Art of Distillation

Art of Distillation
Catalog # SKU0843
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name John French


The Art of Distillation
by John French

The Art of Distillation
author: John French


Sir ! It is my ambition to let the world know upon what score it is that I do especially honor men. It is not, Sir!, as they are highborn heirs of the great potentates, for which most honor them (and upon which account I also shall not deny them their due) but as they excell in honesty and are friends to art. That poor philosophers should take no delight in riches, and rich men should take delight in philosophy, is to me an argument, that there is more delight, honor, and satisfaction in the one than in the enjoyment of the other.

I once read of a nobleman's porter who let in all that were richly apparelled, but excluded a poor philosopher. But I should, if I had been in his place, have rather let in the philosopher, without the gay clothes, than the gay clothes without the philosopher. As long as I have sense or reason, I shall improve them to the honor of the art, especially that of alchemy. In the perfection thereof there are riches, honor, health and length of days. By it, Artefius lived 1000 years, Flamel built 28 hospitals with large revenues to them, besides churches for it, both they and diverse more were accounted philosophers, and wise men, which sounds with more honor in my ears than all the rattling and empty titles of honor whatsoever besides.

In the perfection of this art, I mean the accomplishing of the Elixir, is the sulphur of philosophers set at liberty, which gratifies the releasers thereof with three kingdoms, viz. Vegetable, Animal, and Mineral. And what cannot they do, and how honorable are they, that have the command of these? They may commend lead into gold, dying plants into fruitfulness, the sick into health, old age into youth, darkness into light, and what not? A month would fail to give you an account of their power and dominations. Now for the effecting of this I shall besides what I have advised in the Epistle to the Reader, say only this: court the mother, and you win the daughter. Prevail with nature, and the fair Diana of the philosophers is at your service.

Now, if you cannot prevail with nature for the fairest of her daughters, viz. the mercury of philosophers, yet she has other daughters of wonderful beauty also, as are the essences and magisteries of philosophers which also are endowed with riches, honor, and health, and any of these you may more easily prevail with their mother nature for. This art of alchemy is that solary art which is more noble than all the other six arts and sciences, and if it did once thoroughly shine forth out of the clouds whereby it is eclipsed, would darken all the rest (as the sun does the other six planets) or at least swallow up their light. This is that true natural philosophy which most accurately anatomizes nature and natural things, and visually demonstrates the principles and operations of them.

That empty natural philosophy which is read in the universities, is scarce the meanest hand-maid to this Queen of Arts. It is a pity that there is such great encouragement for many empty end unprofitable arts, and none for this, and such similar ingenuities which, if promoted, would render a university far more flourishing than the former. I once read or heard of a famous university beyond the sea that was fallen into decay through what cause I know not. But there was a general council held by the learned to determine how to restore it to its primitive glory. The medium at last agreed upon was the promotion of alchemy, and encouraging the artists, themselves. But I never expect to see such rational action in this nation, until shadows vanish, substances flourish, and truth prevails, which time I hope is at hand and desired by all true artists and, to my knowledge, especially by yourself, upon which account I truly honor you.

Now, to yourself therefore I crave to adumbrate something of that art which I know you will be willing, for the public good, to promote. I dedicate this treatise to you, not that it is worthy of your acceptance, but that it may receive worth by your acceptance of it. I present it to you (as men bring lead to philosophers to be tinged into gold) to receive the stamp of your favor and approbation that it may pass current, with acceptance among the sons of art, whereby you will continue to oblige him who is.


There is another sort of man by whom this art has been much scandalized, and they indeed have brought a great odium upon it by carrying about, and vending their whites and reds, their sophisticated oils and salts, their dangerous and ill-prepared turbithes and aurum vitaes. And indeed it were worthwhile, and I might do good service for the nation, to discover their cheats, as their sophisticating of chemical oils with spirit of turpentine, and salts with salt extracted out of any wood-ashes and such like, but here is not place for so large a discourse as this would amount to. I shall only at this time relate to how Penotus was cheated with a sophisticated oil of gold, for he said he gave 24 ducats for the process of an aurum potabile which was much cried up and magnified at Prague, but at last it proved to be nothing but a mixture of oil of camphor, cloves, fennel-seed and of vitriol tinged with the leaves of gold. I know I shall incur the displeasure of some, but they are sophisticating, cheating mountebanks who indeed deserve to be bound to the peace, because many men, I dare swear, through their means go in danger of their lives. Better it is that their knavery should be detected, than a noble art through their villany be clouded and aspersed.

Now we must consider that there are degrees in this art, for there is the accomplishment of the elixir, itself, and there is the discovery of many excellent essences, magisteries, and spirits, etc., which abundantly recompence the discoverers thereof with profit, health, and delight. Is not Paracelsus, his Ludus that dissolves the stone and all tartarous matter in the body into a liquor, worth finding out? Is not his Tinea Scatura a most noble medicine, that extinguishes all preternatural heat in the body in a moment? Is not his alkahest a famous dissolvement that can in an instant dissolve all things into their first principles, and withall is a specificum against all distempers of the liver? Who would not take pains to make the quintessence of honey and the philosophical spirit of wine which are cordial and balsamical even to admiration? A whole day would fail to reckon up all the excellent, admirable rarities that by this spagyrical art might be brought to light, in the searching out of which, why may not the elixir, itself, at last be attained unto? Is it not possible for them that pass through many philosophical preparations to unfold at last the riddles and hieroglyphics of the philosophers?

Or were they all mere phantoms? Is there no fundamentum in re for this secret? Is there no sperm in gold? Is it not possible to exalt it for multiplication? Is there no universal spirit in the world? Is it not possible to find that collected in one thing which is dispersed in all things? What is that which makes gold incorruptible? What induced the philosophers to examine gold for the matter of their medicine? Was not all gold once living? Is there none of this living gold, the matter of philosophers, to be had? Did Sendivogius, the last of known philosophers, spend it all? Surely, there is matter enough for philosophers, and also some philosophers at this day for the matter, although they are unknown to us. There are, says Sendivogius, without doubt many men of a good conscience both of high and low degree (I speak knowingly) that have this medicine and keep it secretly. if so, let no man be discouraged in the prosecution of it, especially if he takes along with him the five keys which Nollius sets down which indeed all philosophers with one consent enjoin the use and observation of.

1. Seeing it is a divine and celestial thing, it must be sought for from above, and that not without a full resolution for a pious and charitable improvement of it.

2. Before you take yourself to the work, propound to yourself what you seek, and enter not upon the practice until you are first well versed in the theory. For it is much better to learn with your brain and imagination than with your hands and costs, and especially study nature well, and see if your proposals are agreeable to the possibility thereof.

3. Diligently read the sayings of true philosophers, read them over again and again and meditate on them, and take heed that you do not read the writings of imposters instead of the books of the true philosophers. Compare their sayings with the possibility of nature, and obscure places clear ones, and where philosophers say they have erred, do beware, and consider well the general axioms of philosophers, and read so long until you see a sweet harmony, and consent in the sayings of them. 4. Imagine not high things, but in all things imitate nature, viz. in matter, in removing what is heterogeneous, in weight, in color, in fire, in working, in slowness of working, and let the operations not be vulgar, nor your vessels. Work diligently and constantly.

5. If it is possible, acquaint your self thoroughly with some true philosophers. Although they will not directly discover themselves that they have this secret, yet by one circumstance or another it may be concluded how near they are to it. Would not any rational man that had been conversant with Bacon, and seeing him do such miraculous things, or with Sendivogius who did intimate the art to some word by word, have concluded that they were not ignorant of it? There have been philosophers, and perhaps still are, that although they will not discover how it is made, yet may certify you, to the saving of a great deal of costs, pains, and time, how it is made. And to be convinced of an error is a great step to the truth. If Ripley had been by any tutor convinced of those many errors before he had bought his knowledge at so dear a rate, he had long before, with less charges attained to his blessed desire. And as a friendly tutor in this, so in all spagyrical preparations whatsoever, is of all things most necessary.

A faithful well experienced master will teach you more in the mysteries of alchemy in a quarter of a year than by your own studies and chargeable operations you will learn in seven years. In the first place, therefore, and above all things apply yourself to an expert, faithful, and communicative artist, and account it a great gain if you can purchase his favor, though with a good gratuity, to lead you through the manual practice of the chiefest and choicest preparations. I said apply yourself to an artist, for there is scarce any process in all of chemistry so easy that he who never saw it done will be to seek, and commit some errors in the doing of it. I said expert that he may be able to instruct you aright; faithful, that as he is able, so may faithfully perform what he promises; and communicative, that he may be free in discovering himself and his art to you. The truth is, most artists reserve that to themselves, which they know, either out of a desire to be admired the more for their undiscovered secrets or out of envy to others' knowledge. But how far this humor is approvable in them, I leave it to others to judge; and as for my part, I have here communicated upon the account of a bare acceptance only what I have with many years of pains, much reading, and great costs known. There is but one thing which I desire to be silent in, as touching the process thereof. As for the thing itself to be prepared, what it is I have elsewhere in this treatise expressed. And the preparing of that is indeed a thing worth of anyone's knowing, and which perhaps hereafter I may make known to some.

I am of the same mind with Sendivogius that the fourth monarchy which is northern is dawning, in which (as the ancient philosophers did divine) all arts and sciences shall flourish, and greater and more things shall be discovered than in the three former. These monarchies the philosophers reckon not according to the more potent, but according to the corners of the world, whereof the northern is the last and, indeed, is no other than the Golden Age in which all tyranny, oppression, envy, and covetousness shall cease, when there shall be one prince and one people abounding with love and mercy, and flourishing in peace, which day I earnestly expect.

Softbound, 300+ pages, Illustrated

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