction by
soaking in ethanol.
(29) "End of part one of the monograph on Quintessence"