Equipment and Materials Required for the First Operation of Alchemy
1. The most important piece of equipment is the hot-plate. In times past the
alchemists only had primitive fires or ovens that were kept going with all
kinds of fuels that needed constant watching to prevent them going cold, for
periods of time often measured in months. Any diminution in heat could
result in failure of the experiment, thus wasting months of work. Now,
thermostatically controlled hot-plates, with adjustable temperatures which
will keep going for weeks, months, or years without supervision, are
available to the researcher. A hot-plate of approximately 18 by 10 in. will
allow several experiments to be run at the same temperature at the same
2. At least four Pyrex flasks of 150 ml and two of 250 ml to act as
receiving flasks for the condensed vapour rising from the retort containing
the metals. This is the philosopher’s mercury which is extracted from the
powdered metals with a heat which must not exceed 150-170F.
3. Two retorts of 100 ml and one of 250 ml, with long necks, made of Pyrex
to withstand the constant heat. These must be flat-bottomed to stand firmly
on the hot-plate.
4. A home-made surround of thick asbestos, with cardboard or asbestos cover,
to conserve the heat generated by the hot-plate. This should have fairly
tight apertures for the necks of the retorts to protrude through.
5. The ground-glass bungs with which the retorts are fitted should be
replaced by rubber bungs, as these will merely blow out if too much pressure
is generated in the retort rather than causing the apparatus to explode,
with the consequent loss of equipment, time and metals. There should be a
number of replacement bungs, as the rubber tends to harden in the heat.
However be very careful not to allow vapour to be lost, and therefore do not
open the retorts too often; after all, the farmer does not pull up his seeds
every now and then to see how they are getting along. Make sure that all
closures are absolutely airtight.
6. A range of Kilner jars to store various materials and products of the
work under airtight conditions, able to withstand heat.
7. Accurate scales graduated in sixteenths of an ounce, up to a pound.
8. Pestle and mortar for crushing compounds hardened under heat.
9. A small strong magnet, for iron filings.
10. A few plastic funnels with spouts capable of entering the retorts.
11. Stirrers and spoons, to remove matter from the flasks.
12. Various grade mesh sieves.
13. Brushes for manipulating fine powders.
14. A small torch to inspect the retorts during the heating.
15. Evaporating dishes to dry metals.
16. Most importantly, a notebook to record dates, results and quantities.
The metals to be used: All metals used in alchemy should be in powder form,
so as to obtain the most intimate mixtures without the necessity of fusion.
These may be obtained from manufacturers, but it is important that they be
as chemically pure (99 per cent) and as finely ground as possible, as this
will save much time.
a. Sol or Gold or Luna or Silver 1 part
(Never to be used together at any stage)
b. Antimony with Mars or Iron in a regulus 1 part
c. Venus or Copper (if it is decided to use it) 1 part (Venus is a blind,
and is often referred to with contempt by the alchemists, but see Chapter 6
for details of this difficulty.)
Signs and Symbols Used in Alchemical Literature
Note: As the
symbols will not translate into ASCII, this portion of the text has been
AIR: Vapour, not the atmosphere. The vapour arising from metals.
ALKAHEST: Secret fire.
AMALGAM: Mixture of metals by fusion.
ARGENT VIVE: Philosopher’s mercury or “living silver”.
ATHANOR: Oven used by the alchemists, now superseded.
AURUM ALBUM: White gold.
AZOTH: First mixture of metals.
BALNEUM MARIAE: A warm water bath kept at a temperature bearable by a human
CALCINATION: To reduce by heat but not by burning.
CIBATION: The wetting of the dried matter.
COLOUR SEQUENCE: Jet black, white, citrine, blood red.
CONGEALATION: Solidification from liquid.
CONJUNCTlON: Amalgamation of several elements. CUPELLATION: The
metallurgical test for assaying gold, first mentioned by Gerber.
DIGESTION: Concoction for the purpose of extracting the essence from a
DISSOLUTION: The slow separation of a body into its components in a liquid.
EARTH: Metals are often referred to as “earth”.
EXALTATION: Raising the power or virtue of the philosophers’ stone to enable
it to transmute.
FERMENTATION: Adding the required precious metal as a “yeast” to the
philosophers’ stone enabling it to transmute base metals into this
particular precious metal.
JUPITER: Planetary name for tin.
LAPIS PHILOSOPHORUM: The philosophers’ stone, which is of course a powder
and not a stone.
LUNA: The planetary name for silver, often referring to the regulus of
antimony and iron.
MAGNESIA: Sometimes used for loadstone or talc, but by many alchemists
merely applied to mixtures of metals.
MARS: Planetary name for iron.
MENSTRUUM: Any fluid that dissolves a solid, sometimes a catalyst.
MERCURIAL SUBLIMATE: Vapour of metals, not used by the alchemists in its
modern chemical meaning.MERCURY, philosophical: Sophic fire, a brilliant
clear liquid, not ordinary mercury.
MERCURY, vulgar: Common quicksilver.
MULTIPLICATION: Increasing the quality and quantity of the Philosophers’
OUR FIRE: Secret fire.
PEACOCK’S TAIL: The varied colours that arise during the course of the work
which resemble the colours seen when petrol is spilt on a wet surface.
PHILOSOPHERS’ STONE: The powder with which the transmutation is finally
PHILOSOPHICAL VITRIOL: Not aqua regis, associated with copper or the vapour
extracted from copper.
PROJECTION: The final work of transmutation into gold or silver.
PUTREFACTION: The first change to be seen, the appearance of blackness.
REBIS: Two metals joined like a regulus with the aid of a catalyst.
RED MAN: Iron, or occasionally gold, or copper.
REGULUS: Two metals mixed in a natural manner, but not by the application of
ordinary fire but by a natural heat bearable by man. SALT: Not ordinary
salt, but part of the nature of metals. SATURN: Planetary name for lead, but
to the alchemists this quite often referred to a black stage rather than the
SECRET FIRE: See philosophical mercury.
SEPARATION: To break up into light and heavy parts.
SOPHIC FIRE: See philosophical mercury.
SOPHIC MERCURY: See philosophical mercury.
SUBLIMATION: Extraction by volatilisation or distillation. SULPHUR,
philosophers’: That which is extracted from metals which the alchemists
claim was present in all metals in varying quantities, not chemical sulphur.
TRANSMUTATION: The changing of one metal into another.
UNIVERSAL MENSTRUM: See philosophical mercury.
VENUS: Planetary name for copper.
WATER: Refers to philosophers’ mercury.
WHITE WIFE: A white metal sometimes antimony.
In this book, complete treatises, extracts and quotations are taken from the
following books written by masters of the art of alchemy, mainly from the
Middle Ages. Fitted together, these produce a picture that will clarify much
that has never been generally known about alchemy. Nevertheless, a warning
is here given that the serious student should be on guard when reading any
of the undermentioned books and not accept everything he finds as true. Most
of these books may be found by readers in the library of the British Museum.
Though there are many thousands of alchemical treatises spread around the
world, the following are recommended as the most practical.
Ali-Puli, Epistles, 1951.
Anonymous German Alchemist, Hermetic Triumpth, 1723. Artephius, Secret Book,
Bacon, Roger, Root of the World (Radix Mundi), 1692.
Hamilton-Jones, J. W., Bacstrom’s Alchemical Anthology, 1960.
Hermes Trismegistus, The Golden Treatise, 1692.
Kelley, Edward, “Book of St. Dunstans” (in Alchemical Writings, 1893).
Maier, Michael, Atalanta Fugiens, 1617.
Paracelsus, “Theory of Alchemy” (in Works, 1894).
Philalethes, Eirenaeus, Marrow of Alchemy, 1654.
Ripley Revived, 1678.
Pontanus, John, Sophic Fire, 1624.
Ripley, George, “Twelve Gates” (in Opera Omnia Chemica, 1649). Sendivogius,
Michael, A New Light of Alchemy, 1650.
Synesius, “The True Book” (in Basil Valentine’s Triumphant Chariot of
Urbigerus, Baro, One Hundred A phorisms, 1690.
Vaughan, Thomas (Eugenius Philalethes), Magical and Alchemical Writings (ed.
A. E. Waite, 1888).
Note: This index has been stripped of page numbers, as they have little
meaning given the format of this document.
Alchemical Writings of Edward Kelley
Antimony oil of
Argent vive antimonial
Argent vive, unclean
Argentum vivum, see Argent vive
Argentum vivum album fixcum
Art of Alchemy
Athenor, see Athanor
Bacstrom’s Alchemical Anthology
Book of St Dunstans
Brief Guide To The Celestial Ruby, A
Concentrated Centre of Nature, The,
Copellation, see also Cupellation
Diana of the Wise
Elixir of Life
Epistles of Ali-Puli
Excrement, see also Faeces,
Experience and Philosophy
Fire! see ‘Our Fire’, Secret Fire, Sophic Fire
Frederick the Great
Golden Treatise (Tract), The
Hamilton-Jones, J. W.,
Ignis-Aqua, see Igneous water
Lapis Philosophorum, see also Philosopers’ Stone
Lion, see also Green Lion
Luna, see also Moon
Luna alba philosphorum
Magical and Alchemical Writings of Thomas Vaughan
Marrrow of Alchemy, The
Menstrue, see also Menstruum
Mercury, see also Philosophers’ Mercury and ‘Our Mercury’
Mercury, Universal Lunar
Moon, see also Luna
New Light of Alchemy, A
One Hundred Aphorisms
Opera Omnia Chemica
‘Our Fire’, see also Secret Fire and Sophic Fire
‘Our Mercury’ see also Mercury and Philosophers Mercury
‘Our Stone’, see Philosophers’ Stone
Philalethes, Eugenius, see Vaughan Thomas
Philosophers’ Mercury, see also Mercury and ‘Our Mercury’
Philosophical Vitriol, see also Vitriol,
Primal Matter or First Principles, 72-5,
Prilna Materia, see also First matter
Ripley, Sir George
Root of the World
Sal alebrot philosophorum
Saturnus plumbum philosophorum
Secret Book; The
Secret Fire, see also Sophic Fire and’Our Fire’,
Six Keys of Eudoxus, The
Sol, see also Sun
Sophic Fire, see also Secret Fire and ‘Our Fire’
Sophic Fire, The
Sophic Mercury, see also Philosophers’ Stone
Sound of the Trumpet, The
Sperm of metals
St. Germain, Count De
Stone, see Philosophers’ Stone Sublimation
Summary of Philosophy
Sun, see also Sol
Theory of Alchemy, The
Tincture of Luna, see Luna
Tincture of Sol, see Sol
Trevisan, Bernard, Marquise of
Triumphal Chariot of Antimony, The
True Book, The
Twelve Gates of Alchemy, The
Vitriol, see also Philosophical vitriol,
Waite, A. E.