Samuel Norton - The Key of Alchemy
The First Treatise - The Vegetable StoneThis transcription was originally made by W.A. Ayton in the latter decades of the 19th century, from the original manuscript in the Bodleian Library, Ashmole 1421.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.
Transcribed by Brother Mercurius 2014. Back to Key of Alchemy page . Back to transcriptions page .
Here beginneth the Treatise of
The Key of Alchmie
& first of the vegetable stone
Hermes the great father & Prince of chymicall philosophers after he had in the beginning of Tabula Smaragdi
Bufonem vidi rubrum potare liquorem
Uvarum, donec viscera rupta erant.
By this toad he meaneth the red Lead, that is Adrop or Minium or Saturne or Capricorne or Rupiscissus Antimonae; of which & vinneger distilled, is the vegetable, Quin ex vite est. Take therefore the base afore named
But to return to our purpose, when this our gumme of Sericon is perfectly could, let it be ground into as small parts as it may, & so putting it into a bodie of glass never exceeding above the proportion of 4 pounds at a time, lute too the head or Alembick very sure & fast, so that no breath may expire or break out, which being done, put to distil in a sand fire, & make distillation first with a lent fire, untill the superfluous waterishness of the vinneger, have no sharpness, from thence let it be parted, & luting there to another great or large receiver, increase the fire & then the white Smoke will beginne to ascende, & so falling doune to the bottom of the glass in red oile; continue on this distillation ffor the space of 6 hours
Guido the philosopher speaking of the 4 works, had in the process of this art, saith that the first worck is that the dissolution of the Stone be done by the decoction, & seething of Elements; Namelie that the menstrue be drawne from the bodie; To the same effect writeth Parmenides, Primo solve Lapidem in suum Mercurium ; And a little after expressing plainly, what he meaneth, sheweth what must bee dissolved sed grossum in simplum, the gross substance into a thinne Duenech, into menstrue or Mercurie; But more plainlie Zenon writing of the second worck, Although he set it downe for the first worcke; Wherefore note that verie few Philosophers ever spake of the solution in preparation; & therefore counted the solution in drawing of the menstrue to the first worcke which they terme solutio prior. Therefore, saith Zenon in Alchemico, opere oportet, & that is It behoveth first of all in this worcke of the Stone, that the bodie, soul & spirit bee mortified & drawne out, being that other wise in this art yt yealdeth noe fruit afore it be mortified. But the separation of elements is of mortified bodies, & the effect of every element is set forth; wherefore if you will make the Elixir it behoveth you wholie to dissolve the Stone into elements, ffor so importeth the words of king Hermes in his second treatise, Scito fili &c, Know therefore my sonn that our Stone is of manie names & sundrie coullors. So that it was ordained & made of 4 elements which we must devide & cut into members & straightlie to sequester & to mortify their parts, & so convert them into the nature of that is in them; Wherefore saith our Riplie, the second worcke is the purging and clensing of the stone, which is done by rectifying of the elements, namelie, in separating of the earth, the water & the aire; The end & intent whereof it is done, appeareth in the words of Basius the philosopher, & in the second worcke of Guido. Basius saith; In the perfect masterie; stones never receive or joyne one with another except they be both clensed afore, for the bodie receive not the spirit, nor the spirit the bodie, before; So that the spirituall be made bodily, & the bodily spirituall, which cannot bee, except they be first most perfectlie clensed and depured from all other filthiness; Guido calling it his second worcke, that the Stone may be clensed, rectifying of the elements; which is the whole worcke after the whole menstrue be extracted, understand therefore that upon drawing out of the menstrue, there remaineth behind in the bottom of the glass an earth somewhat blackish like unto soote; which Guido to the beguiling of fooles, willeth to be cast away; which earth is yet to bee new handled; that there on may more of the menstrual Liquor be drawne, ffor as yet saith Riplie, the best of the fire remaineth behind.
Thy distillation accomplished & that it be cold, take off thy head, & take the matter aforenamed out of thy glass, & put it into an earthen panne, upon a few coals to calcine for the space of one halfe hour untill they become of coullor bright like gold or yellowish, & so are they sufficiently calcined, which is the calcination of the faeces. Take therefore a pound weight of them & put them to a gallon of distilled vinegar; Dissolve, stirre, ffilter, vapor & distill as afore, - twice or thrice. For that as yet, the best of the fiery elements lieth yet behind in that black earth, which is called terra nigra prima of which we afore spake. Of this drawing of the menstrue & calcination of the faeces, saith the philosopher: first dissolve, that is thy base in Menstrue, Next calcine, that is thy black earth here named yr Thic Mercury being on this wise extracted, & that thou hast thy whole proportion determined, thus loosed into thy natural liquor, then according to the doctrine aforesaid, you must on this sort proceede to the separation & rectification of elements, which separation is diversely given out of philosophers; And that by Riplie himself; The proof of which I full dearly bought; for thereby I lost all my quantity of white tincture in seeking of the Lunarie after that manner, for that which I found, thinking it to have been Riplie's owne manner of separation was but a note of separation by Riplie taken out of the works of Hortulanus; And therefore I admonish to refuse that way of separating, & follow this way, which Riplie set downe, as from the Authoritie of Aristotle; which I know to be right true & good; & therefore (expertus loquor) which separation is allowed by Hermes, saying: Cum habueris aerem ab igne, when you shall have the Ayre from the fire; which are the two virtues operative (so termed of Aristotle)
Thus far extend the words of Raimon, which is the accomplishment of Guido his 3rd worcke; which is the cibation of the Stone, which he saies is done by imbibition of water, that it may be made perfect Aqua vitae, by rectifying of the earth with water. Hermes agreeth in these words, speaking of the same earth, "Recifie the aire, saith he on his earth calcined; for then you need not care if that in this stone bee a little of the earth, ffor even as a little leaven doth ferment a great deale of past; so a little of the earth which is in this Stone doth suffice for the nourishment of the whole Stone. These words Riplie, in his concordance, upon the words of Hermes & Aristotle saith: "Yee need not care if in this Airy substance (of which we afore spake) "there bee a little vertue of earth, which it taketh from it, while it is rectified upon it, "for that a little ferment", &c. And in another place, where he calleth the earth, "the ferment of the water"; taking Hermes to record he saith: his Nource is the earth, without which ferment, the spirit of the Stone cannot be made perfect, neither the spirit be perfectly kept in; Nor can have the complement of his vertue; And therefore wee give this water, the vertue of his earth, & then hee hath his strength perfectly & wholie. Wherefore saith Hermes, His virtue is whole, if it shall be turned into his earth; & then it shall be called water of life perfectly rectified & complete. And if yee shall distill often times, yet shall it be called water of life, which hath often beguiled the ignorant, who taking instead thereof Aqua vitae of wine, have deluded themselves & lost both labour & cost. Neither is that alonlie common to the ignorant, but those that rightly understand the materialls may easily lose their Aqua vitae & Lunarie as I myself so well know. When there withall, I sought to dissolve the crude calx of gould. So wandered I before I founde out the true solution of Sol.
Let us now proceed to the 4th worcke, which is conjunction or comixtion, that between male and female, Agent and patient, water & earth, that the sonne of the fire may be engendered; which is held so dear among philosophers; Which Sonne is that which is called Sulphur of Nature; And is to be obtained two waies: the one by putrefaction; the other by alteration. Who will therefore create this Sulphur upon this unperfect bodie; Let him follow this way of Riplie, Take of this first black earth & calcine it till it bee faire & yeallow; Take thereof one ounce, or twaine according to proportion of this matter or Lunarie. Thereon power such a quantitie of Lunarie as may scarce cover the earth & so do from 8 days to 8 days, that is every 8 days once, until it will drink no more, but that the water stand upon him two fingers thick; And so is commixtion or conjunction made; And heere the two winged & flying dragon is joined with the dragon without wings; Of which the fixed, or not flying dragon eateth of the wings of the flying dragon, till at last they both die together; And so rising againe become both one flying dragon. Conjunction thus made, whereas afore in time of commixtion the vessaile or Gripes egge was in a cold place, but only loosely stopped with a linen cloth; Now seale it up with Solomon's Seale, or else with some other close kinde of stopple; for in this place are Geber his words to be verified: "Evolat & imprimis incluseris undique rimis"
I must rest here a while to speake somewhat of alteration; which hath almost the same course to runne; save that when the first earth in putrefaction is done with Lunarie, it is to be imbibed with his first menstrue unseparated immediately upon the stilling thereof: doe therefore on this sort: Take 4 or 5 oz.
Now let us proceed to putrefaction, which order is to be kept in both, & is like; save that colours are not to be looked for in Alteration, as in the putrefaction; And therefore Ripley speaking of the process of altheration, maketh no mention of the collours; But only saith, Hide or bury thy worcke in warme bath, or dunghill, & there abide the alteration, by the space of 150 daies; until such time as that of him which alteration shall be subtill & convertible may be sublimed into Holiest earth, although that the residence be some what more greater; ffor that which is grosser & thick shall remain belowe in the bottome; This alteration shall be done best of all in a lent fire & when from hence you have your christalline Sulphur or Salt; you have then matter which is apt to put on purple or white clothes, that is apt to be imbibed with the two Tinctures, & joined with the ferments that there on the Stone may be had, after it is found with the two virtues operative; of which shall shortly be spoken after the obtaining of the Sulphur.
In the meane season let us not pass over that place which Ripley so plainlie allegeth for the manner of alteration, saying: "Our water put upon our earth beginneth to bubble, or seethe which within an hour after it is distilled, ought to be put upon the calx, namely, that the bodie proportionate to the quantitie of water, be put to putrefaction & altered into christalline earth; & that which is altered may be fixed, & the rest that remaineth behind in the glasse may be cast away for damned dust.
And after that sort understand yee that where as the philosophers doe put downe many rectifications & decoctions, that they do deceave fooles; seeing that it is but one worcke, one labour, one vessaile, one thing to be guided, namely, with the bodie & the spirit. And although in these words there may be some disseverance from other places in that it is said many rectifications and decoctions; True it is that divers philosophers have after the conjunction made mention of taking up the glass after it is black & that it ought to be removed, & again to be imbibed; which they did to beguile fooles. Of those hee meaneth it by, & not of them that speaketh of Separation & Rectification, afore conjunction, but of such as after set downe such tractations, to the beguiling of fooles; for hee knew that there was no philosopher but knew after the Seperatione conceived, there can be an opening, till birth, & therefore & after conjunction, no more but patiently abide putrefaction, for that the putrefaction of the one is the generation of the other, & without the cord of seed sowne in the grounde, do putrefie & breake, we see that no graine groweth, no herbe springeth according to Aristotle; saying in our first philosophie, corruptio unius est generatio alterius"
Commixtion therefore made as aforesaid, & the glass shut up, proceede to putrefaction; for here begineth the worcke of a Philosopher & not afore; And this is it, of whence it is a common speech, that the process of the Stone is woman's worcke & childish play; A woman's worcke, for it is attributed to washing because the Liquor of the spirit, after the solution of the bodie, ascendeth up, & falling downe again in drops, doth continually wash the matter, & for the self same thing is it called children's play, in that children playing among puddles do commonlie bewet & spirth themselves with water; which is signified by the ascending of the spirit in the glass & washing of the matter; And therefore they say Aer Latonem abluit, the air washeth the earth. The worcke of putrefaction is that the glass be set in a moist fire, That is in Balneo Marie for 150 daies, there to putrifie, until passing the wheel of philosophie, it becommeth like fishes eies, that is to white Sulphur, having past all collours; Namelie, that at 40 days it be black; The reason ascribed is that heate working in moist bodies, ingender blackness, which the Philosophers calle Caput corvi, which is a sure token of putrefaction. Which Guido affirmeth on this wise; The decoction of the Stone endureth for 150 daies, at the least & in black colour is the tincture hidden even as the soul is in the bodie; between which & the white, as one should say, there appeareth the colours of a peacock; & after that perfect white. Riplie himself affirmeth, that after black cometh greene, & so after that, white. And in his vision shewing the putrefaction of the Stone, figured in his toad, touching the first colour, black, he hath these words into English verse from the Latine in these words:
"And when his corpse the force of vitall breath begin to lack,
This dying toad forthwith became like coale for colour black"
And of his sundrie colours, if followeth:
"Which done, a wonder to the sight but more to be rehearst
This toad with colours rare through every side was pearst
And white appeared, when all the sundrie hues were past
Which being tincted, redd for ever more did last."
And of this is generally given out among all the philosophers, One vessaile, one glass, one furnace. A great many of other speeches they have about this putrefaction, fetching their examples from humane conjunctions & generations, omitting the part of Phisicall discourses in that behalf; which to be read for reverence sake, I will not commit to your eies; most excellent & vertuous Queene, having all readie set downe as many as may suffice to leade to creation Sulphures; When there fore the white Sulphur is fullie risen in the glass
And thus is the way plaine sulphur of the imperfect bodie
Put therefore the white earth into one vessaile & the redd into another in manner of a Gripes egg & then pour the live vertues operative, scilicet water & fire, that is the Lunarie; & the red oile before reserved
And thus having brought our vegetable stone now to the Elixir, that is to be the perfect stone, pearsing & flowing; I will cease to speake any further of this long worcke, done by putrefaction of his own bodie, & will intreate of the order of Raimond's Accortations fo the vegetable stone, to King Robert of Sicill; & there with all conclude our vegetable treatise.
Although there are many accortations to attaine the Elixirs in shorter time than this long way by putrefaction, which is from the preparation of the base to the end of the Elixir, - a year & a quarter's worcke even to a most expert Artist; yet is there none more excellent or like to this long worcke than this Accortation of Raimond's. Other Accortations there are, of which I have tried some, but one above all the rest where with very light skill I made silver to piente & flow in tenne daies, which yf I had continued on, must needes have beene the white Elixir Minerall; save that my happe was to lose that by the breaking of a vessaile in calcination; which can at any time be done.
I will not say in mine owne practise unto your Highnes any other wise than I have proved heire; Pardon me I beseech Your Magestie for my rude writing; In which under colour of art I seeke not to abuse Your Highnes, neither to enpeoffe Your Magesties with vaine falsehoode; So far as I have gone in every one of the severall practises, I will set downe in the end of my booke, that Your Magestie may the better see & conjecture what likelihood thereof is to be hadd for the attainment of the Art, to the points whereto yet I have not come; I set downe the practises, as I have gathered out of the philosophies & that verie course which I meane to follow & prosecute, yf Your Highnes shall thinnk good to permit & licence; which yf I bring to effect, as I now by this wrighting unto Your Highnes, unvail the secret of the skill; so will I (God grantinge) then impart the medicine; Thus much may I surelie say, that of the Elixir of man's life & curing of all diseases, I am sure to have; for that, for that or this I might have had, yf I had imploied the Ardent water some other way, as Your Magistie shalle heere after better understand, when I come to the seaventh Treatise to declare the composition of the Elixir of life; I have digressed.
I will now therefore come to the manner of Raimond's Accortations; Of which, because this is of the vegetable Elixir, I will here place him, to end the vegetable treatise; The other accortation; for that it is Minerall & mixed, I will referre it over to the mixed stone or Elixir; And although it may be thought that all Accortations are a diminishing of perfection, save only in these which he heere setteth downe to king Robert of S., all which for the vegetable worcke hee commendeth this Accortation; of whose sorte & vertue, hee saith, Deus Novit Great God (saith hee) whom I take to witness, knoweth how this manner of Accortation in effect subtileness, vertue & goodness, is more subtill & better than all other worckes of the world; & therein all the philosophers agree that all the worcke consisteth in Mercury, Sol , & Luna
When therefore wee have our Ardent water extracted, as afore is shewed; distill it 9 times; Take thereof 12 parts, putting it into a paire Cencinissaries, that is to say to every of them 6 parts, that is the halfe; Then take of gold well made & purged into foliate, one part, & dividing it into two; where with do as with the water; In every Cemnissarie
This manner of order continue on for the space of 20 or 22 daies, & the quintessence of this blessed water will be so that it will no more ascend, but remains fixed with the ferment, & so is converted into the stone; Which perceived, take out both the glasses, & wholie together as they are, set them in the balneo, & by & by in one night they will be dissolved; Then congeale them as afore; so do thrice; And by the power of God, it will abide exalted in manner of an oile; which never more be kindly congealed; And this way is more pretious then all other waies; yet must you heere marck that the like is to be done with Lune, to the whit worcke, save that where as the redd worcke is done & coagulated in 22 daies, the white will be done in ten daies; for that Lune is much more gross, earthly, & cerine; but that after her fixion is not so soon dissolved as the redd, wherefore there is no great odds of time between the one & the other.
Where as Raimond heere addeth, to take Sol brought into foliat; that do you not in any wise; but learn this general rule of mee which is both theoritably grounded & practically proved to be true; Meddle never with crude Sole & Lune
And for proportion appointeth that to every part of Lune be joyned three double of the water, & so proceede as afore is recited in the Accortation.
And this I hope may serve for the full practise of the vegetable stone, that which resteth in elixiration shall throughly be spoken of when we come to fermentation; Note therefore this difference between the stone & elixir; The stone; it is when it will pearce & flow; & be ready to give ready fusion, then may it justly be called yxer, & alonelie & not afore to be said Elixir till it be fermented; And so I end this present treatise of the vegetable stone; most willing to please & still craving pardon of offence.
[Transcriber's note: "TC": the letters are superimposed such that C centered on the vertical of the T, below the cross-bar]
[Transcribers note: manuscript verified, Garland, John. Compendium alchimiae etc. For details of title(s), contents, authors, complexities of versions, etc. see http://herve.delboy.perso.sfr.fr/bibliot_phil_chim.html ]
"The drawing of this is in Bas: Val: TC of Antimony p. 96 Engl. Edition" [Transcriber's note: p. 99 in mine, Engl. Renaissance Hermeticism, Vol 3, L. G. Kelly, Garland Publishing, 1990]