Joannes Agricola - Treatise on Gold

Chapter 4.

Back to Agricola page .

Chapter 4.

How to Prepare the Quintessence of Gold

Take some of the brown calx reverberated with sulphur, 3 or 4 Lots. Mix it with the crystalline coagulated dry water, 6 Lots. This water does not dissolve the metal in the common way but separates the good from the bad. It destroys the bad and the course, turning it into earthdust and slime, while increasing the good in its nature, This conjunction done, very carefully close the glass with lute, then set it in a gradation-fire in sand for 8 weeks, day and night, in steady heat, but only so much that the calx does not melt and shows just a slight brown glow. In that steady heat the crystalline water will open the gold completely, turning it into dust and ashes.

When now the gold has all turned into ashes, give it a stronger fire for three weeks. Then take it out, open the glass and pour it over these ashes the vinegar of Nature, which the Philosophers call Nature's fire. The vinegar will soon revivify the ash, extract its Soul, beat the earth and feces down and leave them at the bottom of the glass. You can do the same with silver and other metals. In this way metals can be totally anatomized and decomposed, bringing them into their crystalline and essential form.

Whoever wants to follow Nature further, may add to this essence of gold the essence of antimony, which may be quite sweet and transparent, nicely smelling and tasting, and also penetrating. This essence will soon be tinged and attract the tincture of the gold. Enclose the latter in a glass and set it in warm ashes. It will turn into a red transparent glass or salt, quite stable and fixed in the fire, quite transparent. It might well be called the arcanum of gold. It is also possible to add the essence of vitriol instead of the essence of antimony and coagulate further, as just said.

N O T E

I thought above that there is not one laboratory worker barely able to distill water who would not know a special arcanum for processing potable gold or the quintessence! Therefore more processes have arisen then there are hours in the year. They are all useless words and breadless arts which spoil more than they help, and each wants to arrange the hat after his head. Accordingly, I think less than nothing of those processes. Yet there is so much shouting about them that it fills all corners of the world. And now as almost everybody knows that medicine that an excellent medicine lies hidden in gold, everybody wants to extract it. Indeed, it is to be considered a great gift of God if this noble jewel is granted to a man. Those who strive after this high secret are not to be blamed but should rather be praised, provided they do not associate with sophists, thereby cheating people out of their money and ruining their health. Our author had likewise taken great pains and had strenuously reflected on how he could obtain this jewel we can easily see by his various labors that he tried in different ways. Among others, he also indicated this process on how to prepare the quintessence of gold. As I see it, however, this is not a quintessence but only a wearisome calcination and extraction with the arcanum of tartar or vitriolized tartar.

With this salt he does nearly all his works, believing that he has quite rightly proceeded according to the views of the Philosophers - which I cannot believe, because the crystalline dry water of the Philosophers and the arcanum of Nature are different from what the author thinks. The latter decompose gold, so that it can never again be brought into a Body ( ), unless it is done by projection. But according to the processes of our author, gold can again be reverted into a Body with little effort, and this crystalline water and out author's vinegar of Nature cannot do much that it would completely discard its covers and stand there naked. In addition, one is said to decompose the Body ( ); the other, to extract it, which is against all Philosophers. They always say that calcining, sublimating, fixing, etc., are all one work, and that it is done in a closed vessel and furnace. If this is true, as it is indeed, it must follow that the author never understood the views of the Philosophers, much less prepared Nature's vinegar and making potable gold thereby. This process can therefore not be a quintessence of ( ), no matter how often he insists that we must follow Nature.

This would nevertheless be a good teacher if he also showed the way of Nature, in which one should certainly walk. Nature does not lead us astray, provided we do not digress from her. She gives us the natural bodies and spirits in which the Art must work - prepare, purify and ready them, to become that which the Art had intended to make of them at the start. But at the same time she shows us, as if pointing with a finger, where we should direct our eyes, that is, to her work, as she operates in her workshop, and not as the misleading alchymists require in their false books, ever boasting of high matters. I am not speaking of the books of the Philosophers, however, although they are obscure and cannot be understood at the beginning. Therefore Baccaser says in the Turba: Qui longanimis erit libenterq; patientia fruitur in tramite justo hujus artis meabit, etc. It is a good warning.

It is the same with the vinegar of Nature. Nature has already prepared it. We must not make it under any circumstances but only take it out of her vinegar-jar. It is vinegar against Nature, sweet, pleasantly tasting and crysta-clear. Therefore it does not wet the hand and is called the most acid vinegar (acetum acerrimum) by the Philosophers, which are strange words. This vinegar correctly decomposes gold into its Principles, simultaneously extracting its tincture. Our author's process is unable to do this, and it is nothing but a preparation of the Body for turning it into a liquid. It differs very little from the other preparations, because for a quintessence all three Principles must be well purified. Here, the tincture and the Sulphur are indeed purified, but where are the other two, Salt and Mercury? Mercury, which appears in the form of a beautiful clear water, must likewise be brought to the highest degree of purity. The Salt also must be sublimated into a transparency, like diamonds or rubies. Then a quintessence can follow.

All this can be accomplished by the vinegar of Nature alone, without decanting or distilling. The common man will not believe this, because he calcines gold himself, dissolves and extracts it himself, thus believing that he can produce a quintessence. According to our author's instructions, gold must first be turned into a fulminating gold, then mixed with the vitriolized tartar, then cemented for fully 18 weeks. With the vitriolized menstruum the Sulphur is first extracted. This is saying it in a few words, but the work is so long that it becomes extremely tedious. Even so, there is something to it. This process is good enough to work after it, but you have to remember that it does not result in a quintessence, as our author believes. But whoever wants to obtain a fine essence in a short time, may work as follows:

I took the calcined gold and poured on it the secret spirit of vitriol. It dissolved the gold within 24 hours and extracted an essence like a ruby, leaving a white Body like fixed silver. Thus I could obtain the whole preparation and perfection within 8 days, because the real spirit of vitriol has the power of attacking, decomposing, and liquefying gold without violence. No other menstruum can easily do this, except that which I saw at a good friend's, of which I also spoke above. Anyone in possession of it could produce the quintessence of gold - but not everything is revealed to us, nor would it always be good to do so.

But how the secret spirit of vitriol, which so nicely dissolves gold, is to be prepared will be reported below under its title, to which I hereby wish to refer the kind reader. What is missing here will be disclosed there.

Here I wil teach you to prepare a secret spirit for making potable ( ) which tastes as good as a Seville orange. It subdues gold, causing it to melt in any liquid, yes, in rainwater, and it tinges bloodred. I have always considered this my greatest secret, and am still considering it such. I will communicate it here out of goodwill, but on condition that I am rightly understood. Whoever does not understand had better leave it, or else he might accuse me of misleading him. Yet I can say in good conscious that I am writing nothing but the truth, and I here reveal what I have made with my own hands. With this spirit gold becomes so beautiful and pleasant that it is amazing, and not one in a hundred will believe that there is so much power in this spirit. For if filed gold is simply put in it and subjected to a mild digestion, it will lose its luster and change into the highest redness. The spirit, however, unites with the gold and disappears - and Body and Spirit result in one sweet Body. No menstruum can do this, except the Universal of the world and the Philosophers, no matter what the laboratory workers write - it is not important. You must know, however, that this spirit must not be made more often than once a year, for various reasons, and this is no sophistry as some imagine. Although it can be made at any time, it does not have the power of decomposing gold, at which I myself have been surprised.

But so as not to keep you waiting any longer, know that in the soil near silver mines a special brown earth is found between the galleries. When the sun enters the constellation Cancer and at full moon, which happens every year about mid-June, that earth turns beautifully yellow, as if it were covered with the finest gold. It does not last for more than three hours when it disappears again and the gold vanishes in one moment, so to speak. I observed this carefully at Freiberg in Meissen. You have to wait for it attentively, otherwise you will not notice it. You must not only go by the calendar, but if you wish to collect this gilt earth, you must yourself be familiar with astronomy, to know at what time the full moon occurs in the sky in the mountains, so as not to miss this time, be it at night or during the day, it is all the same.

Get as much of this earth as you like, put it in an oak barrel to prevent the spirit from evaporating, half fill the retort with it, add a receiver, then distill the spirit off. It will look wonderful. When it is all out, distill the phlegma over. By rectification you must get the volatile salt from the left-over. The latter must be turned into a viscous substance by means of its fixed salt. Without it, the work is impossible as one must open the other. When the viscous substance is quite pure, distill it seven times through a retort, and you will get a beautiful crystalline spirit with which you can master the gold and get its essence. I do not believe that any writer has revealed as much as I have. Pray to God for good luck! It is plain enough, I believe a child could understand it. If you cannot make gold spiritual with this spirit and dissolve it into its three Principles, you will not do it with any Aqua Regis or salt of ammonia, except with the dry water of the Philosophers - let anyone say what he likes.

I have learned as much in chymia as any man who is a great boaster and swashbuckler. And praise be to God, I also know what the Art is capable of and how far its operation extends. If God grants you this means for obtaining potable gold, you must not search for other processes, for you will not need them. In a short time, and almost without effort, you will be able to prepare a panacea which will quickly help the sick in their needs. Of this you cannot use more than 5 grains at one go, and you will with pleasure learn its effects in a few hours.

True, I have only been looking for two years for this materia but have been unable to obtain it because I have always been impeded by the tyrannical troops. I must pray to God to let me obtain and enjoy it next year. Many great lords will remember how miserably they have been cheated with potable gold, and how much they spent for it. And what did they obtain? Nothing but words and leprous gold calx which they often used more to the detriment of their health than for the maintenance of their lives. If their laboratory workers had known this one menstruum, they would not have led their pious Princes in vain by the nose. It is right that this should happen to those gentleman. When they are supposed to make an advance payment to their physicians for a good medicine, nothing is being done and money is tied down with chains. But when such vagrants come, who carry their art only on their tongues, then all treasures are open, nothing must be lacking, yes, they even give great honoraria and golden chains for the cheating.

A few years ago, I saw such a swashbuckler at the court of a noble Lord. He only gave him a mere well-rectified spirit of vitriol instead of a true spirit of silver and brass, but praised it in advance to high heaven. Such a sacred thing it was, according to him, greater than Mary's shirt at Loretto! He was given a fine gold chain in addition to a portrait painting. I offered to make a good quantity of this spirit for 10 Thalers, which would be as good and even better than the former. But due to all the boasting, my offer was laughed at, because I had not told him such stories. that is how it still goes, and the fat will always float on top. An honest man would feel ashamed if he were to make such false claims as these shameless fellows do.

Likewise, I also saw a vagrant on Austria who carried a small travel apothecary along with him. He spoke wonders of what arcana it contained, and convinced people so much of it that he made a great deal of money. When he had exhausted his supply, he had it filled again by a laboratory worker called Johann Spangenberg, paying nine Thalers for it. When I arrived on the scene, he became quite scared. Nevertheless, this had been for him the right owl to catch birds, and he was indeed quite successful. When he noticed, however, that his tricks were about to become common knowledge, he moved away with his prey, after rather thoroughly emptying the purses of some Counts and Lords, whom he ripped off properly.

The same happened recently at a noble Court where a laboratory worker had gone through more than 40.000 Thalers. When the works and medicaments were examined, someone said he would prepare the same medicines for 500 guilders. This caused the Prince to become suspicious, and thereafter he did not spend any more money on laboratory works. This is the reason why the praiseworthy art of chymia reaps great contempt throughout the world through such men. Now we will no longer stop at those cheats but consider and examine the author's process further.

The author also advises us to add the essence of the Sun to the essence of antimony and to coagulate them together. That is correct, but one has to take care that the essence of antimony or vitriol be quite sweet and red. Otherwise there will be a failure. How to prepare them will be shown in their place.

In the grand-ducal laboratory at Innsbruck in Thieving, I saw that the tincture of the Sun was increased by the tincture of antimony by 1 to 5 parts. After four days in digestion, various colors could be seen, and I was very surprised that during this time a flower appeared in the center, like gold. It did not change, but all around it there was something like a rainbow. Now the laboratory worker removed it from the fire and opened the glass. When the air touched it, all the colors in the center disappeared and only a muddy-red liquid was left. This caused everybody to be startled. We put it back and coagulated it to a red powder. After that, we took it out and put some of it on a red hot silver plate. It was fixed and did not smoke.

Now the laboratory worker took 1 Lot. of silver calx, 1 Quentlein of this tincture, and mixed them together with a pestle. The silver calx turned totally black. He put it into a phial, set that to digest, as it turned even blacker than before and flowed together like a lump of pitch. As I continued my traveling farther from there, I could not wait for the final result, but I heard from the Director of the Chemical Laboratory that he tried to refine the silver enough to make stable gold of it. Whether he succeeded in doing so and the gold stood the test, I cannot say for sure. All experienced chymists believe that antimony contains the seeds and flowers of all metals, which we may well believe. As this oil had been fermented with the tincture of the Sun, one may well suppose that something came out of it. I wish I could have stayed long enough to see the result, but I took some of the tincture or essence along with me in my travels, to test what it could do for diseases.

After this, I visited some one belonging to the aristocracy, not far from Trient. He had a beautiful laboratory, a good laboratory worker, and he himself was a learned man with whom I saw many wonderful things. At that time I made sweet oil of vitriol, which was as red as blood and sweet as sugar. Something will also be said about that further on. I prepared this oil of gold for him and let it coagulate, which was done in a short time. It turned into a stone, transparent like glass. With it he cemented silver once or three times, then melted it with a rather strong fire, and everything flowed together into one mass. He distilled that on a cupel and obtained a white Body which he put in separation water (Aqua Fortis). The laminae turned brown-red and did not melt but decreased in weight. After they had laid in it for some time, he removed them and melted them. They registered half a point on the needle, and no separation water would attack them. Now he prepared a refining water of the following ingredients and put this Body in it, thinly laminated. It refined from day to day until it was as beautiful as the best Ducat-gold. Some black powder was left in the glass which afterwards, when melted, gave a white Body. The graduation (refining) water was made as follows:

Antimonii an Unc. j.
Vitrioli ad flavedinem calcinati Un. iiij.
Sulphuris vivi Unc. j.
Viridis aeris ij. Lot.
Salis gemma Unc. j.
Arsenici iij. Lot.
Mercurii sublimat. iiij. Lot.

to be very well mixed and pulverized, imbibed with the urine of young boys, distilled in a retort by the degrees of the fire, in a very large receiver, propter impetu spirituum copiosissimorum destillentur, exibit aqua lactea, quam 1. purga, vel injectione lunae, vel cohobatione.

He loyally informed me of this process, but I never tried it. Therefore I will not say too much about it. However, I saw that the silver obtained the most beautiful colors of the Sun, though it is not true that this water fixed the silver. It was the preceding tincture that did it, the water only provided the color. If silver is fixed, it can be enormously refined by this water. I have, however, forgotten what the gain was. I suppose that the work had not been done without any gain, as both ingredients, ( ) & ( ) are wonderful fixers, and a great virtue is hidden in them. Thus, probably no sickness can resist this medicament.

We must now return again to our potable gold and speak about its virtues, especially about what I learned by experience and practice, and what is generally not found in other authors. Above, at the beginning of this Note, I mentioned that I had not prepared this essence according to the author's process. I did it in my practice and have noted what I have thus learned. However, so as not to deviate from my method of reporting, I show in each of the author's works what I have seen regarding it and what I have discovered about it in my practice, also for what it is used. As I have already above referred to several case histories which recommend potable gold, I will here only relate two or three additional ones which would be difficult to find elsewhere, to show what wonderful virtues and effects God has put in this subject.

In Gmunden, Austria, in the region of the Enns, I had a patient who belonged to the aristocracy. He had such a discharge in his eyes as I had never seen in my life. It swelled his eyes to make them look like chicken eggs, and they were as red as blood. It is easy to guess how much pain they cause him, as he could rest neither by day nor by night. After he had suffered for quite some time and had also consulted many physicians about it, he told me of his great pain and begged me to help him for God's sake. I accepted him and wanted to see what I could do for him. Seeing that his whole sickness consisted in such a strong, heavy discharge, I first ordered an enema for him, to be administered for several consecutive days.

Rx. Rad. Bzyoniae
Polypodij
Asari an. j. Lot.
Herb. Calaminthae
Betonicae
Malvae
Origani
Mercurialis an. m. j.
Cortc. Myrobalan. Ind. j. Lot.
to be cooked in a sufficient quantity of bullion, & tecto vase ad casum partis tertiae, cola &

Rec. Colaturae Unc. j.
Electuarii Drasenae j. Lot.
Mellis roset. ij. Lot.
Salis gemmae j. Lot.
Olei olivar. iij. Lot., everything to be mixed for the enema.

This enema removed much bad moisture from him. After that, I used many topical remedies, but it was to no avail. Although at first the discharge seemed to go away, it nevertheless returned each time. I, too, despaired of him and did not want to try anything further. But because the poor patient was in such pain, he begged me to try everything, even if it took his whole fortune, for he would rather die or be quite poor than suffer such pain. I then prepared potable gold for him after my own recipe and cleansed him six times a month with an extract of antimony and spirit of vitriol. After that I gave him every morning 4 drops of gold essence, and prescribed a proper diet for him. Within two months the symptoms disappeared, the tumor vanished, though the redness continued for some time. I drove it away with the following water:

Rec. Aq. Euphrasiae
Rosarum an. ij. Lot.
Levistici j. Lot.
Aceti Antimonii j. Lot.
Sacharih crystallini v. Quentlein (?)
(could be: v. Quent.)
Croci j. Scrup. misce.

With this he had to wash his eyes several times a day. The redness disappeared completely, and he got a fresh and healthy face again.

When I sailed from Limason, Cyprus, to Tripolis, Syria, and we had rather bad weather for several days, the upper sail above the round top had one day to be quickly removed. A boatsman, who was a Moor, wanted to run quickly from the ladder inside the ship. He missed his step, and when he was only halfway down, fell on an anchor that was lying in the ship, ready to draw up a rope. He had fallen on the ribs of his left side, which became quite swollen. He threw up much blood and was lying there whining like a dog. We were now on high sea, and no apothecary was near. I felt pity for the poor man, took my supplies and gave him a dose of my potable gold, mixed with sweet oil of antimony. He continued throwing up the whole night, but the pain subsided a little. The following day I gave him another dose, again another night. The throwing up disappeared and so did the pain, though there was much swelling. God granted us the good fortune to arrive in Tripolis on the fourth day, when I gave him a purgative prepared from Mercury, which drove a mass of black matter from him. The following day I gave him the purgative again, after which he became hale and healthy and thanked me profusely through an interpreter. I encountered this man again in Alexandria. He helped me in every possible way on the boat and praised my help with many words in front of his co-workers.

At Crain, at the Coratian border between Cammenick and a mountain castle called Cruetzen, which belonged to the Counts of Thurn, there was an inn in a village where I was lodging, waiting for an opportunity to travel to Glis-Wertz in Dalmatia, which was a mighty fortress, and Ragusa. My landlady was in bed, she was sick. I spoke with her; she spoke Wendish, I polish. These two languages understand each other fairly well, just as Slavonic is quite common in that country. I asked her what was the matter with her. She showed me her stomach. It was as swollen as I had never seen the like in my life. It was hard as stone but did not hurt her very much. However, she could not walk because of the huge swelling and weight. She said she had this trouble for over two years. She had spent a great deal of money on it, but nothing could help her. I asked how much she would give me if I restored her health. She was very happy about my concern and wanted to give me all she owned. Her husband offered the same.

I began purging her with the Mercury all by itself - the preparation of this Mercury will be discussed later on. At first, it accomplished very little, eliminating mostly some yellow water. I gave it again the following day, also the third day. Then it operated properly and eliminated so much white, yellow and black slime from her that it was astonishing. Externally, I had her stomach rubbed three times a day with warm urine. Now the swelling began to get soft. As I saw her strength was low, I did not want to attack her further with purging. In the meantime, an opportunity to travel to Zeng arose. I therefore left her some of the potable gold coagulated with oil of antimony and prescribed that she should take 4 grains in a bit of Malvasian wine every day.

The innkeeper had a fine mule which he presented to me. I took it with me, rode with it over mountains and valleys, and it agreed very well with me. When I returned after four weeks and wanted to continue with my other planned journey, I found my landlady walking about in her room. Her stomach had decreased by a good yard. I myself was surprised at it. I purged her twice more and gave her more of the gold, left, and told the innkeeper to get word to me in Venice or Pedua how all this would end. He did so after one month, telling me in a letter written in Wendish that his wife had become quite hale and healthy. He had also arranged for 20 Ducats to be paid to me by a merchant by the name of Simon Cagnoli, which the latter also did. I sold the mule in Treviso for 60 Sequins. Thus I obtained some money, and the woman recovered her health. I myself had not believed at the beginning that it was possible to cure such a sickness in so short a time. But praise and thanks be to God who has put such miracles in Nature and commanded the physician to operate with them. This case history is quite remarkable, and among a thousand patients there may well not be another like it. If there is, a student has now received good directives for treating it. The physicians Paravim Minadous, Andrigassius, and Spigelius, etc., to whom I also communicated this medicament, were also quite surprised at it.

I will tell yet another case history and close by relating what I did in Ischl, in the region of the Enns, for a boy, 14 years of age. He had fallen from a ladder and became mute as a result thereof. He was the only son of wealthy parents. For the parents this misfortune was a great cross, as one may well imagine. They had sent to Salzburg, Weiss, and Linz, wherever they knew of a physician, looking for help. They had sent the boy to Baden, to the warm thermal baths, but it did not help. He remained mute as before, and nobody thought he could be cured. What was surprising was that he did not feel any pain. Finally, his father came to Gmunden, into the house where I was living. At table he related how his son had arrived at such a great misfortune and said that he would give a thousand Ducats to get help. I entered into a conversation with him and said that if he were ready to trust me, I would try something with the boy. However, I did not want to promise him certain help, as he had already tried so much in vain. He was glad about it, and I drove with him to Ischl to examine his son and thereafter come to terms with him.

After examining the patient, I said that it would be a lengthy treatment because the veins and muscles of the tongue were bad, but if he agreed to send his son with me to Gmunden, I would do my best to cure him. The parents liked my proposal. I took the boy with me and began the treatment. The father gave me 40 Ducats for the preparation of the medicine. I took 20 Ducats thereof and prepared potable gold without the addition of antimony. I purged the boy three times with antimony, and will later indicate how to make this preparation. After that, I gave him several sudorifics, also prepared from antimony. They made him perspire a great deal. Thirdly, I prepared a solution for him with which I had his head washed twice early in the morning before he had eaten. He was to be washed each time for almost a full half hour, to thoroughly moisten the veins.

Rec. Rad. Pyrethri

Caryophyllat.
Asarillan j. Lot.
Bacc. Lauri
Juniperi an. iij. Lot.

Herb. Rosamarini

Betonicae
Spicae
Salviae
Majoran
Hederae
Musci Terrestris an. m. ij.
Chamaepyt. m.j.

Flor. Verbasci

Chamomill.
Meliloti an. m. iij.
Lumbricor. terrestr. in olbano exsiccator j. Lot.

Sulphuris vivi ij. Lot. incidantur, to be mixed and cooked in a common liquid. This solution agreed very well with him. He could lift his tongue and did as if he wanted to speak, but could not yet quite manage it. Meanwhile I had prepared potable gold and gave him every morning 5 drops in cherry-brandy. When he had taken it for 10 days, he recovered his speech, though he still stuttered somewhat. For this trouble I prescribed the following balsam:

Rec. Extracti Fellis caprilli j. Lot.

Olei succini
Angelicae
Caryophyll. an. j. Lot.
Camomill. Rom. ij. Lot.
Lavendul. j. Lot.
Nucis mosch. j. Lot, everything to be mixed.

I had rubbed him with it every morning and night, and he was freed from that miserable symptom through God's blessing - but I did not get the 1.000 Ducats. Even so, I was so well compensated that I could be satisfied. Owing to this healing, I acquired a great reputation, which was important to me as gold. It is right, however, to reward good work with gratitude.


If you have problems understanding these alchemical texts, Adam McLean now provides a study course entitled How to read alchemical texts : a guide for the perplexed.