Page 291. Notes: This preparation is called salt or stone de Prunelle or blackthorn, either because the salt extracted from blackthorns has little by little the same virtue and shape of the mineral crystal, or because it is prescribed in case of hot fevers, whose heat is comparable to a red hot piece of coal, which is called Pruna. German people give it the shape of a blackthorn being teinted in red with roses.
The ancients believed that it would be necessary to throw some flowers of Sulphur on the melted Saltpeter, in order to make it more aperitif, but in so doing depriving it of its spirits more penetrating than the sulphur raised with it, in this way instead of making it more open and efficacious, it is denied to release its best.
It is easy to see this bad purpose being one of those abating the sake of the chemical medicine, failing to discover the composition of the natural things instead of merely giving correctives. So I would recommend to simply serve refined Saltpeter purified from its salt fixed three or four different times, as we have written I assure from my so frequent experience that it is far better than when prepared with sulphur.
Page 292. Salt Polichreste: Powder and mix exactly equal parts of Saltpeter and common sulphur. Throw about one ounce of this mixture in a good crucible, which has previously made red hot, it will be a considerable flame, that being passed, throw inside again the same amount of matter and go on like that till all your mixture will be employed. Go on with the fire another four and five hours; take care that the crucible be always red hot, then overthrew the crucible in a bronze platter well dried at fire. Then the matter being cooled down, get it powdered , and make it melting in a suitable volume of water; filter the dissolution and have it evaporated in an earthen or glass basin at a sand fire: you will have a very pure Salt Polichreste. What will remain in the filter must be rejected as useless. Usage ad dosage in the original page.
Page 293. Notes: This salt is nothing more than a Saltpeter deprived of its volatile part by sulphur, it is called Polichreste from the greek word that’s to say the servant of various uses (usage and dosage in the original page. Being not the main topic of this site I decided to omit medical usages and dosages in the pages 294-295).
Page 295. Salt of Sulphur: Put four ounces of prepared salt Polichreste, as we have said, into a glass horn and pour over a pound of distilled urine and two ounces of spirit of sulphur: place your horn over sand and aften having fit a container, distill at low fire all your humidity. Cohobate for two times the distilled liquor and take care, at the end of the last cohobation, to not increase fire in the fear of getting a too weak acid; but as soon as the droplets will cease, and only a white mass there will be inside the horn, one must remove the fire and let cool down the platters.
Free from the distilled liquor, since it is useless and having broke the horn you get to powder the mass of salt inside and keep it well close in a phial. It is a very agreeable salt whose a half drachm (usage and dosage in the original page)
Notes. Page 297: This salt is improperly called Salt of sulphur, but it is just a Salt Polichreste impregnated with acid spirit.
One has to cohobate the liquor to open this salt and improve the acid penetration. It is good for the third and continuing fevers ( usage and dosage in the original page).
Spirit of Nitre: Powder and exactly mix two pounds of refines Saltpeter, together with six pounds of dried clay. Put this mixture into either a large earthen horn or a glass one closed with lute, and place it in a closed reverberation oven, fit a large ball or container and apply a very little fire under for about four or five hours in order to let out all the phlegm which is to distill drop by drop.
Page 298: As soon as you will see nothing coming out, discharge all the useless remainings inside the container and having fitted again one must close all joints with lute and increase fire little by little, till second degree, will come out some spirits which will fill the ball with white clouds, so go on with the fire for two hours at the same degree, then increase it till the last violence, and when vapors turning red, push the fire to the maximum till there is nothing more coming out. The whole operation will last fourteen hours. The vessels having cooled down unstick open all the lutes and pour your Spirit of Nitre into an earthen bottle which you will close with wax.
Page 299: Spirit of Nitre is useful to dissolve metals, this is the best among all the Strong Water; and the corrosive virtue of the other waters of this nature mainly comes from Nitre which is in their composition.
The sweetened Spirit of Nitre is made by mixing in equal parts Spirit of Nitre and rectified wine, and making it circling in a joining vessel over a warm table for about three days. It is good for colitis (usage and dosage in the original page).”
The spirits prepared by Lemery lead not only to chemical acids as outcome, since their preparation has something of “alchemical” instead. Read my previous posts on Lemery’s processes from other spirits to salts volatilization (2). Of course in the case of Saltpeter the french apothecary’s experiences are not so clear and apparent, anyway pay attention to the alchemical side of those processes. But let’s go on.
“Notes: One have to mix either some greasy earth or some bole with nitre, for the same reason we have already said in the distillation of common salt ( you can find the link in the foot note number two).
Page 300: I discharge the phlegm since it does nothing but weakening the spirit. The white vapors come from the volatile parts of Saltpeter, and keep the spirit weaker, while the red vapors come from the fixed part and fortify the spirit: this is because towards the end, the fire is pushed to the extreme. This fixed Spirit is commonly called “ Blood of Salamander”.
Even laypersons could have randomly hear about this word, salamander, in Alchemy. Here Lemery points at redness as a synonym of fixity and whiteness of volatility. As in Alchemy. But in Alchemy red comes after white in a different way than consequently to a big fire (3). Concerning the recurring presence of a symbolical salamander in many instances when Saltpeter is involved, is something Lemery doesn’t want to excessively point out. But it remains the fact of a salamander, little animal which was alleged to survive to big fires.
“When Saltpeter is refined, there is only earth inside the horn. I (Lemery) have got this earth remained after the distillation of Spirit of Nitre and have it boiled several times carefully in water, and having let evaporate the filtered decoction, I haven’t found any salt in the bottom.
I have also observed that of two pounds of refined nitre, it is extracted one pound and fourteen ounces of liquor, either in phlegm or in spirit. The third of the horn in which all the operation is performed must remain empty and the ball be very large, since otherwise these spirits impetuously coming out would break the whole to make its place.
Page 301: The sweetened spirit of wine serves fine the spirit of nitre, since being a sulphur it ties and encompasses the acid points, in a way these one become unable to impinge.”
The footnote 2 is useful to make this sentence intelligible.
“Strong Water: Powder and mix three pounds of purified and dried Saltpeter, together with one pound and a half of Vitriol calcinated to white, as we explain here: Put this mixture in a earthen or glass horn closed with lute, whose a third is to be kept empty, place your horn into a closed reverberation oven and fit a ball as container.
Page 302: Joints must be exactly luted. Start giving a little fire, in order to slightly heat the horn and then increase little by little, but as soon as you will see the spirits coming out in red clouds in the container, go on for fifteen or sixteen hours at the same degree, then push to the utmost violence, till the apparition of white vapors in the place of the red ones. Then Let cool down the vessels and unstick the luting; you will find in the container your Strong Water, which has to be kept in a well closed earthen bottle: this is to dissolve metals.
Notes: I get the Vitriol Calcinated to white in order to remove an insipid humidity which could only weaken it.
The strong water utmost virtue of corrosion comes from Nitre, since Vitriol cannot but provide just too much weaker Spirits. I admit that the oil of Vitriol has a lot of corrosive virtue, but eighteen or twenty hours of fire are not enough to let it out, since it can be released at least after thirty hours of distillation. The Vitriol is here used uniquely to improve Saltpeter, and by means of fire to get rarefied in Spirit.
We have to note that if the matter should experienced the fire for five days and nights, the ball would always congested with clouds, because Vitriol gives off Spirits all along this time.
Sometimes one can also add to the Strong Water mixture some Alum and Arsenic, but the composition we have given is better. A red mass remains inside the horn, whose one can use like Colcothar, as astringent.
Page 304. Fixation of Saltpeter in Salt Alkali: Make the Saltpeter melt in a strong crucible above red hot coals, throw on a spoonful of rough powdery coal, it will produce a big flame together with a detonation, which being passed you will apply again as much as before, and that’s till the matter will no more flame but remains fixed at the crucible bottom. Then throw it in a well heated mortar, and once cooled down put there in powdery form and make melt in a suitable volume of water. Filter the dissolution through a grey paper and let evaporate all the humidity in a earthen basin or in a glass vessel, on a sand heat. A very white salt will remain, which must be kept inside a well closed phial.
This salt tastes like Tartar Salt and it is not so different in medical virtues: it opens all the obstructions through urine ( dosage in the original page). It is also helpful to extract the tincture of senna. One can also extract a Red Tincture by means of Spirit of Wine, like the Tartar Salt. If placed in a cellar it gets dissolved again in a liquor simile to the oil of Tartar. It is used in order to extract the Tincture of Vegetables and Minerals”
Tartar Salt is not so foreign to the alchemical proceedings to achieve Alkahest (4). And Spirit of Wine is ubiquitous in ancient chemistry as well as in Alchemy. And Tincture is a term not so confined in apothecary (5).
“Notes: Saltpeter in this operation is useful because of its volatile parts, to flame the coal, to raise with impetuosity, to get a detonation, since, as we have already said, Saltpeter never flames if not joined with another matter sulphur like, And coal, as we know, is filled with oily part.
This salt is dissolved in water, then the dissolution filtered, to separate what is terrestrial. When the humidity is over, it remains a Salt Alkali, because the salt of coal, which is an Alkali, is strictly mixed inside the parts of Saltpeter (6).
- See also Thesaurus Hermeticum & the Pythagorean River;
- See also Lemery and the Spirits of Salt Armoniac and Lemery & the Spirits of Common Salt with Wine and Aqua Regia and Fulminating Gold According to Lemery ;
- See also Kamala Jnana, Introduction to a Live Secret and Hortulus Hermeticus, Beware of the Red Laton ;
- See Starkey Pyrotechnie & Volatilization of Alkalis 2 and Baro Urbigerus & the Circulatum Tree ;
- See Guido Montanor & Latin Verb Tingo-Tinxi ;
- See also Martino Poli & the Analysis of Saltpeter ;