Nuova Guida alla Chimica by Carlo Lancillotti on the indispensable operations to reduce metals to a very subtle powder, or calcination.

lancillotti nuova guida alla chimica calcinationMy translation from Nuova Guida alla Chimica, 1681, Chapter 5. On calcination:

“Calcination is a reduction of the mixed in calx, defined by al Jabair as a powdering of the compost, done by means of fire, so that, from calcination derives the word calx, meaning that a calcined thing lacks every superfluous humidity, and elementary, and reduced in very subtle powder: and it is done to facilitate the dissolution, often because of calcination, the bitterness which consists of volatile salts, is lost by means of fire, the pungent medicines turn sweet, others with calcination become even more pungent, like vitriol, sulphur, being removed the watery part which lowered said acrimony.

According to al Jabair, calcination fix the spirits of mineral medicines in order to dissolve them better in waters, and better mix mineral bodies in those, because of calcination mineral bodies discharge their humidity and superfluous rawness, and more easily in spiritual waters they are being dissolved. The necessity of calcination, is seen in the preparation of Magisterii, where the medicines are reduced in very subtle powder, greatly active without either separation, or loss of substance, like corals and pearls.

To calcine, or powder medicines before giving them the so called reverberation fire ( which has to be gently given to things of subtle substance, and by gradation) sometimes they extinguish (?), or need of corrosive liquors, in order to, being so dissolved, because of their hardness, the fire can better penetrate. Sometimes they need to be given fire in advance, and then add some corrosives, and calcine, others, get calcined with no addition.

Chapter 6. On Corrosion.

Corrosion is a calcination done by means of corrosive substances, and it is done in many ways, ma chiefly in four, that’s to say, amalgamation, precipitation, stratification and fumigation, and these operations are only suitable for metals.

lancillotti nuova guida alla chimica amalgamationChapter 7. On Amalgamation.

Amalgamation is a corrosion of metal, done by mercury, and it is done, when the metal ( except iron and copper, since they don’t have any feeling for mercury) is stretched out in very subtle laminae, and mixed with six, or eight parts, more or less, of mercury, of the whole is done a uniform mass, which put on fire, the mercury evaporates, and the metal remains in a very subtle powder.

The use of amalgamation is in first place used to depurate gold and silver with mercury and secondly it is useful to precipitate gold with mercury, third almost all gold and silver preparations, and preparing tin and lead oils, additionally it is useful to goldsmiths to gild.

Chapter 8. On Precipitation.

Precipitation is a corrosion done by strong water (Aqua Fortis), or other dissolvent liquors, according to the different things you want to dissolve, and they are lemon juice, distilled vinegar, alkalized apple waters, spirit of tartar, spirit of niter, and other either natural or artificial; These dissolvents, and strong waters, dissolve the metal substance, and other things, which in the end go to the bottom in the form of calx, and if they delay to go to the bottom, you will add that, which acts as a separator, or common water, which brings down the strength of the strong water, always taking action on the metal, and prevent it to go to the bottom, from time to time salt is added, or hot salted water, according to the different matters (as with silver if one puts some copper laminae, to which for natural feeling the silver joins and descends) and the dissolver being separate from them, with common water being washed, with distilled rain water, then get dried and can be stored.

The dissolvents as said above, are different, according to the different matters, because a strong water dissolves silver, and the other dissolves gold, with Salt Armoniac (1), and it is called Aqua Regia (2), but to prepare it as medicine another dissolvent is needed, and another again if you want to prepare it to a transmutation.

lancillotti nuova guida alla chimica cementationChapter 9: On Cementation (3)

The Cementation is a corrosion made by corrosive powders and is produced with the following method: reduce the metal in laminae, and puts it in a crucible together with powdered corrosive things and mixed with urine, vinegar, or strong water (Aqua Fortis), in the form of a porridge, place a little in the bottom of a crucible, placing over a lamina of metal, then another layer of the above mentioned matter, then another lamina, in so doing layer over layer, till the crucible or vessel is full, which you will carefully close with lute, which has to have a little hole in the middle, then place it on an oven fire and the whole will cement as the artist’s decision then, chilled down the crucible, the laminae are separated from the cement and they are found calcined. Here there is also a description of the cupel, which is a corrosion of every imperfect metal by means of lead, which is less important only to gold and silver, and is done by means of the following. Take either ashes from horns of castraded, or burned leg bones of beef, in the case you lack of both, take ashes of grape prunings either washed or desalinated, just one of the two conditions, them shortly knead, place it in the cupel form, then let try to make use of it, and if you don’t have cupel’s forms do in the following way. Take a round crucible of the size you want, then make a hole in the bottom and fill up with the above mentioned kneaded ashes, press very well, doing a little cavity in the middle with a spoon to put the metal to cupel inside in the following way.

lancillotti nuova guida alla chimica page 20Take its well dry cupel and place it on an oven fire to the purpose prepared with half red hot coals and half dead around, then cover with its muffle, and putting coal on it it will take fire till the cupel to become red hot, then taking one part of the metal you have to cupel, two parts of well cleaned and pure lead inside the cupel so fired, and when melted, put the metal inside, having it a little heated before by use of clothespins, so not to let the operation to get chilled, than when the lead becomes to run out, add two or three times the other, heating it up as we have said, and finished all the lead the work will be accomplished, which you will be aware in two ways: First you will not see the cupel in motion anymore, secondly it remains pure gold or silver in the middle of cupel in a dry plate, which you can notice to rise a little flower shaped ( and this is from metal’s impurities) and seeing that take from fire away, removing the metal by using clothespins, and chilled out in cold water, you will check, in the case of gold, for silver not be mixed, and will be red and bright like the Sun, and if silver, as shining white as the Moon; mind that in the cupeling operations the fire must be continuous both under and over the muffle, which is a cover tile-shaped holed in many places sized appropriate to the cupel, as you can see in the below picture at the letter H.

lancillotti nuova guida alla chimica fumigationChapter 10: On Fumigation.

Fumigation is a corrosion of metals, done by fume, or pungent vapor, and it is done in two ways, that’s to say dry or humid; The dry one is done with metals, that’s to stay with mercury , or lead, the one or the other, in order to calcine by means of them all the perfect metals, and it is done in the following way on the melted lead, or heated mercury, inside a vessel, whose mouth must be narrow, to put on the gold and silver laminae, that being given the vapor shall become frangible so to be ground, and with salt calcined. The lead again by means of mercury in the following way; have the lead melted, then chilled out make a large hole in it, and throw into the mercury and when chilled remove, and do several times till become frangible, so to be reduced in powder.

That was the dry path, the humid one is done putting the liquor, or strong water, into a vessel with a narrow neck, and placing it into a lamina of metal, tied to a string, which must not to touch the liquor, and having well closed the mouth you place it on heated cinders, so that the liquor pungent vapors will rise little by little, whose calx, scrape off will be put again as said above, in so doing till, all calcined, and by that method you have the lead cerusite in laminae to the vapor of vinegar.

Chapter 11. On Ignition.

Ignition is a calcination done by fire, and it is divided into two paths, that’s to say roasting or reverberation. Roasting is an ignition by means of that vegetal and animals are reduced in ashes with a strong fire, as minerals strictly speaking don’t get reduced in ashes, but in calx; by means of roasting every humidity of every medicine gets consumed, remaining but the salt and an useless earth. And it is done in two ways, or opened at flames incinerating the matter, from which you get the salt, or covered into a closed vessel, and luted, placing on a reverberating fire, or in a stoned furnace, or in a furnace of potters, and gets calcined, and reduced in ashes, from which the salt is extracted, and in this way the volatile spirits, join with feces from which salt alkali is extracted, and because of that retention of spirits different from the first.

Reverberation is an ignition by which the bodies are calcined, in a reverberation oven, at flames.

Ignition heads to desiccate the natural humid, and in this way are done vitriol, salt, alum and other simile things.

Tools involved:

carlo lancillotti nuova guida alla chimica calcination tools✚ Wind Oven with bell where is a crucible with matter to liquefy.
A. Round Crucible.
B. Triangular Crucible.
C. Short round Crucibles.
D. Crucible egg-shaped, narrow mouth and wide in the bottom.
E. Bearded round Crucible-shaped vessel, wide mouth narrow bottom, which has to be variously holed.
F. Ingots shaper where metals are thrown.
G. Oven with cupel without muffle.
H. Cupel with muffle.”

  1. See also Lemery & the Spirits of Salt Armoniac  ;
  2. See also Aqua Regia and Fulminating Gold According to Lemery ,  Aqua Regia & Fulminating Gold ;
  3. The ancient cementation was not the binding together of particles or other things by cement, but a process of altering a metal by heating it in contact with a powdered solid;