Some indispensable substances to run smoothly a difficult sublimation. According to the c. 1300 ms. Vat. gr. 1134, known as the Zuretti Anonymous.
Synthesis of the mediterranean alchemical knowledge of the 14th century, Zuretti Anonymous is the longest systematic treatise among the Greek manuscripts on the topic, as well as evidence of the cultural syncretism in the Kingdom of Naples during the Angevin period. The manuscript was named after its first translator and editor, namely C. O. Zuretti, who published it in 1930 in the 7th volume of Catalogue des Manuscrits Alchimiques Grecs.
The anonymous author of the Vaticanus Graecus 1134 names Hermes Trismegistus and Jābir ibn Hayyān among his inspirers, but doesn’t cite his real sources, which were lately deduced from comparisons. There can be found some Aristotle, Jābir ibn Hayyān’s Septuaginta, Albertus Magnus “Semita Recta”, Roger Bacon’s Speculum Secretorum, “Breve Breviarum”, Liber Experimentum, and other treatises of uncertain authorship: De Aluminibus et Salibus, De Perfecto Magisterio, Liber Duodecim Aquarum, Liber Rebis or Liber Dabessi, De Essentiis Essentiarum. Frater Guillermus Sedacenus’ poem Sedacina Totius Artis Alchemiae is considered to be a treatise in parallel with Zuretti’s, furthermore the author’s death was contemporary to the Vat. gr. 1134 writing ( second half of the fourteenth century), but while Sedacina is weird and mysterious, the Zuretti’s Anonymous is concise and clear.
I was irresolute until the last moment whether to put the Zuretti’s Anonymous in “alchemic authors” or “ancient chemistry” category. It the treatise there is no mention of medicine and iatro-chemistry, and the Anonymous lightheartedly tells us of chrysopoeia, or the art of making gold. Almost all the recipes in the book are about the first, preparatory, works. The works to volatilize salts to achieve Mercurius. And we know these processes were often more generously described in ancient chemistry, just omitting the indispensable reiterations, which are indeed alchemical.
The short excerpt I decided to publish is taken from Les Alchimistes Grecs Les Belles Lettres, Paris 2002, Tome X , L’Anonime de Zuretti ou l’Art Sacré et Divin de la Chrysopée par un Anonyme, The Anonymous of Zuretti or the sacred art of Crysopoeia by an anonymous, translation by André Colinet. On paragraph 40, indentation 3, we can find a technical detail very interesting to the skillful sublimer. The whole paragraph was about the sublimation of mercury, which will be presented in a coming article, anyway I meant to put my finger on the following right now:
” The sublimation of a (metallic) substance is the raising by fire of its dry matter from the bottom of its own container. This is accomplished according to the diversity of metals, or spirits, to be sublimed. (for instance) one is performed with a great fire, like those of marcasite, magnesia or cadmium; another at a medium fire like the sublimation of sulfur or arsenic; another at a mild fire like the sublimation of mercury. The apex of the sublimation of mercury, you have to know it, is the conservation of its dryness and the expulsion of its humidity, In fact the sublimation is a process of separation and dismissal of the earthen and watery superfluity mixed to the specific substances.
Here is the list of the matters helping in this operation: the eggshells calx (1), the white marble calx, the very finely ground glass, all the kinds of prepared salts; only these matters will whiten”.
In Albertus Magnus Semita Recta we can find a quite identical passage, but the last sentence: “...Ab istis vero mundatur, ab aliis non mundatur”, or by these it is actually cleaned, by the others it is not cleaned. The Zuretti’s “to whiten” seems to have a similar use of Albertus “to clean”. We know that the reiteration of the same raising operation can lead to an accomplished salt volatilization. The apex of this series of sublimations may end up with the achievement of our white Mercurius/seed of metals. Which is the ultimate purification for a metal (we are in the first, preparatory work).
Of primary importance here is the list of substances which may help in difficult sublimations, such as those involving metals. Although the sublimation, or volatilization, of metals is very often performed in Alchemy, the process may present many difficulties. We know that molecular purity, in Alchemy, is neither wanted nor crucial; even better, a tiny crusting property in the chosen salt may come in useful, when our philosophical egg will have to start forming a thin crust. That’s enough.
- See an operation with eggshells calx in Orthelius Commentary on Maria Prophitissa. Part 2 ;