Joannes Agricola - Treatise on Gold
Chapter 1.Back to Agricola page .
How to extract the Gold's Virtue and to prepare a wholesome Medicine
Orator U C Note
In his book De praeparationibus medicamentorum Chymicorum (On the preparations of chymical medicaments), the author writes a short preface and thinks that all medicaments that come from the mineral family, apart from their legitimate preparation, are of no use, and so it is and it is the truth. Nevertheless, the old Arab and Greek physicians used metals thus raw and praised them highly, especially in the Electuariis de Gemmis, Exhilerante Galeni, although some, yes, the majority, doubt that this writing is one of Galen's. According to him, the metals, especially gold, rejoice man's heart and his vital spirits, drive away melancholy, and thus arouse in man a good and desired condition.
But as to give here my view as well, I am certain that raw metals, without prior preparation, help little or nothing at all. Our natural warmth is far too weak to be able to cook and prepare the metals in such a way that they can penetrate to the heart through the small veins and finally throughout the body, imparting their effect. Even so, some are convinced that metals are supposed to have been eaten and digested by chickens, just as Pliny wrote in his time that if a hen were fed with gold leaf, it would transform the gold into an essence in its stomach. And thus, if it were eaten, the chicken would bring man great strength and health. Some also believed that in our time and wrote wonders about it, how gold veins are supposed to have shown up in the chicken livers, which is ridiculous. I am surprised that it did not also lay golden eggs, like Aesop's hen! Then they would have become mighty rich people in a short time, especially if they had bred as many chickens as in Egypt, where they are hatched in a specially arranged oven, and 20,000 creep out all at once. They could have laid many eggs, thus producing several million gold for a poor man. Let anyone who wishes believe this, but experience has taught me differently. I have tried it at different times and very carefully attended to the chickens. But after several days of feeding the chickens with gold leaf, I found nothing but - salve honore - gilt muck. I had therefore spent my money very badly.
I had the chickens slaughtered, wanting to know if the gold seed in them had perhaps grown so big that they could henceforth excrete nothing but gold. But less than nothing was to be found, while the chickens had eaten more than two ducats of gold. I felt sad because my Art did not progress.
This, however, I have seen. A chicken belonging to a Count had swallowed a big pearl. When the chicken was cut open after several hours, the pearl was indeed found in the stomach but its lustre was all gone, as if it had been reverberated in the fire. This stands to reason, because pearls have not got the same fixation as metals, especially not as gold and silver, which are most indestructible. Experience proves that no element can destroy ( ), and although some Aquae Chrysuleae (gold waters) can corrode it and dissolve it into water, there is nevertheless no destruction. If the waters are again distilled off it, the ( ) is left just as good as before. But if a pearl is thus dissolved, it can no longer be brought into its body, that is, become a pearl, although many chat of it, pretending one could thus make one big pearl from many small ones. True, a body, also one of mother of pearl, can put be put together, but one cannot give it the right lustre of pearls.
( ), however, stays shining, also after its dissolution. I will admit, however, that gold did appear in the stomach of the chicken as if it had undergone an alteration, but it was in fact nothing except that it got ready for exit together with the other excrements. It seems so very incredible that gold-veins have supposedly been seen in the liver. From where did those veins come? Either they allowed the gold leaves to move entire to the liver through the veins, or they had to grow out of the blood - none of which can be true. If the gold had been digested, part of it would have turned into blood and should have been communicated further to the other organs by the liver. If the blood had then immediately reversed into gold, it would follow that the whole chicken, which takes its nourishment and increase in weight solely from the blood, would have turned into gold. One could then have wished that he had had chickens as big as aurochses or elephants - then the gold of the century would have appeared in the world.
I am also convinced that raw, unprepared metals are more harmful than useful to man. Because of their heaviness they enter the abdominal folds, mingle with the tartar, thus increasing the pain, as could be proven by many examples. Although I can remember that I knew a furrier in Weiss, the region of the Enns river in Austria, who, when he felt a discomfort in his stomach, got hold of some iron filings, ate a good amount of them and cured himself thereby. Matthiolus and Mizaldus also remember such meals and report that they agreed well with the people. True, there are good reasons for this, as iron is sooner destroyed than other metal. I would nevertheless not like to use it. For we cannot know what kind of a work Nature intended to make of it, whether it was supposed to become a tree or a metal, which the Farmer discusses quite well and reasonably in Arcanum aperta arconorum arcanissimorum, and also thoroughly instructs his disciple in it. Of the same opinion is also the luminous most noble Sendivogius, who philosophizes wonderfully and thoroughly about it in his treatises.
True, it is certain and undeniable that if metals are to be brought into their essentials, they must be dissolved into Salt, Sulphur, and Mercury. However, these are not the prima materia but the materia secunda ex prima orta (the second matter originated in the first). Of what use would it be to us if they were to revert directly into their chaos? We could not do anything with them. Nature, however, does with them as she pleases, which the artist cannot copy. For him it must be enough to stay with the predestined and predetermined materia, and to extract and prepare from it its true essence. But how that is done, about that all keep silent and do not wish to come forth. But if you do not have the prima materia of the metals, you will never radically open the gold, and this prima materia is the bolt before the door of many fine geniuses, preventing them from entering the shrine of Nature. Dear Lord! How many have tortured themselves and tried to find this key, but they sooner died searching than that they found it. Many a man has been delayed by the name of prima materia, which he did not correctly understand, searching for a key that would bring the ( ) into the prima materia or chaos. As I have indicated above, this would be of no use to me, but with the other materia prima I can afterwards make what I want. In this there is hidden a great secret, especially if one wishes to bring out the substantialia.
When they hear of the Principles, many believe that they will turn into a Mercurius currens (Liquid Mercury?), a special Salt, and a separate Sulphur. They take great pains to get the process for obtaining these Principles, and do not save any expense. I have found a distinguished man who had in his possession a whole pound of liquid Mercury of ( ), but he achieved no more with it than that he prepared with it a precipitate. How much expense this had caused him is easy to guess, let alone how much labor was involved. He did believe that because he had the liquid Mercury of the Sun, he had already won the party and was on the right way according to the philosophers, as they declare unanimously that one has to prepare the Mercury. This has led many of them astray into an eternal labyrinth, out of which they cannot find a way. They could not believe that this Mercury also has its hypostatic principles. But the Philosophical Mercury is a simple body, and with it a Mercury is made, as the philosophers say: Fac Mercurium per Mercurium. (Make Mercury through Mercury). Yes, they say, our Mercury is our gold, and our gold dissolves common gold. These are strange sayings, which appear absurd to Aristotelian philosophers and totally contrary to Nature. Nevertheless, it is the pure truth, and it can be depicted by a coarse example by taking a vulgar (common) Mercury, adding to it filed or granulated lead, and setting it to digest for some time. The lead will also turn into a Mercury and pass with it through the leather. It can also be sublimated with it.
When some men saw this, they immediately fell for it and imagined that they were now holding the fox's tail and it could no longer escape. Thus they also undertook this processing of the gold, but their miserable work revealed how much they had been mistaken and that the writings of the philosophers are not to be understood superficially according to the letter.
I must admit that at the beginning of my labors I had also believed that either vulgar Mercury or at least the liquid Mercury of the ( ) had to be infallible, according to what is written. Therefore, I tried to make the Mercury of the ( ) with vulgar Mercury. I spent a long time on it, till it went as quickly through the leather as common Mercury. When I finally succeeded, the vulgar Mercury and the gold were nevertheless left as they had been previously. And supposing it had turned into a liquid Mercury, it would not have helped me because at that time I did not understand things better.
But if I set it to digest and proceeded as the philosophers teach, various colors appeared, black, white, yellow, and red. Following the last, however, a ridiculous mouse was born, and I had nothing more than a precipitate for the French (V.D.) and other diseases. Therefore, I went away chapfallen. Without doubt, Poppius' opinion is the same, just like the common erroneous view of most laboratory workers, because he tried to explain this dissolution by the example of the corals, which, however, does not fit in every case. Tincture alicujus corporis extractio (the extraction of the tincture of a body) is something else than resolutio corporis in sua principia sive in primam materiam (the resolution of a body into its principles or into prima materia).
Regarding corals, however, it is true and certain that their best power is contained in the tincture and that the body is not good for anything, which is not just simply true. I must admit that the chief virtue resides in the color or tincture, but it does not therefore follow that there is also nothing in the other bodies. The tincture of the corals is their least part. One pound yields but a little, and if we treat the work quite subtly, we can hardly obtain half a dram of the true tincture of essentials, as Mr. Lauremberg also writes in Animaadversionibus & Notis ad Aphorismos Angeli Salae, where we can read him further, and where he convincingly presents his views to Angelo Salae. I myself must applaud Mr. D. Lauremberg and admit that the tincture in precious stones and corals is so scanty that it makes me wonder that so little can be extracted. Therefore many believe that it is impossible for the Art to extract a tincture, but they are mistaken. The tincture may well be extracted, but it is impossible to obtain it in great quantity.
Consequently, we can infer what is to be thought of the tincture sold in pharmacies, where they have big vats full of it. It is nothing but a mere brandy, slightly colored during digestions or due to the acid with which the corals are dissolved and which is still contained in it! Yet a great fuss is made about it, whereby both the physician who does not know better and the patient are cheated. But the tincture of corals is such a beautiful ruby-red juice, and there is so little of it, that one beholds it with amazement. I myself have seen very little of it aside from what I observed in Kassel in the Princely Pharmacy and in Marburg with Dr. Johann Hartmann. A single grain of this tincture does more than a whole pound of the common. If our author's opinion were true, namely, that the body of corals is good for nothing and only deserves to be poured away, it would follow that the Salt of corals and the magistery were of no use at all. Experience, however, has proven it to be quite different. I have learned in practice that if a magistery of corals is especially well prepared, it is a mighty tonic for the heart. If this only came from the tincture, there would be little hope in it.
Although I must admit that the greatest power is in the tincture, one must not therefore throw the body away altogether, because it can be so beautifully prepared that it results in very great virtues. Its crystalline Salt - with which was as a ruby. From the body I made the Salt which was as clear and crystalline as diamonds can never be. When I had it in its last solution, I again added to it its own tincture, drew the superfluous liquid off per balneum until it looked quite dry. Now this crystalline Salt turned as red as blood and as transparent as crystal, which was not only a special pleasure for my eyes but in addition made me happy, thinking this process could possibly also be applied to the higher metals. I am still of opinion that if the tincture were extracted with a proper menstruum, the body changed into a transparent one, and that tincture were again added to it, it might well turn in to something. An experienced chymist could try it, perhaps his work would be a good investment. Consequently, the body of corals should not be completely rejected.
I have extracted from the above-mentioned pound more than four Lots of pure crystalline Salt. Of course, a clumsy laboratory worker can handle it so badly that he spoils everything, and that afterwards nothing else can be prepared from it. For we find not a few of those inexperienced laboratory workers who spoil more than they bring to a good end, especially when they follow their own fantasies. What I am saying is not at all to be understood as if I esteemed and approved the prepared coral powder of the common apothecaries, much less praise and hold in high regard the powdered corals administered by the would-be intelligent females. They cannot do anything in medicine and are no better than if one had swallowed a handful of sand. They go to the stomach and out again through the behind. Only faith must do its best, or else nobody would believe that such red corals are a medicine.Experience, however, shows what good one can hope of them. Whoever wishes to scour his stomach and intestines with them, as dishes and pans are scrubbed, let him do it, but I do not want such a scrubbing.
With the body of corals of which the tincture has already been extracted, a Spiritus can be prepared which burns like a brandy and can be used for many things in medicine. But how to bring each into its added will be shown according to the author's instructions and illustrated by my own experience. Therefore, we will each time start with the text, or the preparation and its use, while I indicate my preparation in the note and observation, so that no one who wants to copy it will go wrong, and thus we are beginning with the oil of gold.
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