alchemy

 

The ancient art of alchemy was comprised of primitive science, medicine and metallurgy. The medieval sages made herbal remedies, tinctures and supplements from such things as plants, ashes, bones, and even egg shells. In ancient Rome the hermetic science was widely popular and was even used to help speed the recovery of wounded gladiators after battle. A great compendium of alchemical knowledge was written two thousand years ago in the first century by Pliny the elder and it was called Historia Naturalis. This written work offers a look into the past as it provides generous insights into the heart of what medieval alchemy was really about. The art is of course much older since it predates the pyramids on the Giza plateau.

The natural tools of the alchemist were called the four elements, earth, air, water and fire. 

The three principles were philosophical salt, philosophical sulfur, and philosophical mercury.  

The alchemists built their own wood fired furnaces which were called athanor and normally had an adjoining sandbath as depicted in the writings of Nicholas Flamel in his hieroglyphical figures.

Other basic hand tools of the alchemist were mortars and pestles, retorts, bottles and corks, crucibles, tongs, stirring rods, cleansing satchets, trevets and the like.

 

                                                                                   William R. Newman on Why Did Isaac Newton Believe in Alchemy

 

 

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Pliny’s Natural History is an astonishingly ambitious work that ranges from astronomy to art and from geography to zoology. Mingling acute observation with often wild speculation, it offers a fascinating view of the world as it was understood in the first century AD, whether describing the danger of diving for sponges, the first water-clock, or the use of asses’ milk to remove wrinkles. Pliny himself died while investigating the volcanic eruption that destroyed Pompeii in AD 79, and the natural curiosity that brought about his death is also very much evident in the Natural History — a book that proved highly influential right up until the Renaissance and that his nephew, Pliny the younger, described ‘as full of variety as nature itself’.

John F. Healy has made a fascinating and varied selection from the Natural History for this clear, modern translation. In his introduction, he discusses the book and its sources topic by topic. This edition also includes a full index and notes.