The Alchemy web site on Levity.com
(ascribed to Trithemius)
Hearupon follows a modern chemical experiment.
Interpretation and testing done by Sam Van Oort, assistance from Adam McLean
Note: if you have laboratory grade sulfur, you can probably skip to step 8 and use it in place of prepared sulfur.
alum (potassium aluminum sulphate dodecahydrate) over a Fischer or Bunsen
burner in a crucible, leaving sufficient space in the crucible for the alum
to bubble. The water will be driven from the alum within a few hours,
yielding anhydrous potassium aluminum sulphate.
equal masses of the anhydrous alum and sulfur in a mortar and pestle, and put
it into pyrex beaker, filling the beaker only ¼” to ½” deep.
Place the beaker on a good hotplate, and cover
with a crucible so that the beaker has a partial seal.
It is essential that you do the following
in a well-ventilated area or a hood, as toxic sulfur dioxide will be produced
by the following step.
Put water in the crucible. Heat the beaker on
the hotplate’s highest setting (400-500o C if possible).
Let the sulfur collect on the underside of
the crucible and walls of the beaker, placing water on the top of the
watchglass if it boils away. BE CAREFUL NOT TO OVERFLOW. When all the sulfur
has been driven from the mixture, leaving a grey powdery mess on the bottom
of the beaker, is it prepared. The original process & practica says that
this may take up to 8 hours. I have found that it can be done in 1-2
Scrape off the
sulfur from above and mix with borax (boric acid or sodium borate) in a 2.5:1
ratio by mass.
Finely grind the
mixture in a mortar. Put it into a flat recrystallizing glass.
Pour ethanol on it, & extract it in ashes
softly to the oil, pour it upon again, extract it to the oil, pour it upon
again & draw it of again.
Take a little of the sulfur, put it on a red
hot copper plate, (you may use a hot plate alternatively). When it flows like
wax without smoking then is it prepared. If not, boil off more of the
ethanol, till it passes the above test
Now take asbestos fibers and make a wick as
long as a little finger, and half as thick.
Fold it about with white silk, and put it thus whole into a Venetian
little glass (vial?), and pour powdered prepared sulfur around it.
Place this in a container of sand on a
hotplate set low, with the silk-wrapped asbestos continually in the prepared
sulfur. Let it warm a day and then over-night. I suspect that the sulfur is
supposed to melt into the wick.
the wick out, and put it into such a vial or flask, so that that tip peeps
out a little, and add to this the prepared “incombustible” sulfur.
the glass into the container of hot sand till the sulfur melts, and cleave
beneath and upward about the wick, that it be seen but a little above.
the wick with a flame and it will start burning. The sulfur will keep
flowing. Take the light and place it where you want, and it will (supposedly)
ascribed to Trithemius.
unquenchable burning temporall lights
of Mr Trittemio Abbot at Sponheim, described by the hande of Bartholomeus Korndorffer.
Two unquenchable eternall lights are founde and to be seen hearin, which I
Bartholomeus Korndorffer have written of a disciple of Mr Trittemius Abbot of
Sponheim, which did affirme with an oath that they were never published nor
opened before, only that his Mr the Abbot had bestowed one of them unto a
great potentat. this famous Maus Trittemius, which lived in time of the great
Imperiour Maximilian the first, and none like unto him was to be founde in
his age, hath done much good with his artes, not mingled with divilish
worcke, as some malicious men doe accuse his, butt he did knowe all what was
done in the world of what he desireth by the starres of ministerie, he hath
also tolde of things to come manie times. Once as was travaling, came to S.
Moritz, and found an acquaintance to whome I spoke, he was glad to see mee,
he invited mee to dinner, and another named servatius Hohel, which had been
with the Abbot at Sponheim and served him 12 years. He wwas vere civill, yet
sometime he spoke a word of this arte. Now as wee came together, and dinner
beying past Mr Hohell desireth mee to goe with him to his chammer, which i
did discoursing of diverse matter of artes and seying he was an antient man,
I desired to leave him allone to his studie butt he would not left mee, and
bespoke a meale by his hostess, which wee two did take in his chammer. Mr
Hohel did bestowe uppon mee that time, the handwriting of Mr Trittemius
whearin thease two incombustible lights were wrytten, and some magick peeces,
which I did trye 7 prouve affterwards & founde them to be vere true &
right. Mr Hohel tolde mee also that his Mr Trithemius had bestowed one of
those lights unto this great potentat the Emperour Maximilian, and placed it
in a glass in his chammer, which the sayd potentat had keept vere well, and
many had seen the lightning thereof. After that a sickness aryseth that the
Emperour did departe from that place, & came not to this place again in
20 years: but as he came theather at the least, Mr Trittemius beying dead
long before, he remembered this light & went presently to see it, which
was found theare with all tokens unquenchable as Mr Trittemius had lefft it,
& the people of that castel tolde the Emperor that they had seene
continually a lightning in that place, licke a lampe in a church. Wherefore this Emperour lefft the light years still
burning wheare it shall surne still at this daye, which is a great secret in this worlde. the Emperour Maximilian hath given 6000 crownes for those temporall everlasting lights.
Hearuppon followeth the process
Take 4 unces of sulphur, & so much of calcyned alume, bruise them together, put it into an earthen sublimatorie, place it into a coale fier, well lited, let the sulphur ascend through the Alume, and in 8 houres is it prepared.
Thearof take at the lesse 2 1/2 unces, and one unce of good christallick venetian porras, bruse them two small togeather, put it into a flat glasse that it may lye flatly, poure uppon it a stronge sharpe 4 times distilled spirit of wine uppon it, & extracte it in ashes sofftly to the oyle, poure it uppon again, extracte it to the oyle,poure it uppon again & drawe it of agayne; take a litle of the sulphure, laye it uppon a red hott copper plate, and when it floweth like wax without smoking then is it prepared, if not then must thou extract theareof more of the spirit of wine, till it sustineth the proove & it is prepared.
Nowe take alumephume, make therof a top not as long as a little finger, and halfe as thicke, foulde it about with whyte silke, put it thus whole into a venetian little glasse, & joyne thearunto of the prepared sulphure, place it a day & night in hott sande, that the top be continually in the sulphur. Nowe take the top thearout, and put it into such a glasse, that the top looke out a little, adde thearunto of the prepared incombustible chyburals, place the glasse into hott sand till the sulphure melteth, and cleaveth beneath and upward about the top, that it be seene but a little above, kindle the top with a common light, & it beginneth to burne presently, and the sulphure remaineth flowing, take the light and place it wheare you wilt, and it burneth continually for ever.
http://www.geocities.com/alandwpeters/glossary.html -- has primarily spiritual stuff
http://www.zompist.com/versci.htm#Substances -- order of discovery of substances
http://www.zompist.com/chemical.htm -- names for chemicals
http://webserver.lemoyne.edu/faculty/giunta/archems.html - Archaic chemical names
http://www.levity.com/alchemy/substanc.html - alchemical substances
http://www.levity.com/alchemy/al_term2.html - alchemy terms
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus:text:2001.07.0048 – more alchemical names for cpds
http://www.3rd1000.com/alchemy/alchemyterms.htm - yet ANOTHER alchemy terms dictionary
The Handbook of Chemistry and Physics (CRC)
The alum is heated (“calcined”) to make it anhydrous.
This is added to the sulfur so that it will
absorb water from it and the sulphur won’t yield sulfuric acid when heated.
Steps 3-5 are just sublimation purification
of the sulfur and subsequent collection.
I am unclear as to the role of the borax, but
I suspect that it is supposed to react with impurities in the sulfur.
The pouring upon of ethanol (“spirit of wine”) will dissolve the sulfur, as it is slightly soluble in ethanol, and when
the ethanol is boiled off, purer sulfur will be left.
Thus, the sulfur is further purified.
I hypothesize that the sulfur used by the
alchemists was of such execrable quality that it must be purified before use.
The functional mechanism of this light is that
molten sulfur is drawn up the asbestos wick (which never burns up, because it is asbestos) and combusts with air to yield SO2 gas. The heat would keep the sulfur molten, and since SO2 is a gas, there is no ash or build up to snuff the light. The light should burn with a purple flame until all sulfur is exhausted.
By keeping the rate of combustion low, the light can burn for a really long time.
Photographic record of experiment
Calcining the Alum
Flowers of Sulphur
Subliming the mixture