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A reading of Lully's Alchemical Experiments

There is an interesting 17th century alchemical compendium:-


Paracelsus Of The Chymical Transmutation, Genealogy and Generation of Metals & Minerals.
Also, Of the Urim and Thummim of the Jews. With An Appendix, of the Vertues and Use of an
excellent Water made by Dr. Trigge. The second Part of the Mumial Treatise. Whereunto is
added, Philosophical and Chymical Experiments of that famous Philosopher Raymund Lully;
Containing, The right and due Composition of both Elixirs. The admirable and perfect way of
making the great Stone of the Philosophers, as it was truely taught in Paris, and sometimes
practised in England, by the said Raymund Lully, in the time of King Edw. 3. Translated into
English by R. Turner
London, printed for Richard Moon at the seven Stars, and Hen: Fletcher at the three gilt Cups in
Paul's Church-yard. 1657.

Contained in this is a work of practical experiments by the supposed Raymond Lully. These are
likely to have been written in the seventeeth century based on some earlier publications of 'Lully'
experiments in Latin and German.

Philosophical and Chymical Experiments Of the Famous Philosopher Raymund Lully. Wherein
is contained, The right and true Composition Of Both Elixirs and Universal Medicine: The
admirable and perfect way of making the great Stone of the Philosophers, as it was truely taught
in Paris, and sometimes practised in England by Raymund Lully in the time of K. Edward the
third. Now for the Benefit of all Lovers of Art and Knowledge, carefully translated into English,
out of High-German and Latine, by W.W. Student in the Celestial Sciences, and Robert Turner.

The text is one of those works of practical alchemy in which the experiments are simply
described. Unlike other texts of practical alchemy which obviously on purpose code or obscure
the meaning of the terms involved, this would appear to be a straightforward account of a series
of experiments. We will just look at the first 'experiment' which is in chapters 1 and 2 and give a
reading of the text into modern chemical terms.

Chapter I. Let us look at what the author is asking us to


Teacheth, how to prepare the Salt start with - Bay salt, that is salt created in
for the white and red Elixir. salt pans in sea bays by evapouration. This is
Take, in the Name of God, great Bay-Salt as a natural, crude, though relatively pure form
it is made out of the Sea; take a good of salt.
quantity and stamp very small into a stone-
Morter : then take Cucurbites of Glass, and Our author asks us to wash it and dissolve it
pour your Salt therein: then take fair Well- in well water, that is pure drinking water.
water, and let your Salt resolve into cleer Then one is asked to filter it over into
water; being all dissolved, then distil it by another vessel using a capillary filter - not
Filter; that is to say, hang a jag Felt or the filter paper of modern chemistry, but a
Woolen-cloath, in the Cucurbite; and let the ribbon of cloth wetted and placed with one
other end hang in another Glass beside it, set end in the vessel of impure substance and
as it were under it, that the Water may drop the other in a receiving vessel. The solution
into it, that the Felt or Cloath will draw out, 'distils' over leaving the impurities in the
and that shall be cleer as Silver: and when cloth.
that all the water is dopped over, look to it if
that it be very cleer; if it be not, filter it again
into another Glass, till it be cleer or
Christalline: and when it is so, put it into a
Glasen Pan, set it upon a Sand-Oven, and let
the Water vapour away, till that it do come
above like unto white-Salt: then take stone-
piss-Pots, or Pots made of Cullen-Earth,
such as the drinking Pots be made of, and
put the Water and the Salt that remains,
therein, and set upon the said Oven, and let
it vapour away; and while that it doth dry,
stir it with a stick, till that it be very dry,
otherwayes, it will come into a lump or We are then asked to place this clear
mass: and this being well dried, beat it in a solution into a glass pan and heat it on a
stone- Morter very fine, as you did before, sand bath, so as to evapourate off the water.
and then put it into a melting Cruce, and set This is powdered and placed into a melting
them into a glowing Oven, or Say-Oven, crucible and placed in an assay oven, that is
which is an Oven that the Gold- smiths do one that can generate a considerable
enamel their Rings in: the Oven being very temperature - he uses the term 'glowing hot'.
hot, take the Cruses that be filled with Salt,
and set them into the Oven, and let them The matter is taken out when cold and
stand until they be glowing hot; and see that pounded to a powder in a mortar, and then
they be no hotter behinde then before: if they returnd to the assay furnace, this being
be, then turn them round with a pair of Gold- repeated seven times.
smiths Tongs: put but one Pot in the Oven at
a time, that you may do them the better; and The resulting substance is dissolved in well
when that Pot is red glowing hot, take it out, water and 'distilled' with the capillary filter
and put it in another to be calcined. again. Then back to the sand bath and repeat
the process.
And then, when cold, put it again into your
Morter, and break it as small as you can, the The author then suggests that we test the
third time, and then set it in the Fire of the resulting salt by placing it on a glowing plate
Oven to glow as aforesaid, Two or three of silver. If it melts like wax then you have
times glowing, and breaking of it every time the right result.
in a stone-Morter until seven times, and then
put it into Well-water to dissolve, till it be all Now sodium chloride melts at about 850
dissolved into cleer water. degrees centigrade, but usually it tends to
spit and boil a bit, rather than melt like wax,
Then distil it by Filter, until it be as cleer as however, this decrepitation is due to water
Christal, then set it again upon your Oven to trapped in the crystals of salt. By heating the
dry, and the Water to vapour until that it be powdered salt to a high temperature seven
Salt, and stir it with a stick as beforesaid. times in the assay furnace, this trapped water
will have been removed so the salt when
And when that it is dry, set it to calcine heated will melt without spitting, i.e. flow
again, as beforesaid, in the Sand- Oven; and like wax.
when that all the Pots that have the Salt, be At the end of these processes one will have
all glowing hot, then take them out, and beat pure sodium chloride, mixed with small
them to Powder, as before; and again amount of Potassium Chloride and some
dissolve into Water. Magnesium salts and other substances found
in trace amounts in sea water.
Then distil it again by Filter, as before: this
shalt thou do so many times, to say, dissolve
into Water, and then distil by Filter, and then
congeal it into dry Salt, glowing it by Fire:
this do without resting until it come to be fat,
and that it will melt upon a hot glowing
Plate of Luna: and if it will not melt like
Wax, you must dissolve, distil, congeal, until
that it will come to that point or perfection:
and you must be careful, lest that it should
melt in the Calcination; for then all your
labour is lost. Keep this for a great secret:
and such a preparation doth appertain to the
Salt, that which is the Riches of this world.

For otherwise thou shalt never come to the


perfect end of any Elixir, without such Salt
prepared, as aforesaid, to say, to the white
Elixir, nor yet to the red.

Therefore, my beloved Son, he that doth


know the Secrets of this Salt, (to say) his
Solution, his Congealation, Distillation and
Calcination, and can well understand,
knoweth the whole Secrets of Natural
Philosophy, and wise men also; that is to
say, how and in what manner he ought to
dissolve, distil, congeal, and calcine.
Therefore let not the labour in preparing of
this Salt be grievous unto thee; for without
great cost you may learn herein, to distil by
Filter, dissolve, congeal, and calcine; and to
form all the works that be needful unto thee
in this Science.

So that you come to the principal work, you


shall not be to seek or to learn: Therefore be
patient, and leave not off to work, until thou
hast brought thy Salt to that pass as I have
taught thee before, until it melt upon a hot
glowing Plate of Silver, as Wax in the fire:
for without this Salt thy labor is in vain; for
it is the Key of this Science.

The second chapter requests us initially to


Chapter II. take saltpetre (potassium nitrate) and alum
Teacheth with this prepared salt (potassium aluminium sulphate) and distil
to make the Elixir to the white work. these together to make a strong water. This
Take of Salt-Peter two parts, and one part of strong water will be aqua fortis (nitric acid).
Allome, and distil thereof a strong Water.
We are asked to take 'capel luna'. What can
Then take of your prepared Salt so much as this substance be? This is probably a
you will set to work, and take as much fine misreading for cupelled Luna, or silver
Capel Luna as you have of your Salt. purified by cupellation. The author obvious
means the metal rather than a salt of silver,
Beat your Luna into thin Plates, and dissolve because he refers immediately to thin plates,
into the strong Water a part, in a Glass by possibly silver leaf. This finely ground silver
itself. is then dissolved in the acid to give silver
nitrate.
Likewise your Salt you must dissolve in the
said strong Water by it self. One is asked to dissolve the salt prepared
earlier separately in the nitric acid
And when your Luna and Salt is dissolved in
both Glasses, put the two cleer Waters These two solutions are then mixed together.
together, and note that you put no more The silver will be precipitated as silver
Water to the dissolution of these two chloride (the milky matter) and sinks to the
matters, then will dissolve them, and you bottom. You are to shake this, then let it
shall see your Luna fall to the bottom of the stand till it is clear. The clear greenish water
Glass, white, like Milk: take the Glass will be a complex mixture of sodium
properly, and shake it in your hand, and let it chloride, sodium nitrate and possibly some
stand, and you shall see your Luna as a complex silver salts that remain in solution.
green Water to rise; above the which you Also silver may contain impurities, gold and
shall pour properly off into another Viol of copper being common, so there may be trace
Glass: then pour upon it more strong Water, amounts of compounds of these metals too.
that hath not occupied, and do as aforesaid; The nitric acid will, no doubt, also contain
putting the green Water off in the first green some nitrogen osxide which give it a
Water, shaking it, as aforesaid. greenish/brown tinge. You pour off this
green water into a separate flask and add
This do until all your Luna be dissolved into more nitric acid to the residue in the first
green Water, that no Feces remains; vessel, and repeat this till 'all your luna is
otherwise, your work will not be perfected: dissolved into green water'. Silver chloride
and when you have all into cleer Water will dissolve in nitric acid, so one can
without Feces, put the same into a Cucurbite suppose this means that you repeat this till
of Glass with a Helm and a Recipient, and the precipitated silver chloride is dissolved
Lute it strongly: and when your Lutement is again by the added acid..
dry, then set your Cucurbite in Balneo, and
make fast to the bottom of your Glass a Next we are asked to take this green water
round Certel of Lead, like a Fol; and as your and put this into a distillation flask fitted
Lutement doth dry, so increase your fire a with a still head which should be sealed
little to distil of the flame, that there shall tightly. This is then placed into a water bath
remain no more strength in it then common 'with a round certel of lead' attached. What
water: and to know this, put a clout in the this means is that a lead weight is tied to the
mouth of the Alimbeck: and when the clout base of the flask to keep it upright in the
doth begin to look yellow, pull all the fire water bath.
out of the Oven; for then the Spirits of the
strong Water do begin to come.

Therefore look well to your work, lest your


fire be too hot, that no Spirits come of your
Water; otherwise you shall fail in your work.
Then let your Glass and Oven stand and cool
two hours long: then take off the Helm of
your Cucurbite, and have a Cover of Glass
that may pass just in the mouth of your
Cucurbite, wherein your Medicine is in, fast
luted to with Lutement, or with white Wax:
then set it in your Sand-Oven, or warm The flask is being heated in a water bath, so
Ashes, not very hot. the temperature cannot be higher than 100
degrees centigrade and in practise would be
Then take fair Capel Luna beaten very thin some few degrees lower. A test is made by
into Plates and cut into small pieces, and put placing a cloth in the mouth of the alembic.
in a little at a time till it be dissolved; and If this turns yellow one should remove it
when that is dissolved, put in more till it be from the bath, as then the spirits of the
dissolved also. And thus let your Glass stand strong acid come out. This probably means
in warm Ashes, and look that no Air go out that oxides of nitrogen are being emitted
of your Glass nor Cement. from the nitric acid and staining the cloth.
The experimenter does not want this to
This nourishing shall continue until it will happen, so in this case you must reduce your
dissolve no more, but lie in the Glass fire. What is being done here is
undissolved two or three days long: and then concentrating the silver nitrate solution, by
is your Medicine nourished like a Child in gently vapourising off the water but without
the Mothers Womb. breaking down the remaining nitric acid in
the solution.
Then may you let your Glass wax cold, and
you shall understand, without this nourishing Next let the vessel cool for two hours. Then
the Medicine cannot ingender; and therefore remove the still head and in its place put a
it is needful that it be nourished, that it may stopper which should be sealed tight. This is
get strength of Generation: and when your then placed on a sand bath but not too hot.
Glass is cold, lute your Glass well with good
Lutement, that may indure against Water, Chemically probably little is taking place
the which I will learn thee in a Chapter here, except the danger of the nitric acid
apart, and let the Lutement dry by it self; breaking down. Perhaps a little water is
then set the Glass in Balneo Maria, to being evapourated off and the solution
putrefie fourty days long to hold it in such a becoming even more concentrated.
heat, as the Sun in Summer: for great fire
may destroy your Medicine. Therefore let The next stage he takes some more of his
your fire be alwayes of one heat: for in that thin leaf silver and puts it into the flask with
there doth remain a great secret of the the green liquid so it dissolves. We realise
Medicine. that one of the primary components of this
green liquid will be nitric acid, and he is
And within the forty dayes your Medicine even minded to test the output of the alembic
shall be dissolved; and if it be not dissolved at the previous stage to make sure the nitric
in forty dayes, let it stand longer until it be acid is not being broken down. The flask he
dissolved: for this is the primest of all the now puts in a bath of ashes, usually this
work: for the dissolution is done by heat and means a low heat, and makes sure it is
moisture, and congealed by heat and drowth. tightly sealed. This process appears to be
continued till no more silver will be
This Point being obtained, you have the Key dissolved. This probably means there is then
of the Chamber, and he is blessed of God very little free nitric acid in the liquid.
that hath this point. For this is a token of
goodness, for in every Dissolution and Then the glass is left to go cold, and then
Congealation, you do augment your tightly sealed with a lute that is impervious
Medicine and Degree: for the first time it to water, and then it is placed in a waterbath
will do projection one ounce upon seven, for forty days, at a low heat, like the warmth
and dissolve and congeal again; one ounce of sunlight.
will project upon fourteen ounces, and the
third time upon twenty eight ounces. Within these forty days what he calls 'your
medicine' will be dissolved. This solution in
And so it goeth forth double in projection the flask will now most likely be a strong
every Dissolution and Congealation. solution of silver nitrate with some other
minor trace substances.
But you shall understand that the
Congealation that cometh of warmth, is no The author breaks off for a couple of
perfect Congealation; but it ought to congeal paragraphs from describing the experiment
in the Glass or in the Ampule with heat, (to to a general description of the 'Medicine'.
say) standing in warm Ashes: and therefore,
whenas your Medicine is dissolved in your The next stage is to put the sealed flask onto
Glass, let it cool; then take it out of your a sand or ash bath and set a fire in the oven
Balneo, and dry your Glass. below, but only to create a heat which you
can stand with your finger. This should in 24
And look well to your Lutements that they hours make the substance in the flask
be close, without any clefts to let out the congeal. It may even take a longer time that
Spirits; then set it in your Sand-Oven in that. At then end one will have probably
Ashes: then put fire in your Oven, and let have silver nitrate in a close to solid form.
your fire be no greater, then that you may
hold your finger in the Ashes: and so let it We are then to take copper plates and beat
stand twenty four hours to congeal; if not them into a thin foil, cut these into pieces
congealed in that time, you may let it stand and anoint them with a paste. This is made
longer; and when you see that it is from white arsenic, a name usually applied
congealed, give God thanks, and rejoyce; for to Arsenic trioxide which one is to grind on
it is ready to do projection in this manner. a marble slab with oil of tartar. Oil of tartar,
as far as I know, is really just tartar in a wet
Take to project on, Fair red Copper the best viscous gel form. It can also mean
that you can get, and take from him his Potassioum carbonate. We coat the copper
redness, which serveth not in the work: the foil pieces with this goo and place them at
which you shall do after this manner. the bottom of a deep crucible together with
salt, 'stratum super stratum', layer upon
Beat your Venus into thin Plates, and cut it layer, right up to the top of the crucible,
in small pieces, and anoint them with this upon the top of which you should put on
paste or pap. good quantity of salt, and cover this with a
heavy tile which should be luted with some
Take white Arsnick and grinde it on a cement to seal in the crucible. When this is
Marble-stone with Oyl of Tartar, that it be dry, this should be placed in an oven in a
thick like Pap; and with this matter anoint strong fire for 24 hours.
your (Copper) Venus pieces: then take great
Bay-salt, and put some part of it into a Now what is happening here? The chemistry
melting - Pot bottom, and lay your (Copper) is not entirely clear to me and it might be
Venus pieces upon that: and then Salt upon better if someone were to undertake to
them, and (Copper) Venus pieces upon that, repeat the experiment. Copper is quite
Stratum super Stratum, till all your Pot is reactive metal and would be changed
full: and uppermost in your Pot, let there be through this heating with salt. Arsenic
a good quantity of Salt: take a tile-stone, and Trioxide can be reduced by copper to arsenic
make a round Covet for the Pot, and lute it at a red heat, so we must assume that this is
well too; and when the Lutement is dry, set taking place. The end result could be a real
it in an Oven in fire of Calcination for mush of arsenic and copper metal, together
twenty four hours long. with chloride compounds, and some of the
sodium as hydroxide. It is not easy
Then let it cool; and then break your Pot chemistry to predict without actually
open, and cast the matter that is in your Pot undertaking the experiment.
in warm Water, and stir them with your
Hand, until the pieces be clean, and that the Next we wait till the crucible cools, then we
Water comes fresh from them. Then dry are to break it open and put the material into
them, and beat them in an Iron Morter, so warm water. This will dissolve out the
small as you can. Then put your Venus, so remaining salt and any other soluble
beaten, into a Canvas Bag that is sowed compounds such as copper chloride. The
close up, and round like a Ball. Then take fat remaining sludge and pieces of material that
Clay that is mixed with hair, and therewithal has not dissolved in the water is dried and
streak over your Bag, thinly, that it may dry; ground to a powder in an iron mortar. He
and when that it is dry, streak it over and calls this material 'your Venus' though it is
over again, as it drieth, until your Clay be as unlikely to consist purely of copper, but
thick as a Pot. Then, when your Clay is luted could contain some metallic arsenic and
fast about your Canvas, take a small wooden other unsoluble compounds. This is placed
Pin, and put through your Lutement into the in a canvas bag which is sewn up to form a
Bag, that the small end may remain within tight ball. Then you are to streak this with
the (Copper) Venus. clay, and continue to build this clay up on
the surface so it forms a tightly sealed call as
Then put the round Ball of (Copper) Venus thick as a pot. Then pierce this covering with
into another melting - Pot, the wooden Pin a thin wooden pin right through to the mass
downwards; but you must remember to put at the centre.
among your beaten Venus, Sandever, Verne
, Saltpeter, (Ana.) He then remembers to remind us that we
should have added to the ground up material
Then set this Pot in a wide Furnace to melt, some sandiver (a complex silicate scum
and the Venus will melt and run out into the formed on the surface of molten glass), some
Pot, wherein it doth lie: and then the Venus Varne/Verne (?) and Saltpetre.
shall be fair and white like Luna, and shall
be profitable in this work: the which, We are to place this ball in a pot supported
without this work of Preparation, would not on its wooden spindle and place it into a
be as you should do your projection. furnace. The Venus or copper will melt and
run out of the pot appearing white like
Take seven ounces of this prepared Venus, silver, no doubt because it would contain a
and put it into a melting-Pot, and flow it in proportion of the silvery metal Arsenic.
the highest degree of fire that you can, in a
wide Furnace: then put to it one ounce of We take 7 ounces of this white
fine Capel Luna; and when it is melten, as copper/arsenic and put it into a melting pot
aforesaid, put to it one ounce of your and add an ounce of silver, then add your
Medicine or Elixir, and nimbly stir it with a previously prepared 'medicine' which is
wooden stick: but let no Iron come unto it: mostly silver nitrate. Stir well and then cast
and when it is well corporated, then take it into an ingot. It is perhaps not too surprising
out, and cast it into an Ingot; so you have the that this will appear very similar to silver, as
best Luna in the World, to abide all Proofs it will contain a large percentage of silver,
and Examinations; and it is far more fine alloyed with copper and arsenic.
then that comes out of the Earth. When you
have finished this Work, give God thanks,
and remember the poor.