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The Chemists Key

Henry Nollius


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A short alchemical tract. The Chemists Key to Shut and Open: As the True Doctrine of the Corruption and Generation in Ten Brief Aphorisms, Illustrated with most plain and faithful Commentaries, out of the Pure Light of Nature: By that Judicious and Industrious Artist, Henry Nollius.

This book has 27 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1657.

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Excerpt from 'The Chemists Key'

This book having worth enough in itself needs not my commendation, this Author in his lifetime being an eminent physician and most able Philosopher as the discourse itself can best testify.

The translator also wanted not judgment to choose what was best in his kind, nor abilities to perform, the choice being made. It is I alone that appear here as Menelaus at that feast in the Iliad, who came though not invited. I shall not endeavor to excuse myself, for I come not empty but will contribute somewhat to the collation.

The Author builds on good principles, so that his Theory is as true as it is plausible; and I presume he aimed at nothing more, leaving all particulars and their application to the industry of his readers. He is sometimes pleased to descend to examples, but to such only as are natural, and they indeed are good to teach but hard to imitate. We see not all that Nature does.

When he speaks of rain and dew I am contented to think, he means something else than what is vulgarly so called. And I doubt not but his Salt petri is something different from that which is combustible and common. The Philosophers Dew, if I know it at all is a dry water, and their salt-peter is a most white incombustible body of a gummy aerial nature, and indeed, if my eyes have not deceived me, it is so aerial and unctuous that it will no more mingle with water than common oil will. I have for trial taken it in its gross body, and putting it in distilled rain water have digested it for a full fortnight, without the addition of any third thing, but they would never mix, the Nitre notwithstanding many long and violent agitations of the glass, keeping still apart in the form of butter or oil more white than snow. The truth is there is no affinity between this Salt-peter and water, for it is not made of water, but of air hid and condensed in water. We see also that the air is a dry spirit and wets nothing; but the mist or vapor of the water incorporating with the air wets all things. Even so those bodies or substances which are generated of air retain the first complexion of their parents; this dry aerial humidity being predominant in them as is evident in common quicksilver and in all resinous substances, as vegetable and mineral gums which will not mix with water. But this will not be more apparent to those who know that universal gum or sperm whereof Nitre is made, which is neither Dew nor Rain, but a water and no water; that is it is a dry water whereof see D’Espagnet in the 49 the canon of his first aphoristical part. Here is the reason then why Nitre Philosophical will not dissolve in nor mix with common water; for it is a fat, oleous, airy substance, made by natural congelation of a mercurial dry humidity which separates from phlegm, as is evident in that succus vitalis and great Lunary of Lully.

Nitre then or Mercury Philosophical is to be found in 150 places, and of several complexions.

In the great Hali Cali of Nature it is congealed and in a manner crucified between two extremes, and both of them venomous and caustic. If you know how to extract it thence in the form of buter or a most white sweet oil, then the  ***, whence the Art has its name, is in your power, and D’Espagnet in his 225 canon will tell you what you have attained to.

Thus you see where the air of radical humidity is congealed; and now I must instruct you where it is a volatile and not congealed. It is so in the sperm whereof Nature immediately makes the Hali Cali, to which purpose the former author has left us a considerable maxim in his 214 canon: Rerum seminitz plurimus humidi radicalis inest; for this volatile air, which is in the seed or sperm reincrudates the fixed air which is in the Hali Cali. I say this volatile spermatic air or oil does it, and not oil of soap or salad, as some fools have dreamed; for nothing reincrudates and naturally dissolves a body but that crude sperm whereof the body was made. Most excellent in this respect is that passage in Lully Chap. XLVIII of his great testament: Quando volumes, quod siccum convertatur in humidii, cafrimus intrumuntum quod iesin aqua, quoequidus participal de humido radicali, viz. in vapore spiritus Quinta delatus est, etc. (When we wish to convert a dry thing into a moist thing, we take an agent which is in water --- one which partakes of the humid radical --- or rather in the vapor of aerial humidity disassociating it from its watery phlegm, in which the male spirit is carried). Thus Lully and now I think I have sufficiently introduced you; but if this be not enough I am afraid the whole discourse will not satisfy. I should have said much more, but that I intend shortly to publish a discourse of my own wherein I have endeavored to give some reasons for a most excellent and mysterious experience I have lately seen.

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