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An alchemical text ascribed to Quersitanus' daughter.
Transcribed by Franco Dognini from a Sigismund Bacstrom manuscript, M.P. Hall 199. Quercitanus was the latinised pen name of the French Paracelsist physician Joseph Duchesne (c.1544-1609). It is not clear if his daughter was a real figure writing this piece or a construction imposed on it. Duchesne wrote over 30 books dealing with medicine, spagyric remedies, cure of wounds, the plague, alchemy and the nature of diseases.
This is a later transcription by Bacstrom from an earlier manuscript. There are two known early manuscripts both dating to the 17th century - one in Oxford, MS. Ashmole 1440, Quercitan's Daughters's Letters. and the other in Glasgow, MS. Ferguson 163, Quercitan's daughters letter.
Theory and Practice
of the
Philosophers' Stone
described by
Quercitan's Daughter

Copied from an ancient manuscript

The Theory

Although that all things under the sun being composed of the four Elements is a principal ground of all those that treat of and travail in the search of the secret stone of the Philosophers to reduce and convert that subject which they take in hand to its first matter, as they all say, which happily any one may justly conceive to be the aforesaid four elements by extractions artificial, yet it is to be understood that this extraction is imperfect: for though it be granted that the four elements are the primary principle and matter of the stone as also of all other things under the sun, as is aforesaid, yet this matter is remote and distinct from our intention, there being far nearer and more proper matter than the said four elements, adapted and fitted by nature to reduce the form of metals - which is the thing we wish for.

For every thing must be sought and found out in his own kind.

A man begets a man, a horse an horse, and so all other creatures increase and multiply in their own kind and not in any other, according to their first creation and order of Nature. Therefore all those deceive themselves that work upon strange matter different from the nature of metals, as all Philosophers affirm, saying that each metal is engendered and produced by his own sperm or seed from that only which by a proper name they call Mercury.

By the authority and universal consent of all the Philosophers the aforesaid Mercury of theirs is that one thing and all in which we ought to travail and busy ourselves; for in that and in that only is found the matter of the stone. For the said Mercury hath such an admirable property and sympathy with gold and silver, but especially with gold, the which are the things we intend to make in imitation of Nature, that we cannot doubt but that it is the only true and proper subject and matter of the mineral stone, because of the wonderful agreement Mercury hath with Gold in his substance and qualities.

Therefore I dare affirm as an undoubted and unanswearable verity that Mercury is the nearest and only next matter of these two metals Gold and Silver, and not only of them but of all other metals; and my reasons for this assertion is, because it is no hard thing by art to reduce silver and gold, and also all other metals into mercury, to wit quicksilver so commonly called; which demonstrates plainly to the sense that they were originally made of the same nature, the common mother of all things. For all Philosophers say that every thing is made of that into which it may most easily be converted and reduced, as ice is easily dissolved or reduced by heat into water, which makes it apparent that ice was first water before it was ice, being made so from water by congelation.

Thus then it follows that Mercury is the preparation and only subject and matter of our stone on which only we ought to fix all our thoughts and contemplations, and in and upon which all our travail and labour should be employed, if we mean to follow and imitate Nature's way, and not wilfully to wander from the beaten paths of truth, in following the fancies and follies of ignorant and false pretenders to this art who know nor intend nothing but deceive the covetous and credulous.

Now if we will imitate Nature, the true unerring guide observe how in all her operations and generations she not only [a]voideth improper matter whereon to work but also introduced form into the matter which she choseth for this in the end, scope and period of all her works, which she bringeth unto perfection.

We have declared the matter to be Mercury. Now the form to this matter is to be sought and found out, and it must necessarily be in silver if we intend to make silver, and in gold if we intend to make gold, and this without mixture of any strange thing, not of their property and nature.

Nature meddles with no strange thing in any of her productions, whether they be animals, vegetables or minerals; for even the sperm of animals and the seed of plants require the form to be projected, the one into the womb, the other to be sowed or planted in their prepared beds of earth, well husbanded and prepared; that they may produce in the womb or earth their seminal virtue into quick and lively action, by the agency of Nature producing a new generation.

So in like manner in the production of metals it is required that the proper seed be cast in its proper earth, and if Gold or Silver be intended that the foresaid Mercury of Silver or of Gold be cast or sown in its prepared earth or womb, which is the perfect body, that is Silver or Gold prepared: in which womb or earth the said matter spermatic will join itself and finally produce the fruit so much desired. Moreover seeds do not properly bring forth strange births; thus it behoveth you to sow corn if you would reap corn, linseed if you expect flax and so of any other kind.

So every Mercury is not prepared to make our stone to engender. To make Gold the Mercury of Gold, and to make Silver the Mercury of Silver is requisite; or at least Mercury animated with the one or with the other of the said perfect metals that is silver or gold; to the end that by this means it may be altered and exalted above the nature of common Mercury which is crude, raw and undigested, and by consequence not prepared for this work, or to be seed fit for his earth, being contrary to the temperature of Gold, and therefore unfit to be joined and mixed with him. For the crude and perfect, the digest and undigested, the green fruit and the ripe will not agree together in any sort.

Therefore the true sign to know the true matter of the stone is the sympathy and concordance which the matter hath with the thing which we intend to make, which is Gold and Silver. Therefore we ought to take and seek for our work the aforesaid Mercury, which is expressly called the Mercury of the philosophers, because but for them it had never been made; for this Mercury is fit and convenient for this work. Another thing must also be properly considered and attended to because of the consequence that depends thereon. You may have good seed, and yet if it be sown in earth too wet or too dry or barren it will be drowned or parched up and quite lost. Or if the earth be otherwise bad or ill husbanded the seeds will often degenerate and for corn you will reap darnel [a weed like grass].

In the same manner it is not only necessary for the Philosophers to have good seed, that is good Mercury, they must also be careful to have the earth, that is gold, well prepared and purified from impurities and superfluities and brought into a fin subtle impalpable flour or meal reducing it into a philosophical calx or powder, small and fine as the atoms of the sun beams; which is not done by a gross way of grinding in a mortar, though that be fit to in the work, but in a digesting heat in a double balneo [apparatus for gently heating a material, as in baleum Marie a water bath, or a heated sand bath] within and without; to the end end that the aforesaid Mercury may inseparably be joined with the said body on earth, which it cannot be as long as the said body is hard and compact, as it is naturally after the finest melting or fusion.

Now when you have the mercury, that is the seed, such as it ought to be, and also te calx or earth rightly prepared, something else remaineth to be done; for though this Mercury serveth for the seed, and this calx or earth serveth as your womb to bear this seed unto a full birth and ripeness, which is all that is requisite in vegetables and their productions, yet there is more required in mineral productions above ground in a glass. We must also have the vegetable soul, without which nothing is done, and that being once obtained all is ready for the work, which is then, only ludus puerorum, the sport of children.

Then we have little to do but to take notice of the colours as they pass in the glass, and it is indeed boys play to gaze upon gaudy colours. Nevertheless it yields a pleasure beyond description to a wise man to see the secrets of Nature's operations under ground and the divine generation of the Great Creator manifested in the quickening of a dead body, for so all metals are after fusion.

This period is also called opus mulierum, woman's work, which is to roast and boil and cook, or diet and work and wring us, and keep us clean; and well they own it to our sex for the woman first defiled us with sin.

But I say after conjunction of the Spirit which is the Mercury, and of the body prepared which is gold brought into a fine calx, and the vegetative soul which is the ferment joined with both; this is truly the conjunction copulative of both, and in the holy and heavenly Priest joining them together never more to be separated . And this is done more spiritually and strictly than in common marriage in which the priest only joineth hands, for here the knot is tied so strongly and produces such an union that these three instantly become one, upon the magnetical touch of each other. And this conjunction is made in Cubili Nuptiali [the nuptial chamber]; nay more nearly, in Thoro Hymensaeo [the marriage bed]; nay more near that this, in Vas Seminares [the vessel of seeds], in the secret place of Natures conception; the male or masculine nature operating naturally and acting on the female, and the female sweetly clasping and embracing the masculine, and with yielding overcome and overcoming the vegetative Soul; infusing life and the power of life to his embryon, that it may live and beget lively issue in kind ad infinitum - and all this in a glass contained in an athanor or philosophical chamber, never touching yet embracing equally on all sides, with aerial heat in digestive continually; growing first black, from black to green, from green to white, from white citrine colour and from that to oriental purpurean scarlet red - the colours or insignia. All which is done by a continual digestive heat in the space of nine or ten months to the wonder or amazement of the Artist and the immortal praise of the Eternal Blessed Creator, who hath given such gift to man; for this is his gift only whose name be praised for ever more. Amen!

The vegetative soul is necessary in this divine work let liars and babblers say what they will. Without it the whole operation will be fruitless and vain; for the subtle spirit neither would nor could, naturally and firmly, join itself with the body which is gross and solid. But this vegetative soul, participating of the nature of both, invites these two, standing as the soul between, to a natural conjunction, herself also joining in the union and making it a triunion.

All the Philosophers say that there can be no ingression, penetration or natural transition from one extreme to another unless by a medium or mean, which mean is the vegetative soul aforesaid, which partaketh both of the Spirit and the Body, as being truly and naturally a body spiritual and a spirit corporeal. It is properly called in this work the leaven or ferment; for even as the soul in man is the life of a man quickening his earthly body, ad as leaven in bread is the cause that maketh it to rise, so doth our vegetable soul put onto our body, which was dead and destitute of all vigour, a flourishing virtue.

Our body being then quickened is then called Philosophical silver and gold, and no more common Gold and Silver such as it was before it passed through the hand of the Philosopher.

These bodies being thus animated are called by the name of the two great planets which reign in sovereignty over all the heavenly bodies, because these two perfect bodies or metals reign and rule over all other metals in the earth, and have power to convert them into their own nature. Wherefore some Philosophers call them their ferments; the same is confirmed by the joining the ferment with the body because it is his soul.

If thou dost not purify the impure body, if thou dost not at first blanch him, and after he is blanched or whitened dost not then infuse the Soul, that is his ferment you have nothing in this art.

You must therefore make conjunction of the ferment of Gold with the body of Gols first cleansed and purified from uncleanness; then afterwards when the Spirit is joined with them both they take great joy, rejoicing together because they are cleansed and purified from their uncleanness, and and that which was gross and earthly is made pure and subtle.

Therefore it is said in the Turba Philosophorum "the spirit which is naturally pure will not kindly mix with the body unless it be totally cleansed from its impurities."

In this conjunction, if you make it well, you shall see great wonders; such that if I had not seen them I could never have believed them. First of all there will appear all the colours imaginable, and you shall see, in the very moment of conjunction the body, which was before imperfect and dead as it were; receive his soul into him, and be cloathed with glorious robes of immortality's perfect brightness, by the means of the said ferment or soul.

And by the same means the Spirit also is tied in so strict an alliance with the body that of the two are made one individual substance with the said ferment or soul, all beings changed into the colours of the ferment. And thus the saying of the Philosophers is proved true when they say "our Stone is composed of body soul and Spirit;" for they compared the body before it was perfect, being there, as we may say, in its feeble dead and unregenerated state, to any other vulgar piece of earth without life or soul; because it is so of itself and by itself, having no vegetative power to multiply its self from itself until the soul be first infused into it.

The Philosophers have called the water or Mercury spirit, because in all its essential properties it is truly spiritual and the soul they have called soul because it doth infuse a quickening power and life, vegetable and multipliable perfection to the before imperfect and defective body, which had not these properties before, being wholly dead; but the infusion of the soul induceth it well with a more noble and excellent form than before it had.

Yet in saying that the Stone is composed of three things, body soul and Spirit, we do not contradict or question the saying of the Philosophers who say "the Stone is made but of one only thing produced from one and the same root;" for the said mastery or stone is made of the self same water, and with our water only, by our water alone - our metaline water, no ways differing in unity and identity of matter, howbeit before the preparation they had three several accidental atomal forms, that is of Earth, Mercury and Air, or aerial vapour yellow white or red. These three they are but yet one metalline Water, even as rain, snow and ice are but one water originally although they have three several forms. It is therefore truly said that with our water we do begin our work, and with our Water we do finish it, and being finished do multiply it in quantity and quality infinite.

And when the Philosopher say the Stone is corporeal and spiritual both together, they do not falsely speak; for in it the body and spirit appears really, the body being made spiritual in the dissolution, and the spirit made corporeal in the conjunction - in the very instant of time that the aforesaid soul doth intermeddle in that work making thrice one all inseparable; as has been said before and shall appear more plainly in my practical treatise of the Cast of the Dice.

According to this the wise Morienus sayeth very well, that our mastery may be fitly compared to the generation of mankind; for there is first carnal copulation of the male and female, and in like manner our Mercury is joined with his body which is called conjunction. Secondly conception taketh place when the body retaineth its Mercury and then the male acteth upon the female nature. After this followeth the true time of birth, the soul having been infused, whereby the spirit soul and body become one individual thing, that is one body, active, quick and living, and indued with vegetative life, the power of increasing and multiplying in his own hand, by means of the said soul entering into it, presenting in view one constant appearance and semblance, differing in outward form altogether from what it had before. Then when by due and daily concoction this triune body is come to his pure whiteness or oriental purpurean redness, the infant has become a perfect man, strong and able to beget his like: and therefore the Philosophers style him the Puissant king, as it is said in the Turba Philosophorum "Honour the king which cometh out of the fire triumphing and crowned with a fair and rich diadem, for this is he that hath all power and authority given unto him over his subjects."

I have in these few words so described openly, according to my instructions received from yourself and the manual operations which I did perform and all the causes manual, formal and efficient the theory of this great mystery. Which said causes being natural and and grounded upon certain knowledge, plain reason and infallible experience may satisfy even the ignorant of the certainty and truth of this most admirable science.

I have described the said causes and also in general tho' reservedly all the theory, the matter, the regimen and all the way of and manner of working it, even as of myself have wrought it, in all the pains which I took about it, as well for the multiplication of the powder you gave me, as also the whole operation from the beginning to the end, according to the grace of God of his blessing given me, whereby it was brought to that happy conclusion that my powder one ounce of which converted 200 ounces of Mercury: and I verily believe, if misfortune had not befallen me, I might have brought almost to infinity of excellency; which I hope yet to do if God give me the grace to come to some convenient place of retirement, suitable to my desire, with the little bit of ferment which I then reserved of all I had lost. And with this I hope to recover all my former disasters and give content to your own hearts desire, which is my whole ambition, having for no other end or purpose reserved the aforesaid ferment.

And because there is nothing more certain than death and more uncertain than the hour thereof. I have therefore purposely declared unto you, in writing, all my manual operations, (having omitted nothing but the process which you have already with you as they are word for word set down and with you remaining in the two boxes N M) and have sent the same to you, sealed up together with the foresaid small remainder of the aforesaid ferment, that it may be in your own proper custody in case God by death should call me from this world before I may be so happy as to see you.

Not but that I think modesty forbids that I should offer any instruction to you seeing all that I know I acknowledge to have learned from you; but to this end, that I may render to you a faithful account of passages as my duty obligeth me, being your unworthy scholar; and that I may present you with testimony of my faithful and unchangeable affection toward you, and of the dear remembrance which I have of you. And therefore I humbly beg your acceptance of this from her who is and shall forever be

Your most affectionate


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