Ancient spagyrists knew that the mere division an re-union of four elements, repeated just a few times, did not lead to alchemical Sulphur but to Caput Mortuum, a chemical salt.
Basilius Valentinus, in his Triumphal Chariot of Antimony first edition Leipzig 1624, spoke about Antimony glass as a tyro’s practice (in fact it is part of the preliminary works) :” … Here I write not to men skilled in this Art, who have often experienced the powers of the fire, but to Candidates, Tyro’s, and the studious Disciples of the Spagyrical Science; because to make Glass of Antimony is a thing common, and well known to many. I say, that every Glass, whether made of Metals, Minerals, or any other Matter, must be thoroughly cooked in Fire to due Maturity, that it may have a clear and transparent Colour”.
There is a deep difference between ancient and modern spagyria. The first one perfectly knew where spagyria ended and Alchemy began. Spagyrical works were reserved only to preliminary works. While modern one shamelessly pretends to arrive to the last cooking. Nowadays modern spagyria represents a problem for Alchemy, not a resource. When I began my pharmacology studies, Alchemy was seen as a land to plunder. I myself, I must confess, at first thought of starting up a spagyrical laboratory. As a young student I wanted to try some ancient potable gold recipes to cure my severe anemia.
Here an excerpt from an italian spagyrist ( famed, indeed) teaching how to prepare antimony glass. At least he did not use hermetic terms. As you can see in the picture above, the result of this proceeding cannot but being Caput Mortuum, a mere chemical salt sometimes soluted in alcohol. A tincture. Indeed Caput Mortuum is composed by salts insoluble in waters.
“Take a mineral and calcine it at a temperature which varies depending on the mineral. The powder obtained is being put into a circulator with the addition of a menstruum (solvent, but in Alchemy a chemical solvent is hardly called menstruum), in a certain proportion which also varies depending on the mineral used. When this is done, close the circulator (an alchemical solution is to be made in a closed vessel, not to lose any vapor, while our modern spagyrist stoppers it when it is done). There are various types of circulators, but the most common and most used is undoubtedly the Pelican – and put to move around exposing to the sun and moon, for a philosophical lunar month (28 days). ( this operation has close resemblance with magnetization. Although, in my opinion, it is preferable to be carried out before Caput Mortuum reduction in chemical salts. By the way this is not compulsory )
After this period open the circulator and let the menstruum evaporate, thus obtaining an oil, which is nothing more than the philosophical Sulphur of the ore as well as a colloidal metal. ( perhaps our spagyrist called this product sulphur because of a certain fixing or drying proceeding from excessive wetness).
Take now this colloidal metal, place it in a pelican and pour a certain amount of tartarized alcohol on. Make all circulate exposing to the sun and moon again for another philosophical lunar month (28 days). After this period the solution is filtered and the liquid obtained by filtration will be nothing but the spagyric metallic dye.”
The procedure for obtaining a Spagyric dye from antimony is more complicated: Take the stibine and add a certain proportion of nitre ( not specified, but one from experience can think of Potassium Nitrate, KNO3, Saltpeter. Generally used to low down antimony ores smelting temperature) and start calcinating for a time at a certain temperature. Then increase temperature and what you get is the glass of antimony.
This antimony glass is being pulverized and placed in a pelican. Pour on a certain quantity of distilled vinegar and close, put to warm at a temperature of about 40 ° C, in other words, as alchemists said, at a temperature of incubating or fermenting manure and leave it for a philosophical lunar month.
Past this period the solution is filtered and evaporated ( in Alchemy one has to be careful not to lose any vapor. Anybody is able to dry letting evaporate from open vessel) thus obtaining a powder that you will still put in a pelican, together with a certain amount of tartarized alcohol. You will close the circulator and will let it move for another philosophical month. After this period you will filter and finally get Spagyric Tincture of Antimony. All these dyes (he refers to these chemical products as “ dyes” while, as afore mentioned, they are mere alcoholic tinctures) contain no salt, but colloids.”
Basilius Valentinus, retaking his Triumphal Chariot of Antimony, made clearly understand that Antimony Glass is a part of the first-preliminary work, not already the philosophical sulfur. On the left, from Basilius Valentinus “ Azoth”, you can see what the Birds are for: to raise Caput Mortuum or the dead head. The powder of glass of antimony should then be raised, or volatilized. Even into a pelican. The philosophical sulfur is still far.
See recipes from Basilius Currus Triumphalis performed By Carlo Lancillotti at Lancillotti: Glass and Oil according to Currus Thriumphalis. Part 1.