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| Latest Articles
|Stories of alchemical transmutations
Stories of alchemical transmutations
The Golden Calf of Helvetius
The Story of Wenceslaus Seilerus Allegorical letter about an alchemical adept
A strange 19th century story about transmutation
Salomon Trismosin's alchemical wanderings
Bernard of Trevisan's quest for the Stone
van Helmont's experiences with transmutation
Pico della Mirandola's mention of transmutation
Ashmole's account of Tincture found at Bath Abbey
Pope John XXII's decree against alchemy
Robert Boyle's Account of a Degredation of Gold
Ashmole's account of Edward Kelly's transmutations
Other accounts of Edward Kelley's transmutations
Denis Zacaire's account of his alchemical work
Archibald Cockren's alchemical discoveries
Edmund Dickinson's experience of transmutation
Albertus Bayr discovers transmutation through evoking a spirit Cagliostro's transmutation in Warsaw
The Transmutations of Dr. Price The Golden Calf
The famous story of an alchemical transmutation reported by John Frederick Helvetius. The Golden Calf, Which the World Adores, and Desires..., London 1670
At the Hague, on the sixth Calend of January, or the 27th of December, in the year 1666, a certain man came to my House in the Afternoon, to me indeed planely unknown, but endued with an honest gravity, and serious authority of Countenance, cloathed in a Plebeick Habit, like to some Memnonite: of a middle Stature, his Visage somewhat long, with some Pock-holes here and there dispersed: his Hairs were indeed very black, yet not curled, little or no hair on his Chin, and about three or four and fourty years of Age: his Countrey (as far as I am able to conjecture) is the Septentrional Batavia, vulgarly called Nord-Holland.
After salutations ended, this new Guest, with great Reverence, asked, whether he might have freedom to come to me; because for the Pyrotechnick Art sake, he could not, nor was he willing to pass by the Door of my house; adding, that he had not only thought to have made use of some Friend to come to me, but had also read some of my little Treatises, especially that, which I published, against D. Digbies Sympathetick Powder, in which I discovered my doubt of the true Philosophick Mystery. Therefore, this occasion being taken, he asked me, whether I could believe, that place was
given to such a Mystery in the things of Nature, by the benefit of which a Physician might be able to cure all Diseases universally, unless the Sick already had a defect either of the Lungs, or Liver, or of any like noble Member?
To which I answered. Such a remedy is exceedingly necessary for a Physician, but no man knows what and how great are the Secrets yet hidden in Nature, nor did I ever in all my Life see such an Adept Man, although I have read and perused many things, touching the verity of this thing, or Art, in the Writings of Philosophers. I also enquired of him, whether he (speaking of the Universal Medicine) were not a Physician?
But he answered by denyal, professed, that he was no other than a Melter of Orichalcum, and that in the Flower of his years, he had known many things, from his Friend, rare to the Sight, and especially the way of Extracting Medicinal Arcanums by the force of Fire, and that for this very cause, he was a Lover of this so noble Science of Medicine.
Moreover, long after other discourses, touching Experiments in Metals, made by the violence of Fire, Elias the Artist spake to me thus; Do you not know the Highest Secret, when it is offered to your sight, viz. the Stone of Phylosophers, you having read in the Writings of many Chymists most excellent, touching the Substance, Colour, and strange effect of the same?
I answered, not at all; except what I have read in Paracelsus, Helmont, Basilius, Sandivogius, and like Books of Adept Phylosophers extant. Nevertheless, I think, I am not able to know the Phylosophick Matter, whether it be true, or not, although I should see it present before me.
Whilst I was speaking thus, he pulled out of his Pocket and Ivory Box, in which he had three ponderous Fragments, in magnitude scarcely equalizing a small Walnut; these were Glass-like, of the colour of pale Sulphur, to which the Interior Scales of that Crucible did adhere, in which this most noble Substance was liquified, for I suppose the Value of it might equalize twenty Tun of Gold. But after I had plighted my Faith, I held that Cheimelion [or precious Treasure] of this Stone, within these my hands, for almost a quarter of an hour, and from the Philosophick Mouth of the Owner, I heard many things worthy of note, touching the same, for humane and Metallic bodies. Indeed, I, with a sad and afflictedly afflicted Mind, restored this Treasure of Treasures to him, the Lord and Possessor, who gave the same into my hand for a very short space of time; and yet I did that (after the manner of Men overcoming themselves) not without the greatest action of thanks, as was fit in such a Case. Afterwards I asked him, how it came to pass, (since I had otherwise read, that the Stones of Philosophers were endowed with a Rubinate, or Purple Colour) that this his Philosophick Stone was tinged with a Sulphureous Colour?
He answered me thus: O Sir, this is nothing to the purpose: for the Matter is Sufficiently mature.
Moreover, when I entreated him, that he would give to me, for a perpetual remembrance, one small part of the Medicine included in his Box, although no more in bulk than a Coriander-Seed; he denied, answering: O no! For this is not lawful for me to do, although you would give me this whole Roome full of Gold in Duckets; and that not be reason of the price of the Matter, but by reason of another certain Consequence. Yea, surely, if it were possible, that Fire could be burned with Fire, I would sooner cast this whole Substance into the devouring Flames of Vulcan, before your Eyes.
A little after this, he also asked me, whether I had not another Room, the Windows of which were not to the Street-side; I presently brought this Phaenix, or Bird most rare to be seen in this Land, into my best furnished Chamber; yet he, at his Entrance (as in the manner of Hollanders is, in their Countryes) did not shake off his Shoes, which were dropping wet with Snow. I indeed, at that very time, thus thought: perhaps he will provide, or hath in readiness some Treasure for me; but he dashed my hope all to pieces. For he immediately asked of me a piece of the best Gold-mony; and in the mean while layed off his Cloak, and Country Coat; also he opened his Bosom, and under his Shirt he wore in green Silk, five great Golden Pendants, round, filling up the magnitude of the Interior Space or an Orb of Tin. Where, in comparing these, in respect of Colour and Flexibility, the difference between his Gold, and mine, was exceedingly great. On these Pendants he had inscribed with an Iron Instrument, the following Words, which, at my request, he gave leave that I should coppy out.
The form of the Pendants, and words engraven thereon, are as follows.
I. Amen. Holy , Holy, Holy, is the Lord our God, for all things are full of his Power. Leo: Libra. II. The wonderfull wonder-working wisdom of Jehovah in the Catholick Book of Nature. Made the 26 day Aug. 1666. III. [Sun. Mercury. Moon] The wonderfull God, Nature, and the Spagyrick Art, make nothing in vain. IV. Sacred, Holy, Spirit, Hallelujha, Hallelujha. Away Devil, Speak not of God without Light, Amen. V. The Eternal, Invisible, only wise, Best of all, and omnipotent God of Gods; Holy, Holy, Holy, Governour and Conserver deservedly ought to be praysed.
Moreover, when I, affected with admiration, said to him; My Master, I pray tell me, where had you this greatest Science of the whole World?
He answered, I received such Magnalia from the Communication of a certain Extraneous Friend, who for certain dayes lodged in my House, professing, that he was a Lover of Art, and came to teach me various Arts; viz. how, besides the aforesaid, of Stones, and Crystal, most beautiful precious Stones are made much more fair than Rubies, Chrysolites, Saphires, and others of that kind. Also how to prepare a Crocus Martis in a quarter of an hour, of which only one Dose infallibly heals a Pestilential Dysentery. Likewise a Metallick Liquor, by the help of which, every Species of the
Dropsy, may be cured certainly in four dayes space. Also a certain Limpid Water, more sweet, than Hony, by the help of which, I can extract the Tincture of Granates, Corals, and of all Glasses blown by Artificers, in the space of two hours in hot sand only. Many other things like to these he told me, which I neither well observed, nor committed to memory; because my intention was carryed further, viz. to learn the Art of pressing that so noble juice out of Metals for Metals; but the Shadow in Waters deceived the Dog of his piece of Flesh, which was substantial. Moreover, this Artist told me, that his Master, who taught him this Art, bad him bring a Glass full of Rain water, with which he mixed a very small quantity of a most white pouder; commanding me (here the Disciple of that Master proceeds in his Discourse) to go to the Silver-Smith, for one ounce of Cupellate Silver, laminate, (or beat very thin), which Silver was dissolved in a quarter of an hour, as Ice in hot water. Then he presently gave to me one half of this potion, by himself so speedily made, to drink, which in my mouth tasted as sweet Milk, and I thence became very cheerful.
He having related these things, I ceased not to enquire of him, to what end he had instanced this? Whether the Potion was Philosophick?
To this, he answered, You must not be so curious.
Afterwards, he told me, how he, by the command of that Laudable Artist his Master, took a piece of the Leaden gutter of his house, and when the Lead was melted in a new Crucible, the said Artist drew out of his pocket a Casket full of Sulphureous Powder, of which, he took a very small part upon the point of a knife, once, and again, and injected the same upon the Lead in Flux; presently giving order, that the Fire should be blown with two pairs of Bellows strongly, for exciting the heat more vehemently; a little after, he powred out of the Crucible, most pure Gold, upon the Red stones, which were in the Kitchen. I (said this most pleasing discourser to me) did commodiously behold this verity of the Transmutation of Metals, but was so astonished with fear and admiration, that I was scarcely able to speak one word. But my Master heartening me, said, Cheer up, and be contented: take for your self a sixteenth part of this Mass, which keep for a Memorandum; but the other fifteen parts distribute to the Poor: and I did as he said. For, (if my memory deceive me not) he bestowed this exceedingly great Alms, on the Sparrendamen-Church; but whether he gave it at distinct times, or not, or whether he told it down in the Substance of Gold, or of Silver, I asked him not.
And at length (saith he, speaking of his Master) he directly taught me this great divine Art.
Therefore, the Narration of all these things being ended, I most humbly entreated him, that he would shew me the effect of Transmutation upon impure Metals, that I thence might have the better assurance of those things by him related to me, and my Faith being confirmed, securely give credit to the real Truth of the matter. But he very discreetly gave me the repulse; yet taking his leave of me, he promised to return again after
three Weeks, and then shew to me certain curious Arts by Fire, as also the way of projecting; making this Provisoe, if it should then be lawful for him.
The three Weeks being elapsed, according to his word, he came to my House, and invited me to walk abroad with him for one hour, or two, as we both did, having in that Time Certain Discourses of the Secrets of Nature in the Fire, but in the mean while, this well spoken Companion in the way, was not lavish, but rather too sparing of his words, touching the great Secret; affirming, that this singular Mystery tended not, but to the alone magnifying of the most illustrious Fame of the most glorious God; and that very few men considered, how they might condignly Sacrifice themselves by their Works, to so great a God; uttering these Expressions no otherwise, then as if he had been a Pastor of the Church. But I, in the mean time, fayled not to solicit him, to demonstrate to me the Transmutation of Metals. Moreover, I beseeched and intreated him, to vouchsafe to eat with me, and to lodge in my house, urging him with such Earnestness, as no Rival, or Lover, could ever use more perswasive Words, for winning his beloved to a willingness of gratifying him above all others: but he, agitated by a Spirit of so great constancy, made void all I endeavoured.
Nevertheless, I could not choose but speak to him thus: Sir, You see I have a very convenient Laboratory, in which you may shew me the Metallick Transmutation. For, whosoever assents to him, that asketh, obligeth himself to him.
It is true (answered he) but I made a promise to you of imparting some things, with this Exception, if at my Return, I be not interdicted, but have leave to do the same.
All, and every of these, my requests being in vain, I instantly, and earnestly besought him, that (if he would not, or by reason of the Heavenly Interdiction could not demonstrate what I asked) he would only give me so much of his Treasure, as would be sufficient for transmuting four grains of Lead into Gold. At this my request, he, after a little while, pouring forth a Flood of Philosophick Mercy, gave a small particle, as big as a Rape-Seed, saying: Take of the greatest Treasure of the World, which very few great Kings, or Princes could ever see.
But I, saying: my Master, this so small particle perhaps will not be sufficient for the tinging of four granes of Lead.
He answered; Give it me. I accordingly gave it him, conceiving good hope of receiving somewhat a greater particle instead thereof; but he breaking off the one half almost of it, with his thumb-nayl, threw it into the fire, and wrapping the other up in blew paper, he gave it to me, saying, It is yet sufficient for thee.
To which, I with a sad Countenance, and perplexed Mind, answered: Ah Sir! What mean you by this? Before I doubted, and now I cannot believe, that so
small a quantity of this Medicine will suffice for transmuting four grans of Lead.
O, said he, if you cannot rightly handle your Lead in the Crucible, by reason of the so very small quantity thereof, then take two drams, or half an ounce, or a little more of the Lead; for more must not be tinged, then well may.
To him I again said: I cannot easily believe this, viz. that so little of the Tincture, will transmute so great a qualtity of Lead into Gold.
But he answered; what I say is true.
In the mean while, I, giving him great thanks, inclosed my diminished, and in the Superlative degree concentrated Treasure, in my own Casket, saying: Tomorrow I will make this Tryal; and give no notice to any Man thereof, as long as I live.
Not so, not so, answered he, but all things, which tend to the Glory of God Omnipotent, ought by us singularly to be declared to the Sons of Art, that we may live Theosophically, and not at all dye Sophistically.
Then I confessed to him; that when I held the Mass is his Medicine in my own hand, in that short space of time, I attempted to raze something there-from with my Finger Nayl, but I got no more, than a certain invisible Atome; and, when I had cleansed my nayl, and had injected the collected matter, wrapt in paper, upon Lead in Flux, I could see no transmutation of it into Gold; but almost the whole Mass of Lead vanished into Aire, and the remaining Substance was transmuted into a Glassy-Earth.
At the hearing of this, he smiling, sayed: You could no more dexterously play the Thief, than apply the Tincture. I wonder, that you, so expert in the Fire, do no better understand the fuming Nature of Lead. For if you had wrapped your Theft in yellow Wax, that it might have been conserved from the Fume of Lead, then it would so have penetrated into the Lead, as to have transmuted the same into Gold. But now a Sympathetick Operation was performed in Fume, and so the Medicine permixed with the Fume, flew away: For all Gold, Silver, Tin, Mercury, and like Metals, are corrupted by Lead Vapours, and likewise converted to a brittle Glass.
While he was thus speaking, I shewed him my Crusible, who viewing the remaining Substance, perceived a most beautiful Saffron-coloured Tincture, adhering to the sides of the Crucible, and sayed, To-morrow at nine of the Clock, I will return, and shew you, how your Medicine must be used to transmute Lead into Gold.
In which promise of him, I rested secure. Yet, in the mean while, I again and again requested information of him, whether this Philosophick Work, required great Charges in the preparing, and a very long Time.
O my Friend, answered he, you very accuratly affect to know all things; yet I will open this to you; The Charge is not great, nor is the Time long. But, as touching the matter of which our Arcanum is made, I would have you to know; there are only two Metals and Minerals, of which it is prepared. And because the Sulphur of Philosophers is more abundant in these Minerals, therefore it is made of them.
Then I again asked him: What the Menstruum was, and whether the Operations were made in Glasses, or in Crusibles.
He answered: The Menstruum is a Celestial Salt, or a Salt of Celestial Virtue, by the benefit of which, Philosophers only dissolve the Terrene Metallick Body, and in dissolving, the noble Elixir of Philosophers is produced. But the Operation is performed in a Crucible, from the beginning to the end, in an open Fire. And the whole Work may be begun, and plainly ended in no longer time, then four daies: Also in this whole Work, no greater Cost is required, then the value of three Florens. Lastly he added; Neither the Mineral, from Which, nor the Salt by Which, is of any great Price.
I again said to him: My Master; This is strange, for it is repugnant to the sayings of various Philosophers, who have writ, that at least seven, or nine Moneths are imployed in this Work.
He answered: The true writings of Philosophers are only understood by the truly Adept. Therefore, touching the Time, they would write nothing certain; yea, I say, no Lover of this Art, can find the Art of preparing this Mystery in his whole Life, without the Communication of some true Adept Man. In this respect, and for this Cause, I advise you, my Friend, because you have seen the true Matter of the true Work, not to forget your self, and thirsting after the perfection of this Art, to cast away your own Goods; for you can never find it out.
Then I sayed: My Master, although I am so unknown to you, as you are unknown to me; nevertheless, since he was unknown to you, who shewed you the way of finding out the Operation of this Arcanum, perhaps you may also, if you be willing, notifie to me somewhat, touching this Secret, that the most difficult Rudiments being overcome, I may (as the saying is) happily add somewhat to things already found out; for by the occasion of one thing found, another is not difficultly invented.
But the Artist answered: In this Work the matter is not so. For unless you know the thing, from the beginning of the Work to the end, you know nothing thereof. Indeed I have told you enough, yet you are ignorant how the Stone of Philosophers is made, and again, how the Glassy Seal of Hermes is broaken, in which Sol gives forth Splendor from his Metallick Rayes, wonderfully coloured, and in which Speculum, the Eyes of Narcissus behold Metals transmutable, and from which Rayes the Adept gather their fire, by the help of which, Volatile Metals are fixed into most fixed Gold, or Silver. But enough for this time, because (God willing) on the Morrow, we
shall have occasion of meeting yet once more, that we may talk together touching this Philosophick matter; and according as I said, at nine a Clock, I will come to your House, and shew you the way of Projecting.
But with that happy Valediction for one night, that Elias the Artist hath left me most sad in expectation unto this very day. Yea, the Mercury of Philosophers did with him vanish into Aire; because from him I did no more again hear so much as one word. Yet he, (because he promised that he would come again to me betimes the next morning) half an hour before ten, sent to me another unknown man, signifying that, that friend, who yesternight promised to re-visit me this morning, by reason of other urgent business, could not come, nevertheless, at three of the Clock in the afternoon, he would again see me. But after I had, with a most vehement desire expected him, till almost eight a Clock, I began to doubt in the truth of the matter. Besides, my Wife also, a very curious Searcher in the Art of that Laudable man, came to me, troubling me, by reason of the Philosophick Art, cited in that aforesaid Severe, and Honest man; saying, Go to, let us try, I pray thee, the Verity of the work, according to what the man said. For otherwise, I certainly shall not sleep all this night.
But I answered; I pray let us deferr it till tomorrow; perhaps the man will come then. Nevertheless, when I had ordered my Son to kindle the fire; these thoughts arose in me; That man indeed, otherwise in his discourses so Divine, is now found the first time guilty of a Lye. A second time, when I would make Experiment of my Stollen Matter hid under my Nayl, but to no purpose, because the Lead was not transmuted into Gold. Lastly, a third time, he gave me so very little of the Matter, for tinging so great a Mass of Lead; that he almost drove me to Desperation.
Notwithstanding these thoughts, I commanded yellow Wax to be brought, wherein to wrap the Matter, and finding Lead, I cut off half an Ounce, or six Drachmes. My Wife wrapped the Matter of the Stone in the Wax, and when the Lead was in Flux, she cast in that little Mass, which, with Hissing and Flatuosity, so performed its Operation in the Crucible well closed, as in one quarter of an hour, the whole Mass of Lead was transmuted into the best Gold. Certainly, had I lived in the Age of Ovid, I could not have believed, any Metamorphosis more rare, than this of the Chimical Art; but if I could behold things with the hundred Eyes of Argus, I should scarcely see any work of Nature more admirable. For this Lead, mixt with the Stone of the Wise, and in the Fire melted, demonstrated to us a most beautiful colour, yea, I say, it was most green; but when I poured it out into a [Cone, or] fusory Cup, it received a colour like blood, and when it waxed cold, shined with the colour of the best Gold: I, and all who were present with me, being amazed, made what haste we could with the Aurificate Lead (even before it was through cold) to a Gold-Smith, who after a precious Examen, judged it to be Gold most excellent, and that in the whole world, better could not be found; withall, adding, that for every Ounce of such Gold, he would give 50 Florens.
The next day, the rumour of this wonderful Metallick Transmutation was
spread all over our Hague; whence many illustrious men, and lovers of Art, made hast to me, among which, by name, the General Examiner of the Moneys of this Province of Holland, Dn. Porelius, came to me, with certain other illustrious men, earnestly desiring, that I would communicate to them some small particle of my Artificial Gold, to prove it by legitimate Examens: these, for their curiosity sake, I willingly gratified; and we went together to the house of a certain very curious Silver-Smith, by name Brechtelius, in whose Workhouse, the Excellency of my Gold was evidenced, by that form of Probation, which Skillful Artists call Quarta, viz. when they in a Crucible melt three or four parts of Silver, with one part of Gold, and then by hammering, reduce that mixture into thin Plates, on which they pour a sufficient quantity of Aquafortis, by which the Silver is dissolved, but the Gold settles to the bottome, like a black powder. Afterward, the Aqua fortis is poured off, and the golden powder, is again put into a Crucible, and by strong fire reduced to Gold.
But when this work was ended, we supposed, that one half of the Gold was vanished, yet in the very deed it was not so: for we found that the Gold, besides it own weight, had transmuted some part of the Silver into Gold, viz. two drams of the Gold, transmuted two scruples of the Silver (through the abundance of its Tincture) into like Gold Homogeneal to it self.
After this, we, suspecting that the Silver was not well separated from the Gold, did presently make a mixture with seven times as much Antimony. And after this Examen, we lost eight grains of Gold; but when I had again evaporated the Antimony, I found nine grains of Gold, yet in colour somewhat pale. Thus, in the best Tryal of Fire, we lost nothing of this Gold, And this infallible kind of Probation, I thrice performed in presence of those most noble and illustrious Men, and found, that every Dram of Gold acquired from the Silver for an augmentation to itself, one Scruple of Gold: and the Silver, is pure good, and very flexible. So, according to this, the five drams of Gold, attracted to itself from the Silver, five scruples; and (that I may together, and at once, comprise all that remains to be said) the whole weight which that Laudable Powder, in quantity so exceeding small, did transmute, was six drams, and two scruples, of a more vile Metal, into Gold, in such a wise fixed, as it was able perseveringly to sustain the most intense Torture of Fire.
Behold! thus have I exactly, from first to last, commemorated this History. The Gold I indeed have, but where, or in what Land or Countrey Elias the Artist is at this day hospited, I am wholly ignorant, for he told me, his purpose was to abide in his own Country no longer then this Summer; that after he would travil into Asia, and visit the Holy-Land. Let the most wise King of Heaven (under the Shadow of whose divine Wings he hath hitherto layn hid) by his Administratory Angels accompany him in his intended Journey, and prosper it so, as he living to a great Age, may with his inestimable Talent greatly succour the whole Republick of Christians, and after this Life gloriously behold, and partake of the prepared Inheritance of Life Eternal. Amen.
The Story of Wenceslaus Seilerus
The following story of the Friar Wenceslaus Seilerus who found some transmuting powder in his monastery, is a kind of moral tale, in which the hero is repeatedly tricked and deceived by people who wanted to gain his secret. However, this tale is based on a real documented individual, Wenzel Seyler, who was later ennobled as Wenzel von Reinburg by the Austrian Emperor Leopold I. His story, no doubt with many embellishments was written up by J. J. Becher.
Becher, John Joachim [1635-1682]. Magnalia Naturae: or, the Philosophers-Stone Lately expos’d to publick Sight and Sale. Being A true and exact Account of the Manner how Wenceslaus Seilerus The late Famous Projection-maker, at the Emperours Court, at Vienna, came by, and made away with a very great Quantity of Pouder of Projection, by projecting with it before the Emperor, and a great many Witnesses, selling it, &c. for some years past. Published at the Request, and for the Satisfaction of several Curious and Ingenious, especially of Mr. Boyl, &c. By John Joachim Becher, One of the Council of the Emperor, and a Commissioner for the Examen of this Affair... London, Printed by Tho. Dawks, His Majesties British Printer, living in Black-fryers. Sold also by La. Curtis, in Goat Court on Ludgate hill, 1680.
To the Reader.
There is no ingenious man that is not unaquainted with the Curiosities to be met with in the World, who hath not either seen som Transmutation of Metals, or at least heard so many witness that they have seen it; as to be perswaded that their is such Thing as the Philosophers-Stone, or Powder of Projection. Only there be some great men (as his Highness Prince Rupert, who hath seen the Projection at Frankfort, in Germany) who seem to question whether such a Pouder or Tincture is prepared with Profit. But this Doubt is hereby now fully cleared and resolved, from the great quantity of this Tincture left buried by the Abbot Founder of the Church it was found in: (as this Relation informs you) for it is not credible that the Abbot was Master, before he had done the Work, of such an immense Treasure, as he must needs have had to draw so much Tincture from: which could not be extracted (if the Preparation thereof is without profit), from a lesser quantity of Gold than it gives or yield again in the Projection: so that the same quanity of Gold as it yields again must have been spoiled to make it; which it is not credible an Abbot of Germany was Master of, as is said. And, for the Truth of this Relation, besides that, it is attested by many men of great Quality, good parts, Probity, and Modesty, by the Emperor himself; by Count Wallestein who was Resident here a year ago; and by Dr.
Becher at present in this City. It is so publickly known through all parts of Germany, chiefly about Vienna where this was transacted, that to doubt, or deny it, were as absurd, as if one denyed that the West-Indies have bin found out of late years, or that there be ships at Sea, because he hath seen neither.
But among the many remarkable Passages in this Relation, one thing is most worthy of Observation, viz. the Honesty of F. Fra. Preyhausen, who deserves to be chronicled for his Faithfulness and Truth to F. Wenceslaus the Finder of this Pouder: for he wanted neither frequent Opportunities nor specious Pretences to effect what som Princes could not forbear to attempt (i.e. to rob Wenceslaus of his Powder) tho without a certainty of Success, and tho he was himself sure of Success, for he was thrice, for a good while each time, entrusted with the Box, and might find Excuses enough for it: yet he not only did not succomb to the Temptation of getting All, as they did; but did not so much as deny, purloin, or withhold the least part of the Pouder from F. Wenceslaus, even when (seeing how he squandered it away) he had a good pretence to keep back some for his use: and might justly have claimed and reserved some for his own use also, not only for his Services, but for the great Dangers he had exposed himself to for his sake; thus keeping True to the End, even against his own Right and so great a Temptation. A faithful man who can find? (Pro. 20.6.) But here such one is found, and that among the Fryers! Whence I am glad to Observe, That all the Fryers are not quite so black as some make them; and to see that among them, as well as among other Sects some good men are to be found who make conscience of an Oath, and keep it tho to their loss. Thanks be to F. Francis’s Honesty for so much as we know of this whole Concern. I am sure that if he had what his Honesty deserves, what the Emperor hath done for Wenceslaus had bin bestowed upon him; and that Wenceslaus himself, whilst in the Dungeon, would have said with all his heart, that if he would do for him what he hath done, he would deserve what he hath not had, I mean the whole Pouder: But Honesty meets seldom with what it deserves.
The Philosophers Stone
Being exposed to Publick Sight and Sale in our Daies.
The place where Wenceslaus Seilerus (who is the main Subject of this
following Discourse) was born, I am not certain whether it was at Vienna, yea or no; But I am sure he was of the Austrian Country: and his brother did wait upon the Count of Weissenwolf, the younger. After, Seilerus himself, when he was about the 20th year of his Age, he was cast into a Monastery of the Augustine Fryers at Bruna in Moravia: where, after his year of Probation, he took the Habit upon him, and was admitted into the Number of Fryers, though it were against his Will, as he afterwards confessed, and as the Event did make appear: For having once made Profession of the Order, he did continually strive and study how he might free himself from the Monastery, and seeing that could not be done without Money, and Money, in his Circumstances, could not lawfully be obtained: He began to study an indirect way for the obtaining thereof, for his fellow Fryers having often muttered to him of some great Treasure hid in their Monastery, he had a great desire to find it.
And in order thereunto, he did not scruple to learn the Magick Art, if any one had been ready to inform him therein: wherein Fortune seemed to favour his desires, for there was an old Woman, a Cow-keepers wife, living before the Gate of the Town, and Fortress, who was skilful therein, and he came to be acquainted with her upon this Occasion.
The younger Monks and Students, as they were called, are allowed some set daies, every week, to walk out of the Gates of the City, to enjoy the open Air and to refresh their minds, supposed to be wearied with study; In these Relaxations one Company dispersed it self here, another there, as they think fit for their Divertisment. But Fryer Wenceslaus (for so I shall hereafter call him) made use of this Occasion, alwayes to visit the said old woman, and on the pretence of drinking New milk, to interogate her concerning her Art. And in a short time he got so much into her Favour as to obtain from her a small Wax-ball marked with certain Figures or Characters, which was of that Virtue, That, if it was laid upon the Ground, it would presently run to the place where any Treasure was hid: (This Ball I afterwards saw often in his Custody, and handled it with my hands.)
It happened afterwards, That, as the Custom is for the old Fathers when they grow weak, to have some young Fryers to assist them; so, Fryer Wenceslaus was assigned to attend an ancient Father, who was a Cabalist, and a lover of Magick, in which studies, at any Vacancies, he spent his time. He often told Fryer Wenceslaus, That there was a Vast Treasure hid in the Church of their Monastery; to whom Wenceslaus replyed, That he had got a Ball which, he was assured, had the Virtue to discover hidden Treasures: And, thereupon he shewed him the Ball, and the Characters impressed thereon, which the old Father did seriously consider, and much valued them.
A while after, as they two were walking alone in the Church, afore day, after Mattens, they Tryed the Ball, by laying it down in several Places, but found no effect; At last, placing it near a certain Pillar old and ruinous, it began to shew its Efficacy and Virtue by its often running thereto: This they Interpreted for a certain Indication, That the Treasure was there hid; but how to come at it was the Question. They had neither
Leave, Means nor Opportunity to break down this stony structure, neither did they certainly know at what height or depth thereof the Treasure was laid in it. So that upon these Discouragements they were forced to let it alone.
But it happened afterwards, That, a great Tempest arising, The whole Church, as especially this decayed Pillar, was so shaken and spoiled, that to prevent its falling down, the Abbot was necessitated to order it to be demolished. And in regard the old Father, whom Fryer Wenceslaus attended, had skill in Architecture, and by reason of his Infirmities could not be otherwise serviceable to the Monastery, he was therefore appointed to oversee the Masons; which Office he and his Assistant Fryer Wenceslaus did willingly undertake, and were very sedulous in their Attendance, and discharge thereof. When the Pillar was almost all pulled down, They found therein a Copper-box, of a reasonable bigness, which the old Father presently snatched up and carryed it into his Cloyster, and immediately opened it: Where, at the Top, he found a piece of Parchment, on which there was some Inscription and Writing: I once had a Copy of it, but I lost it amongst my other Letters; But this I remember, It contained the number of the years wherein the Church was built, and the Name of the Abbot the Founder thereof, who had been an Envoye at Ratisbone; I do also remember, That amongst other Writings, there was this Motto, AMICE TIBI SOLI, which I English thus, Friend, to thy self alone. Under this Parchment there were other Letters laid, marked with Characters, which contained Directions how to multiply the Powder, as the Inscription shewed: and under them there were four Boxes full of a red Powder.
When the Boxes were opened, Fryer Wenceslaus was quite out of Heart, having lost his preconceived hope of some great Treasure therein: for he verily believed that, if there were not old Pieces of Gold, yet some Diamonds, or other precious stones must have been lodghed there. And finding no such thing, but four Boxes of darkish colored Powder, he was so impatient at the Disappointment, that, if he had been the sole Manager of the Business, he had thrown away Boxes, Powder and all: For at that time he was so little acqainted with Chymistry, that so much as the Name was not known to him, and he had scarce heard of the word Tincture.
But the old Father was not so Transported, but told him, That perhaps some Medicinal Virtue was contained in the Powder, and that the Character in the annexed Papers might possibly discover its Use, and therefore he was resolved to study some Books, to find out what those Characters meant: In the mean time he would carefully keep the Box.
Not long after, The old Father sent Fryer Wenceslaus into the Kitchin of the Monastery, to see if he could find an old Peuter dish or Plate, which was no longer fit for use, and if he could, to bring it to him; which he accordingly did, who thereupon caused a Coal-fire to be made, and put a Crucible into Fryer Wenceslaus hand, to place therein; This was the first Chymical Operation that ever Fryer Wenceslaus performed in all his Life, and for which he was so unfit, that he placed the Crucible upside down, so
that the old Father himself was forced to set it in its right Posture. They put the Pewter Plate broken and folded together into the Crucible, which being presently melted, the Father took out some of the Pouder (so much as would lay upon the point of a Knife) which was in one of the four Boxes, and wrapping it in a little wax, he cast it into the Crucible upon the Pewter, and commanded his Assistant Fryer Wenceslaus to blow up the Fire, adding these Words, Now I shall see whether I have well decyphered the Characters, and whether I have found the use of this Pouder.
As soon as ever the Powder was cast in, the Pewter stood still, came to a suddain Congelation. Then the Fire was suffered to go out, and the Crucible to wax cold, which being broken, there was found a ponderous mass of Metals, very yellow and variegated with red lines: Upon which the Father made Fryer Wenceslaus to go out into the Town, upon pretence of getting a Book to be bound, and wished him to go to some Gold-smith, and shew him this Mass of Metal, alleadging to him, That he had some ancient Roman Coins of Gold, which he had melted down, but for want of a sufficient Fire and other Defects, he had not done it exactly; and therefore he desired the Gold-smith to melt it over again, and cast it in an Ingot; The Gold-smith gratified him therein, and Fryer Wenceslaus, at the command of the Father took off a small piece, which he Preserved, and then asked the Gold-smith, What the rest was worth? Who, after he had weighed and tryed on the Touchstone, did value it at Twenty Ducats (which are worth two Crows a piece) at which Rate Fryer Wenceslaus sold it to him, and receiving the Money, returned joyfully home. The old Father did only desire the remaining Portion of the Gold, which he had reserved, but suffered Fryer Wenceslaus to injoy the Ducats, yet with this Advice, That he should discover it to none in the Monastery.
But Fryer Wenceslaus, though he had not been Master of so much Money for a long time, was not satisfied therewith, but entertained various thoughts in his mind, whether he should by Flight free himself from that Bondage and Slavery he was in, whilest he had the Advantage of so much Cash? Or else, whether he should stay so long there, till either by Flattery or Craft, he had got the Copper Boxes from the old Father. To the first of these Cogitations he was edged on, by the eagerness of that Desire he had to leave the Monastery: But then, the great Heap of Gold which he might make with the Powder, as he well conjectured, if he could get it into his hands, did somewhat abate his Fervor, and perswade him to stay. For, though he was yet altogether ignorant of Chymistry, yet the precedent Tryals had given him so much Light, That he was fully perswaded, The Box contained and was worth a vast Treasure; and, though at that time, the Rareness of the Powder, and the multiplication of it had very small Influence upon his Thoughts: yet, because he had a share in finding of it out, by means of his Ball, he therefore thought that half of it at least did belong to him.
But there was another thing which more perplexed his mind, and that was the Fear, That the old Father, either out of a Principle of Devotion, or of Vain-Glory, should discover the whole story of the Business to the Abbot, and by that means should make away all the Pouder; and he was rather
inclined to these Cogitations, because he had observed, That the Father, who before had been more remiss in hiding the Box, now of late was so solicitous to preserve it, that he kept it continually in his Desk, and scarce stirred from it, except when he was to go to Church with Fryer Wenceslaus.
Being moved with these Considerations, he was induced to demand boldly some Quantity of this Powder of the old man. The Answer he received, was, That he was yet too young to know how to dispose of, and to keep well this Powder: besides, he wanted no Money whilst he was in the Monastery; and, if he should procurea summ by means of this Powder, in his present Condition, it would be very prejudicial both to his Soul and body, and he might become thereby of all men most miserable: Moreover (proceeds the Father) This Powder may have many other Vrtues and Operations which are yet unknown both to you and me, and therefore I will farther study the Writings annexed to it, and hereafter I will be mindful of you, but at present I will not part with any of the Powder, only you shall have every week two Crowns allowed for your Divertisements: thus the Father; But this fair story founded not well in the Fryers ears, who had a private Design (unknown to the old Father) to leave the Monastery.
In the Interim it happened, That as they two were returning from Mattens, early in the Morning, the old Father complained of Cold he had got, and a great Rheum in his head, and desired Fryer Wenceslaus to go to the Cellar and fetch him a Cup of Sack, he did so, and upon his Return he found the Father taken with a Fit of an Apoplexy, and Speechless: whereupon, the first thing he did was to find out the Key of his Desk, and taking from thence the Copper Box, he carryed it to his own Cell, and hid it there. This being done, he rang the Bell in the Fathers Cell to call up the Monks, who came flying with all Diligence to bring him some Remedies, but they were too late the Father being quite dead: Hereupon his Desk was presently sealed up, and solemn Ceremonies according to the occasion were performed over his dead Body. But who more inwardly joyful than Fryer Wenceslaus, from whom Death had removed his Rival, and made him to be Master of all the whole Treasure.
Hereupon he began to deliberate with himself how he might make his Escape out of the Monastery with most Safety and least Suspicion. But herein many Difficulties did accrew: He was grown a little deboist and prodigal by the Opportunity of the 20 Ducats abovementioned, which he had to spend; and by that means he had incurred the Emulation of his Fellow Fryers, who did urge the Pryor and Superiour, That, the old Father being now dead, and so Fryer Wenceslaus discharged from his Attendance on him, he should for the Future be bound to a stricter Discipline, both in reference to his Studies, as also his frequenting the Church. Moreover his Ducats were all spent, and no opportunity offerd to make another Tryal, or if he had, he could not hav sold the Product of it.
In this Anxiety he resolved to open his mind to another Monk, a Comrade of his, one Fryer Francis Preyhausen, That so they might mutually consult
together what was best to be done: for you must know this Fryer was intimate with Fryer Wemceslaus, as having entred into the Colledge at the same time; and, being also a young man, was weary of a Monastical life, as well as he.
Whilest these things were in Consult, there happened a Solemn Disputation in the School of the Monastery; Where among other Theses, Fryer Francis, under a Moderator, was obliged to maintain, That Mettals can not be transmuted: And it chanced to be the turn of Fryer Wenceslaus to be the then Opponent: But, as he had made no great Proficiency in his Studies, so Fryer Francis easily bafled him, and exposed him to the laughter of the Auditory; so that in a great Passion he broke out into these Words, Why do you laugh? I can practically demonstrate the thing to be true? To whom the Moderator with great indignation, answered; Hold they peace, thou ass, wilt thou also be an Alchymist? I shall sooner be able to turn thee into an Ox, than thou to transmute the Metals. Herewith Fryer Wenceslaus’s mouth was stopped.
When the Disputation was over, Fryer Wenceslaus took occasion to confer with Fryer Francis; when they two were alone together in the Garden belonging to the Monastery, Fr. Francis thus accosted him, You have this day publickly affirmed in the Disputation, That you were able to Transmute Metals; ’Twas unadvisedly spoken of you, whether it be true or false; if it be true, and it come to the Abbot’s ear, you will not enjoy your Liberty very long: Besides, there is a great muttering in the Monastery, That the old Father and your self, found a Treasure in the Church, and, That the Masons saw a Copper box, and that a Monk of the Augustine Order sold some Gold to a Goldsmith, and that you did take from the Kitchin a Pewter plate; Moreover, the suddain Death of the old Father is not without some Suspicion; and altho you may alledg, That the money was sent you by your Friends, and it were true, that they did send you some, yet it being probable that some came another way, for which and other reflections, you would never scape Scot-free out of the Monastery, ‘twas well the Moderator took you for a Buffle-head. But, if what you have affirmed be false, you do ill again that way, by asserting that which you are not able to demonstrate. I do therefore earnestly desire you to declare unto me, as to your intimate Friend, the whole truth of this Matter.
Whereupon Fr. Wenceslaus fell down at his Feet, humbly beseeching him to swear not to discover what he should reveal to him, but to afford him his help and assistance, and then he would disclose that to him, which, upon their stealing away from the Monastery, would procure great wealth to them both, and advance them to high Dignities; and that they would equally share Happiness between them, and run alike hazard in all things. In a word, the Bargain was soon made, and they without loss of time, went into F. Francis’s Cell, where they took their mutual Oaths one to another. And then
F. Wenceslaus declared the whole Intregue and the procedure thereof to F. Francis, withal desiring him upon the first occasion to go into the City to buy there a pound of Lead, which being brought to him, he changed it into Gold, observing the Method the old Father had observed before: The
transmuted Gold was carryed back by F. Francis into the City, and there sold to a Jew, for an 100 Ducats, though it were worth more, his pretence was as the former, that it was melted down out of ancient Coin and Meddals. Having received this Money, and thus made a strict League and Friendship with F. Francis, and the Art being now found true for the second time, they were more intent upon their Design of Escaping out of the Monastery.
But that which retarded their Resolution, was the Season of the year, it being then Winter, and a very hard one too, for they well understood, that they could not then safely take so long a Journey as they were to undergo, if they would by their Flight elude the search, (which would be made without doubt with all diligence possible after them) and avoid the punishment usually inflicted upon such an occasion. Hereupon they thought it more convenient to deferr their intended flight till the Spring following, and they were the rather induced thereunto because they had found means to pass that time merrily, by getting now and then a Cup of Wine, and a couple of roasted Pullets, which F. Francis (who was well verst in that Trade) knew well how to get, and to convey into their Chamber. But because F. Wenceslaus had as great a mind to taste ot Womens Flesh as of that of Poultry: and had lighted on a certain Austrian Drab fit for this purpose, he caused therefore some mans Apparel, with a Periwig, and sutable Accoutrements to be made ready for her.
Having thus disguised her Sex, they gave her the Name of Seignior Anastasio, and she came often to the Monastery, on pretence, That she came from Vienna, to visit her Cosin F. Wenceslaus, pretending she was his Kinsman; this lasted a while, but the Visits of this Seignior Anastasio was so frequent, that at last, he was observed to come into the Monastery sometimes, and not to go out again, by reason of his staying all night in the Cell of F. Wenceslaus, who did thus live for some weeks in dishonest Love with him: and, when he went either to the School or to the Church, he alwayes carefully carryed his Key with him.
But a matter of that Nature could be kept close no longer; soem Rumour of it came to the Ear of the Abbot or Prior, so that one Morning as F. Wenceslaus was at Mattens before day, The Abbot demanded of him the Key of his Cell, which he was forced to deliver, (but how willingly, any one may guess). The Abbot immediately, with the Pryor, and some other Monks went to his Cell and there found Seignor Anastasio naked in the Bed.
At this sight there was a general Consternation on all sides, none knew what course to take, F. Wenceslaus his mind was more in his Chamber than in the Chappel canting out his Mattens; as for Seignior Anastasio, she was doubtless as much at a loss; for, to run without her Cloaths out of the bed before such venerable Company, was no wayes thought convenient, and, as for the good Prelates, they were also uncertain how to steer; some advised to declare the matter to the Magistrate, that so Anastasio might be thrust out of the house by the Secular Power; others feared, That if they took that course, they should derogate from their Rights and Priviledges; and, if Seignior Anastasio should chance to be whipt, and to be put into the Stocks
for dissembling her sex, the noise of such a thing would affix an indelable Character of Infamy upon their Monastery.
After some Deliberation, they concluded, That presently Anastasio should put on her Clothes, and, after a severe Reprehension, should be ejected out of the house, in the Morning before Day. And, as for Fryer Wenceslaus he was called from Mattens, and shut up in his Cell, the doors being well bolted and barred on the outside, until four Walls were prepared to enclose him, which were already built, only something was defective in the Door, which was supplyed the next day.
Whilst this was a doing, Fr. Wenceslaus found Opportunity to secure his Copper Box, and to gather together the Pouder, and by means of a Rope to let them both down at a window to Fr. Francis, who staid there on purpose to receive them; and withal he conveyed down a Letter to him, the Contents whereof was, To desire the said Fryer Francis not to forsake him in his Distress, but to use his utmost Endeavour to contrive a way for his Deliverance, withal minding him not to violate his Oath about the Powder, but to keep it safe, for as yet, to his great Comfort, it was intire.
The next day, Fr. Wenceslaus was kept Fasting, and in the evening his Back was scourged with many cruel lashes, and afterwards he was shut up close within four walls, and for a Month fed with nothing but bread and water; during which time, the Severity of the Stripes he underwent, the Disaster of Seignior Anastasio, and the hazard of the loss of his Powder did so afflict him, that he was even ready to despair; but this did somewhat relieve him, that he carried a string with him into the Dungeon, and casting it out at the hole, received sometimes both Letters and Victuals from his Comrade F. Francis: and indeed the desperate Condition of Fr. Wenceslaus did so affect his heart, that he bent all his Endeavours to excogitate ways how to free him; at last an happy opportunity offered it self upon this occasion.
Prince Charles of Lichtenstein was a great Favourer of Chymistry, and he had a Steward of his house at Bruna, to whose Friendship F. Francis had insinuated himself, and by him sent a Letter and some of the foresaid Pouder to the Prince, in which he related the lamentable Condition of Fr. Wenceslaus, and implored his Ayd for his Deliverance.
The Steward having sent the Letter, and going to Felisbourg the Princes seat, was scarce arrived but that the Prince bestowed upon him a more profitable office than that which he had before, and this Message concerning Fr. Wenceslaus was so favorably received, That he strictly injoyned him to return speedily to Bruna, and to assist Fr. Francis to the utmost in order to the Deliverance of Fryer Wenceslaus. And to that purpose, he Committed his own Seal to his Custody, to be made use of for than End, if there were occasion.
Thus the Steward returning home, did presently Consult with F. Francis to deliver F. Wenceslaus; and being delivered from his Prison and Cloyster, to
hide and shelter him for a while in the house of his Master the said Prince of Lichtenstein: untill some convenient opportunity could be found for his passage out of the Town, and for his conveyance to the Prince of Felisburge. In order whereto Fr. Francis took Care to provide a false Key, fit to open the Dungeon, which he more easily did, because the Padlock was on the outside of the Door: and on a certain day, when Mattens were ended, he brought his Project to its desired Effect, for he opened the Door, and took out Fr. Wenceslaus, locking the Door again; and disguising him with a Cloak, Coat, and Periwig which he had prepared for that Purpose, he conveyed him through a by-gate in the Garden of the Monastery, to Lichtenstein’s house, where he shut him in a Chamber, locked the door, and Sealed it up in two places with the Princes own Seal and a Labell appendant.
The next day when the Monastery’s Porter, according to his Custom, was carrying his Bread and Water, about noon, to Fr. Wenceslaus, Lo, he was not to be found! whereupon a great Tumult was raised in the Monastery, and from thence the News to the Count de Collebrat, Governour of that Precinct, who presently commanded the Gates to be shut, and search to be made in all houses, not excepting Lichtenstein’s house it self. When they had diligently searched every Corner of this latter house, at last they came to the Chamber that was sealed up: Here the Steward of the House interposed, and told them, That that Room was the Closet of the Prince, which he had sealed up himself with his own Seal, and therefore, it could not be opened without great danger and hazard of incurring his high Displeasure.
Whereupon they desisted; and F. Wenceslaus remained hid there for some weeks, untill at length he found means, in a disguise to escape out of the Town in the morning early, at the very first opening of the Gates, and so was conveyed, with other officers, in the Princes own Coach, to Felisburgh. Being arrived there, he was courteously received and well treated by the Prince, before whom he made a notable demonstration of his Art.
But the Prince soon found, that a man in his Circumstances and of his Abilities, could not be long concealed in his Court, because the Abbot of Bruna having sent Spies after him, would certainly find him out, and would also obtain a Mandate from the supream Consistory at Vienna concerning him. Whereupon (though, as some think, the Princes Intent was to gain the whole Tincture from him) he advised him to go to Rome, and there obtain a full Discharge from his Monastical life, and to secure himself from the Abbot, which favour he profered to obtain for him by means of his Agent there: And to accommdate him for his Journey, he gave him a Bill of Exchange for 1000 Ducats, and withal provided an Italian, his Chamberlain, to bear him Company on his way.
But you must know Fr. Wenceslaus had sent away his Comrade Fr. Francis (who privately had made an Escape) to Vienna with the Tincture enjoyning him to get him a private Lodging, to abcond himself for a while, till he could commodiously contrive his Journey to Rome.
Soon after the Italian Chamberlain and he began their Journey, and when they were about half a Daies Journey from Vienna, the Chamberlain on a suddain picked a Quarrel with him, and holding a Pistol to his Breast, threatened to kill him, unless he would deliver him the Tincture.
F. Wenceslaus being thus unexpectedly assaulted, was much abashed, and calling God to Witness, protested, That the Tincture was not, for the present, in his hands, but that he had sent it before by his Companion F. Francis to Vienna whom the said Chamberlain had himself seen to undertake that Journey a few daies before.
The Chamberlain was the rather induced to believe his asservation, because upon Search both of him and his Portmantle, he found nothing at all of the Tincture therein. Hereupon, They came to Terms between them, F. Wenceslaus was to give the Chamberlain 100 Ducats, and an Amnesty to be for their suddain falling out, and so they agreed and bid one another, Farewell.
The Chamberlain, being a Covetous Italian, was glad of the Money, and F. Wenceslaus was glad to be rid of him, having escaped such an hazard, and being now likely to attain Vienna, where he arrived in the Evening of the same day, and told his Companion F. Francis what had hapned to him in every Circumstance upon the way. He being a subtle man, did easily perceive by his Relation, what was the Mystery of his designed Journey to Rome, and that his Bill of Exchange was but a meer Collusion, whereupon they both resolved to take another course for their safety, in order whereunto, by means of a Saxon whose name was Gorits, a crafty fellow, and a Clerk in the Chancery of Bohemia, they became acquainted with one Count Schlick, a person of great sagacity, then living in Vienna, a great Faavourer of Chymistry, but had lately received some affronts from the Court, he was very glad of their acquaintance, and presently took F. Wenceslaus into his Protection, and brought him to his House, where he made some Tryalls, and withal gave him some of the Tincture, that he himself might make one.
But as for F. Francis, he always lodged abroad. After some Weeks, Count Schlick told F. Wenceslaus, that he could no longer secure him after that rate at Vienna, for both the Clergy and also the Prince of Lichtenstein, had an ill Eye upon him, for his sake; and being already disfavoured at Court, he should runa further hazard, by concealing of him; nevertheless he would shew him what courtesy he could, and if he pleased, he would send him to one of his own Country-Houses and Castles in Bohemia, where he might remain in greater security, and accordingly he prepared all things for the Journey. F. Wenceslaus did easily perceive the intention of the Count, for before he had observed , that the Count’s Footmen did observe him as narrowly as the Monks had done in the Monastery, and therefore perceiving what was to be done with him, he made his Escape through an Arch in the Wine Cellar, built after the Italian fashion, the day before he was to go to Bohemia (a place designed for his perpetual Imprisonment) and retiring to the lodging of his friend F. Francis, to whom having related what had hapned to him again, upon deliberation they both agreed to extricate themselves out of all these hazards, and to acquaint the Emperour with the
And to introduce them into his presence, they knew none more fit than a Spanish Count called de Paar (whose Brother named Peter, was Hereditary Post-master, in the Emperours Hereditary Country) he was a great Alchymist, a Factious and Seditious man, and one much troubled with the Gout,yet he had found means to creep into the Emperours favour: therefore this gain unlookt for was no less acceptable to him, than to the others before, for he had heard a great while before of F. Wenceslaus, and had an extream passion to be acquainted with him, and fancied that he should see strange things in him, as King Herod did of Christ, whose first, he acted the part cunningly enough, as you shall presently hear. They agreed together, that
F. Wenceslaus should abide Incognito at his House, where he was as much observed as at the House of Count Schlick.
Here he made another small Tryal, whereupon Count Paar went to the Emperour, and discovered to him the whole Business. But his Imperial Majesty who (by reason of the great and weighty concerns of the Empire, doth not only not much regard or value Learning, as his Father did, except what contributes to his Recreation, as Plays, Musick and the like, but also had a particular aversness from Alchymy, holding that for a meer Imposter, which did cost his Royal Father and his Uncle the Arch-Duke Leopold, so much expence, both of Mony and Time) gave no great heed to the Proposition made by Count Paar, especially it having been related to him, that this F. Wenceslaus was a fugitive Monk, and had led a dissolute life; and moreover by Report was accused of Magick.
The Spanish Count Paar having heard this Repartee of the Emperour, being a subtil man, and easily foreseeing those Objections would be made, had armed himself against them: upon which he thus replyed to his Imperial Majesty; That he did confess, that there was a great weight in all the Objections made by his Majesty, yet without presuming, being so mean a person to Impose upon his Imperial Majesty, it seemed to him, that though the Case were extraordinary, yet nevertheless the Dictates of common Reason were to be obeyed, which doth advise sometimes to consider of things, abstracted from the persons they concern, it being evident, that some men though ill in themselves yet have been the Authors of Useful Inventions, of which Truth, Instances might be given near at hand, in regard his Imperial Majesty had many notable Inventions in his Archieves, which owed their Originals to bad men, yea, some of them accused of the same miscarriages as F. Wenceslaus, and since it is true, that some good things are done by some bad men; it being no less true, that all men are Sinners, must we therefore reject all their laudable Inventions and all the good Works they do. A notable Example whereof (preceeded he) lyes as yet fresh before your Majesty, Joseph Burrhi was accused of Heresy, and being taken at Vienna, was sent to Rome, but after Pennance, he was pardoned upon the score of his knowledge, rather that of his person, and the Germans his Accusers were by this means deceived; of which I myself (says he) at that time being Burrhus his Commissary at Vienna, did forewarn them, but in vain. Your Majesty (said he farther) is a person, with whom God seems to deal after a peculiar
manner, having wonderfully delivered you from many imminent dangers, and now in these necessitous and indigent times, cruel Warrs being also in prospect, your Hereditary Countries being also exhausted, the Divine Bounty seems to offer you a mean and way how you may most pitty and spare your Subjects: It is the Devils Policy to cast suspicion upon all extraordinary Assistances, that so he may make them useless; but (says he) it is as great a Sin not to accept of things when offered, as to abuse them when they are accepted. As for myself (saith he) I have no great reason to be a Friend to Chymistry, having suffered so much loss by it, as your Imperial Majesty well knows, neither did I find any Truth in the Art, save only in this Pouder of F. Wenceslaus, and the transmutation made thereby. But as in referrence to that Tryal, he dared pawn his Credit it would succeed; and if his Majesty would not believe his word, yet he might depute some persons to see a Trial made; for his part, he thought he was bound in Conscience to discover the whole business to his Majesty, referring it wholy to him, whether he would graciously accept the Proposal and protect the person that made it, or else discard them both; still hoping nevertheless, that his Majesty would not take his good Intention in ill part, nor exclude him from his Favour; wishing for a Conclusion, That he would cause one Trial to be made under the Inspections of some persons; unprejudiced, that so his Imperial Majesty might be satisfied, at least in this one thing, that he had not made the Proposition to him without sufficient reason: Thus he concluded his Harangue. The Emperor, as he is gratious to all Suitors, so he gave favourable attention to the Count’s discourse, and commended him for it; Only (saies he to the Count) “Alchymy is a subtil Imposture, and though you yourself may mean honestly, yet perhaps you also may be deceived thereby, otherwise I do not (adds he) at all despise the wonderful Works of God, but do highly value them, and accept of his Gift with all hearty thankfulness, and I do well know how long my Father took very great pains in that Art; and how highly he prized that little which was shewed him by the Baron Chaos, and rewarded him for it; besides, I know full well how to make a distinction between the Art, and the life of its Professors”. Only least he should expose himself, and shew himself too easy, he gave the Count order to make another Tryal, and to procure the Presence of other skilful Persons both of the Clergy and Laity: That so he might make him a more exact Relation of the Matter with all the Circumstance, and receive further orders of his Majesty concerning them.
Count Parma [Paar] being returned home from his Audience: The very same day he sent to Father Spies and Dr. Becher to invite them to Dine with him the next day, adding these Words in his Message, That he had a Business to communicate to them from the Emperour. The next day, they all accordingly met. F. Wenceslaus being present, where after Dinner Count Paarmade known his Commission, and forthwith caused an ounce of Schlachenwald Tin, and a new Crucible to be bought, which Materials being prepared and tried, and for fear of Inchantment, ex abundanti cantesa; sprinkled with Holy water: The Trial began, and was finished within a quarter of an hour, one part Tinged, ten Thousand parts into Gold, which was so graduated by the Tincture, that it was almost Friable, and was striated and distinguished with red Veines interspersed, of which, as likewise of the Tin before it
was tinged, both the Count de Paar, and also Father Spies, and Dr. Becher, each of them took a little piece for a perpetual Memorial of the thing. The rest was sealed up with their three Seals, and the same quantity of the Powder as this Projection was made with was also enclosed with it, and the thing was by all three suscribed to.
The next day, Count Paar went to his Imperial Majesty, and delivered it to him, making also a full Relation of all the particular Circumstances in the Trial.
Hereupon the Emperour enjoyned him to treat Fr. Wenceslaus kindly, and to assure him of his Favour, moreover advising him to refrain his ill and scandalous life, and to satisfy the Clergy, that he would reassume the Monastical Habit, and for the rest he would take Care; and till he had enquired further into the thing, he would for his Security send him into some private place.
The Count returned home very joyful with this Commission, and the very same Evening he caused F. Wenceslaus to be re-vested with his Monks Habit by two English Fathers of the Augustine Order, Father Dunoll and Father Vostaller: A Letter was also writ to his Abbot at Bruna, informing him, that he might set his mind at rest concerning him, because he had laid aside his Monks habit, and cloathed himself with other Apparel, for no other Reason, but because he would free himself from the hardship of a Prison, and to make a Journey to Vienna, to discover a great Secret, which he had, to his Imperial Majesty, which being now done, he had again resumed his Monks habit.
All this was done to perswade him, that they meant him nothing but good, to make him call again for all the Tincture from his Comrade, and to keep him from conversing any longer with those which before were his most intimate Aquaintance, as counting himself sufficiently secured against all Violence, by the Emperors Protection, and his Monks Habit: So that Count Paar was as a Father to him, and he, on the other side, as his adopted son. These two new Friends, undertook a Voyage together, to a Country-house of the Count’s (adjoyning to a certain Lake) which he had in Hungary, distant about a dayes Journey from Vienna.
Being come thither, the very same night they two being alone in a Chamber, The Count plucked out a Decree of the Emperor’s (as he pretended) which was sealed up, adding these words, My Son, Into what Gulf of Misery art thou cast? Here I have a Command in writing from the Emperor, to demand the Tincture of Thee, and if thou refusest to deliver it, then to my great Grief, I must execute upon Thee the Sentence contained in this sealed Decree.
Fryer Wenceslaus desired to read the Decree; but, the Count replyed, If it be opened, it must be immediately executed! and withal plucking a Pistol out of his Pocket, he directed it to his Breast, Sighing, and breaking forth in these Words, Into what miserys are we both Cast! Yet
notwithstanding if thou wilt harken to my Counsel, (from whence thou maist gather my Love and Fatherly Care, and free both of us from this great Misfortune, and make our Condition very happy) I will give it to thee.
Nothing was more grateful to Fr. Wenceslaus than to hear this Condition, and having given him his hand that he would follow it:
The Count began thus, ’Tis certain (saith he) That you and I do both stand in need of the Emperours Protection, and ’tis as certain, That we shall be forced to deliver the Tincture to him. My Advice then is, (which I refer to you for your approbation and consent) I will pretend, that being injoyned to make a stricter Examination of this Tinging Powder, that I have employed it all, in order it its multiplication, to try whether it might be augmented for the greater Benefit and Advantage of his Majesty. However, we may both be sheltered under the Continuance of the Emperors Protection, and yet we may keep the Tincture; And after the time designed for its augmentation is elapsed, we will easily devise some colorable Excuse, to evade it; as, That the Glass was broken, or some Error committed in the Operation. For the Truth is, (said he) The Emperours Court is not worthy so great a Treasure; it will be Prostituted there and made common. But to ingage thy self to me in a greater degree of Faithfulness, Thou must not refuse to give me half the Tincture, and we will take a mutual Oath to be faithful one to the other, as long as we live, and for what now hath passed between us, it shall be buried in perpetual oblivion. The Emperor shall never know any thing of it, neither shall he ever have any of the Tincture.
Fr. Wenceslaus was fain to make an Agreement on those Terms which were drawn up in writing, subscribed with both their hands, and confirmed by their mutual Oaths; and so the Tincture was divided betwixt them. The Count made Tryal by himself alone the next day, with some of his proportion thereof, to try whether he had not been deceived therein: but he found it Right and Good.
Having staid a while at his Country House, he was about to return to Vienna; but he was taken so grievously sick of a fit of the Gout, that out of the intollerable Torment which he felt, he drank some Aurum Potabile, which Burrhy had given him heretofore; but with this Caution, That is was not yet perfect. Having tasted a few drops thereof, he presently felt a most grievous and vehement pain in his Joynts, so that he could hardly perform his Journey with Fr. Wenceslaus to Vienna. But the first night after his coming, he was so afflicted with heat, that all his Entrails seemed to be on a Flame; as he complained himself. The Day following his Physician, the Son of Dr. Sorbat, whose Name was Kreisset, who was also Physician to the Emperors Army was sent for, who considering his present Condition, applyed to properest remedies he could, which availed him nothing, but bad Symptoms did grow upon him, that the third day his Case was judged desperate.
The Count himself was also being sensible of his Death approaching, caused his Brother the Master of the Post-Office to the Emperor, Count Peter de
Paar, his only heir, (for the sick Brother was a Batchelour) to be sent for about night: to whom he spoke in these Words:
It was foretolf to me heretofore in Italy, That I should obtain the Tincture, and, That soon after I should dye! The first part of the Prophecy is fulfilled, and the latter is near to hand to be accomplished; I know, That you have bestowed as much time and Expence in this Art as myself; I have nothing more valuable to leave you, and which, nothing can be more acceptable to you, than a Notable Portion of Tincture, which I have sealed up in this Desk, and shall entrust in the hand of may Confessor, who upon my decease, shall deliver it to you.
After which words, he delivered the Desk to his Confessor, who was present and heard him speak them. Count Peter not imagining his Brother was so near his End, took his leave of him for that Night, and rode home, because it was very late. And his Brother soon after departing this Life, his Confessor also took Coach, and went home to the Monastery of St. Francis, not far distant from the Emperial Post Office at Vienna. The Death of the Deceased Count being signified to his Brother, by his Footmen who had accompanied the Confessor home.
The Count immediately rose out of his Bed, being but newly entred thereinto, and cloathing himself, gallopped at two of the clock in the morning, to the Monastery of the Franciscans, and, after he had knocked fiercely at the Gate for admittance, the drowsy Porter arose and let him in; the Count desired to be admitted to the Speech of the Confessor of his newly deceased Brother, but it was replyed, It was an unseasonable time for such a Visit, in regard the old man was weak, and weary, and being newly returned home, was laid down to rest. The Count was not satisfied with this Answer, but was very earnest with the Porter to accompany him and some of his Attendants to the old Father’s Cell: he making Excuses, the Count rushed in presently himself, and awaked him, demanding the Desk which his Brother had deposited in his hands, as now rightfully belonging unto him.
The Father was much surprized at his suddain irruption and demand: which he did the more suspect, because it was made at such an unseasonable time of the night: wherefore he desired the Count to hold himself contented till the Morning, and then he shouls have the Desk delivered unto him without fail, only he desired to deliver it in before the Father Guardian, and that he would then give him his acquittance for the Recept thereof. The Count, not content with this Answer, by the help of his Attendants and Servants, endeavored to get it from him by force.
Whereupon a Tumult arose; The Watch was sent for, the Monks were also gathered together, and a Spanish Bishop of the same Order, the Confessor of the Empress Margaret, then lodging in the Monastery, was also roused out of his sleep, who hearing such a tumultous Noise in the Monastery, a priviledged place, was so much concerned thereat, that he enquired into the occasion, whilst the Count was yet present, and understanding that it arose upon the score of a sealed Desk: he demanded it of the Father who had it in
keeping: which having received from him, the next morning he carried it with him to the Emperor, and complained grievously against the Count, as being the occasion of that nights Uproar: In the meantime, as soon as it was day, the noise hereof was spread all over the City: and among the rest it reached the Ears of F. Wenceslaus, who presently hastned to Court, and by means of the Empress’s Confessor obtained Audience, he related to the Emperor the whole Story how the Count had used him in Hungary, how he had extorted from him half the Tincture, how he was necessitated, by a forced Agreement, not to discover any thing hereof whilst he was living, but was now free from the Obligation of his Oath by the Count’s Death, that he was very glad that the Tincture was at length come into the Hands of the right Owner his Imperial Majesty, for whom he had long before designed it; he did therefore now implore nothing more of his Imperial Majesty, but that he would afford him his Protection, against the Violence of Count Peter Paar, his Postmaster, and his Adherents.
The Emperor perceiving the wonderful Series of this Affair, presently entertained F. Wenceslaus at his Court, and committed him to the Care and Inspection of Count Wallestein, the Imperial Governor of Hatschirr.
About this time, the Post-master above-mentioned dyed also. F. Wenceslaus being thus received into the Emperours Protection, had his Lodgings assigned him by the Imperial Bowling-Green, where he made some Tryals before the Emperour and Count Austin of Wallestein his Guardian, and in the Pallace of the Johannites in the Carinthian-street, he made one of his 15 Marks, as they say, out of which Transmutations the Count Wallestein made him a Gold Chain, to keep in perpetual Memory of the thing. Moreover he did deposite some of his Tincture in the Court, for augmentation, and, as farr as I can judge, by the Process delivered to me, he had a great desire to get the Mercury of Silver, how far he proceeded in it, I do not certainly knowl, but some affirm, that he made some progress therein.
In the mean time he both desired to be acquainted with some noted Chymists and eminent Artists, and several Imposters and Sophisters intruded themselves into his acquaintance, so that from thence resulted very frequent junketings, drinkings and merry meetings, and many foolish trifling Processes wrought by him; from whence F. Wenceslaus learned rather several cunning and subtil Impostures, than any real augmentation of his Pouder: But the noise and multitude of so many Importunate Visitants, being cumbersom at Court, where F. Wenceslaus had his Diet, under the severe inspection of Count Wallestein, he thereupon pretended, that he had occasion to make some sorts of Aqua Forts and other Menstruums, which would be dangerous to the whole Court, and cause such noysom Fumes and odious Smells, that they could not safely be prepared in that place; therefore a Laboratory was built for him, in the Carinthian Fort, where the Emperors chief Engineer did dwell, his name was Fischer, a great lover of Alchymy, and who shewed himself very officious to him, assisting him to build strange and most nonsensical Furnaces which can ever be seen; and besides being not a little pleased with his good fortune of the neighbourhood and acquaintance of the Owner of so rich a Tincture; but this intimacy lasted
not long, as the event soon made appear: for when F. Wenceslaus had scarcely well fixed his habitation, and settled his things in order, the Engineer was forced to leave the splendid dwelling there assigned him by the Emperour, and to go to Javarin in Hungary, to dwell there, his Wife also, as some give out, being vitiated into the bargain; F. Wenceslaus also fell very sick, and he that waited upon him in his Chamber dyed suddenly, not without some suspicion of Poyson, and he himself also lay without any hopes of recovery, in this case J.A.C. P.C. L. de S. who before had bought some of the Tincture of him, and had paid him for it a thousand Ducats, designing to take this opportunity of his illness, and decease so apparent, and so to get and enjoy his Tincture without money, sent to him one Biliot, a French Physician, to steal from him, under pretence of a Visit, both the said thousand Ducats, and the rest of the Tincture: Fortune did favour him as to the first part of his Design, but in the latter she did fail and dissappoint him, for F. Wenceslaus had hid his Tincture more carefully than his thousand Ducats: at last, the Sick man, contrary to all mens expectation began to Recover, and F. Francis who was sent to Rome to obtain a Dispensation for him, to absolve him from his Vow, having obtained the same returned home; whereupon presently F. Wenceslaus laying aside his Monk’s Habit, took a Wife and was married publickly to one named Angerlee, who had ministred to him in his sickness, and had otherwise been very assistant when he wanter her; she was a very subtil and crafty woman, yet accounted at Vienna but little better than a common Harlot, and she was the worse thought on, because her Sister had been naught with B.D.L. and by his advice and assistance had caused her Husband to be made away with, for which Fact, he the saud B.D.L. was Sentenced to Death: but, though afterwards pardoned by the Emperour, yet was deprived of all his Dignities, degraded of his Nobility, and cast into perpetual Prison in the Citadel of Gratz, where he dyed Miserably; and his Whore, F. Wenceslaus’s Wives Sister, was the same day to be Beheaded in open Court, before the Judgement Hall, the Scaffold and the rest being already prepared, but by the intercession of the Wife of Castell Rodrigo, the Spanish Embassador she was set free, yet afterwards, upon the account of her leud life, and dishonest Practises, she was killed with a Pistol-shot.
Fr. Wenceslaus being linked by Marriage into such a Familty, did then fancy for a time, That all the Elements did conspire together to make him happy: for why? he was visited by Persons of the highest Rank, and withal was mightily respected by the most eminent Ladies, Countesses and Princesses: As for me, as Spectator of this Scene, I considered him in this Fools Paradise: Whilst it put me in mind of Cornelius Agrippa, who, in his Book of the Vanity of Sciences, under the Title of Alchymy, sayes, That if ever he should be Master of the Tincture, he would spend it all in nothing but Whoring; for women being naturally covetous, he could thereby easily make them to prostitute themselves, and to yield unto his Lust.
And it seems that not only F. Wenceslaus was so mighty a Proficient and so stout a Souldier in the School of Venus, That he was brought very low by the French Disease, but also that his Wife Angerlee dyed of it. After whose decease Fr. Wenceslaus exceeded all Bounds of honest Modesty, and dayly let
loose the Reins to all sinful and voluptuous excesses: for from that time he had obtained the Tincture, he spent in two or three years time more than Ten Myriads of Crowns, in all manner of Luxury: and he foresaw well enough, that I could not last and subsist long at that rate: for the Tincture would not maintain him. And to turn it into Gold, or sell it for a small price would turn to no Account, as he had alwaies hoped it would by Augmentation, and thereby to gain an inexhaustible Treasure.
But on the one hand, his Want and Necessity was such, and on the other hand, the Solicitings of those who would buy of his Powder, were so importunate that he could not resist so great Temptations: And therefore between both, he resolved upon a dishonest Shift, which was to sell for great Rates, Poudred Cinnabar, red Lead, and the Caput Mortuum of Aqua fortis boyled, and such other Ingredients in stead of the true Pouder, mixing also there with some few Filings of Copper, that Foolish ignorant People might mistake the same for a Gold-making Pouder: to some he sold it without any such Cozening Addition as Coppar: And if they were not able to tinge with it, he would lay the Blame on their Impatience and Unskilfulness in making the Projection. To others, he pawned some of his Counterfeit Tincture for a great summ of Money, which he pretended, he had a present use for: but he was loath to spend his Tincture in projecting, because he hoped to augment it with a Thousand-fold advantage: And that they might see the Tincture was genuine and true, he took some of it and wrapt it up in a little Wax, with which he mingled a little of his right Tincture, which he called his Crocus, or Pouder of Reduction, and so tinged therewith.
By this meand he got very many 1000’s of Crowns, and over and above he got
P.C. de L. and C.L. to be his Assistants and Partners in these Mysteries. But the Impudent sort, among which A. C. P. and his Cosen C.B. are to be reckoned, he gave them whole Ingots which he had cast, consisting of equal parts of Gold and Silver; then filing some of them, and dissolving it into common Aqua forts, which he brought with him, he affirmed that now his Tincture was exalted into a Menstruum, which would presently change Silver into Gold: and that as soon as ever the price or value which was to be paid for its purchase should be put thereto, it would be converted into Gold.
It hath been also further related to me, That he grew to that Degree of Impudence, as to tinge some sort of Coins after this manner into Gold, before the Empress Dowager and the Emperour himself. Yea, this fellow was so arrogant, as to cause his own Effigies to be drawn on some of those false Coins which he did attempt deceitfully to put off.
Yet this matter could not be kept so secret, but the more prudent began to smell the Cheat, and to mutter something about it; which was very ill taken in the Emperours Court. For he was in such Credit there, that it was not safe to impeach him, as being received into the Emperors Protection, both against the Clergy and the Secular Power, and even against the skilful in the same Art. For great men are loth to acknowledge their Error; but think themselves, tho under a Mistake, to be as infallible as the Pope himself.
Those who were not much concerned in the Matter, suffered it so to pass, as taking little Notice of it; but some true Philosophers were very much aggrieved, That so infamous an Impostor, after so many Vows and Protestations made by him to the contrary, and after such evident Proofs of his former debauched Life, after so many villanous Crimes committed, and his base Prostitution openly of so noble an Art of Chymistry, should yet notwithstanding that he ranted it up and down in his Coach in Masquarades, before the Emperours Court, be maintained and protected by him. But others, who had been cozened by him of great Summs of Money, even to many thousand Ducats, with his adulterate Tincture, could not rest satisfied, but brought in their Action against him at common Law: where, after some time and much Expence, they obtained Judgment against him, but it was never put in Execution, though all other means were tryed.
Now the Emperour, unless he would have left his Favourite Wenceslaus to the Jurisdiction and power of his Judges, and Rigor of the Law, must needs interpose: for the Complaints were made against him for his insolent and abusive practises were so many, and the Fame of them was spread so far abroad in the world, That his Imperial Majesty thought it more convenient to have the Noise of it altogether supprest.
To be short, The Emperour paid all his Debts, and that he might prevent his farther opportunity of Cosenage, he got from him the rest of his Tincture, and then advanced him to the most Ancient Order of Barrony in Bohemia, by the Title of Baron Seyler of Seylerburgh, and afterwards made him Hereditary Master of the Mint of Bohemia: and having thus preferred him, he sent him away from his Court to Prague, where he now lives very gallantly; and hath made Fryer Francis the Steward of his House: having married a Second Wife, called Walded Kircheriana, a handsome woman, and of a Noble Family.
In the mean time, a Rumor was spread all over Germany, That the Devil had carried him away Soul and Body. Which Report, though it might have some good grounds, yet, for this time it was not true: but he hath very great reason to fear that it may prove true, at last, if he doth not amend his Life: and the Event thereof we must expect.
I have described the Series of this Story both to vindicate the Truth, and also to satisfy so many Curious, who have despicable thoughts of Chymistry. If I have mistaken in any Passage, Fr. Wenceslaus is yet alive, and I earnestly desire him to amend and rectify my mistakes, and to vindicate himself, by giving the World a more exact Account thereof, that he may no longer lye under any unjust Reflection.
For a Conclusion, I heartily wish, That if God should bless any lover of this noble Art, with some such like Treasure, he would use it better than Wenceslaus hath done: for the Glory of God, the Benefit and advantage of his Neighbour, and the furtherance of his own everlasting Salvation. Allegorical letter about an alchemical adept
This allegorical letter which I recent uncovered in MS. Sloane 3667 (folios 15v-16v) in the British Library, a compilation of short pieces dated to the middle-late 17th century, is of interest as it has some parallels with the myth of the discovery of the tomb of Christian Rosenkreutz recounted in the Fama Fraternitatis. It is written as a drama rather than as a factual account of some events. The author leads the reader through his story building the suspense, teasing us with a few details, such as the astonishing way in which news of his master’s death was conveyed a great distance through the use of a certain instrument. He keeps us waiting many paragraphs before telling us the secret. The author does to some extent give the game away, because he is so eager to capture the attention of his potential reader that he appends to the rather formal opening about the letter communicated to him by Duke Frederick the words “come and see”. This enticement to read would be of course out of place in a genuine letter. The story itself is a fascinating one, that suggests the existence of a adept working for many years in so secret a manner that even his servant did not suspect the truth. This adept passes on his knowledge to his nephew thus keeping the wisdom he had gained within the family circle. There are many parallels with the Rosicrucian myth. The quiet secrecy and dignity of the Adept, his desire to help others through giving of alms, his generosity to the writer of the letter in rescuing him from the life of an orphan, and his interest in curing diseases; his secret chamber, which was both an oratory and laboratory; his great wealth, though outwardly simple style of living. His spiritual knowledge was in some way bound up with highly developed technology, the ever-burning lights (also found in the Rosicrucian allegories), and the mechanical contrivances such as the telegraphic device. At the end of the story, as with the Rosicrucian myth, we are left holding the feeling that the knowledge known to these adepts was never to be openly revealed, and that somehow a tradition of esoteric mystical and alchemical wisdom continues hidden behind outwardly undemonstrative and quiet individualities. The impression is given that esoteric wisdom is nourished in secrecy and quiet dignity, and that it can only be found though undertaking the kind of inner quest pursued by the Rosicrucians or the adept recounted below, and cannot be had in the brash clamour of the market place, among the hustlers and image makers. These allegories told their readers in their own time of the seventeenth century, that they must look within for the wisdom they sought, a message which is of even more relevance today when there are so many more distractions to the contemplative life. Adam McLean ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
An Allegorical Letter
about an Alchemical Adept
The following letter communicated to me by the Most Serene Prince Frederick Duke of Holsatia and Sleswick relates things strange and unheard of, come and see.
You have desired of me an account of the life, death, inheritance and heires of my master B.J. of happy memory. I returne you this answer in Latine as yours to me was, though I be not exactly skilled in it.
He was by nation a Jew, by religion a Christian, for he believed in Christ the Saviour, and openly made profession of the same. He was a man of fervent honesty and gave great alms in secret. He lived chastely, a batchelor, and took me when I was about 20 years of age out of the house where orphans are maintained by the publick, and caused me to be instructed in the Latine, French and Italian tongues, which I afterwards by use added the Jewish or Hebrew. He made use of me so far as I was capable in his laboratory, for he had great skill in physick and cured most desperate diseases.
When I was 25 years of age, he called me into his parlour and made me swear to him that I would never marry without his consent and knowledge, which I promised and have religously kept.
When I was 30 years of age on a morning he sends for me into his parlour, and said very lovingly to me, “My son, I perceive that the balsome of my life by reason of extreme old age coming on,” (for he was above 80 years of age), “is well nigh wasted, and that consequently my death is at the doore, wherefore I have writ my last will and testament for the use of and benefit of my brothers sons, and you: I have laid it upon the table of my closet, wither neither you nor any mortal ever entered, for thou doest not so much as knock at the door during the hours set apart for my devotion.” Having said this he went to the double door of his closet and daubed over the joynings thereof with a certain transparent crystalline matter, which he wrought with his finger till it became soft and yeilding like wax, and imprinted his golden seale upon it, the said matter was immediately hardened by the cold air, so that without defacing the seal the doore could no way be opened.
Then he took the keys of the closet and shut them up in a small cabinet and sealed the same as before with the said crystalline matter, and delivered the said cabinet, after he had sealed it, into my hands, and charged me to deliver the same to none but his brothers sons, Mr Jesse, Abrah, and Salomon Jootha, who at that time lived in Switzerland, the eldest of them being as batchelor.
After this he returned with me into the parlor and in my presence dropped the Golden Seal he had made use of into a glass of clear water, in which the said Seal was immediately dissolved like ice in hot water, a white powder settling to the bottom, and the liquor was tinged with the pale red of a provaince rose. Then he closed the said glass vial with the above mentioned transparent matter, and charged me to deliver the said vial together with the keys to Mr Jesse.
This being done he repeated upon his bended knees some of David psalmes in Hebrew and betooke himself to his couch, where he was used to sleep after dinner, and commanded me to bring him a glass of Malago, which now and then he sparingly made use of. As soone as he had drunk of his wine, he bid me to come to him, and leaning his hand upon my shoulders, he fell into a quiet sleep, and after half an hour time he fetched a deep sigh, and so yeilded his Soul to God to me great astonishment.
Upon this I according to my promise writ unto Switzerland to give notice of his death to Nephews and to my great wonder that very day after my blessed master died I received a letter from Mr Jesse, wherein he enquired whether my master were dead or alive, as if he had known every thing that had passed, as indeed he did, by means of a certain instrument, of which I shall make mention.
A little after his nephews came, to whom I gave an account of what had passed, at which Mr Jesse heard with a smile, but the other brothers not without astonishment and wonder. I gave the keys together with the glass in which was the fairest golden solution, but they refused to meddle with anything that day, being tired with their journey, but on the morrow, after I had carefully shut all the doors of the house and none but they and I being present, Mr Jesse took the glass vial and broke it over a china dish which might receive the enclosed liquor, and then took some of the liquor and put it upon the transparent matter with which the cabinet was sealed, and immediately the matter which before was hard as Crystal was resolved into a thickish water. So he opened the cabinet and tooke thence the keys of the closet.
Then we came to the door of the closet where Mr Jesse having seen the seal he wet it as formerly with the aforementioned liquid, which immediately gave way, and so he opened the said double doors, but shut it again, and falling down upon his knees prayed as we also did, then we entered, and shut the doors upon us. Here we saw great miracles.
In the midst of the Closet stood a table whose frame was of ebony, the table itself was round and of the same wood, but covered with plates of beaten gold. Before the table was placed a low footstool for to kneel upon, in the midst of the table stood an instrument of a strange and wonderful contrivance, the lower part of it, or pedestal was of pure gold, the middlemost part was of the most transparent crystal in which was enclosed an incombustible and perpetually shining fire, the upper part of it was likewise of pure gold made in the form of a small cup or vial.
Just above this instrument hung down a chain of gold, to which was fastened an artificial crystal, of an oval forme filled with the aforesaid perpetual fire, on the right side of the table we took notice of a golden box and upon the same a little spoon. This box contained a balsam of a scarlet colour. On the left side we saw a little desk of massy gold, upon which was laid a book containing 12 leaves of pure beaten gold, being tractable and
flexible as paper. In the midst of the leaves were several characters engraved, as likewise in the corners of the leaves, but in the space between the centre and the corners of the leaves were filled with holy prayers.
Under the desk we found the last will of my deceased master, whilst we were in the closet, Mr Jesse kneeled down leaning upon the desk, and with most humble devotion, repeated some of the aforementioned prayers, and then with the little spoon took up a small quantity of the foresaid balsam and put it into the top of the instrument which was in the midst of the table, and instantly a most grateful smell ascended which with its most pleasing odour, did most sensibly refresh us, but that which to me seemed miraculous was that the said fumes ascending caused the perpetual fire enclosed in the hanging crystal, to flash and blaze terribly, like some great star or lightning.
After this Mr Jesse read the will, wherein he bequeathed to Mr Jesse, all his instruments and books of wisdom and the rest of his goods to be equally divided between him and his brothers, besides he left me a legacy of 600 golden ducatoons as an acknowledgement of my fidelity.
And accordingly first enquiry was made for the instruments and books of wisdom. Of those that were on and about the table, I have spoke already. In the right side of the closet stood a chest of ebony whose inside was all covered with plates of beaten gold and contained 12 instruments all of beaten gold wonderfully turned and contrived with several characters engraven upon them. From thence we went to view a large chest containing 12 looking glasses not made out of glass, but of a certain wonderful unknown matter. The centre of the looking glasses were filled with wonderful characters, the brims of them were enclosed in pure gold, and between the said brims and centre they were polished looking glasses receiving all opposite images.
After this we opened a very large chest or case in which we found a most capacious looking glass which Mr Jesse told us was Salomon’s looking glass, and the miracle of the whole world, in which the characterisms of the whole universe were united.
We also saw in a box of ebony, a globe made of a wonderfull matter. Mr Jesse told us that in the said globe was shut up the fire and soul of the world, and that therefore the said globe of itself performed all its motions in a exact harmony and agreement with those of the universe.
Upon this box aforementioned, stood another which contained an instrument resembling a clock dial, but instead of the figures of the twelve hours, the letters of the alphabet were placed around this with a hand or index turning and pointing at them. Mr Jesse told us that this instrument would move of itself, upon the motion of a corresponding and sympathetic instrument which he had at home, and that by this instrument my happy master had signified to him his approaching death, and that after this
signification finding that this instrument remained without motion he concluded my master was dead.
Last of all we came to the books of wisdome, which he opened not. Near the said books was placed a box of Gold, full of a most ponderous powder of a deep scarlet colour, which Mr Jesse smiling took and put up.
Near to the closet where we were was another closet adjoining, which we entered into and there found 4 great chests full of small ingots of most pure gold, out of which they gave me my legacy of 6000 golden Ducatoons in a double proportion, but Mr Jesse refused to take for himselfe any of the said gold for he said that those things which were afore bequeathed to him, did fully content him; for he was skilled in my masters Art, and therefore ordered his part of the gold be bestowed upon several poore Virgins known to them, to make up their portions. I myself married one of these and has with her a good portion out of the said gold. She embraced the Christian religion and is yet alive. Mr Jesse packed up all his things and carried them home with him into Switzerland who, since that, he hath chose himself a quiet and well tempered place in the East Indies, from whence he writ to me in the last year, offering me to adopt my Eldest Son whom I have accordingly sent to him.
During the time we were in the closet I saw strange miracles effected by the motions of the said instrument of wisdom, which I neither can nor dare to set downe in writing. This much my intimate friend I was willing you should know. More I cannot add. Farewell.
A strange 19th century story about transmutation
A Strange Story.
Mr Malcolm Kinnear, in his ‘Travels in Asia Minor, Armenia’, 1813, etc, relates that the British resident at Balsora, Mr Colquhoun, was visited by an Arabian philosopher, who sought with him protection from certain Arabs who had purposed to torture him out of the secrte which he possessed of making gold, and from whose power he had escaped. He proferred to perform this in Mr. C’s presence, and accordingly, after retiring for a few moments returned with a crucible and chafing-dish of coals. When the former had become hot, he took out four papers, each containing a whitish powder, out of his pocket, and asked Mr. C. to fetch him a piece of lead. Mr. C. went into his study, took four bullets, weighed then, and returned. These the alchemist put into the crucible, and the whose was immediately fused. After twenty minutes he desired Mr. C. to take it off the fire, and put it into the air to cool. The contents were then removed by Mr. C., and proved to be a piece of gold, valued at ninety piastres (somewhat about £23), and exactly the weight of the four bullets - the which he left with Mr. C. and
engaged to return next day. That night he was carried off by the Sheik of Grani (whence he had escaped) with a body of armed men; and never again, says Mr. Kinnear, heard of. Salomon Trismosin's alchemical wanderings
This is a story of the supposed adept and teacher of Paracelsus, Salomon Trismosin's, wandering in search of the secret of transmutation. It is included in Aureum vellus, oder Güldin Schatz und Kunstkammer..., Rorschach, 1598, which was the first printing of the Trismosin writings.
When I was a young fellow, I came to a Miner named Flocker, who was also an Alchemist, but he kept his knowledge secret, and I could get nothing out of him. He used a Process with common Lead, adding to it a peculiar Sulphur, or Brimstone, he fixed the Lead until it became hard, then fluid, and later on soft like Wax.
Of this prepared Lead, he took 20 Loth (10 ounces), and 1 mark pure unalloyed Silver, put both materials in flux and kept the composition in fusion for half an hour. Thereupon he parted the Silver, cast it in an ingot, when half of it was Gold.
I was grieved at heart that I could not have this art, but he refused to tell his secret process.
Shortly thereafter he tumbled down a mine and no one could tell what was the artifice he had used.
As I had seen it really done by this miner, I started in the year 1473 on my travels to search out an artist in Alchemy, and where I heard of one I went to him, and in these wanderings I passed 18 months, learning all kinds of Alchemical Operations, of no great importance, but I saw the reality of some of the particular processes, and I spent 200 Florins of my own money, nevertheless I would not give up the search. I thought of boarding with some of my friends, and took a journey to Laibach, thence to Milan, and came to a monastery. There I heard some excellent lectures and served as an assistant, for about a year.
Then I travelled about, up and down in Italy, and came to an Italian tradesman, and a Jew, who understood German. These two made English Tin look like the best fine Silver, and sold it largely. I offered to serve them. The Jew persuaded the Trader to take me as a Servant, and I had to attend the fire, when they operated with their art I was diligent, and they kept nothing from me, as I pleased them well. In this way I learnt their art, which worked with corrosive and poisonous materials, and I stopped with them fourteen weeks.
Then I journeyed with the Jew to Venice. There he sold to a Turkish
merchant forty pounds of this Silver. While he was haggling with the merchant I took six Loth of the Silver, and brought it to a Goldsmith, who spoke Latin, and kept two Journeymen, and I asked him to test the Silver. He directed me to an Assayer on Saint Marks’ Place, who was portly and wealthy. He had three German Assay-assistants. They soon brought the Silver to the test with strong acids, and refined it on the Cupel; but it did not stand the test, and all flew away in the fire. And they spoke harshly to me asking where I got the Silver. I told them I had come on purpose to have it tested, that I might know if it was real silver.
When I saw the fraud, I returned not to the Jew, and paid no more attention to their art, for I feared to get into trouble together with the Jew, through the false silver.
I then went to a College in Venice, and asked there if they could give me two meals daily while I looked for employment. The Rector told me of a Hospital where there were other Germans, and there we got sumptuous food. It was an Institution for destitute strangers, and people of all nations came there.
The next day I went to Saint Marks’ Place, and one of the Assay assistants came up, and asked me where I got that Silver? Why I had it tested, and if I had any more of it? I said I had no more of that silver, and that I was glad to have got rid of it, but I had the art and I should not mind telling it to him. That pleased the Assayer, and he asked me if I could work in a Laboratory? I told him I was a Laborant travelling on purpose to work in alchemical Laboratories. That pleased him vastly, and he told me of a nobleman who kept a laboratory, and who wanted a German Assistant. I readily accepted, and he took me straight to the Chief Chemist, named Tauler, a German, and he was glad to get me. So he engaged me on the spot at a weekly wage of two crowns and board as well. He took me about six Italian miles out of Venice to a fine large mansion called Ponteleone. I never saw such Laboratory work, in all kinds of Particular Processes, and medicines, as in that place. There everything one could think of was provided and ready for use. Each workman had his own private room, and there was a special cook for the whole staff of Laboratory assistants.
The Chief Chemist gave me at once an Ore to work on, which had been sent to the nobleman, four days previously. It was a Cinnabar the Chief had covered with all kinds of dirt, just to try my knowledge, and he told me to get it done within two days. I was kept busy, but succeeded with the Particular Process, and on testing the ingot of the fixed Mercury, the whole weighed nine Loth, the test gave three Loth fine Gold.
That was my first work and stroke of luck. The Chief Chemist reported it to the nobleman, who came out unexpectedly, spoke to me in Latin, called me his Fortunatum, tapped me on the shoulder and gave me twenty-nine crowns. He spoke a funny kind of Latin I could hardly understand, but I was pleased with the money.
I was then put on oath not to reveal my Art to anyone. To make a long story short, everything had to be kept secret, as it should be. If someone boasts of his art, even if he has got the Truth, God’s Justice will not let such a one go on. Therefore be silent, even if you have the highest Tincture, but give Charity.
I saw all kinds of operations at this Nobleman’s Laboratory, and as the Chief Chemist favoured me, he gave me all kinds of operations to do, and also mentioned, that our employer spent about 30,000 Crowns on these arts, paying cash for all manner of books in various languages, to which he gave great attention. I myself witnessed that he paid 6,000 Crowns for the Manuscript Sarlamethon. A process for a Tincture in the Greek Language. This the nobleman had soon translated and gave me to work. I brought that process to a finish in fifteen weeks. Therewith I tinged three metals into fine Gold; and this was kept most secret. This nobleman was gorgeous and powerful, and when once a year the Signoria went out to sea, to witness the throwing of a Gem Ring into the water at the ceremony of wedding the Adriatic, our gentleman with many others of the Venetian nobility went out in his grand pleasure ship, when suddenly a hurricane arose and he with many others of the Venetian Lords and Rulers, was drowned.
The Laboratory was then shut up by the family, the men paid off, but they kept the Chief Chemist.
Then I went away from Venice, to a still better place for my purpose, where Cabalistic and Magical books in Egyptian language were entrusted to my care, these I had carefully translated into Greek, and then again retranslated into Latin. There I found and captured the the Treasure of the Egyptians. I also saw what was the great Subject they worked with, and the ancient Heathen Kings used such Tinctures and have themselves operated with them, namely, Kings Xofar, Sunsfor, Xogar, Xophalat, Julaton, Xoman and others. All these had the great treasures of the Tincture and it is surprising that God should have revealed such Secrets to the Heathen, but they kept it very secret.
After a while I saw the fundamental principles of this art, then I began working out the Best Tincture (but they all proceed, in a most indescribable manner from the same root), when I came to end of the Work I found such a beautiful red colour as no scarlet can compare with, and such a treasure as words cannot tell, and which can be infinitely augmented. One part tinged 1,500 pages Silver into Gold. I will not tell how after manifold augmentation what quantities of Silver and other metal I tinged after the Multiplication. I was amazed.
Study what thou art,
Whereof thou art a part, . What thou knowest of this art, . This is really what thou art. .
All that is without thee . Also is within, .
Thus wrote Trismosin. Bernard of Treviso's quest for the Stone
This is an extract from an English translation in MS Ferguson 28, of a work on alchemy by Bernard [1406-1490] Count of the Mark of Treviso (in fact Treves), which includes his famous fountain allegory.
Part second, in which are described the huge labours of the Author and the great expences with the singular operations from the beginning to the end,
and truly with the most incontrivertibly success.
When I first undertook this work the Book of Rases fell into my hands in which indeed I laboured 4 years and expended 800 Crowns: also in Geber’s books I threw away more that 2000; many imposters soliciting and inducing me thereto that they might exhaust my substance. In this manner I inspected the books of Archelaos for three years in which I operated along with a certain monk and in the books of Rupecissa and Joh. de Sacrobosco by means of Aquae vitae (spirit rectified thirty times with the faeces, so that it went off in such acridity that no glass could contain it), in that labour I lost other three hundred Crowns. Twelve or fifteen years having been consumed in this manner and innumerable monies, without benefit, after the experiments of many received ones, it dissolving and congealing common, ammoniacal, pineal, saracen, and metallic salts, then more than a hundred times calcining them in the space of two years; also in alums of all kinds, in marcasites, blood, hair, urine, human dung and semen, animals and vegetables, in coperas, vitriols, soot, eggs, by separation of the elements in an Athanor by the alembic, and the Pelican, by circulation, boiling, reverberation, ascension, descension, fusion, ignition, elementation, rectification, evaporation, conjunction, elevation, subtilation, and commixtion: and other infinite regimens of sophistications to which I stuck for twelve years having attained 38 years of age, still insisting upon extractions of the Mercuries from herbs and animals, thus had I uselessly dilapidated, as well by my own folly as by the seduction of imposters, about 6000 Crowns so that I became almost despondent. But nevertheless in my prayers I never forgot to beseech God that he would deign to assist my endeavours.
Afterwards I fell in with a certain Magistrate of our Country at the same time investigating, who endeavoured to make the Stone out of common Salt, dissolving this in the air and congealing it in the Sun, with many other processes too prolix for narration. In this work a year and a half was spent in empty labour because we did not operate upon the true substance. In vain we sought for it, in the above substance although it is asserted for truth in the Codex Turbae [Hermeticae]. When therefore common Salt could be no means be made to yeild what we wished, and after even 5 to 10 repetitions of our labours appeared to demonstrate to us no change whatever
of its natural properties, we gave up all further trials of it.
Moreover we saw others dissolving in most strong waters the finest Silver, Copper and other metals, also argentum vivum in the same strong waters, which was put aside in a separate vessel and at length mixing all the solutions of that description, after suffering them to rest for twelve entire months, asserting that this permixtion was the conjunction of the spirit and body. They placed the vessel of this description upon hot ashes until the third part of the water was evaporated, they exposed the residue to the rays of the Sun thinking that cristalline concretions would thence be procreated, white, congealed and liquable, able to extract from the white metal a white tincture and from the red metal, the red tincture, but of 22 phials half full of this liquor they gave three to us. We all waited for the event of the generation of the said concretions in the bottoms of the vessels for 5 years, but in vain: indeed, as is said in the Turba, there is no need of any thing extraneous for that Stone: for it is manufactured by itself in its own metallic matter.
At that time I had completed the 46th year of my age when I attempted the Stone along with a learned monk called Gotfried Lepor as had been premeditated by him. We knew that every other work than the Stone was vain and frustraneous: therefore we attempted to fabricate it in the following manner viz: We bought two thousand hens eggs, which we separated by boiling them hard in water, calcining the shells to the utmost whiteness; but we allowed the yolks and the whites, each by itself, to putrefy in horse dung and afterwards we distilled thirty times into a white water and a red oil separately with many other useless processes, which we shall not now relate. In this vain work two years and a half were also spent without utility and at a very great expense which being finished we would have deserted the pursuit entirely if we had not been supported by new hopes: we began again to investigate the sublimation of spirits, the distillations of strong waters, the separation of the elements, various structures of furnaces and fires, in which we were occupied eight years.
A certain other learned Theologian Prothonatory of Berg then joined us, with whom also we tried to get the Stone, and by whose investigation we thought to procure it from vitriol alone, and in the first place we distilled the acetum acerrimum eight times, in which we dissolved and abstracted vitriol called calcined: again we abstracted the infusion ten and five times every day for the space of two months, on account of the very vehement smell of which I laboured under a quartan fever fourteen months. We permitted the mixture to rest for this whole year, but with no fruit, because it was extraneous matter.
It was afterwards told us by a certain learned man, Confessor to the Emperor, whose name was Magister Henricus, that he did most certainly possess and retain the mastery of the Stone. In order therefore that we might attain the knowledge of it, it became necessary for the greatest mediation of friendship, and besides an expense of more than 200 Crowns, before he could render it familiar to us. He operated in the following
manner: he made a paste of Silver and Mercury and oil of Olives, boiling it at the same time on a slow fire in a very well luted pelican and incorporating it with a wooden spatula, but the matter could never be mixed into one body, even in the space of two months. At length having placed this matter into another phial, at the same time strongly luted and sealed, we buried it altogether in hot ashes and we kept up the fire around it thinking that the Mercurium would be converted into argentum optimum in the course of 15 or 21 days by virtue of the sulphureous body (the oil). The decoction being taken out of the phial, was placed upon a test with Lead, and by a very violent fire was all melted into one (vitrious) mass. Which being revived by means of a piece of burning charcoal we expected to have found our Silver increased one third part in its weight. For my own part I gave ten Marks of Silver, others thirty-two marks, from which we thought to have received one hundred and thirty Marks. But it happened otherways, since my companions only received twelve out of their Marks, and I got four from my ten.
Wherefore by believing that this Father Confessor had the secret I was made poorer by forty Crowns and in great grief I abstained for two months, and that I might entirely relinquish the work my relations tormented and teased me daily, so that I could neither eat nor drink and was reduced to such an emaciated condition that every body thought that I had received some deadly poison. Nevertheless I speedily became a thousand times more inflamed than ever, because I was ashamed of having spent my time so uselessly; I was then in my 58th year. The cause of all my errors alas! was this alone, that wandering astray I never operated in the congruous matter...
...We saw innumerable persons operating in amalgamations and multiplications at the White and Red, in matter of every kind which can be thought of by very great labours and so great perseverance that greater cannot be used, but we never hitherto saw Silver enriched a third part or even in the least degree. Nevertheless we saw infinite dealbations and rubifications, and many sophistications received in various and different regions such as Rome, Navarre, Scotland, Turkey, Greece, Alexandria, Barbary, Persia, Messina, Rhodes, France, Spain, the Holy Land, and in neighbouring regions, in Italy, Germany, England, and almost round all the world, we have as yet seen nobody in these places, but such as were labouring in sophistic matters such as herbs, vegetables, animals, plants, minerals, stones, salts, alums, strong waters, by distillations, separations of elements, sublimations, calcinations, congelations of Argentum vivum, by means of herbs, stones, waters, oils, fumes, fires, and even with extraneous vessels, but never found any body operating upon congruous material substances. We found some in their regions who knew the method and the secret of making the Stone; but we could never attain their familiar confidence. Wherefore here and there running about, investigating and xperimenting, I had already consumed 10,300 Golden Crowns. I had also sold a certain propertie which was worth 8 thousand Florins German money, so that I fell into disgrace with all my relations, because I was reduced to poverty and very little money now remained to me, and I was then 62 years old and upwards. Nevertheless although ruined in my circumstances by
so many adversities, yet I was not wearied in my mind so as to desist from my design but rather confiding in the mercy of God, never failing in good will to diligent men, leaving my Country in great disgrace, I went to Rhodes unknown to all mankind, in order to console my afflictions.
One day, I had heard of a certain man, very religious and of a great name. There was a rumour that he possessed the Stone so much sought after, with whom I entered into friendship at a very great expense. I borrowed from a person who knew my relations very well, eight thousand Florins. The formula of his labour was this. He placed in horse dung Gold and Silver very well refined and foliated, mixed with four parts of sublimated Mercury, which had stood eleven months in the dung. He distilled the water from it with a most vehement fire: we calcined the earthy residue at the bottom of the vessel in a violent fire per se, but we distilled the water again six times. With each distillation we joined the earth subsiding from the first, and repeated the distillation so often that no more residue was deposited. The earth being triturated and placed in an urinal we sprinkled them by degrees, but in vain did we attempt with great labour to make them imbibe their own water: yet we could never mix them because the water always swam above the earth, although we kept it in continued heat for the space of seven months there was no conjunction, no alteration, the fire being even increased, which having been found frivolous, and having spent three years upon`it, and thrown away 500 Crowns, we gave up the work.
That religious man had most excellent chemical books such as Rosarius magnus, Arnaldus de Villanova, the Book of the Words of Mary the Prophetess, in which finally I began to study and abstained from the work eight years. The for the first time I ascertained by evident philosophical reasons, that whatever I had done before were only foolish and useless labours, particularly when I considered the following saying of great truth in the Codex "Nature, is not amended unless in its own proper nature, Nature delights in her own nature, Nature conquers Nature, and Nature retains Nature". After having studied this book I was brought out of all my sophistications and erroneous labours. I therefore resolved to study first rather than begin to operate again at a great expense and without fruit. Many nights did I pass without sleep assiduously arguing with myself and concluding in this opinion: what occasion is there that I should seek this art from mankind, in vain tormenting myself in this manner? If they do know the art they will never reveal it; if they do not know it, in vain do I meddle with them, and endeavour to gain their confidence and friendship at a great expense. I considered strongly in what places of the book chiefly concurred in the same meaning, thinking that there the truth lay concealed which cannot exist in many meanings, but in one alone; in this manner the truth became obvious to me and what I so anxiously sought after was contained in one point.
Although one calls it by one name and another by another, yet it is the same substance, the sole error is committed in the diversity of words and not in the concordances. Therefore, my Children, I have written this book for your sakes, lest you should despond or fail in your minds from being so
miserably led astray as I was; moreover it is always the safest way to learn from others misfortunes.
I truly believe (so may God love me) that those men who have written figuratively and parabolically about hair, urine, blood, sperms, herbs, vegetables, animals, plants, mineral stones, as salts, alums, coperas, attramenta, vitriols, boraxes, magnesia, had never operated at all upon these matters, but described them out of sheer cruelty. And I am very sorry indeed, of the calamities and miseries of those unfortunate people, who have been led into such labyrinths by Impostors. Whoever therefore is inclined to repose confidence in me will not do so without very great advantage, as my sole labour will be to instruct others. Whoever will not believe me will soon experience what fatality attends the bad examples of others. Shun the sophistications Alchemists by all means, and all those who give their faith to them. For if the reading of true books should teach you any good, they endeavour to carry you off by false oaths and asseverations all to lead you off from the true road, having nothing to excuse their errors but this "I have often made it", say they, "but at present I do not possess that which is requisite for it" - or they say "if such and such things are added". Unless you shun more strongly than the plague those impostors and scoundrels, you will never make and good of this Art.
Before I perfected this work by an experiment, I learned the art for two years from books, nevertheless whem detestable men and damnable thieves of that description came to me, they asserted with solemn oaths that the most manifest errors were true experiments, however they had long ago made me almost mad on account of the great expense to which I had been put. I was never confirmed in my own good opinions until I had entirely given up the company of such fellows, and proceeded most vigilantly in my own studies on that subject. Whoever desires to learn the true Art will associate with wise men, that is to say, he will read their books and not those of Impostors, although they speak in obscure language... van Helmont's experiences with transmutation
There are three short mentions of Jan Baptista van Helmont's [1577-1644] experiences with transmutation contained in his collected writings edited by his son Franciscus Mercurius van Helmont [1618-1699] under the title Oriatrike or, Physick Refined... London 1662.
For I contemplate of the Regeneration of those that are to be saved, and of the participation of Life in the Communion of the Eucharist, to happen and be reckoned among earthly things, because there is shewn something like unto it elsewhere in Earthly things: Verily, almost even as in the Projection of the Stone which maketh Gold: For I have divers times handled that stone with my hands, and have seen a real transmutation of saleable Argent-vive or Quicksilver with my eyes, which in proportion did exceed the powder which made the gold in some thousand degrees.
Indeed it was of the colour, such as is in Saffron, being weighty in its powder, and shining like bruised Glass, when it should be the less exactly beaten. But there was once given unto me, the fourth part of one grain. I call also a grain the six hundreth part of an ounce.
This powder therefore I involved in Wax scraped off of a certain Letter, least in casting it into the Crucible, it should be dispersed through the smoakiness of the coals: which pellet of wax, I afterwards cast into the three-cornered Vessel of a Crucible, upon a pound of Quicksilver, hot, and newly bought; and presently, the whole Quicksilver with some little noise, stood still from flowing, and resided like a Lump: But the heat of that Argent-vive, was as much as might forbid melted Lead from re-coagulating: The Fire being straightaway after increased under the Bellows, the Mettal was melted, the which, the Vessel of fusion being broken, I found to weigh eight ounces of the most pure gold.
Therefore a computation being made, a grain of that powder doth convert nineteen thousand two hundred grains of impure and volatile Mettal, which is obliterated by the fire, into true gold.
For that powder, by uniting the aforesaid Quicksilver unto it self, preserved the same at one instant, from an eternal rust, putrefaction, death, and torture of the fire, howsoever most violent it was, and made it as an Immortal thing, against any vigour and industry of Art and Fire, and transchanged it into the Virgin purity of Gold: At least-wise one onely fire of coals is required herein.
So indeed, if so be a just heat of the faithful shall be present, a very little of this mystical and divine super-celestial Bread, doth regenerate, restore and renew, a huge number of the Elect... [Oriatrike, pages 673-4]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------- I therefore contemplate of the New-birth or renewing of those that are to be saved, to be made in a sublunary and earthly Nature, just, even as in the Projection of the Stone which maketh Gold: For truly, I have divers times seen it, and handled it with may hands: but it was of colour, such as is in Saffron in its Powder, yet weighty, and shining like unto powdered Glass: There was once given unto me one fourth part of one Grain: But I call a Grain the six-hundredth part of one Ounce: This quarter of one Grain therefore, being rouled up in Paper, I projected upon eight Ounces of Quick-silver made hot in a Crucible; and straightaway all the Quick-silver, with a certain degree of Noise, stood still from flowing, and being congealed, setled like unto a yellow Lump: but after pouring it out, the Bellows blowing, there were found eight Ounces, and a little less that eleven Grains of the purest Gold: Therefore one only Grain of that Powder, had transchanged 19186 Parts of Quick-silver, equal to itself, into the best Gold. The aforesaid Powder therefore, among earthly things, is found to be after some sort like them, the which transchangeth almost an infinite quanity of impure Mettal into the best Gold, and by uniting it unto it
self, doth defend it from cankering, rust, rottenness, and Death, and makes it to be as it were Immortal, against all the torture of the Fire, and Art, and tranlates it into the virgin-Purity of Gold; only it requires heat. [Oriatrike, pages 751-2]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------- I am constrained to believe that there is the Stone which makes Gold, and which makes Silver; because I have at distinct turns, made projection with my hand, of one grain of the Powder, upon some thousand grains of hot Quick-silver; and the business succeeded in the Fire, even as Books do promise; a Circle of many People standing by, together with a tickling Admiration of us all. But it was not a thing extracted out of Gold, because it should change as many weights of Quick-silver, as there were of Gold from whence it had been extracted. First of all, that being granted, as yet, at least-wise, a true transmutation of one thing into another, and that indeed, a manifold one, should stand. Secondly, those that work upon Gold, and Money-makers, have known, that nothing which is not Mercurial, can enter (by flowing) into Mettals, or be co-melted with them; but swims a-top in the flowing. Therefore thirdly, that Extraction should be fatter than any Mettal is, if it ought to tinge so many thousand Parts. Fourthly, that Extraction should be no longer a Mettal, seeing it should exceed the perfection of the purest Mettal, so many thousand times: For a Mettal doth not suffer so many degrees of largeness in its perfection, by how many times the Powder which maketh Gold, converts an inferiour Mettal into true Gold. Fifthly, He who first gave me the Gold-making Powder, had likewise also, at least as much of it, as might be sufficient for changing two hundred thousand Pounds of Gold: But there is none who may have more than a tenfold quantity of Gold; and if he should have it, he should destroy it, that he might at length, make as much Gold from thence: For he gave me perhaps half a grain of that Powder, and nine ounces and three quarters of Quick-silver were thereby transchanged: But that Gold, a strange Man, being a Friend of one evenings aquaintance, gave me. However therefore the Phylosophers Stone be in the Nature of things; yet have I alwayes supposed for the reasons aforesaid, that no Metallick Remedy contains the blessing of the Tree of Life. [Oriatrike, page 807]
Pico della Mirandola's mention of transmutation
I come now to declare that which I have beheld of this prodigy, without veil or obscurity. One of my friends who is still living has made gold and silver over sixty times in my presence. I have seen it performed in various manners, but the cost of producing the silver with a metallic water exceeded the value of the produce.
From Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola. De auro libri tres... Venice 1586. Ashmole's account of Tincture found at Bath Abbey
In MS. Ashmole 972, folio 311v, Elias Ashmole describes the finding of a tincture in Bath Abbey. This tincture belonged to the last Prior of Bath Abbey, William Holleweye, or Gibbs, who had received it through an intermediary from George Ripley. Prior Giibs had hidden it in a wall of the Abbey during the time it was suppressed, but on returning a few days later could not find it again. This Prior passed on his secret to Thomas Charnock.
Shortly after the dissolucon of Bath Abbey, upon the pulling downe some of the Walls, there was a Glasse fond in a Wall full of Red Tincture, which being flung away to a dunghill, forthwith it coloured it, exceeding red. This dunghill (or Rubish) was after fetched away by Boate by Bathwicke men, and layd in Bathwicke field, and in the places where it was spread, for a long tyme after, the Corne grew wonderfully ranke, thick and high: insomuch as it was there look'd upon as a wonder. This Belcher and Foster (2 Shoomakers of Bath, who dyed about 20 yeares since) can very well remember; as also one called Old Anthony, a Butcher who dyed about 12 yeares since. This Relacon I recd: from Mr. Rich: Wakeman Towne Clearke of Bath; (who hath often heerd the said Old Anthony tell this story) in Michaelmas Tearme 1651.
Pope John XXII's decree against alchemy
In 1317 Pope John XXII issued a decree against the alchemists De Crimine Falsi Titulus VI. I Joannis XXII. [circa annum 1317 Avenioni]
The Crime of Falsification.
Alchemies are here prohibited and those who practise them or procure their being done are punished. They must forfeit to the public treasury for the benefit of the poor as much genuine gold and silver as they have manufactured of the false or adulterate metal. If they have not sufficient means for this, the penalty may be changed to another at the discretion of the judge, and they shall be considered criminals. If they are clerics, they shall be deprived of any benefices that they hold and be declared incapable of holding others.
Poor themselves, the alchemists promise riches which are not forthcoming; wise also in their own conceit they fall into the ditch which they themselves have digged. For there is no doubt that the professors of this art of alchemy make fun of each other because, conscious of their own ignorance, they are surprised at those who say anything of this kind about themselves; when the truth sought does not come to them they fix on a day [for their experiment] and exhaust all their arts; then they dissimulate
[their failure] so that finally, though there is no such thing in nature, they pretend to make genuine gold and silver by a sophistic transmutation; to such an extent does their damned and damnable temerity go that they stamp upon the base metal the characters of public money for believing eyes, and it is only in this way that they deceive the ignorant populace as to the alchemic fire of their furnace. Wishing to banish such practices for all time, we have determined by this formal edict that whoever shall make gold or silver of this kind or shall order it made, provided the attempt actually follows, or whoever shall knowingly assist those engaged (actually) in such a process, or whoever shall knowingly make use of such gold or silver either by selling it or giving it for debt, shall be compelled as a penalty to pay into the public treasury, to be used for the poor, as much by weight of genuine gold and silver as there may be of alchemic metal, provided it be proved lawfully that they have been guilty in any of the aforesaid ways; for those who persist in making alchemic gold, or, as has been said, in using it knowingly, let them be branded with the mark of perpetual infamy. But if the means of the delinquents are not sufficient for the payment of the amount stated, then the good judgment of the justice may commute this penalty into some other (as, for example, imprisonment, or another punishment, according to the nature of the case, the difference of individuals, and other circumstances). Those, however, who in their regrettable folly go so far as not only the sell moneys thus made but even despise the precepts of the natural law, pass the bounds of their art and violate the laws by deliberately coining or casting or having others coin or cast counterfeit money from alchemic gold or silver, we proclaim as coming under this animadversion, and their goods shall be confiscate, and they shall be considered as criminals. And if the delinquents are clerics, besides the aforesaid penalties they shall be deprived of any benefices they shall hold and shall be declared incapable of holding further benefices.
Robert Boyle's Account of a Degredation of Gold
This is an interesting piece by Robert Boyle in the form of allegorical discourse about the possibility of alchemical transmutation. It was first published under the title Of a Degradation of Gold made by an anti-elixir: a strange chymical narrative. London, 1678. This book is now extremely rare. The text below was transcribed for me by Justin von Bujdoss from the second edition, issued in London in 1739.
AN HISTORICAL ACCOUNT OF THE DEGREDATION OF GOLD BY AN
After the whole Company had, as it were by Common Consent, continued silent for some time, which others spent in Reflections upon the Preceeding Conference, and Pyrophylus, in the Consideration of what he was about to Deliver; this Virtuoso at length stood up, an Addressing himself to the rest: "I hope, Gentlemen, sayes he, that what has been already Discoursed, has Inclined, if not Perswaded you to Think, That the Exaltation, or Change of other Metals into Gold, is not a Thing absolutely impossible; and, though I confess, I cannot remove all your Doubts and Objections, or my own, by being able to affirm to you, That I have with my own Hands made a Projection, (as Chymists are wont to call the sudden Transmutation made by a small Quantity of their admirable Elixir) yet I can confirm much of what hath been argued for the Possibility of such a sudden Change of a Metalline Body, by a Way, which, I presume, will suprise you: For, to make it more credible, that other Metals are capable of being graduated, or exalted into Gold by way of Projection, I will relate to you, that by the like way, Gold has been degraded, or imbased."
The Novelty of this Preamble having much suprised the Auditory, at length, Simplicius, with a disdainful Smile, told Pyrophilus: "That the Company would have much thanked him if he could have assured them, That he had seen another Metal exalted into Gold; but, that to find a Way of spoiling Gold, was not only a useless Discovery, but a prejudicial Practice."
Pyrophilus was going to make some Return to this Animadversion, when he was prevented by Artstander; who turning himself to Simpilcius, told him, with a Countenance and Tone that argued some Displeasure: "If Pyrophilus had been discoursing to a Company of Goldsmiths, or Merchants, your severe Reflection, upon what he said, would have been proper: But you might well have forborn it, if you had considered, as I suppose he did, that he was speaking to an Assembly of Philosophers and Virtuosi, who are wont to estimate Experiments, not as they inrich Mens Purses, but their Brains; and think Knowledge especially of uncommon Things very desirable, even when it is not accompanyed with any other Thing than the Light that still attends it, and idears it. It hath been thought an useful Secret, by a kind of Retrogradeation to turn Tin and Lead into brittle Bodies, like the Ores of those Metals. And if I thought it proper, I could shew, that such a change might be of use in the Investigation of the Nature of those Metals, besides the practical use that I know may be made of it. To find the Nature of Wine, we are assisted, not only by the methods of obtaining from it a Spirit; but by the ways of readily turning it into Vinegar: the knowledge of which ways hath not been despised by Chymists or Physitians, and hath at Paris, and divers other places, set up a profitable Trade. 'Tis well known that divers eminent Spagyrists have reckoned amongst their highest Arcana the ways by which they pretended, (and I fear did but pretend) to Extract the Mercury of Gold, and confrequently destroy that Metal; and 'twere not hard to shew by particular instances, that all the Experiments wherein Bodies are in some respects deteriorated, are not without distinction to be rejected or despised; since in some of them, the Light they may afford may
more than countervail the Degredation of a small quantity of matter, though it be Gold itself. And indeed, (continues he) if we will consider things as Philosophers, and look upon them as Nature hath made them, not as Opinion hath disguised them; the Perogatives and usefulness of Gold in comparison of other Metals, is nothing near so great as Alchymists and Usures imagine. For, as it is true, that Gold is more ponderous, and more fixed, and perhaps more difficult to be spoiled, than Iron; yet the qualities (whereof the first makes it burthenson, and the two others serve chiefly but to distinguish the true from counterfeit) are so balanced by the hardness, stiffness, springless, and other useful qualities of Iron; that if those two Metals speak of (Gold and Iron) were equally plentiful in the World, it is scarce to be doubted, that Men would prefer the more useful before the more splendid, considering how much worse it were for Mankind to want Hatchets, and Knives and Swords, than Coin and Plate? Wherefore, (concludes he) I think Pyrophilus ought to be both desired and encouraged to go on with his intended Discourse, since whether Gold be or not be the Best of Metals; an afflurance that it may be degraded, may prove a Novelty very Instructive, and perhaps more so than the Transmutation of baser metals into a Nobler. For I remember it hath long passed for a Maxim among Chymical Philosophers, That Facilius est aurum construere quam destruere: And whatever becomes of that, 'tis certain that Gold being the closest, the constantest, and the least destructible of Metals, to be able to work a notable and almost Essential change in such a Body, (though, by deteriorating it) is more than to work a like change, (though in popular estimation for the better) in any Metal less indisposed to admit alterations, especially in such an one as Pyrophilus intimates, by telling us, that 'twas made by Way of Perfection, and consequently by a very small Proportion of active matter; whereas the destructions that Vulgar Chymists pretend to make of Gold, and wont to be attempted to be made by considerable proportions of Corrosive Menstruums, or other fretting Bodies; and even these, Experience shews to be usually too weak to ruine, though sometime they may much disguise the most Stable Texture of Gold. Cuncta adeo miris illic complexibus haerent."
Pyrophilus perceiving by several signs that he needed not add any thing of Apologetical to what Arristander had already said for him, resumed his Discourse, by saying, "I was going, Gentlemen, when Simplicius diverted me, to tell you, That looking upon the Vulgar Objections that have been wont to be framed against the possibility of Metalline Transmutions, from the Authority and Prejudices of Aristotle, and the School-Philosophers, as Arguments that in such an Assembly as this need not now be solemnly discussed; I consider that the difficulties that really deserve to be called so, and are of weight even with Mechanical Philosophers, and Judicious Naturalists, are principally these. First, That the great change that must be wrought by the Elixir, (if there be such an Agent) is effected upon Bodies of so stable and almost immutable a Nature as Metals. Next, That this great change is said to be brought to pass in a very short time. And thirdly, (which is yet more strange) That this great and suddain alteration is said to be effected by a very small, and perhaps inconsiderable, proportion of the transmuting Powder. To which three grand
difficulties, I shall add another that to me appears, and perhaps will seem to divers of the new Philosophers, worthy to be lookt upon as a fourth, namely, The notable change that must by a real transmutation be made in the Specifick Gravity of the matter wrought upon: which difficulty I therefore think not unworthy to be added to the rest, because upon several tryals of my own and other men, I have found no known quality of Gold, (as its colour, malleableness, fixity, or the like) so difficult, if not so impossible, to be introduced into any other Metalline Matter, as the great Specifick Gravity that is peculiar to Gold. So that, Gentlemen, (concluded Pyrophilus) it can be made appear that Art has produced an Anti-Elixir, (if I may so call it) or Agent that is able in a very short time, to work a very notable, though deteriorating, change upon a Metal; in proportion to which, its quantity is very inconsiderable; I see not why it should be thought impossible that Art may also make a true Elixir, or a Powder capable of speedily Transmuting a great proportion of a baser Metal into Silver or Gold: especially if it be considered, that those that treate of these Arcana, confess that 'tis not every matter which may be justly called the Philosophers Stone, that is able to transmute other Metals in vast quantities; since several of these Writers, (an even Lully himself) make differing orders or degrees of the Elixir, and acknowledge, that a Medicine or Tincture of the first or lowest order will not transmute above ten times its weight of an inferior Metal."
Pyrophilus having at this part of his Discourse made a short pawse to take a breath, Crattippus took occasion from his silence to say to him, " I presume, Pyrophilus, I shall be disavowed by very few of these Gentlemen, if I tell you that the company is impatient to hear the Narrative of your Experiment, and that if it do so much as probably make out the particulars you have been mentioning, you will in likelyhood perswade most of them, and will certainly oblige them all. I shall therefore on their behalf as well as my own, sollicite you to hasten to the Historical part of a Discourse that is so like to gratifie our Curiosity."
The Company having by their unanimous silence, testified their approbation of what Crattippus had said; and appearing more than ordinarily attentive,
"As I was one day abroad," saith Pyrophilus, "to return visits to my Friends, I was by a happy Providence (for it was beside my first Intention) directed to make one to an ingenious Foreigner, with whom a few that I had recieved from him, had given me some little acguaintance.
Whilst this Gentleman and I were discoursing together of several matters, there came in to visit him a stranger, whom I had but once seen before; and though that were in a promiscuous company, yet he addressed himself to me in a way that quickly satisfied me of the greatness of his Civility; which he soon after also did of that of his Curiousity. For the Virtuoso, in whose Lodgings we met, having (to gratifie me) put him upon the discourse of his voyages; the curious stranger entertained us an hour or two with perteinent and judicious Answers to the Questions I askt him about places so remote, or so much within Land, that I had not met with any of our
English Navigators or Travellers that had penetrated so far as to visit them. And because I found by his discourse that I was like to enjoy such good company but a very little while, (since he told me that he came the other day into England but to dispatch a business which he had already done as far as he could do it, after which he was with speed to return, as (to my trouble) he did to his Patron that sent him) I made the more haste to propose such Questions to him, as I most desired to be satisfied about; and among other things, enquiring whether in the Eastern parts he had traversed, he had met with any Chymists; he answered that he had; and that though they were fewer, and more reserved than ours, yet he did not find them all less skilful. And on this occasion, before he left the Town to go aboard the Ship he was to overtake; he in a very obliging way put into my hands at parting a little piece of Paper, folded up; which he said contained all that he had left of a rarity he had recieved from an Eastern Virtuoso, and which he intimated would give me occasion both to Remember him, and to exercise my thoughts in uncommon Speculations.
The great delight I took in conversing with a Person that had travelled so far, and could give me so good an account of what he had seen, made me so much resent the being so soon deprived of it, that though I judged such a Virtuoso would not, as a great token of his kindness, have presented me a trifle, yet the Present did but very imperfectly consoal me for the loss of so pleasing and instructive a Conversation.
Nevertheless, that I might comply with the curiosity he himself had excited in me, and know how much I was in his Debtor, I resolved to see what it was he had given me, and try whether I could make it do what I thought he Intimated, by the help of those few hints rather than directions how to use it, which the parting haste he was in (or perhaps some other reason best known to himself) confined him to give me. But in regard that I could not but think the Experiment would one way or another prove Extraordinary, I thought fit to take a Witness or two and an Assistant in the trying of it; and for that purpose made choice of an expernenced Doctor of Physick, very well versed in the separation and copelling of Metals."
"Though the Company (says Heliodorus) be so confident of your sincerity and wariness, that they would give credit even to unlikely Experiments, upon your single testimony; yet we cannot but approve your direction in taking an Assistant and a Witness, because in nice and uncommon Experiments we can scarce use too much circumspection, especially when we have not the means of reiterating the tryal: for in such new, as well as difficult cases, ‘tis easie even for a clear-sighted Experimenter to over-look some important circumstance, that a far less skilful by-stander may take notice of."
"As I have ever judged, (saith Pyrophilus) that cautiousness is a very requisite qualification for him that would satisfactorily make curious Experiments; so I thought fit to imploy a more than ordinary measure of it, in making a tryal, whose event I imagined might prove odd enough. And therefore having several time observed that some men are prepossessed, by having a particular Expectation raised in them, and are inclined to think
that the do see that happen which they think they should see happen; I resolved to obviate this prejudication as much as innocently I could, and (without telling him anything but the truth, to which Philosophy as well as Religion obliges us to be strictly loyal) I told him but thus much of the truth, that I expected that a small proportion of a Powder presented me by a Foreign Virtuoso, would give a Brittleness to the most flexible and malleable of Metals, Gold it self. Which change I perceived he judged so considerable and unlikely to be affected, that he was greedy of seeing it severly tryed.
Having thus prepared him not to look for all that I my self expected, I caustiously opened the Paper I lately mentioned, but was both surprized and troubled, (as he also was) to find in it so very little Powder, that in stead of two differing tryals that I designed to make with it, there seemed very small hope that it would serve for one, (and that but an imperfect one neither.) For there was so very little Powder, that we could scarce see the colour of it, (save that as afar as I could judge it was of a darkish Red) and we thought it not only dangerous, but useless to attempt to weigh it, in regard we might easily lose it by putting it into, and out of the Balance; and the Weights we had were not small enough for so despicable a quantity of matter; which in words I estimated at an eighth part of a Grain; but my assistant, (whose conjecture I confess my thoughts inclined to prefer) would allow it to be at the most but a tenth of a Grain. Wherefore seeing the utmost we could reasonably hope to do with so very little Powder, was to make one tryal with it, we weighed out in differing Balances two Drams of Gold that had been formerly English Coyn, and that I caused by one that I usually imploy to be cupelled with a sufficient quantity of Lead, and quarted, as they speak, with refined Silver, and purged Aqua fortis, to be sure of the goodness of the Gold: these two Drams I put into a new Crucible, first carefully nealed, and having brought them to fusion by the meer action of the fire, without the help of Borax, or any other Additament, (which of course, though somewhat more laborious, than the most usual we took to obviate scruples) I put into the well melted Metal with my own hand the little parcel of Powder lately mentioned, and continuing the Vessel in the fire for about a quarter of an hour, that the Powder might have time to defuse it self everyway into the Metal, we poured out the well-melted Gold into another Crucible that I had brought with me, that had been gradually heated before to prevent cracking. But though from the first fusion of the Metal, to the pouring out, it had turned in the Crucible like ordinary Gold, save that once my Assistant told me he saw that for two or three moments it lookt almost like an Opale; yet I was somewhat suprized to find that when the matter was grown cold, that though it appeared upon the Balance that we had not lost anything of the weight we put in, yet instead of fine Gold, we had a lump of Metal of a dirty colour, and as it were overcast with a thin coat, almost like half vitrified Litharge; and somewhat to increase the wonder, we perceived that there stuck to one side of the Crucible a little Globule of Metal that lookt not at all yellowish, but like coarse Silver, and the bottom of the Crucible was overlaid with a vitrified substance, whereof one part was of a transparent yellow, and the other of a deep brown, inclining to red; and in
this vitrified substance I could plainly perceive sticking at least five or six little Globules that lookt more like impure Silver than pure Gold. In short, this stuff lookt so little like refined, or so much as ordinary, Gold, that though my Friend did much more than I marvel at this change, yet I confes I was suprized at it myself. For though in some particulars it answered what I lookt for, yet in others, it was very differing from that which the Donor of the Powder had, as I though, given me ground to expect. Whether the cause of my disapointment were that (as I formerly intimated) this Virtuoso’s haste or design made him leave me in the dark; or whether it were that finding myself in want of sufficient directions, I happily pitched upon such a proportion of Materials, and way of operating, as were proper to make a new Discovery, which the excellent Giver of the Powder had not Designed, or perhaps thought of."
"I shall not at all wonder," saith Cratippus, "either at your Friends amazement, or at your surprize, if your further tryals did in any measure confirm what the superficial change that appeared in your Metal could not but incline you to conjecture."
"You will best judge of that (replies Pyrophilus) by the account I was going to give you of what we did with our odd Metal. And First, having rubbed it upon a good Touchstone, whereon we had likewise rubbed a piece of Coined Gold, we manifestly found that the mark left upon the Stone by our Mass between the marks of the two other Metals, was notoriously more like the Touch of the Silver than that of the Gold. Next, having knockt our little lump with a Hammer, it was (according to my prediction) found brittle, and flew into several pieces. Thirdly, (which is more) even the insides of those peices lookt of a base dirty colour, like that of Brass or worse, for the fragments had a far greater resemblance to Bell-Metal, than either to Gold or Silver. To which we added this fourth, and more considerable, Examen; that having carefully weighed out one Dram of our stuff, (reserving the rest for tials to be suggested by second thoughts) and put it upon an excellent new and well nealed Coppel, with about half a dozen times its weight of Lead, we found, somewhat to our wonder, that though it turned very well like good Gold, yet it continued in the fire above an hour and a half, (which was twice as long as we expected) and yet almost to the very last the fumes copiously ascended, which sufficiently argued the operation to have been well carried on; and when at last it was quite ended, we found the Coppel very smooth and intire, but tinged with a fine purplish red, (which did somewhat surprize us, and besides, the refined Gold, there lay upon the cavity of the Coppel some dark coloured recements, which we concluded to have proceeded from the deteriorated Metal, not from the Lead. But when we came to put our Gold again into the Ballance we found it to weigh only about fifty three Grains, and consequently to have lost seven; which yet we found to be fully made up by that little quantity of recrements that I have lately mentioned, whose Weight and Fixity, compared with their unpromising Colour, did not puzzle us, especially because we had not enough of either of them, or of leisure, to examine their nature. To all which circumstances, I shall subjoin this, that to prevent any scruples that might arise touching the Gold we
imployed, I caused a dram and a half that had been purposely reserved out of the same portion with that which had been debased; I caused this (I say) to be in my Assistants presence melted by it self, and found it (as I doubted not but I should do) fine and well-coloured Gold."
"I hope you will pardon my curiosity," saith Aristander, "to the gentleman that spoke last, if I ask why you take no notice of the effect of the Aqua fortis upon your imbased Metal?"
"Your Question," replies Pyrophilus, "I confess to be very reasonable, and I am somewhat troubled that I can’t answer it but by telling you that we had not at hand any Aqua fortis, we durst relie on; which yet I was the less troubled at, because heretofore some tryals purposely made had informed me, that in some metalline Mixtures the Gold, if it were much predominant in quantity, may protect other Metal; (for instance Silver) from being dissolved by that Menstruum, though not from being at all invaded by it."
"There yet remained," saith Heliodorus, "one examen more of your odd Metal, which would have satisfied me, at least as much as any of the rest, of its having been notably imbased: for if it were altered in its Specifick Gravity, that quality I have always observed (as I lately perceived you also have done) to stick so close to Gold, that it could not by an additament so inconsiderable in point of bulk, be considerably altered without a notable and almost essential change in the texture of the Metal."
"To this pertinent discourse," Pyrophilus, with the respect due to a person that so worthily sustained the dignity he had of presiding in that choice company, made this return: "I owe you, Sir, my humble thanks for calling upon me to give you an account, I might have forgotten, and which is yet of so important a thing, that none of the other Phoenomina of our Experiment seemed to me to deserve so much notice. Wherefore I shall now inform you, that having my self of all the requisites to make Hydostatical Trials, (to which perhaps I am not altogether a stranger) I carefully weighed in water the ill-lookt Mass, (before it was divided for the coppelling of the above-mentioned dram) and found, to the great confirmation of my former wonder and conjectures, that instead of weighing about nineteen times as much as a bulk of water, equal to it, its proportion to that liquor was but that of fifteen, and about two thirds to one: so that its Specific Gravity was less by about 3-1/3 than it would if it had been pure Gold."
At the recital of this notable circumstance, superadded to the rest, the generality of the Company, and the President too, by looking and smiling upon one another, expressed themselves to be as well delighted as surprized; and after the murmuring occasioned by the various whispers that passed amongst them, was a little over, Heliodorus addressed himself to Pyrophilus, and told him, "I need not, and therefore shall not, stay for an express order from the Company to give you their hearty thanks: for as the obliging Stranger did very much gratifie you by the Present of his Wonderful Powder, so you have not a little gratified us by so candid and
particular a Narritive of the effects of it; and I hope (continues he) that if you have not otherwise disposed of that part of that part of your deteriorated Gold that you did not coppel, you will sometime or another favour us with a sight of it."
"I join in this request," said Cratippus, as soon as he perceived the President had done speaking, and to facilitate the grant of it, "I shall not scruple to tell Pyrophilus he may be confident that the Degredation of his Gold will not depreciate it amongst Us: since if it to be allowable for Opinion to stamp such a value upon old coins and Medals, and in that Judgement of good antiquaries, a rusty piece of Brass or Copper, with a half defaced Image or Inscription on it, is to be highlier valued than as big a piece of well-stampt Gold; I see not why it should not be lawful for Philosophers to prize such a lump of depraved Gold as yours, before the finest Gold the Chymists and Mintmasters are wont to afford us. And though I freely grant that some old Copper Medals are of good use in History, to keep alive by their Inscriptions the memory of a taking of a Town, or the winning of a Battle; though these be but things that almost every day are some where or other done, yet I think Pyrophilus’s imbased Metal is much to be preffered, as not only preserving the memory; but being an effect of such a Victory of Art over Nature, and the conquering of such generally believed insuperable difficulties, as no Story that I know of gives us an example of."
As soon as ever Cratippus had made a pause, Pyrophilus to prevent complimental discourse, did in a few words tell the President, That his part had been but that of a Relator of a matter of Fact, and that therefore he could deserve but little thanks and no praise at all; though a good measure of both of them were due to the obliging Virtuoso that had given him the Powder; and in that, the opportunity of complying with his duty, and his inclination, to serve that learned Company.
"Therefore Gentlemen (saith Aristander) are not persons among whom modesty is either restrained from expressing it self, or construed according to the Letter; and therefore whatever you have been pleased to say, the Company cannot but think itself much obliged to you; and I know the obligation would be much increased, if you would favour us with your reflections upon the extraordinary Experiment you have been pleased to relate to us."
"If," replies Pyrophilus, "I had had wherewithal to repeat the Experiment, and vary it according to the hints afforded me by the first trial, I should be less unfit to comply with Aristander’s motion: but the Phoenomina are too new and too difficult for me to attempt to unriddle them by the help of so slender an information as a person so little sagatious as I could get by a single trial; and though I will not deny that I have had some raving thoughts about this puzzling subject, yet I hope I shall be easily pardoned, if I decline to present crude and immature thoughts to a Company that so well deserve the moist ripe ones, and can so skilfully discover those that are not so."
"I confess," saith Heliodorus, "that I think Pyrophilus’s wariness deserve, not only to be allowed, but imitated; and therefore by my consent the further discourse of so abtruse a subject, shall be deferred till we have had time to consider seriously of Phoenomina that will be sure to imploy your most speculative thoughts, and I fear to pose them too: only we must not forget that Pyrophilus himself ought to be not barely allowed but invited to draw before we rise, what Corrollaries he thinks fit to propose from what he hath already delivered."
"The inference," saith Pyrophilus, "I meant to make, will not detain you long; having for the main been already intimated in what you may remember I told you I designed in the mention I was about to make of the now-recited Experiment. For without launching into difficult Speculations, or making use of disputable Hypotheses, it seems evident enough from the matter of Fact faithfully laid before you, that an Operation very near, if not altogether as strange as that which is called Projection, and in the difficultest points much of the same nature with it, may safely be admitted. For our Experiment plainly shews that Gold, though confessedly the most homogeneous, and least mutable of Metals, may be in a very short time (perhaps not amounting to minutes) exceedingly changed, both as to malleableness, colour, homogeneity, and (which is more) specifick Gravity; and all this by so very inconsiderable a Portion of injected Powder, that since the Gold that was wrought of weighed two of our English drams, and consequently an hundred and twenty grains, an easie computation will assure us that the Medicine did thus powerfully act, according to my estimate (which was the modestest) upon near a thousand times, (for 'twas above nine hundred and fifty) its weight of Gold, and according to my Assistants estimate, did (as they speak) go near upon twelve hundred; so that if it were fit to apply to this Anti-Elixir, (as I formerly vertured to call it) what is said of the true Elixir by divers of the Chymical Philosophers, who will have their virtue of their Stone increased in such a proportion, as that at first 'twill transmute but ten times its weight; after the next rotation an hundred times, and after the next to that a thousand, our Powder may in their language be stiled a Medicine of the third order."
"The computation," saith Aristander, "is very obvious, but the change of so great a Portion of Metal is so wonderful and unexampled, that I hope we shall among other things learn from it this lesson, That we ought not to be so forward as many men otherwise of great parts are wont to be, in prescribing narrow limits to the power of Nature and Art, and in condemning and deriding all those that pretend to, or believe, uncommon things in Chymistry, as either Cheats or Credulous. And therefore I hope, that though (at least in my opinion) it be very allowable to call Fables, Fables, and to detect and expose the Impostures or Deceits of ignorant or vain-glorious Pretenders to Cymical Mysteries, yet we shall not by too hasty and general censures of the sober and diligent Indigators of the Arcana of Chymisty, blemish (as much as in us lies) that excellent Art itself, and thereby disoblige the genuine Sons of it, and divert those that are indeed Possessors of noble Secrets, from vouchsafing to gratifie our Curiosity, as we see that one of them did Pyrophilus’s, with the sight at least, of some
of their highly instructive Rarities."
"I wholly approve," saith Heliodorus rising from his seat, "the discreet and seasonable mention made by Aristander."
"And I presume," subjoins Pyrophilus, "that it will not be the less liked, if I add, That I will allow the Company to believe that, as extraordinary, as I perceive most of you think the Phoenomena of the lately recited Experiment; yet I have not (because I must not do it) as yet acquainted you with the strangest Effect of our admirable Powder." Ashmole's account of Edward Kelly's transmutations
There is an interesting account of John Dee and Edward Kelly's alchemical transmutations included in Elias Ashmole's Theatrum Chemicum BritannicumLondon, 1652, pages 481-484.
'Tis generally reported that Doctor Dee, and Sir Edward Kelly were so strangely fortunate, as to finde a very large quantity of the Elixir in some part of the Ruines of Glastenbury-Abbey, which was so incredibly Rich in vertue (being one upon 272330) that they lost much in making Projection, be way of Tryall; before they found out the true weight of the Medicine.
And no sooner were they Masters of this Treasure, then they resolved to Travell into Forraigne Parts, where falling into acquantance with one Albertus Laskey a Polonian Prince (which came into England the beginning of May, An. 1583) on the 21 of Sept. following, They, their Wives, Children, and Families, went beyond Sea with the said Prince.
And whether they found it at Glastenbury (as is aforesaid) or howsoever else they came by it, 'tis certain they had it: for at Trebona in Bohemia (whither they were come to dwell [Sept. 4. 1586]) Sir Edward Kelley made Projection [Dec. 9. 1586] with one small Graine thereof (in proportion no bigger then the least graine of Sand) upon one Ounce and a Quarter of Common Mercury; and it produced almost an Ounce of most pure Gold. This was done to gratifie Master Edward Garland and his Brother Francis, and in their presence; which Edward was lately come to Trebona, being sent thither to Doctor Dee, from the Emperour of Muscovia, according to some Articles before brought, by one Thomas Symkinson. I also find this Note of Doctor Dee’s, Jan. 5. 1586. Donum Dei 2 ounces. E.K. Moreover, for neerer and later Testimony, I have received it from a credible Person, that one Broomfield and Alexander Roberts, told him they had often seen Sir Ed: Kelly make Projection, and in particular upon a piece of Metall cut out of a Warming pan, and without Sir Edwards touching or handling it, or melting the Metall (onely warming it in the Fire) the Elixir being put thereon, it was Transmuted into pure Silver: The Warming-pan and this piece of it, was sent to Queen Elizabeth by her Embassador who then lay at Prague, that by fitting the Piece into the place whence it was cut out, it might exactly appeare to be once part of that Warming-pan. The aforesaid Person hath
likewise seen in the hands of one Master Frye and Scroope, Rings of Sir Edward Kellyes Gold, the fashion of which was onely Gold wyre, twisted thrice about the Finger: and of these fashioned Rings, he gave away, to the value of 4000 l. at the Marriage of one of his Servant Maides. This was highly Generous, but to say truth he was openly Profuse, beyond the modest Limitts of a Sober Philosopher.
During their abode at Trebona, they tried many Chemical Experiments (to see whether they could make that Iewell they possest, (the particular account of their operations I neede not here relate) yet I cannot heare that ever they accomplished any thing; onely I finde the 27. of Aprill noted by Doctor Dee with severall expressions of Ioy and Gladnesse, as - Haec est dies quam fecit Dominus. Againe - Miserecordia Dei magna, and lastly, - Omne quod vivit laudet Dominum. And to testifie what they meant, he writes upon the 30. day following, Master Edward Kelley did open the Great secret to me. God be thanked.
Whiles they lived at Trebona, Sir Edward Kelley went divers times to Prague, and the 15. of Ian. 1587 he went into Poland, but returned the 9 of Febr. after, And 'tis probable these Iourneys were made in quest after some famous Chemists. Things were not carried here so privately, but Queene Elizabeth had notice given her of their Actions, whereupon she used severall meanes by Letters and Messages to invite them back into England, where it was believed she had so far prevailed that Master Simkinson and Master Francis Garland’s Brother Robert, coming from England to Trebona [8. Dec. 1587] supposed they had beene ready to come over the England upon the Queenes Letters formerly sent them. And though Sir Edward Kelley staid behind, yet Doctor Dee [1 May 1589] left Trebona and came for England. But whether occasioned by some unkindnesss received from Sir Edward Kelley or falling out of their Wives, or the Solicitation of Queene Elizabeth (or all these concurring) I am not yet certaine, not unlike but each of them might contribute to their Seperation.
For that there was some Greate and Wonderfull unkindnesse past from Sir Edward Kelley, appeares, by his sending for Doctor Dee, the beginning of Ian. 1588 under a shew of Reconciliation, and discovering more then an Ordinary Intimacy and Compliancy about this time, which faire shews the good Doctor notes with this prayer. God leade his heart to all Charity and Brotherly love: As also by Letters sent from Doctor Dee to Sir Edward Kelley and his Wife the end of March following, requiring at their hands Mutuall Charity, which [May 9] after upon Mistris Kelleys receiving the Sacrament she gave her hand to Doctor Dee and his Wife in Token of Charity. But it seemes these things were not cordiall but onely outward; for 9 Sept. following, (the Lord Chancellor coming to Trebona) the Rancour and Dissimulation was more evident to him, and it seemes grew up to a greater height then he could beare. And thereupon he thought wisely to avoid the further Danger by leaving Germany which occasioned him [4 Jan. 1589] to deliver to Sir Edward Kelley the Powder, the Bookes, the Glasse, with some other things, and thereupon received his Discharge in writing under his Hand and Seale.
While these Discontents continued, severall Letters past between Queene Elizabeth and Doctor Dee, whereby perhaps he might promise to returne; At length it so fell out, that he left [1 Mar. 1589] Trebona and took his Iourney for England.
The ninth of Aprill he came to Breame and had not sayed there three dayes, but the Landtgrave of Hesse sent Letters of Civill Complements to him, and within three dayes after, Doctor Dee presented him with his Twelve Hungarian Horses, that he bought at Prague for his Journey. [27 June 1589] Here that famous Hermetique Philosopher, [Doctor Henric Kunrath of Hamburgh] came to visit him: The 16 of Nov. he went thence to Stade, where he met with Mr. Edward Dyer going Embassador for Denmarke, who the yeare before had beene at Trebona, and carried back Letters from the Doctor to Queene Elizabeth; he was a great Corespondent of Doctor Dees, and as earnest a Searcher after the Stone.
The 23 of Novemb. following, he arrived at Gravesend having beene out of England 6 Years 2 Moneths and 2 Dayes, and the 9th of Decemb. presented himselfe to the Queene at Richmond, where he was favoured with a kinde Reception.
Being setled againe at Mortelack, the Queene use to call at his House to visit him, and shewed her self very Curteous to him, upon all Occasions. Against Christmas 1590 she sent him Two hundred Angels wherewith to keep his Christmas, and a hundred Markes against Christmas 1592. She likewise sent him word by Mr. Thomas Candish, to doe what he would in Alchymie and Philosophy, and none should controule or molest him: and not unlike by the Queenes example, divers Personages of Honour at Court, frequented his Company, and sent him many Guifts, from time to time. Amongst others Sir Thomas Jones most nobly offered him his Castle of Emlin in Wales, to dwell in, free with all Accomodations.
His Favour was faire at Court, the Queene her selfe bad him finde out something for her to bestowe; yet all the preferment he gained was the Grant of the Chancellorship of St Pauls [8 Dec. 1594], and the 27 of May 1595 his Patent past the great Seale, for the Wardenship of Manchester, whither He, his Wife, Childern, and Family came the 14 of Feb. 1596 and the 20 day following was Installed, and in this Wardenship (wherein he had the unhappinesse to be often vext with the Turbulent Fellowes of that Colledge) dyed, deserving the Commendations of all Learned and Ingenious Sibollers, and to be remembered for his remarkable Abilities.
After Doctor Dee came into England (as is before remembred) Correspondency was still maintained betweene him and Sir Edward Kelley, in Letters sent by Mr. Francis Garland and others; (and some expectancy of Sir Edwards comming over: [23 Dec. 1589] Mr Thomas Kelley (his Brother) putting the Doctor in hopes thereof likewise) but at length Sir Edward was clapt up close Prisoner by the Emperour (for he had so unwarily and openly managed the Secret, that it had given the Emperour occasion to carry a strict Eye over
all his Actions, out of a desire to be sharer, with him in his good fortune) yet it seemes the Emperour set him at Liberty [4 Oct. 1593], and Doctor Dee had notice of it the 5 of Decemb. after. And though he began to grow into the Emperours favour, in hopes to be entertained into his Service (for so he certified Doctor Dee by Letters in August 1595). Nevertheless he was clapt up againe into Prison, and attempted to make his Escape out of a high Window, by the teering of his Sheetes, which were tyed together to let him downe, he (being a weighty Man) fell and broke his Legg, and thereof dyed: (The Ascendent then coming by Direction into the place of the Moone [see the Scheme of Kelley’s Nativity] with Latitude, she being Lady of the 8th house in the Radix and posited in Aquarius). And this is one report of his Death; others there are, but Doctor Dee mentions none at all of the manner thereof; onely this, Novemb. 25 [Anno 1595]. Newes that Sir E.K. was slaine.
Other accounts of Edward Kelley's transmutations
[Father Backhouse’s tale, from Ms. Ashmole 1790, folios 60-61.]
...This Pursevant asking Sir Ed: how he came by this hee tould him this story. That Doctor Dee & hee falling into the Company of an Italian (who was in Orders) at Prague, the Italian asked the Doctor whether he knew that Dee which wrote the Monas Hierogliphica - & and perceiving him to owne it let fall severall words which Doctor Dee tooks no notice of, (to try whether he understood what he pretended to have written) for this Italian was supposed to be the true Author. After walking into the ffields & discourcing further of the power of the Elixir, & other secrets in nature, the Italian tooke up the skirt of his Garment and in the bottome of which was sowed up a litle Glasse that had a black pouder in it, this he opened & tooke a litle twig from a tree & put it into the Glasse & tooke out some of the pouder & touched the barke of the Tree therewith, and immediately the Tree began to wither & and within an hower was wholy blasted; when he had done thus seeing some Swine lye sleeping neere that place, he layd some of the powder upon them, & they presently start up, fell a staggering & soe died, & within a litle space their Bodyes were converted into a kinde of Gelley. Now by the Way Sir Ed: had observed the Italian to lay some Money under each of the Swine, what he might suppose them to be worth. & when they were come home, Sir Ed: fell to arguing with Dr Dee about what had past, & tould him he did beleive this Italian had the Elixir, & therefore if he would be ruled by him they would goe to the Italian & tell him unlesse he would comunicate some good Secret to them, they would apprehend him upon suspition for being sent from Rome to poyson the Chauncellor of Prague or some other Eminent person. This being concluded on Sir Ed: was to make enquiry after his lodging, & having at length found him out, tells the Italian, that from the high secrets he had shewed them before Dr Dee had an intent to informe the Chauncellor of Prague, that he supposed he was sent to poyson him, or doe some other notable mischeife, which he hearing of
could not but (out of that greate affection he bore to him as one that was Master of so eminent secrets part of which he was pleased to let him be wittnes of,) give him notice of this Plot, & wish him to provide for his safety. The Italian apprehended this as a reall truth. & with much thankfulnes tould Sir Ed: he would imediately leave Prague, & if he would follow him to such a place in Polonia, he would there acquaint him with such things as should requite this large favour & if he found him not there yet he would leave a Note where he should come to him. Sir Ed: upon this goes into Polonia, & there meetes with this Italian, who not only tould him the full & whole of the Secret of the Stone, but also gave him a large quantity of this Powder. /& by this Meanes Sir Ed: Kelley tould this Pursevant he came by it. & this very story this Pursevant tould my Father Bachus [Backhouse], who tould it to me. /& shewed him also the Diamond which he made of a Flint Stone.
From William Lilly’s History of his Life and Times.
Dee and Kelly being in the confines of the Emperor’s dominions, in a city where resided many English merchants, with whom they had much familiarity, there happened an old Friar to come to Dr. Dee’s lodging. Knocking at the door, Dee peeped down the stair. ‘Kelly,’ says he, ‘tell the old man I am not at home.’ Kelly did so. The Friar said, ‘I will take another time to wait on him.’ Some few days after, he came again. Dee ordered Kelly, if it were the same person, to deny him again. He did so; at which the Friar was very angry. ‘Tell thy master I came to speak with him and to do him good, because he is a great scholar and famous; but now tell him, he put forth a book, and dedicated it to the Emperor: it is called Monas Hieroglyphicas. He understands it not. I wrote it myself, I came to instruct him therein, and in some other more profound things. Do thou, Kelly, come along with me, I will make thee more famous than thy master Dee.’ Kelly was very apprehensive of what the Friar delivered, and thereupon suddenly retired from Dee, and wholly applied unto the Friar; and of him either had the Elixir ready made, or the perfect method of its preparation and making. The poor Friar lived a very short time after: whether he died a natural death, or was otherwise poisoned or made away by Kelly, the merchant, who related this, did not certainly know. Denis Zacaire's account of his alchemical work
In Denis Zacaire's Opuscule tres-eccellent de la vraye Philosophie naturelle des metaulx first published in 1567, there is an autobiographical account of his alchemical quest, which seems modelled on Bernard of Treviso's.
Having arrived at the age of 20 years or thereabouts and having received the rudiments of education at home, I was sent by my parents to Bordeaux, to undertake the college curriculum, and I was there for four years, chiefly studying philosophy. I made such progress - by the grace of God and the pains of a certain master - that it was decided for me to proceed to
Toulouse, in the charge of the same instructor, for a course of law. There I made acquaintance, however, with other students who had numbers of Alchemical books, my preceptor himself having meddled in these workings. In fact when I went to Toulouse I carried with me a thick volume of processes, collected from all the texts which I had been able to discover... It seemed to me - being thus fortified - if I could undertake the practice, perhaps even with the least of the processes, I should prove the most fortunate of beings...
Before the end of the first year my two hundred crowns had gone up in smoke, and my master died of a lingering fever that he contracted during the summer, largely because he rarely left his room, in which the atmosphere was terribly hot and unhealthy. I was the more troubled by his death since my parents would only send me the money for my keep instead of the amount I wanted to carry on my Work.
To overcome these difficulties, I went home in 1535, so as to avoid being under a tutor, and aggregated three years income, which came to four hundred crowns. I needed this amount of capital because I wanted to work out a recipe which had been given me at Toulouse by an Italian who said he had actually been present at the experiment. I kept him with me so that he might see the end of his process. I calcined gold and silver in aqua fortis, but this was no use because the gold and silver I used melted away to less than half the original quantity, and my four hundred crowns were soon reduced to two hundred and thirty. I gave twenty of these to my Italian to go and sort out the matter with the man who had given him the recipe and who lived, so he said, in Milan. I waited at Toulouse all through the winter expecting his return; but it might still be there if I had been prepared to go on waiting, for I never saw him again.
Then came the summer, and with it an outbreak of plague, so I left the town. But I did not lose sight of my work. I went to Cahors where I made the acquaintance of an old man who was commonly known as the Philosopher - though this is a title easily bestowed in the provinces on anyone less ignorant that the rest. I told him what I had been doing and asked his opinion. All he did was to suggest ten or a dozen processes that he thought were better than most. The plague ran its course, and I returned to Toulouse. I resumed my work and did so well that my four hundred crowns were reduced to a hundred and seventy!
Hoping to continue my operations with greater success, I made the acquaintance in 1537 of an Abbe who lived near the town. He was as enthusiastic about the Work as I was, and told me that one of his friends, a member of Cardinal d’Armagnac’s suite, had sent him a recipe from Rome, which he believd was really effective, but which was likely to cost some two hundred crowns. We provided half each of this sum, and set to work, using our capital as a common purse. As we needed some alcohol for the process, I bought a cask of excellent Gaillac wine. I rectified it several times to obtain the spirit we required; and we then put one gold mark that we had calcinated for a month into four times the quantity of spirit. This
was poured into a retort as the Art requires, with another one to balance it, and deposited on a furnace to coagulate. We left it for a year; but, so as not to be idle, we amused ourselves by carrying out various less important experiments, which were just as profitable as our Great Work!
The whole of 1537 passed without any change, and we might have waited for the rest of our lives for our brew to congeal, because spirits of wine are clearly not the diluent for gold. Still, we did recover all the gold, the only alteration it had undergone being that the metal powder was a shade finer than when we had put it to soak. We scattered it over some hot quicksilver, but in vain. You may imagine how disappointed we were, especially the Abbe, who had already told his monks that all they need do was melt down a large leaden fountain that stood in their cloisters and it would be turned into gold as soon as our operations were completed. This failure did not prevent our continuing.
Once more I aggregated my income, and drew another four hundred crowns. The Abbe added an equal amount, and I went to Paris, the best place in the world to meet practitioners of the Art. Having these eight hundred crowns, I was quite determined not to leave until either I had spent the lot or had discovered something worth while. My parents were not at all pleased about my undertaking this journey, and my friends expostulated with me for not buying a legal practice, as they thought I was a skillful lawyer. I made them believe that I was only taking this trip in order to do that very thing.
I reached Paris on the 9th January 1539, after a fortnight’s journey. For a month I hardly spoke to a soul, but as soon as I came in contact with other enthusiasts, some of whom even owned furnaces, I found that I was acquainted with over a hundred of them, each with his own particular system
-some believed in precipitation, others in dissolution, others in using an essay of emery. Then there were those who first extracted mercury from their metals, in order to fix it afterwards. Not a day passed without our meeting at the lodging of one or another of us, to tell each other how we were getting on; we did so even on Sundays and feast days, when we foregathered at Notre Dame, the most popular church in Paris. Then some would say: if only we had the means to start over again we’d get somewhere! Others: if our vessels had been strong enough we’d have done it by now! Or: if I’d had a good, round copper pot with a lid, I could have fixed the mercury with silver. There was not a single one who had not got a plausible excuse; but I was deaf to them all, having learnt by experience how badly one can be let down by such expectations.
A Greek turned up and I worked unsuccessfully with him on lumps of cinnabar. Almost at the same time I made the acquaintance of a foreign gentleman who had just arrived in Paris, and who used to sell the fruits of his operations to goldsmiths. I accompanied him, and got to know him quite well, although he would never tell me his secret. In the end he did tell me, but it proved to be simply another fraud, though rather more ingenious than most. I never failed to tell the Abbe in Toulouse all about
everything, and even sent him a copy of this gentleman’s process. He evidently thought that I was on the track of something at last, and exhorted me to stay another year in Paris, since I had made such a good beginning. Yet despite all my efforts. I made no more progress in the three years I spent there than I had done before.
I had spent almost all my money, when the Abbe sent to ask me to come and see him immediately. I did so, and found that he had had letters from the King of Navarre, who was greatly interested in Philosophy, requesting him to send me to meet him at Pau in Bearn, so as to teach him the secret I had learnt from the foreign gentleman. He said he would pay me three or four thousand crowns for it. The sound of those four thousand crowns was so sweet in the Abbe’s ears that he felt as if they were already in his purse, and he gave me no peace until I agreed to go and see the King. I got to Pau in May 1542, and successfully carried out the operation, as I had been shown it. When I had done all the King wished, I got the reward I expected
-which was nothing. Although the King himself was willing enough to do the right thing by me, he was deterred by his courtiers, even by those who had encouraged him to send for me. So I was packed off with a big thank you, and told to try and find something in his realm that I would care to accept, something that might be confiscated, for example, which hw would gladly give me. This offer, which still meant precisely nothing, gave me the impetus to go back to go back to the Abbe at Toulouse.
However, I had heard that there was a cleric who lived somewhere along the route I would be travelling, and who was well skilled in natural philosophy. So I called on him, and found him very sympathetic about my difficulties. He advised me most kindly and earnestly not to go on wasting my time over unsystematic experiments, none of which led anywhere, but to read the works of the older philosophers, both to recover what was the true substance and to find out exactly the right method of prosecuting the Work.
I greatly appreciated his wise counsel, but before putting it into practice I went to see my Abbe at Toulouse, to account for the eight hundred crowns in our common purse and also to share with him what I had received from the King of Navarre!
Although he was not very happy about what I had to tell, he seemed even less pleased with my determination not to continue our joint work, because he believed me to be a good Artist. Of our eight hundred crowns there now remained only ninety for each of us.I left him and went home, planning that I would go to Paris as soon as possible and stay there unless my reading of the Philosophers made me change my mind, I got there on the morning after All Saint’s Day in the year 1546, with enough money to live on. I spent a year studying the works of the great writers, such as the Assembly of Philosophers, the Good Trevisan, works on Natural Philosophy, and other useful books. As I had no guiding lines to direct me, I did not know which to choose among the many.
At last I emerged from my seclusion, not in order to meet my old friends
the experimenters again, but to get to know some genuine philosophers. Unfortunately my confusion became even greater, because their works were so various and their methods so diverse. Nevertheless, I was stimulated, and I immersed myself in the books of Raymond Lully and in Arnold of Villanova’s Grand Rosaire. My meditations and my researches continued for another year, and then I came to a decision; but in order to carry it out I had to make some arrangements about my property. I reached home at the beginning of Lent 1549, determined to put into practice all I had learnt. So, after some preliminaries, I bought everything I needed and began to work on the day after Easter. All this did not go off without some discomforts and vexation. Every now and then someone would say: “But what are you going to do? Haven’t you wasted enough on this nonsense?” And someone else told me that if I went on buying such quantities of charcoal people would suspect me of being a coiner, of which he had in fact already heard rumours. As I had a degree in Law, they pressed me again to buy a legal practice. But the worst came from my parents, who reproached me bitterly for the life I was leading, and actually threatened to send the police to destroy my equipment.
You can imagine how tiresome and harassing all this was. The only comfort I had was in my Work, in carrying out the operations which from day to day were becoming more successful, and to which I gave my whole mind. The interruption of all communications by another outbreak of the plague brought me into greater isolation and gave me the opportunity of concentrating wholly on my process and of realising the succession of the three colours that philosophers require before the Work is perfected. I saw them, one after the other, and I made the great attempt in the following year, on Easter Day 1550. Some ordinary quicksilver that I put in a crucible over a fire was in less than an hour turned into pure gold. You may imagine my joy. But I took care not to boast, I thanked God for His grace and I prayed that He would not allow me to use it except to His glory.
On the following day I went to see my Abbe, faithful to the mutual promise we had made to tell each other of our discoveries. I also went to visit the religious philosopher who had given me such helpful advice. But to my regret I learnt that both of them had died about six months previously. I did not return home, but retired to another place to wait for one of my relatives whom I had put in charge of my affairs. I sent him a power of attorney to sell everything I possessed, whether in goods and buildings; I told him to use the money to pay my debts and to distribute what remained to any who had need of it, and especially to my family, so that they might have at least some share in the great gift that God had bestowed on me. Everyone gossiped about my precipitate departure. The clever ones surmised that I was so overcome by my foolish extravagance that I was selling everything so as to be able to hide my shame in some place where I was not known. My cousin joined me on 1st July, and we went off to find somewhere where we could be untroubled. First we went to Switzerland, to Lausanne, and then decided that we would pass the remained of our days in peace and quite in one of the large German cities.
Archibald Cockren's alchemical discoveries
There is an interesting account of Archibald Cockren's discovery of various transmuting tinctures in his Alchemy Rediscovered and Restored, 1940. Back to alchemical texts. Back to transmutations. Back to home page.
Here then, I entered upon a new course of experiment with a metal for experimental purposes of which I had no previous experience. This metal, after the long reduction to its essentials and undergoing separation and preparing a distillation deposit of the Mercury of the Philosophers, the Aqua Benedicta, the Aqua Celestes, and water of Paradise.
The first intimation I had of this triumph was a violent hissing, jets of vapour pouring from the retort and into the receiver like sharp bursts from a machine gun, and then a violent explosion, whilst a very potent and subtle odour filled the laboratory and its surroundings. A friend has described this odour as resembling the dewy earth on a June morning, with the hint of growing flowers in the air; the breath of the wind over heather and hill, and the sweet smell of the rain on the parched earth.
Nicolas Flamel, after searching and experimenting from the age of twenty, wrote when he was eighty years old : ‘Finally I found that which I desired, which I also soon knew by the strong scent and odour thereof’. Does this not coincide, this voice from the fourteenth century, with my discovery of the peculiar subtle odours? Cremer also writes in the early fourteenth century: ‘When this happy event takes place the whole house will be filled with a most wonderful sweet fragrance, and then will be the day of the nativity of this most blessed preparation’.
Having arrived at this point my next difficulty was to find a way of storing this subtle gas without danger to property. This I accomplished by coils of glass piping in water joined up with my receiver together with a perfect government of heat, the result being that the gas gradually condensed into a clear golden coloured water, very inflammable and very volatile. This water had then to be separated by distillation, the outcome being the white mercurial water described by the Comte de St Germain as his athoeter, or primary water of all the metals.
I will again quote from Manly Palmer Hall’s introduction to the Thrice Holy Trinosophie the passage in which Casanova describes the athoeter: ‘Then he showed me his magistrum which he called Athoeter. It was a white liquid contained in a white glass phial. He told me that the liquid was the Universal Spirit of Nature, and that if the wax on the stopper were pricked ever so slightly the whole of the contents would disappear. I begged him to make the experiment. He thereupon gave me the phial and the point and I myself pricked the wax, when lo, the phial was empty.’ This passage aptly described the water, which is so volatile that it evaporates if left
unstoppered, boils at a very low temperature, and does not so much as wet the fingers. This mercurial water, this Athoeter of St Germain, is absolutely necessary to obtain the oil of gold, which is obtained by its addition to the salts of gold after those salts have been washed by distilled water several times to remove the strong acidity of the aqua regia used to reduce the metal to that state. When the mercurial water is added to these salts of gold, there is a slight hissing, an increase of heat and the gold becomes a deep red liquid, from which is obtained by means of distillation the oil of gold, a deep amber liquid of an even consistency. This oil which is the potable gold of the Alchemist, never returns to the metallic form of gold, I can understand now, I think, how it is that some of the patients to whom salt of gold injections have been administered have seccumbed to gold poisoning. So long as the salts are in an acid solution, they remain soluble, but directly the dissolving medium loses its acidity and becomes neutral or alkaline, the salts tend to form again into metallic gold. This is probably what happens in the case of the injection of gold salts into the intercellular fluids, which in some cases leads to fatal results.
Do not imagine that chemists know all about metals! They do not.
...From the golden water I have described can be obtained this white water, and a deep red tincture which deepens in colour the longer it is kept; these two are the Mercury and the Sulphur described by the Alchemists, Sol the Father and Lune the Mother, the Male and Female Principles, the White and Red Mercuries, which two, conjoined again form a deep amber liquid. This is the Philosophic Gold, which is not made from metallic gold but from another metal, and is a far more potent Elixir than the oil of gold. The deep amber liquid literally shines, and reflects and intensifies rays of light to an extraordinary degree. It has been described by many Alchemists, which fact again corroborates my work in the Laboratory. Indeed every step which I have taken in the laboratory I have found in the work of the various followers of the Spagiric Art.
...And now to the final goal, the Philosopher’s Stone. Having found my two principle the Mercury and the Sulphur, my next step was to purify the dead body of the metal, that is the black dregs of the metal left after the extraction of the golden water. This was calcined to a redness and carefully separated and treated until it became a white salt. The three principles were then conjoined in certain exact quantities in a hermetically sealed flask in a fixed heat neither too hot nor too cold, care as to the exact degree of heat being essential, as any carelessness in its regulation would completely spoil the mixture.
On conjunction the mixture takes on the appearance of a leaden mud, which rises slowly like dough until it throws up a crystalline formation rather like a coral plant in growth. The ‘flowers’ of this plant are composed of petals of crystals which are continually changing in colour. As the heat is raised the formation melts into an amber coloured liquid which gradually becomes thicker and thicker until it sinks into a black earth on the bottom
of the glass. At this point (the sign of the Crow in alchemical literature) more of the ferment or Mercury is added. In this process which is one of continued sublimation, a long necked, hermetically sealed flask is used, and one can watch the vapour rising up the neck of the flask and condensing down the sides. This process continues until the state of ‘dry blackness’ is attained. When more of the Mercury is added, the black powder is dissolved, and from this conjunction, it seems that a new substance in born, or, as the early alchemists would have expressed it, a Son is born. As the black colour abates, colour after colour comes and goes until the mixture become white and shining; the White Elixir. The heat is gradually raised yet more and from white the colour changes to citrine and finally to red - the Elixir Vitae, the Philosopher’s Stone, the medicine of Men and Metals. From their writings it appears that many alchemists found it unnecessary to take the Elixir to this very last stage, the citrine coloured solution being adequate for their purpose.
Edmund Dickinson's experience of transmutation
Extracted from William Blomberg, An Account of the Life and Writings of Edmund Dickinson, M.D. Physician in Ordinary to King Charles and King James
II. London. 1739.
During this Reign [Charles II], the Doctor [Edmund Dickinson] continued in great Esteem and Favour at Court; and upon the Accession of King James II was confirmed in his Place and King’s Physician; but this Monarch being more addicted to his Devotions than Chymistry, the Doctor had now Leisure to apply himself to Writing; wherefore, in 1686, he published his Epistola ad Mundanum de Quintessentia Philosophorum. The Occasion of writing which was, a certain Person came to the Doctor’s House, and made before him two Projections, as the Adepts term it; that is, converted or transmuted baser Metal into pure Gold, by a Powder or Stone; the Rumour of this spreading, especially amongst the Searchers after this Arcanum, he wrote this little Treatise in Latin, to which he received an Answer in French from Paris, and having it translated into that more universal Language in which his own appeared, published it with that.
Who this certain Person was, is not known, though, that there was an old personal Acquaintance between the Doctor and this Mundanus, is manifest from the Confession of the latter; ‘About twenty Years ago’, says he, ‘in making the Tour of England, I came to the famous University of Oxford; during the short Stay I made there, I was so happy to become acquainted with you, and in that Time was thoroughly sensible of the great Charge and Pains you had been at in improving yourself in Chymistry’. Upon this Gentleman’s second Appearance in England in 1679, finding the Doctor more addicted to this Art, than he imagined one of his great Practice could find Time for, to give him an undeniable Testimony of the vast Esteem he had for him, and to settle and confirm him in the Belief of a Probability of Success in the great Work, he made before him those two Projections, which
he owns, in the Space of above forty Years, in which he had been an Adept, never to have shewn to more than three Persons, except the Doctor.
The Monk Albertus Bayr discovers transmutation through evoking a spirit.
I, Frater Albertus Bayr, of the Order of the Carmelites, hereby testify before God that in the Year 1568, on the 18th of February, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary, in my Cell in the monastery of Maria Magdalena de Stella Nova, such a Countenance appeared to me and held converse with me. I had risen and retired to bed with philosophical books and thoughts; day and night I had prayed fervently to our Lord God to reveal to me the Truth of this art. Then, in my ignorance, and may God forgive me, I knew not what else to do. With great assiduity I had laboured in vain for three and twenty years with my abbot and by Day and by Night had diligently tended the fire. So I thought that one could learn this Mystery from no man and must wrest it from the Spirits. Yet, as, praised be God, I learned in the end, more is possible to Men than to Spirits. So did I on that day begin with the Ceremonies and Exorcisms of Italian-Spanish monks. As the exorcist of the monastery, God forgive me, I then called the Spirit of the Planet Mercury, and demanded that it should speak and answer. In the shape of a dark and elongated Disc, a Shadow without definite Contour, did it appear to me and in ringing and resounding Tones permit Question and Answer. At its Bidding I sat down at the table, in order with pen and ink to record the Truth. Then the Shadow, the black Gleam, entered into the middle of the Circle. The blessed sword, the consecrated candles, and the rest of the magic, did not hold it from entering. Slowly it changed from Black through ashen grey clouds to a bright white Gleam, and at last it was transformed from the White, through a shining yellow colour, into the most glorious Red. Form and Contours, however, changed not, and stood immovable until the end of the conversation in the Magic Circle. But in the middle of the gleam the Sign of Mercurius appeared in changing colours. When it disappeared, my cell was lit up within and without blood-red, and it was as when the Sun appears blood-red in a room. After this Revelation I settled everything with my Abbot, and with Labour and Diligence procured within two years eleven pounds and three and a half ounces of the right Material. Anno 1571 I had completed the Work and truly and clearly set it down. But my Abbot did not live to see it. On the Second of June preceding he was found dead in bed alongside his Concubine. From the Beginning to the End of the Work I saw all colours, as revealed by the Spirit in the Circle. Three main colours did I find in the Work - Black, White and Red. And when a mistake occurred, I received counsel and information from the Spirit. But after completing the Work I have not for years been able to summon the
Spirit. Therefore the improvement in Quality and Quantity has been very difficult for me. And as the other brethren and in especial the new Abbot were very hostile to me, because they could not learn the Secret from me, a few years later I went privily on my way. With my Tincture and a few ancient good Egyptian books I came safely to Augsburg. Thereafter I travelled towards Nuremberg, and rejoiced to be on German Soil. I am consoled by the hope of soon finding one who will show to me the Improving and Increasing. May God Almighty help all in His mercy. Be He praised evermore. Amen. -- Figulus, Benedictus. Rosarium novum Olympicum et benedictum. Das ist: ein newer gebenedeyter philosophischer Rosengarten..., Basel, 1608..
Item, I have received from an aristocratic and distinguished Nobleman this following trustworthy Report: That in this our time an Italian monk, who had abandoned himself all too much to this acquired Art, had renounced his monastic life and order, which until then he had served, together with the Papal religion and doctrine, and had come to Germany. In order that there he might order and enjoy his life in better freedom, he had entirely rejected his monk’s cowl and the strict monastery rules. But since he showed himself less cautious than is prudent, two rogues approached him and showed themselves so affectionate, that he took them to him as his trusted friends. By whom, however, on a journey which they later undertook in company, he was criminally murdered in a wood and robbed of his life. But one of the murderers showed the Powder which they found on the monk to many and various Princes and distinguished gentlemen, and represented it as his own. Thereby he defrauded many of a great deal.
--Theobald von Hoghelande, De Alchemiae Difficultatibus, Cologne 1594. Cagliostro's Transmutation in Warsaw
There is a detailed account of how, on June 7th, 1780, Cagliostro made silver in a Masonic Lodge in Warsaw, as one of the members recorded a description of the experiment.
Cagliostro made me weigh out a pound of quicksilver which had been my property and had been already purified. Before that he had bidden me distil some rainwater till all liquid had evaporated leaving a deposit which he called Virgin Earth or secunda materia. Of this there remained about 16 grains. On his instructions I had also prepared an extract of lead. After all these preparations were complete he went into the lodge, and he entrusted me with the task of carrying out the whole experiment with my own hands. I did this under his instructions in the following way: The Virgin Earth was put into a flask, and half the quicksilver was poured over it. Then I added 30 drops of the lead extract. When the flask was then shaken a little, the quicksilver appeared to be dead or frozen stiff. I then poured
lead extract into the remaining quicksilver, but this quicksilver remained unaltered. So I had to pour the two lots of quicksilver together into a larger flask. After I had shaken the quicksilver, however, for some time, all assumed the same consistency. Its colour turned dirty grey. The whole was now shaken into a bowl which it half filled. Cagliostro next gave me a small piece of paper, which proved to be only the outer wrapping of two others. The innermost contained a shining carmine-coloured powder, weighing perhaps one-tenth of a grain. The powder was shaken into the bowl, and Cagliostro then swallowed the three wrapping papers. While this was going on I filled up the bowl with plaster of Paris, which had already been prepared with warm water. Though the bowl was already full, Cagliostro took it out of my hands, added some more plaster of Paris, and pressed it firmly with his hands. Then he gave it back to me to dry it over a charcoal fire. The bowl was now placed in a bed of ashes over the wind furnace. The fire was lit and the bowl left over it for half an hour. It was then taken out with a pair of tongs and carried into the lodge. The bowl was there broken, and in the bottom lay a lump of silver weighing fourteen ounces and a half. The Transmutations of Dr. Price
Transcribed by Luke Roberts.
MERCURY AND SILVER
Made May the 6th, 1782. before the Rev. Mr. Anderson; Capt. Francis Grose; Mr. Russell and Mr. D. Grose, the Gentlemen mentioned in the Introduction as the most proper witnesses of the process, then resident in Guildford.
Half an ounce of Mercury provided by Capt. Grose (bought at an apothecary's of the town) was placed in a small hessian crucible, brought by Mr. Russell on a flux composed of Borax, (also brought by him) a small piece of charcoal, taken out of a scuttle (fortuitously) by Mr. D. Grose, and examined by the rest of the company; and a small piece of Nitre also taken out without selection, by the Rev. Mr Anderson, from a quantity in common use, in the Laboratory; these being pounded together in a mortar which all the company had previously inspected, were pressed down into the crucible with a small pestle: on this flux the Mercury was poured by Mr. Anderson, and upon it half a Grain, carefully weighed out by Mr Russell, of a certain powder of a deep red colour, furnished by Dr. P. was put on it by Mr. Anderson.
The crucible was then placed in a fire of a moderate red heat by Dr. P. who
from his greater facility in managing the fire from long habit, was thought most eligible to conduct the experiment. He repeatedly called the attention of the company to observe the stages of the process, and to remark in every part of it that any voluntary deception on his part was impossible.
In about a quarter of an hour, from the projection of the powder, and the placing of the crucible in the fire, he observed to the Company, who on inspection found his observation true, that the Mercury, though in a red hot crucible, shewed no signs of evaporation, or even of boiling: the fire was then gradually raised, with attention on the part of the company, and repeated calls for that attention from Dr. P. that no undue addition might be made to the matter in the crucible; in a strong glowing red, or rather white-red, a small dip was taken on the point of a clean Iron Rod, and when cold, the scoriae so taken being knocked off, were shewn to the company and found replete with small globules of a whitish coloured metal, which Dr. P. observed to them could not be Mercury as being evidently fixed in that strong heat: but as he represented to them might be an intermediate substance between Mercury and a more perfect metal.
A small quantity of Borax (brought by Mr. R.) was then injected by him and the fire raised, but with the same precautions on the part of Dr. P. to subject every thing to the minute inspection of the persons present; and after continuing the crucibles in a strong red-white heat for about a quarter of an hour it was carefully taken out, and gradually cooled: on breaking it, a globule of yellow metal was found at bottom, and in the scoriae smaller ones, which collected and placed in an accurate ballance by Mr. Russell, were found to weigh fully Ten Grains. This metal was in the presence of the above mentioned Gentlemen sealed up in a phial, impressed with the Seal of Mr. Anderson, to be submitted to future examination, though every one present was persuaded that the metal was gold.
The seal being broke the next morning, in the presence of the former company, and of Captain Austen, and the metal hydrostatically examined, the weight of the larger globule (the others being too minute for this mode of examination) was found to be in air 9 Grains and a Quarter, and in distilled water of temp. Fahren. 50 plus, it loft, something more than 3/8 (but not quite an half) of a grain: the difference was not appreciable, as no smaller weight than the eighth of a grain was at hand, but was judged by all the company to be nearly intermediate; i.e. 7/16:- at half a grain the sp. gr. would be rather more than 18:1; if only 3/8 were loft in water the sp. gr. would exceed 24:1. the intermediate, would be 21.1/7 nearly; but as the loss seemed rather more than the intermediate, though apparently and decided less than half a grain, the specific gravity must have been nearly as 20:1. and in this estimate all present acquiesced.
After this hydrostatical examination, the globule was flattened by percussion into a thin plate, and examined by Mr. Russell in the manner of artists for commercial purposes; on finishing his scrutiny he declared it to be as good gold as the grain gold of the refiners, and that he would readily purchase such gold as that which he had just examined at the
highest price demanded for the purest gold.
The plate being then divided, one half was before the company sealed up by Mr. A. to be submitted to a trial of its purity, which Dr. P. proposed, requesting his friend, Dr. Higgins, of Greek Street, to make; the remainder being put into Aq. Regia of Nit. acid and Sal. Ammon. afforded a solution sufficiently rich, before the company separated, to yeild with sol. of Tin, a richly coloured crimson precipitate.
Capt. G. was accidentally absent when the precipitate was made, but saw it next day. In about four hours the portion of metal employed was completely dissolved, and the next morning before Capt. and Mr. D. Grose, and Mr Russell (Mr. A. being prevented from coming) the solution being divided into three portions the following experiments were made *.
[* The small plate falling by accident on a globule of Mercury on the table readily amalgamated with it. This is mentioned in consequence of an observation in the Critical Review. The Smiris Hispanica is not in the least employed in the Preparation injected on the Mercury.
The Process is more analogous to that of Dr. Brandt, referred to by the ingenious Reviewer of this article, in his very candid and satisfactory Critique.]
To the first portion, diluted with water, was added a quantity of Caustic Vol. Alk. and the precipitate, which was copious, being duly separated and dried, about a grain of it, placed on a tin plate, was heated and found to explode smartly. This experiment was repeated three times.
To the second portion, diluted, was added a portion of Sol. of Tin, in Aq. Reg. A beautiful crimson coloured precipitate was immediately formed in considerable quantity; which when dried, was mixed with a fusible frit, composed of flint-powder, and the fluxes proper for the Ruby Glass of Cassius, in the proportion of 5 Grains of the precipitate to 3ij of the frit, and in a vitrifying heat afforded in about three hours a transparent glass, which by heating again, assumed an elegant crimson colour: and the remainder which continued in the fire also acquired a bright red colour.
The third portion being mixed with Vitriolic Ether, imparted to it the yellow colour given to this fluid by solutions of Gold: and the Ether being evaporated in a shallow vessel, a thin purplish pellicle adhered to the fide, spotted in several places with yellow.
Dr. Higgins soon after receiving the piece of Metal, favoured the Author with an answer, in which he notified that the packet came to him under the proper seal:- That he was well satisfied of the purity of the gold he received; and that he considered the author's experiments as exclusively sufficient to have ascertained the nature and purity of the metal.
Made at Dr. Price's, May 8th, 1782, before Sir Philip Clarke, Dr. Spence, the Rev. Mr. Anderson, Capt. Grose, Mr. Russel, and Mr. D. Grose.
Half an ounce of Mercury, procured from one Mr. Cunningham an Apothecary of the town, was placed on a flux composed of an ounce of powdered Charcoal, two drachms of Borax, and one scruple of Nitre, and on it when a little warmed was projected one grain of a white powder, furnished by Dr. Price.
After the Crucible had acquired a red heat, the Company all saw the Mercury lying quiet at the bottom, without boiling or smoking in the least, and it continued in this tranquil state after it had gained a full red heat. It was continued in a fire gradually augmented to a white heat, near three quarters of an hour, a smaller crucible previously inspected, being inverted on it, to prevent coals from falling in: and the crucible being then withdrawn and cooled, many globules of white metal were found diffused through the whole mass of scoriae: of these globules were collected to the weight of ten grains, before the company separated, and consigned to the care of Mr. Russel, who took them away with him.
Part of the remaining globules being afterwards collected, by pounding the crucible and washing over the powder, the whole when melted together amounted to thirteen grains.
Dr. Price remarked on this process, that having taken too great a quantity of Charcoal, the globules were thereby dispersed over the whole mass, and the powder having been sprinkled against the sides of the crucible had not produced its greatest effect. And that some of the Mercury which had escaped its action must have been volatilized by the heat; and this on inspection of the covering crucible was found to be true. The Experiment was therefore the next morning repeated in presence of Mr. Anderson, Capt. and Ensign Grose and Mr. Russel.
The remaining half ounce of Mercury was employed; the charcoal and borax both taken without selection from large quantities in the laboratory, were powdered by Mr. Grose, and the Mercury placed in the crucible as in the former Experiment.
Barely half a grain of the White powder, weighed out by Mr. Russel, was projected on the Mercury, which by some accidental delay had begun to boil in the Crucible; but on the application of the powder the ebullition ceased, although the crucible and contained Mercury was subjected to a much greater heat; and it continued without boiling, even when of a red heat. The crucible was gradually heated to a white heat, and when cooled and broke, there was found in the bottom a well collected bead of fine white metal, weighing four grains.
On the fame day, and the fame persons being present as at the preceeding experiment, the following was made on Silver.
Mr. Russel weighed out sixty grains (one Drachm) of Grain Silver, which he had purchased of Messrs Floyer and Co, refiners in Love Lane, Wood Street, Cheapside: this quantity was placed in a small Crucible on some of the flux made as above, before the Company; and on the silver, when in fusion, was projected a bare half grain of the Red Powder, used in Experiment I. The crucible was then replaced in the fire, and continued there for about a quarter of an hour; a piece of Borax taken at a venture, out of a jar containing a large quantity, was thrown on the metal by Mr. Grose.
Dr. Price soon after, from the appearance of the flux imagining the crucible to be cracked (by the cold and moisture of the borax) took it out of the fire, and finding that what he suspected had happened, did not replace it; when cool it was broke, and the button of Metal was found in the bottom, which when weighed, appeared not to have loft any of its original weight, so that fortunately only the flux had transuded.
That no doubt might arise from the failure of the Crucible in the last Experiment, a similar one was made in the presence of the fame persons, with the addition of J. D. Garthwaite of --- Esq; who was also present at the latter part of Experiment IV.
Thirty Grains of the abovementioned Grain Silver was by Mr. Russel weighed out, and put into a small Hessian Crucible on a flux of Charcoal and Borax made before the company, with the fame precautions as in Experiment I. On the Silver when fused, was projected by Mr. Anderson a bare half grain of the Red Powder, and about five minutes after, some Glass of Borax (to avoid the moisture contained in crude Borax) was thrown in by one of the Company. The Crucible after being kept in a red-white heat for about fifteen minutes was taken out, and when cold broke: at the bottom of the scoriae or rather flux, which in this Experiment was neatly fused, lay the button of metal which was found nearly, if not exactly, of its original weight.
It was then tried by Mr. Russel in the artists' manner; as was also the piece of metal obtained in Experiment IV. He found both of them to contain gold; the latter in larger quantity, as might be expected, from the relative proportion of the Powder and Silver in the two Experiments.
Dr. Price also examined the metal on the touchstone (Basaltes) and with Nitrous acid; when all the company saw the mark of Gold remaining, while a mark made by a piece of the very parcel of Grain Silver from which the portion used in these Experiments had been taken, and placed by the fide of the mark from the enriched Silver, totally vanished on wetting it with the Aqua Fortis.
The mark from the enriched Silver remained (of a yellow colour) after repeated affusions of weak and strong Aqua Fortis. So that the Company were entirely convinced that Gold was now contained in the fused Silver.
The Chemical Reader will probably anticipate the Author's observation; - that of the known metallic substances of a Gold colour, Sulphurated Tin, could not without decomposition, have sustained the heat employed in these Experiments; and that Copper, or Regulus of Nickel, would have been dissolved by the Nitrous acid, equally with the Silver. The remark is indeed scarce necessary; for had it been possible to have secretly introduced into the Crucible any of these metals, (and none of the Company would for a moment tolerate the idea of such an attempt having been made) the identity of weight observed was sufficient to prove that nothing but the crimson powder had been added.
After the pieces of metal had been thus separately examined, they were melted together, and when cool it was remarked that the surface of the culot of metal was elegantly radiated with alternate striae and furrows; an appearance not usual in fused Silver. Ten grains were reserved by Dr. P. for his own examination; and the other 80 grains were taken by Mr. Russel, to be assayed in the refiners' manner.
Dr. P. found the proportion of Gold to be 1/8 of the whole mass.
Mr. Russel in the course of a few days caused all the abovementioned Gold, Silver, and the mixture of Gold and Silver, to be assayed in the artists' manner, for the refiners, at the office of Messrs Pratt and Dean, Assay-Masters near Cheapside.
They assayed each portion separately, and reported the Gold and Silver to be of the most compleat purity: and the enriched Silver to contain Gold in the proportion of one eighth of the joint weight: and this report he also repeated before the Spectators of Experim. VII. on May. 25.
It was remarkable that both the Refiner and Assay-master at first affirmed the impossibility of success in the process; and prejudiced by received opinions, questioned the purity of the metals, though they owned they looked much like ordinary Gold. The assay removed their doubts; and they owned with surprize, that the metals were entirely pure, and certified their purity in their official report.
Made May 15, 1782, before Sir Philip Horton Clarke, the Rev. B. Anderson, Capt. Grose, Dr. Spence, Mr. D. Grose and Mr. Hallamby, and several times repeated before Mr. Anderson, and Dr. Spence.
Two ounces of Mercury were, by one of the company taken out of a Cistern in the Laboratory, containing about two hundred weight of Quicksilver (for experiments on the Gasses) and in a small Wedgewood's ware Mortar rubbed
with a drop or two of Vit. Ether: on this Mercury, which was very bright and remarkably fluid, barely a grain of the white powder was put, and afterwards, rubbed up with it for about three minutes.
On pouring the Mercury out of the Mortar, it was observed to have become blackish and to pour sluggishly; after standing ten minutes, on being poured out of the vessel in which it had stood, it was found considerably less fluid than before; and in a quarter of an hour's time so increased in spissitude as hardly to pour at all; but seemed full of lumps. Being now strained through a cloth, a substance like an amalgam, of a pretty solid consistence, remained behind; the unfixed mercury being expelled from this mass, by placing it on a charcoal and directing the flame of a lamp on it with a blow-pipe, a bead of fine white metal remained fixed in a strong red heat; which by every subsequent trial appeared to be Silver: the weight of the bead thus collected, weighed and examined before the company separated, was 18 Grains: but much remaining in the strained Mercury, this was afterwards separated and weighed 11 grains; the whole obtained was therefore 29 grains, or in proportion to the powder as 28:1.
Five drachms of Mercury, taken out in the same manner as the above two ounces, were rubbed up with Vit. Ether, and afterwards with barely a quarter of a grain of the Red powder; a mass like an amalgam being obtained by straining it after it had stood about a quarter of an hour, and the Mercury driven off before the blow-pipe, as in the former Experiment, a bead of yellow metal remained, weighing 4 grains; and after standing some time longer, Gr. 2 and 1/4 more were obtained, both which resisted Aqua Fortis on the touch-stone; and a small quantity being dissolved in Aqua Regia, a purple precipitate was produced from the Sol. by the Sol. of Tin and a brownish one by Sol. Ferri Vitriolati, Bergm. (Green Vitriol or Copperas;) in this Experiment therefore the quantity of Gold was to the powder employed, as 24:1, exclusive of the weight of the powder.
The former part of this Experiment was repeated on Saturday the 18th day of May, before the Rev. Mr. Manning, the Rev. Mr. Fulham, the Rev. Mr. Anderson, the Rev. Mr. Robinson and Dr. Spence.
Two ounces of Mercury, treated as before mentioned, (after exhibiting phaenomena similar to those above related) afforded a mass, one half of which only (to avoid the noxious fumes of the whole) after having the Mercury expelled from it by a white heat before the blow-pipe, yielded upwards of twelve grains of a white metal, that in every trail to which it was submitted, appeared to be Silver.
The product* therefore including the Silver contained in the strained Mercury would have been nearly as 28:1; as in the former Experiment.
A small portion (about 3ij) of the above Mercury being put into another vessel, and about the sixth of a Grain of the red Powder put on it, the Mercury after being ground up with it, and standing some time, was strained as the former, and the small mass so obtained, placed before the blow-pipe.
It yielded something more than a grain of Metal, which examined by Nit. acid on the Touchstone, evidently contained Gold; as was apparent to the Company before their leaving the Laboratory. It was intended to have been submitted to other trials, but from its minuteness and form, was accidentally loft.
[* The Author by the words product, produced and the like, here and in other places means only to express that a quantity of precious metal was really obtained; and neither to affirm or deny any speculative opinions relative to the mode of action of the matter projected on the Mercury, or concerning the manner in which the precious metal is contained in Mercury.]
Made Saturday May 25th, 1782, in the presence of the Lords Onslow, King and Palmerston, Sir Robert Barker, Sir Philip H. Clarke, Bart., The Rev. O. Manning, G. Pollen, B. Anderson, J. Robinson, Clks; Dr. Spence, Wm. Mann Godschall, Wm. Smith, W. Godschall, Junr., Esqrs - Messrs Gregory and Russel.
3ij Mercury were taken from the Cistern formerly mentioned, and in a similar manner, and rubbed up with a few drops of Vit. Ether, in a small mortar, as in Experiment VI.
A bare grain of the white powder was projected, and afterwards rubbed up with it. The Mercury, which before the addition of the powder had been very bright and fluid, was now perceived by the company to be dull and run heavily: it was poured out into a small glass vessel, and after standing for about 45 minutes was put into a cloth to be strained. It now poured so sluggishly that the latter portions of it seemed in a state intermediate, between fluidity and solidity, or to use a term less scientific, but like many other vulgar ones, very descriptive, poured grouty.
Great part of the superfluous Mercury being strained off a mass similar to an amalgam was left in the cloth: and the remaining Mercury which could not be pressed out, being driven off by fire from a portion (about a fourth) of the whole mass, a globule of white metal which had all the appearance of Silver, remained, and was kept in a white heat for about two minutes, before the blow pipe.
On the same day and before the same respectable Company:- half an ounce of Mercury revivified from Cinnabar, brought by the Rev. Mr. Anderson, was by him placed in a small round English crucible, taken from among a number of others in the Laboratory, by Lord Palmerston, on a flux composed of a small piece of Charcoal and a piece of borax, both taken casually by some of the company from large quantities, and pounded in a mortar previously inspected by those present.
This flux being pressed down in the crucible with a small pestle, also examined, the mercury was poured into the depression, by one of the
spectators, and on it half a grain, bare weight, of the Red Powder, was put by Lord Palmerston. The crucible being then covered with a lid taken in the same manner as the crucible from among many others, and shewn round to the company, was placed in the furnace surrounded by lighted charcoal.
One or more of the Company, particularly the Lords King and Palmerston were during the whole time of the Experiment close to the furnace and operator; and as requested by him gave the closest attention to every part of the process.
When the crucible had acquired a full red heat, the cover was removed, and several of the Company saw the Mercury in a tranquil state, neither evaporating, nor boiling: in which state it continued even when the Mercury itself was completely ignited.
The cover being replaced, the fire was gradually raised to a white heat: the crucible being continued in this heat for thirty minutes, was taken out, cooled, and broke.
A globule of Metal was found at bottom, neatly fused, and exactly fitting the concavity of the divided scoriae. This globule fell out by the blow, among the fragments of the crucible, and was taken up and shewn round to the Company by Lord Palmerston, and in their presence replaced in the hollow of the vitrified Borax, to which it was accurately adapted.
Many other globules were diffused through the scoriae attached to the sides of the crucible, fragments of which were distributed among the company at their request.
The bead which lay at the bottom, weighed about ten grains, and was taken away, together with the Silver, by Mr. Godschall; and by him afterwards transmitted to Lord Palmerston, to be submitted to proper examination.
Mr. Godschall returned the Gold, with the Assay-Master's report on it and on the Silver.
The Assay-Master, whom Mr. G. for greater certainty on this occasion had the precaution to have recommended by the Clerk of the Gold-smith's company, reported both the Gold and Silver to be perfectly pure.
Dr. Price, though acquainted with the characters employed by Assay-Masters in making their reports (which are peculiar to them) unwilling to rely entirely on his own knowledge, and being desirous to offer collateral evidence to the public, shewed the Gold and the Report to Mr. Lock, an experienced Goldsmith of Oxford, without informing him of any of the above particulars.
Mr. Lock affirmed the metal to be by the Report Pure Gold: which he added, was confirmed by it's appearance: and that it consequently was superior to Gold of the English standard.
Two Experiments, similar to those made on Saturday May 25th, were repeated on a larger scale, before some of the above company on the Tuesday following; with the fame attention on their part, and more on that of the Author to the regulation of the fire, which he observed to them, being now less engaged, and his attention not divided, he could employ to produce a much greater effect.
By twelve grains of the White powder were obtained from thirty ounces of Mercury upwards of an ounce and a quarter, or six hundred grains of fixed white metal *; or in the proportion of 50:1. - And two grains of the Red powder, produced from one ounce of Mercury, two drachms, or 120 grains of fixed and tinged * metal; i.e. sixty times its own weight. [* The words fixed and tinged are not used in conformity to any theoretical notions, but merely to denote the obvious properties of the Metals obtained; and to avoid calling them Gold and Silver without the authority of an assay.]
These last portions of Gold and Silver, as well as a part of the produce of the former Experiment, have had the honour of being submitted to the inspection of his Majesty; who was pleased to express His approbation.
This honour may be mentioned with the less impropriety, as it is conferred by a Sovereign equally revered for his patronage of Science and beloved for his amiable condescension.
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Published on: 2005-09-14 (10035 reads)[ Go Back ]