Martino Poli is an ancient chemist despite his writing in 1706. But no ancient chemist would dare to explain Saltpeter analysis so clearly, in plain words indeed.
Back at that time analysis was not the detailed examination of an element as is today, but rather the process of losing cohesion in a body in order to get magnetized, and in so doing giving the most Secret Fire out of it (1).
Be aware that Saltpeter, potassium nitrate, was (is) an ubiquitous salt in Alchemy, and that’s for a lot of reasons which we are going to discover in this blog. For example we have already learn it is useful to low down temperature inantimony metallurgy. But it is also employed as a Secret Fire/Mercurius source, for both Mercurius Universalis and Mercurius Crudus extracted from raw matter. Salts volatilization being involved in Mercurius Crudus to achieve a Mercurius. And analysis is not so foreigner to salts volatilization. In fact Martino Poli separation method for saltpeter is not so different from a volatilization method. Final product could dissolve metals, indeed.
Martino Poli conception of analysis is ancient, of course. And dates back at a time when alchemical and chemical proceedings were not foreigners one another. Poli was iatro-chemist indeed. Let’s listen from him (my translation from italian):
“Chemistry is experimental philosophy, true imitation of nature, by which, making the analysis of all natural mixed, chemists separate from them the true principles that, once purified and exalted, are reunified again.”
In fact Il Trionfo degli Acidi, or the Triumph of Acids, was conceived by Martino Poli as a pamphlet against the modern chemistry theories that, at the beginning of eighteenth century, were already around. From Poli’s introduction:
“Moderns write more clearly since they compare the whole physical system according to the clocks mechanical structure and other artificial machines rather than elucidating the principles of natural things, which instead they have buried. They named their new philosophy mechanical and corpuscular”.
Nevertheless Poli is a man of his time when speaking with a clarity that would have been unthinkable a century earlier. But it is fair to say that if old ideas were satisfactory they would not have been replaced by new ones. As a matter of fact ancient science is well suited to alchemy, not science. Relying on Mercurius Philosophorum for the treatment of diseases would be unwarranted for practical as well as for confidentiality reasons. Human medicine and science must follow their way of continuous progress. And to be honest Alchemy too should modernize its means.
Il Trionfo degli Acidi, page 27: “Take of refined saltpeter reduced in very sharp crystals through repeated solutions and coagulation, in such a way to observe its pyramidal shape without a microscope. Join together with double weight of Armenian bole (2) and put the whole to distill in a luted retort providing a large container, and graduate fire according to the art, it draws a spirit of great utility, which corrected several times only by itself, was found to be a pure and fine spirit stripped of its original shape so that when observed under microscope