The Mirror of Alchemy
The Mirror of Alchemy, composed by the famous Friar, Roger Bacon,
sometime fellow of Martin College and Brasen-nase College in Oxenforde.
Of the Definitions of Alchemy.
In many ancient Books there are found many definitions of this
Art, the intentions whereof we must consider in this Chapter. For
Hermes said of this Science: Alchemy is a Corporal Science simply
composed of one and by one, naturally conjoining things more precious,
by knowledge and effect, and converting them by a natural commixtion
into a better kind. A certain other said: Alchemy is a Science,
teaching how to transform any kind of metal into another: and that
by a proper medicine, as it appeared by many Philosophers' Books.
Alchemy therefore is a science teaching how to make and compound
a certain medicine, which is called Elixir, the which when it is
cast upon metals or imperfect bodies, does fully perfect them in
the very projection.
Of the natural principles, and procreation of Minerals.
Secondly, I will perfectly declare the natural principles and procreations
of Minerals: where first it is to be noted, that the natural principles
in the mines, are Argent-vive, and Sulphur. All metals and minerals,
whereof there be sundry and diverse kinds, are begotten of these
two: but: I must tell you, that nature always intends and strives
to the perfection of Gold: but many accidents coming between, change
the metals, as it is evidently to be seen in diverse of the Philosophers
books. For according to the purity and impurity of the two aforesaid
principles, Argent-vive, and Sulphur, pure, and impure metals are
engendered: to wit, Gold, Silver, Steel, Lead, Copper, and Iron:
of whose nature, that is to say, purity, and impurity, or unclean
superfluity and defect, give ear to that which follows.
Of the nature of Gold.
Gold is a perfect body, engendered of Argent-vive pure, fixed, clear,
red, and of Sulphur clean, fixed, red, not burning, and it wants
Of the nature of silver.
Silver is a body, clean, pure, and almost perfect, begotten of Argent-vive,
pure, almost fixed, clear, and white, and of such a like Sulphur:
It wants nothing, save a little fixation, color, and weight.
Of the nature of Steel.
Steel is a body clean, imperfect, engendered of Argent-vive pure,
fixed & not fixed clear, white outwardly, but red inwardly,
and of the like Sulphur. It wants only decoction or digestion,
Of the nature of Lead.
Lead is an unclean and imperfect body, engendered of Argent-vive
impure, not fixed, earthy, dressy, somewhat white outwardly, and
red inwardly, and of such a Sulphur in part burning, It wants purity,
fixation, color, and firing.
Of the nature of Copper.
Copper is an unclean and imperfect body, engendered of Argent-vive,
impure, not fixed, earthy, burning, red not clear, and of the like
Sulphur. It wants purity, fixation, and weight: and has too much
of an impure color, and earthiness not burning.
Of the nature Iron.
Iron is an unclean and imperfect body, engendered of Argent-vive
impure, too much fixed, earthy, burning, white and red not clear,
and of the like Sulphur: It wants fusion, purity, and weight: It
has too much fixed unclean Sulphur, and burning earthiness. That
which has been spoken, every Alchemist must diligently observe.
Out of what things the matter of Elixir must be more nearly extracted.
The generation of metals, as well perfect, as imperfect, is sufficiently
declared by that which has been already spoken, Now let us return
to the imperfect matter that must be chosen and made perfect. Seeing
that by the former Chapters we have been taught, that all metals
are engendered of Argent-vive and Sulphur, and how that their impurity
and uncleanness does corrupt, and that nothing may be mingled with
metals which have not been made or sprung from them, it: remains
clean enough, that no strange thing which has not his original from
these two, is able to perfect them, or to make a Change and new
transmutation of them: so that it is to be wondered at, that any
wise man should set his mind upon living creatures, or vegetables
which are far off, when there be minerals to be found near enough:
neither may we in any way think, that any of the Philosophers placed
the Art in the said remote things, except it were by way of comparison:
but of the aforesaid two, all metals are made, neither does any
thing cleave unto them or is joined with them, not yet changes them,
but that which is of them, and so of right we must take Argent-vive
and Sulphur for the matter of our stone: Neither does Argent-vive
by itself alone, nor Sulphur by itself alone, beget any metal, but
of the commixtion of them both, diverse metals and minerals are
diversely brought forth. Our matter therefore must be chosen of
the commixtion of them both: but our final secret is most excellent,
and most hidden, to wit, of what mineral thing that is more near
than others, it should be made: and in making choice hereof, we
must be very wary. I put the case then, if our matter were first
of all drawn out of vegetables, (of which sort are herbs, trees,
and whatsoever springs out of the earth) here we must first make
Argent-vive & Sulphur, by a long decoction, from which things,
and their operation we are excused: for nature herself offers unto
us Argent-vive and Sulphur. And if we should draw it from living
creatures (of which sort is man's blood, hair, urine, excrements,
hens' eggs, and what else proceed from living creatures) we must
likewise out of them extract Argent-vive and Sulphur by decoction,
from which we are freed, as we were before. Or if we should choose
it out of middle minerals (of which sort are all kinds of Magnesia,
Marchasites, of Tutia, Coppers, Allums, Baurach, Salts, and many
other) we should likewise, as afore, extract Argent-vive and Sulphur
by decoction: from which as from the former, we are also excused.
And if we should take one of the seven spirits by itself, as Argent-vive,
or Sulphur alone, or Argent-vive and one of the two Sulphurs, or
Sulphur-vive, or Auripigment, or Citrine Arsenicum, or red alone,
or the like: we should never effect it, because since nature does
never perfect anything without equal commixtion of both, neither
can we: from these therefore, as from the foresaid Argent-vive and
Sulphur in their nature we are excused. Finally, if we should choose
them, we should mix everything as it is, according to a due proportion,
which no man knows, and afterward decoct it to coagulation, into
a solid lump: and therefore we are excused from receiving both of
them in their proper nature: to wit, Argent-vive and Sulphur, seeing
we know not their proportion, and that we may meet with bodies,
wherein we shall find the said things proportioned, coagulated and
gathered together, after a due manner. Keep this secret more secretly.
Gold is a perfect masculine body, without any superfluity or diminution:
and if it: should perfect imperfect bodies mingled with it by melting
only, it should be Elixir to red. Silver is also a body almost perfect,
and feminine, which if it should almost perfect imperfect bodies
by his common melting only, it should be Elixir to white which it
is not, nor cannot be, because they only are perfect. And if this
perfection might be mixed with the imperfect, the imperfect should
not be perfected with the perfect, but rather their perfections
should be diminished by the imperfect, and become imperfect. But
if they were more than perfect, either in a two-fold, four-fold,
hundred-fold, or larger proportion, they might then well perfect
the imperfect. And forasmuch as nature does always work simply,
the perfection which is in them is simple, inseparable, and incommiscible,
neither may they by art be put in the stone, for ferment to shorten
the work, and so brought to their former state, because the most
volatile does overcome the most fixed. And for that gold is a perfect
body, consisting of Argent-vive, red and clear, and of such a Sulphur,
therefore we choose it not for the matter of our stone to the red
Elixir, because it is so simply perfect, without artificial mundification,
and so strongly digested and fed with a natural heat, that with
our artificial fire, we are scarcely able to work on gold or silver,
And though nature does perfect anything, yet she cannot thoroughly
mundify, or perfect and purify it, because she simply works on that
which she has. If therefore we should choose gold or silver for
the matter of the stone, we should hard and scantly find fire working
in them. And although we are not ignorant of the fire, yet could
we not come to the thorough mundification and perfection of it,
by reason of his most firm knitting together, and natural composition:
we are therefore excused for taking the first too red, or the second
too white, seeing we may find out a thing or some body of as clean,
or rather more clean Sulphur and Argent-vive, on which nature has
wrought little or nothing at all, which with our artificial fire,
and experience of our art, we are able to bring unto his due concoction,
mundification, color and fixation, continuing our ingenious labor
upon it. There must therefore be such a matter chosen, where in
there is Argent-vive, clean, pure, clear, white and red, not fully
complete, but equally and proportionably commixt after a due manner
with the like Sulphur, and congealed into a solid mass, that by
our wisdom and discretion, and by our artificial fire, we may attain
unto the uttermost cleanness of it, and the purity of the same,
and bring it to that pass, that after the work ended, it might be
a thousand thousand times more strong and perfect, then the simple
bodies themselves, decoct by their natural heat. Be therefore wise:
for if you shall be subtle and witty in my Chapters (wherein by
manifest prose I have laid open the matter of the stone easy to
be known) you shall taste of that delightful thing, wherein the
whole intention of the Philosophers is placed.