The volatile urine salt deserves all the attention Glaser assigns to it. Methods to extract it. It is then up to the alchemist to know what to do with it.
Christophle Glaser seems the more attentive, among iatrochemists with a reputation of alchemical efficacy, to urine salts peculiarity. The eccentricity status which has been accompanying the operations on urine for the last centuries has concealed a valuable volatility source. Since “to open” does mean to volatilize.
Traité de la Chimie or treatise on chemistry, 1668, Paris. Glaser’s words in quotation marks, my comment in normal.
“Traité de la Chimie: Containing some remarks that should be done before coming to preparations.
As minerals and metals are so different, we need not only to arrange a peculiar work for every metal and mineral but also be prepared to work very hard, so we cannot set general rules for their preparation, as is the case with animal and vegetal reigns. I mean, they (minerals and metals) cannot be reduced without adding some salt, oil, or spirit as is the case of vegetables which neither needs any addition nor all the mineral work. Sometimes you plan to reduce them separately in their five substances. Still, sometimes we do not want that: for example, it suffices to take the resinous substance of Jalap, and reject the other substances as useless: we extract by distillation the essential oil of anise, which we carefully preserve, regardless of the rest: sometimes we calcine tartar to get the salt fixed, without wanting to keep its mercurial and sulfurous parts, which are allowed to exhale or evaporate by the violence of fire; when we extract the volatile salt of urine, it does not trouble about the other principles, as when we extract the jelly hartshorn, we reject everything else: and also a multitude of others.”
This part is in Glaser’s book introduction as common observations and remarks. Here he presents some examples of necessary substances in chemistry and Alchemy, not to be worked till destruction. We need them to achieve the destruction of other minerals and metals. These substances are the real “servants”, and the volatile salt of urine indubitably deserves Glaser’s attention. These observations also lead to the usual question when handling volatile salts in Alchemy: are these salts to help more important volatilizations ( metals), or can they be used to reach ultimate and reiterate volatilizations to get our Mercurius? The answer is as customary as the question: Mercurius is inside every possible molecule, but metals contain a huge quantity. Of course, this is not only a molecular issue since the water ( for example) exposed to certain outdoor weather conditions also seems to contain a good quantity. If you want to be on the safe side, pick up metal, reduce it to a fine powder, and open it with volatile substances.
“On Nitre or Saltpetre.
Niter or saltpeter is a salt partly volatile & sulfurous and partly terrestrial; it tastes salty & bitter. It is extracted from the earth, demolition of ships and cellars vaults, but especially the stables, because of the large amount of urine and feces of animals volatile salts, which join the salt of the earth by continuous air action … ”.
Glaser makes Nitre, or Saltpetre, to originate from animal urine and feces, like his pupil Lemery in Aqua Regia First Step: Sal Armoniac does. But he adds an interesting observation: “ which join the salt of the earth by ‘continuous air action”. This Salt of the Earth is bound to fall to the ground in rain and dew and seems to mix with the Secret Fire from the Moon.
The high point of the chapter on Saltpetre is the sal armoniac operations, but we interrupt him to jump to operations with urine. Nevertheless, as we will see in the next comparison between him ad his pupil Lemery, sal armoniac will keep a urinous character on Glaser’s side.
“On the Urine Distillation.
Take some recent urine of children, from eight to twelve, or of healthy young men, and fill in three-quarters of several cucurbits, which you will cover with their alembics. At slow heat water bath, you will reap all the moisture, which is tasteless: it will remain a sugary substance in the cucurbits bottom, which must be put in a single cucurbit, which will fit an alembic and tightly lute, and distilled at fire sand all which may ascend ruling out the fire. Otherwise, the material swells and exits from the top: It will come out first a water spirit, then the volatile salt will begin to rise and attach to the still with some stinking oil, which flows into the container with the volatile salt, which will dissolve.
Stop the distillation when it rises no more, and vessels are being cooled; you will remove the lute, and you will find at the bottom funds of the cucurbit a dark matter, which can be calcined in a pot, at a heavy fire, and reduced to ashes, to draw a very small amount of salt, which crystallized or congealed tastes and takes shape, of common salt. We must separate the spirit and the volatile salt from the stinking oil, putting in the container as much warm water as needed to cause the dissolution of volatile salt, which will be frozen and then filter the dissolution through a paper, in which the oil will remain, which you will run into a vial having pierced the paper. Place the filtrate in a large long-necked flask, and cover it with a wide domed alembic, whose form is shown in the table of vessels, marked A and B, then exactly lute the joints, and place to furnace sand, adjusting a container and give a very gentle fire;
You will see that by the slightest heat, the spirit and the volatile salt will loosen up and will sublimate in the still alembic in the form of snow, leaving in the flask bottom the stinking and insipid phlegm, which could not climb due to vessel height, and because of too low heat. Let cool the vessels, and gather and keep the volatile salt in well-corked vials, for otherwise, it would lose little by little because of its subtlety.
it opens all obstructions and is admirable in all melancholy diseases, and to incise the mucus, and push by urine the kidney and the bladder sand. Its dose is from six to fifteen or twenty grains in a suitable liquid. This subtle and sulfurous salt has great virtues, both inside and outside.
When dissolved in brandy, which still contains a little phlegm (since the rectified spirit of wine may not dissolve it), we can use it externally for the painful parts of the body, especially joints, and to solve nodules: further urine distillation and sublimation from its volatile salt.
Put in several jugs or some well-sealed barrel an amount of urine well conditioned, and leave it there for forty days, during which it will ferment and will have to give off its spirits; Put it in several glass cucurbits and distill off about half of the moisture, and you will have clear water and spirit; pour what remains in a cucurbit, and rectify the water two or three times, distilling just the half, and keeping what is left in the cucurbits at each distillation, and continue this until you have collected all the urine virtue and spirits in small amounts. You will put it in a long-necked flask, which you will cover with its broad head, and raise the volatile and spiritual salt by a very slow sand heat; the salt will separate easily from its phlegmatic and superfluous water, leaving it in the bottom flask.
This preparation is longer and more painful than the first, but it makes a purer salt, more subtle and penetrating, and therefore more effective.
Tincture of Moon.
Reduce one ounce of cupeled (2) silver in granules, laminae, or filings, and you will dissolve it in three ounces of good strong water made of saltpeter and vitriol; the solution is made; it must be poured into salted water or marine properly filtered and clear, and the silver will rush immediately into a white powder, which you let go and lay in the bottom…”.
Glaser is telling us that Strong Water is used here to “calcine” silver or get a powder from it. It cannot be used to volatilize a substance.
“… then gently and by inclination pour the water which will float, and will deliver over warm and neat water from the fountain, where you will stir the silver powder, then let them seated back, and pour the water by inclination, in which you will stir the silver powder then let it back and pour the water by inclination, as much as the silver powder is free from acrimony: and then you gently dry it, and put it in a proportionate flask, and will add a half ounce of volatile salt of urine, and twelve ounces of tartarized spirits of wine, that’s to say, well rectified on the tartar salt (1), put on this flask another flask whose mouth has to enter in that one containing materials to make a meeting vessel: close with lute exactly in the joints with a wet bladder;
Then do digest the material in a vapor bath heat or a hay horse heat for ten days, during which the menstruum will charge with the silver tincture and take a celestial color … ”.
If it is called a tincture, there will be a reason: it begins to take some strange colors. White or red.
“… then pour the tincture, by inclination, and filter it, and put it in a small glass cucurbit with its alembic, which you close well with lute together, and put in a vapor bath, and take three quarters to distill, and the tincture will remain in the bottom, and you will keep it carefully in a well-corked vial.”
Here Glaser limits himself to giving some hints. Perhaps these operations are well enough for medical use, but surely not for alchemical goals. You already know, at this point, you have at least to reiterate operations to achieve our Mercurius.
“This tincture is used successfully for epilepsy, apoplexy, mania, and other brain diseases, in some proper liquor: the dose is from four to fifteen drops.
After you have reached this tincture, you find at the bottom of the flask a silver lime, which can be reduced in body by the following mixture, called bath: take one ounce of powdered stones, one ounce of tartar, two drachms of powdered coal, and four ounces of good saltpetre; Gradually put this mixture into a red-hot crucible, the material will melt immediately with great violence: which having passed, pour this molten salt in a hot mortar, and let it cool, you’ll have a hard mass, which you will take as much weight as silver lime, put them together in powder, and melt them in a good crucible, and the lime will shrink in a body, which otherwise would be a problematic reduction, because of the sea salt with which it has been precipitated, and because of the volatile salt of urine, with which it has been digested, since these two kinds of salts make the silver very volatile, and if we wanted to melt the lime without the mixture of the fixed salt we add, and which destroys the impression of these volatile salts, she would fly quite entirely due to the violence of melting.”
You don’t have to be surprised at this last part since we need to make things fixed. Very interesting indeed, but incomplete. Of course. Carlo Lancillotti, in his Nuova Guida alla Chimica Venezia 1641, tells something more, introducing the cohobations of Volatile Urine Salts on Caput Mortuum.
On urine salts, composition and relevance, see also Lancillotti and the Magisterium of Urine on Caput Mortuum , Hollandus, How Urine Salts Extract a White and Red Dye , Cabala Mineralis and the She Horse on Urine Works part 1 , Phantom Play’s Tribute to the Raising Benzoin , Nicolas Lefevre and the Benzoin Magisterium, The Puzzling Child in the San Marco Treasure Ecclesiola .
- See also Spirit of wine prepared on Tartar Salt in Nicolas Lefevre and the Benzoin Magisterium ;
- See also Hollandus, De Lapide Philosophico. First Book 2 .