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Joannes Agricola - Treatise on Gold
Chapter 8.Back to Agricola page .
How To Prepare A Mercurium Vivum From Gold And Other Metals
Take subtle gold calx, calcine it with the elementary Mercury of the Sun or Moon. After the calcination, add as much Live Mercury to it and put it into a sublimatorium. Let it stand in gentle heat for 8 days till it turns into a sublimat. Now begin sublimating. Enclose this sublimate in a glass and set it to digest for some time in a vapor fire, and all the sublimate will change into a mercurial Body. If now sulphur is added to this quicksilver of gold in the right proportion or weight, and Mercury is thus prepared with the Philosophical Fire, you have an excellent medicine for healing lepra, for it cleanses the corrupt impure blood, expels the dirt of the whole body through perspiration, and rejuvenates it somewhat.
N O T E
Almost the whole world is singing of the Mercury of the Sun and other metals, and there is no laboratory worker who does not speak of this Mercury. I have also met many learned men who thought that the Mercury of the Sun was like the bride around whom there is so much dancing, but what they got was little, just like the suitors of Penelope. It is the same with this Mercury. I would like to see a man and speak with one who does not have this Mercury on his brain. But Mercury laughs at them and causes them enormous confusion. If there is one subject under the sun that causes much work for the alchymists, it is this, and many believe that if only they could prepare the Mercury of the Sun, they would be on the right way, and that no better way could be found in the whole world.
This is so because the Philosophers unanimously indicate that the first beginning of the Work must and should be a work based on the rays of the Sun, as Sendivogius says. This saying has made a fool of so many and has sublimated their brain to such an extent that for the sake of Mercury their work came to nothing and went up in the air. Even so, whenever I entered a laboratory, I saw that they were busy preparing the Mercury of the Sun. Much money has been squandered on it and strange processes have been invented, that one must rightly wonder that human ingeniosity has accomplished to fathom that secret. And I say frankly, if Hermes and Geber were to raise from the dead, they would be horrified and could never do such works. And although Geber experienced many beautiful things in distillation and wrote tremendous processes himself, they are nothing in comparison with the present works, for each wants to be above the other. Each tries to show his work in a better light, and each praises his work above that of others. If they are seen in daylight, however, they all show the same result. That is, one remains a fool like another, and one accomplishes as little as another. Under the late Emperor Rudolf II, I know that more than 10.000 Ducats were spent on this Mercury, and not one Ducat's worth of usefulness resulted from it, except that syphilis, which was at that time quite common in Prague, could be cured faster. But this cure costs a lot of money, and syphilis is not worth so much, it can be cured at less expense.
I have seen how a laboratory worker had a large quantity in a glass and wanted to congeal it. I laughed at this work and asked what it was that he wanted to congeal. Since the gold had been fixed before, he would not, if the desired fixation were to follow immediately, obtain more ( ) than there was before. But he could not get this into his mercurial brain and thought that there would be ten times more than there was before. But the tables were turned and the glass received a shock. Now the prisoner broke loose and fled in silence. He looked around to see how he could safely get away. Seeing no way or hole except the fire-wall, he fled through there, and the good plan came to naught. How Mercury must have laughed at this foolish young man when he escaped so easily from prison.
In brief, say what you like, Mercury remains a trickster, goes hither and thither, tries his luck how he can deceive the gods and men. Besides, he also has a thieving nature, carrying away the veil of Venus and Vulcan's instrument. And again, I am surprised that so much time is spent on the preparation of this Mercury and the various processes that have been invented to this end.
Our author has also described two for us, but both are not worth anything and are stupid enough for a laboratory worker such as the afore-mentioned one. For it is evident that gold accounts for the least part of it, and how then can it be called a Mercury of the Sun? Most of it is vulgar mercury and a little antimony, and if it is somehow properly treated, the common mercury can be driven off it, so that it must leave the gold behind. And suppose it stayed with it and mixed with it like one water with another, what good would it be? Because it would be a contaminated composition, and as little could be accomplished with it as with common mercury, except that in this way it precipitates somewhat faster. Aside from that, I cannot see anything else in it.
Many artists believe, as our author also does, that if they had the Mercury of the Sun and conjoined it with its own sulphur, they would have the greatest medicine in the world. Let him believe that who wants, I for my person cannot believe it. Experience has often proven that in that form the Mercury of the Sun does not except its own tincture or sulphur. If things went as the author wants, and supposing that it accepted them immediately, there would nevertheless be a separation in the right examination.
(Translator's note: Agricola speaks about the Mercury of the Sun (gold), yet the sign in the margin refers to ( ) (silver). Likewise in Para 2 above. The sign should be ( ) (gold).
I have seen that Herr Hasselmeyer had almost a whole pound of Mercury of the Sun. He also added its sulphur - which was blood red - but it did not except that tincture, although he had kept it long enough in the fire. Bernard Penotus also testifies that he did not succeed in doing it. There are reasons why it does not except the sulphur. When the Body ( ) is changed into a running Mercury, there is no separation of the sulphur and the salt, but everything is simultaneously transformed into a Mercury. Consequently, it already contains all that it needs and cannot absorb more. That is also the reason why it rejects any additional sulphur, and the substance ( ) is totally transformed without a separation. Of what use is it them to add a superfluous amount of it? Nature does not absorb more than is her due. The rest is all time, effort and expense for nothing.
Although there is something to it that the Mercury ( ) is better than the common one, if it is processed to perfection, I do not doubt that common Mercury can also be processed to that degree by careful preparation, except, as already indicated above, one is sooner coagulated and made stable in the fire than the other. It must, however, not be infected with the common Mercury, which is only a bastard, but must be pure and perfect, otherwise it is not worth much. Whoever would like to prepare it, let him follow this process, for both of the author's processes are not worth a hood.
Take sublimated Mercury, sublimated with vitriol and salt. Make it come alive again as is customary. After that, take sal ammoniacum, as much as there is Mercury, and sublimate it again. When this is done, remove it from the head of the alembic. Discard the feces, and sublimate again. Repeat this sublimating till everything stays at the bottom and melts like wax or butter. Then it is enough. Now take it out and put it in a glass dish, pour over it ammoniated water of the Sun (whose preparation will be indicated below), to moisten it well. Set it in warm sand and coagulate it. Then add again some water and coagulate. This must be repeated till it can no longer be coagulated but stays fluid like oil. Put it in a cold place, and it will turn into a beautiful bright water. This water is also used for other things, and in chymistry much can be done with it, especially as a means for refining silver.
Now take as much of this water as you like, put your thinly laminated gold or silver in it, let it digest 24 hours, and the gold will melt and become like a sponge. Distill the water off, a dirty mass will be left at the bottom. Pour warm rainwater on it and mix it well with your fingers. The whole Body will turn into a beautiful running Mercury.
By this process the Mercury of any Body can be made pure and uncontaminated. It can be used at the artist's pleasure, but to make the Lapis with it will not happen this year.
Although there are more means and ways for preparing the Mercury of the Sun, they cannot all be recommended. Most of them are quite wrong, and among ten hardly one works. Therefore I will add yet another method by which it is easier to obtain it in less time. Here it is: Take 4 Lots of gold, dissolve it in Aqua Regis, as is usually done. When everything is dissolved, distill the water off to oiliness, pour fresh Aqua Regis over it, let it digest 24 hours, and again distill it to oiliness. You must repeat this work seven times. Now give it a rather strong fire, and the gold will rise and sublimate. Remove this sublimate carefully and dissolve it in spirit of wine, strengthened by oil of salt. It will melt. Distill half of the water off and set the rest in a cool cellar. Beautiful crystals will spout. Remove them, add to them 2 Lots of salt of urine, salt of alkali, salt of tartar, sublimate of ammonia, each one and a half Lots, let them putrefy together for 14 days. Now add half a pound of crude tartar and sublimate or drive it through a retort into a receiver in which there is cold water. You will see the Mercury of the Sun rise over quite bright like common Mercury. It comes alive in the cold water. Remove it and purge it in the same manner as will be indicated regarding common Mercury. You have again a true live Mercury without the addition of common live Mercury.
Although our author thinks that many consider that by this transmutation the metal is brought into its prima materia, he himself cannot believe it but says that it is only brought into its second materia. One is as true as the other, for this Mercury is neither prime nor second materia. When the Philosophers refer to the second materia, they understand quite another materia, as Sendivogius writes in detail about it in his 12th Treatise and his Book on Mercury. If this were the second materia of Mercury, the Philosophical Materia could come out of it, but not by precipitation as the majority believe. They may precipitate as much as they like, they cannot do it, for this precipitate cannot only be revived and made volatile and evaporated like common Mercury - which I have already mentioned several times - but it cannot be turned into Philosophical Materia, which materia is universal and not specific, and it is the Soul of the whole world. Therefore all labor with the Mercury of the Body is lost, may they say what they like.
Libavius believes that by adding common Mercury to this Mercury an excellent piece of art has been achieved, but it exists only in his imagination, not in the work. One has to laugh reading this fantastic trash of Libavius, when he adds: Arrige aures Pamphile, and he considers this an enormous secret, when it is actually only mere fantastic trash, good for nothing. But I will not be against it and believe that it is better for medicines than common Mercury. But this Mercury costs much money and is an expensive medicine. A much better medicine can be made by making the gold potable. as I have taught you, than by first turning it into running Mercury.
Everything that has here been said about the Mercury of the Sun likewise applies to the Mercury of the Moon. I consider them at the same level, for both are perfect Bodies which cannot be brought into their prima materia without the addition of the true Philosophical Materia, even if 12 fodders of processing were prescribed. I could certainly indicate over 300 processes for one of these matters, which cost me a great deal, though no real work could be found in them, except that I learned a fine knack for regulating the fire and boiling some water. A young student must not be led astray and must not believe anything those sophist fellows say. It is only words, and they cannot stand up to Vulcan (fire), but they and others are only being made fun of.
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