Samuel Norton - The Key of Alchemy


This transcription was originally made by W.A. Ayton in the latter decades of the 19th century, from the original manuscript in the Bodleian Library, Ashmole 1421. Samuel Norton was the great-grandson of the famous 15th century English alchemist Thomas Norton, author of the Ordinall of alchemy.
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Here beginneth the Fourth Treatise of the Key of Alchimie and containeth the Manner of Fermentation

In the three afore Treatises, are shewed the making of the stones, namelie, vegetable, minerall, and Animall; wherefore that we now come to accomplish the same in their height of perfection, this place is most convenient, for that hereby the treatises passed may be thoroughly finished into Elixir as well as the residue which are yet to follow, i.e. the mixed and the transparent stone: wherefore I have referred this middle and 4th place to treate of fermentation; as well for the accomplishing of the stones passed, as for the finishing of those to come; Let us therefore returne to speak of fermentations.

The philosophers speaking of their secret worcke of Nature to bring their Elixir to effect, have likened the composition of the Elixir to the creation and framing of Man: who consisteth of body, spirit, and soule; Even so, their stone for divers likely semblables, they affirme to consist of bodie, spirit, and soule; Of the bodie and spirit we have sufficiently spoken alreadie; We will heere therefore speake of the soule: Know therefore that even as the bodie cannot live or move to doe and use any act without the benefit of the soule, neither can be framed or brought to life, without the commixtion of the soule, and the soule being againe yielded up to the place whence it came, the bodie remaineth dead, deprived of all action and becometh a carcass; so the stone, though it can never so lightlie {...} peyrse and flow, yet can it never become Elixir, without it be commixed with the soule: which is the ferment: for otherwise it would lie dead and be of no effect or valour, for transmutation.

And therefore they wander far out of the way, which object that the stone is one thing; and how we add thereto nothing that is strange and forraine, save only remove superfluousness and therefore would have the Elixir to be made without gold, or silver: Indeede if they know the difference between the stone and Elixir, it might be true: for in the stone there is nothing but himself, but when they meane thereby the Elixir, then can it not bee; for that there cannot be any Elixir without the addition of gold or silver, And yet saith Raimond, Gold and Silver are nor forraine or strange. And more at large in writing of the stone, Raimond saith that without ferment, Sol and Lune shall not be brought to pass: for that they are the forme of the stone: for otherwise our vegetable Mercury is not of himselfe sufficient to make and forme the stone for that it is not his to give that which is appropriate unto another; and is the proprietie of that vegetable Mercurie which is in Sol and Lune by nature, And in the latter end of the first question in his Questionaire, he concludeth that of necessitie: Alchimie consisteth of Gold, Silver and Mercury vegetable, which he affirmeth to be true, reall and materiall essence thereof.

An other objection which seemeth of great force they gather of Rasis' words, and for better proofe thereof, they introduce this simile or example; The words of Rasis are these, our gold and silver are not gold and silver common, and therefore gold and silver are not ferment. These words will I answer by the very words of Raimond, where hee himself answereth if after this manner, saying that in these words there are two things given us to understand; first that it is common gold and after to teach us that though common gold is the matter of the ferment; yet wee are not there with all to ferment, untill it be altered and otherwise reduced; and then saith hee it cannot be called the Sun; for what it be altered; and so are Rasis's words to be understood: And to the like effect are the words of Ripley, where hee citeth the philosopher's words in that very point; saying, Our tincture is drawne from a vile thing and is indued with another much more noble thing; for that we doe ferment it with gold common; And therefore hee saith that all ambiguitie may be removed therefrom, you must know: of certeintie and believe me that the stone may be finished in the white and redd, both which spring out of one roote, without common gold or silver, but it can never bee made Elixir of the stone, but by putting to of common gold and silver: which ought to be altered and requickened with the Mercury of our stone; and to be lifted into christalline sulphur and fixed: and part of that golden sulphur to be made redd, and other part of that be oile of the sulphur of silver, to be kept in his whiteness, and both the sulphur of the gold and silver be oilified: which two oiles the sulphur of other bodies which are to be counted as it were of other middle matter, between Mercury and ferment, ought to bee fermented, untill they yeelde easie fusion, flowing; of a gummy nature, making both the Elixirs, sic. white and redd; The ferment of which cannot be called the common, but ferment philosophicall is ferment of ferments; that is not of common ferment, but must be taken philosophically altered into new qualities; in which all men almost erre, fermenting it with waters, and oiles drawne forthe of bodies not altered, perceiving not the true doctrine of Raimond; Saying of nothing that is white or redd, which Nature hath formed ought Elixir to bee made, or can bee made untill it shall pass the philosopher's wheele; So that the first qualities destroyed, the second qualities are to be brought in; by our masterie: And on this wise are the philosophers soe to be understood: which seem to the ignorant to disagree: And thus are their varieties concorded and Rasis' words answered.

To come to the example, whereby they seeme to prove the words objected, is thus; and I find it both objected by answered in Clangor Buccinae, where is said that even as bread which is once leavened and baked is perfect in his estate or being; and is come to the end of his perfection; so that there with all, we can leaven, or ferment no more; so in gold which is pure, and by examination of fire brought into a fixed and firme bodie and therewith all is impossible to ferment any more; To answer the premisses; it followeth even in the next words; Nisi habeatur {...}, Except the first matter {...} into which it must be resolved into divisible elements, which words I take {...} to confirm the exposition of Ripley: then ought at all to refill the same: for it be not said common, except it be altered {...} of gold; it must bee, {...} it must be of gold, but yet altered; And therefore not as I know some phantasticalie {...} imagine to have it fermented with the marchasites of gold: And that it is alonelie gold, that is the soule and ferment of the stone.

Let us view what Clangor Buccinae hath in that behalf in his 32, 36, 38, 40, 62, 65, 66 pages. Where for the first hee saith; speaking of the coagulation of Mercury: Take coagulum {...}, such coagulation ought to bee done with the Sun and Moon, dissolved in Mercury, but yet only the Moon of the white worcke, and the Sun both to white and redd; Againe in the next alledged; Item tinctura: Also the tincture is the composition of the stone of fire and Aire of gold or of silver: Either thus: It is a certeine compound of the fire and Aire of gold, or of silver: Gold to the redd, and silver to the white: and in the page a little after, the Elixir of philosophers is made of three things, of the Stone Lunaire, Solaire and Mercurie: In the Lunarie the white sulphur; and the stone of Mercury embraceth both natures white and redd: In 38 fac matrimonium {...} Joine matrimonie betweene the redd man and his white wife, and then shalt thou have all the masterie; The philosophers stone riseth up from a wild matter into a most pretious treasure: That is from the sperme of gold by act of generation proiected into the matrice of Mercury: which happeneth by the first commixion, wherefore it is said that when Sol shall be compounded with his like, scilicet Mercury; that shall be a pregnant planet: and in 40, the whole benefit of this Art is in Sol and Mercury: for indeed they being joined together in one, makes the philosopher's stone, and have infinite Tincture; ffor of the bodie is fetched out a colour more redd then bloud; Againe in the 62: for that as the philosophers say, without ferment there is no perfect Tincture: even as good bread cannot be without fermented paste: so is it in our stone: Seeing the ferment is as the soule, which giveth life unto the dead imperfect body by means of the spirit comming and betweene; which is Mercury: and hereby afterward; there is no other ferment but gold as well to the white as the redd Elixir. The Moon only to the white elixir; namely gold or silver of philosophers, not gold and silver naturall: altered therefore: Last of all in 55, 56, hee saith: the ferment is the soule; which by means of water giveth life to the imperfect bodie, which hee afore had not; And it also bringeth into a better forme, And again if you mingle not ferment with Elixir; The bodie shall not be coloured as it ought: for because that without ferment shall neither Sun nor Moon come forth.

Hermes saith that there is never true tincture without the redd stone, Avicenne saith that the Sun tincteth not except it be first tincted; and that it doth give tincture: Gold, saith hee, is held to be both the bodie and ferment; for the Elixirs, both white and redd, in scala philosophorum, I finde written: ferment is double, one to the white and one to the redd; To the white, the Moon, and to the redd, the Sun: Plato speaking of the stone; saith that except there be that in the stone which amendeth the stone, wee shall never have that wee seeke; wherefore wee give this in charge, that the stone we joyned with the bodie that it may ingender the like, that is which meere gold and silver: which are the ferment of your originall Elixir: concluding therefore that there is no other ferment besides the Sun and the Moon.

Wee will to the practick ending with this one saying out of the Rosarie; where it is written that hee which goeth about to seeke any tincture without the Sun or the Moon, is likened to a man that would climbe up a ladder without steps or roundles; There are divers and sundrie waies to prepare the ferments; of which at his time and in his place; I speake but of two waies: for or that the 3rd waie must of necesitie be touched in the next treatise of the mixt stone: The first is of the preparation to make the ferment; which is the long way in putrefaction, The other is the dissolution of the Sun with the Lac Virginis minerali in the sharpe vinegar; where wee speake in the Minerall Stone.

To the first: therefore take your gold, by having well purged it with Antimonis: as every common gold smith knoweth, let him be beaten into foliate or leaf gold: Then let it be corroded in corrosive water called Aqua Fortis made in this wise; Take vitrioll, otherwise green copperose and to him joyne halfe his waight of salt Petre, grinde them very finelie together and put them to distill in a retort of earth; and at the first make lent fire until the faint water be gone, {...} change the receiver and lute fast a great and long receiver thereto and make and increase the fire stronger, and receave all the water that cometh up in a redd fume; for that is the pure part of the strong water which if it be 3 or 4 times rectified: distilling it over in ash fire; then is it very well able to corrode the Moon but not the Sun except it be fortified with Sal Armoniac, or combuste salte, which is the better; You must thus fortifie your strong water with combust salt, take the salt of Burwage and Borage; calcine it in an earthern pot untill it be burned white, in a common fire of coles, then grinde it on a marble stone into fine subtill pouder: that done you must dissolve a goode quantitie thereof in the corrosive water, and in strong fire of sand distill the whole together; and so do with new salt twice of thrice more; Then into the water put your leafe gold do dissolve, and when you see that the corrosive water ceaseth to bubble and boille; set in on a few ashes in the furnace, and when you have soe corroded the gold as much as you list; Then take that water which is of a golden colour verie beutifull in the eye, and in ash fire draw the corrosive water therefrom, then in the bottome will the oile of gold remaine, most faire in sight, on which put againe other new water: for once more; and draw 3 or 4 times, then shall you have your gold verie faire in oile; and well corroded: which if ye touch with bare hands; they will be of a faire purple staine; And thereon riseth the words of Avicenne; Gold doth not tinct except it be afore tincted.

But to proceed unto that, wherein resteth the great secret. Take a good quantity of common Fountaine water distilled, and pour it upon the oile {...} which will then descend to the bottome like graines of salt though not of that colour; vapor away therefore or evacuate warilie that water from it; and drie the matter remaining; which put in a centipie to calcine for the space of 8 days in furnace of reveberation; first with {...} fire; after with an indifferent, and last of all with a strong fire, untill the water augmenting, and increasing become like sponges; Of this process only speaketh Ripley in his little bosome booke, where hee saith calces of the Sun and the Moon are made five waies; first with common Mercurie and common salt; secondlie, with strong corrosive vitrioll and salpeter in which they receive solution; unto whose solution let destilled water the fountaine be put, and the calx shall descend into the bottome of the glasse, in forme like unto grains of salt: Take these graines and calcine them as is said and so forth; In like sort is to be done with Lune: save there to put no salt to the corrosive.

And thus are the calxes prepared: Of which to make sulphures of nature for the great ferment; doe thus: Take the sponges aforesaid; Make them into pouder, and dissolve them in your Lunaris vegetable, or ardent water, being not gone so far as Lunarie, pouring it on the calxes untill it be coloured with the tincture of gold, and so doing it untill all the tincture be extracted together and then put the water with the tincture together in balneo for 10 daies, and at the tenth daies end draw off the water of all the water from it, and leaving the oile in the bottome; Which will then be verie thinne and subtill, put that into a gripes egge sealed, to putrifie; (provided always, that some small part of the water may be left with the gold in putrefaction). Which gripes egge must be placed in Balneo for 150 daies, untill it be converted into white sulphur; first having passed the colours: for Ripley then saith that the oile of the Sun is so simple of itselfe, and the bodie soe open, that then worcking in moist bodies, ingendreth blacknesse which all the philosophers for the most part appoint to bee had at the end of 40 daies, Yet some appoint so (yet heere must I give a note out of Raimond's treatise of the greater worck or philosophicall tree written in his 3rd distinction of this booke of Quintessence, for the better understanding of the colours in putrefaction, he saith; Da igitur sibi ignem and c. give him his fire in this sort successivelie and without any intermission, until hee come by {...} to {...} that is by dissolution to alteration: for that then beginneth another colour to be ingendred, which is black; Yet think it not to be so black coloured as the sloe, or Bullas, but that that colour is rather of the colour of an ill rotten pomegranate: And after you see the show or token of colour; understand that then there is conjunction, and love knot knits between the spirit and the bodie: And as this is in the redd: so is there the like in the white bodie; And saith the Artist ought to note that the colour differs in generation of our Infant; for the colour of the white falleth under another condition: for first of all his colour of putrefaction is of greenness mixed with reddnesse, and from thence they both come to bee (in their own times) sulphurs of Nature; Of which the white is then to be taken out of purtefaction; and to bee brought by circulation of his Lunarie upon him into water or oile: which is ferment of ferments and oile incombustible for the white worcke; with which the sulphurs of bodies must be fermented with all for the white worcke.

The manner now shall follow after wee have done; and brought the red sulphur of gold to bee ferment of ferments, and oile incombustible; When therefore your sulphur of the Sun is white; part from him that damned foeces which remaine in the bottome of the glasse belowe; Then put the into another gripes egge, and place him in an ash fire for 30 daies, increasing your fire from 10 daies to 10 daies until the terme of 30 daies; then in balneo dissolve or circulate your redd sulphurus with the oile of fire of the vegetable stone; untill it stand liquid, or be brought into oile; which is then redd ferment of ferments and oile incombustible for the red worcke; With these oiles and ferments are all stones to be fermented.

The manner of doing is divers; where I will set downe two:

The first is that when you have brought your sulphur into oiles very liquid, draw therefrom in a Limbeck as much Mercury of that which you put on as you can convenientlie; then take the sulphurs of other bodies. If it bee to the redd worcke, three parts, and of the ferment so dissolved: one part. If to the white halfe to halfe. Let this be done in a peare glass; which being very close sealed, put it for two daies to dissolve in Balneo: After that take out the glasse, and put it in a fixatorie there to fixe under fire untill it be fixed and will flow; which prove and if it will not, let him stand in fixation till it will so doe: and then is the Elixir of perfect virtue, after it small will be augmented in qualletie: Which shall be shewed when we touch augmentation and projection.

As concerning the other way of fermentation, dissolve both the sulphurs of the bodie, and the sulphur of the ferments with their proper Mercuries, scilicet, white to white and red to red; being so dissolved, draw off halfe the Mercury you put on; and putting the residue of the solutions together, fixe them in a fixatorie, as is aforesaid, and until they be Elixirs, and this is the most noble way of fermentation: which can never faile; The other way of fermentation is of less labour and will be accomplished in little space.

After your gold and silverie calx is brought to calxe, as is aforesaid, dissolve the calces of the white with the Lac Virginis minera (if redd, with the fierie element; and soe with these tinctures, bring them into oiles, wherewith you may ferment at will and pleasure, according to that which is already said in the minerall stone; Let there be made water of argent vive sublimed as thou knowest which is our most sharp vinegar, and let the calces of the Sun and the Moon be therein dissolved with vulgar solution untill it become cleare water, that is after the sharp vinegar or element of the Minerall stone be extracted, and the oiles must be put into Balneo for the space of 15 daies; in which Balneo it will dissolve and become more thinner; wherewith the stone may bee fermented as you list: And this is an easie way, This place must well serve to speak of Ripley's way of alteration and letting up of calces into {...} : but that inasmuch it is only done by benefit of the compounded and mixed waters. I will pass it over until the next Chapter following which shall at large shew the orders of working for the compound stone; And in the mean season let this be an end of fermentation.