THE SUBLIMATION OF THE MERCURY

The sublimation of the mercury made by the Alberto the Great's Work described in "Le Composé des Composés", Arché, Milano, pages 51 to 93 and for the one of Artephius in "Le Livre Secret Du Trés ancien Philosophe Artephius", traitante of l'Arte ocuclte & de la pierre Philosofale:

In a mud or stainless steel porringer, mix intimately with a stainless steel spoon 400 g of canonical Mars or Venus effloresced at the sun and reduced to thin powder in a mortar, 200 g of common salt common crackle under heat and reduced to thin powder also and 200 g of native cinnabar sulphide, well grinded and sieved through a 60 lines per centimetre or 120 lines per inch sieve.

The proportions are not critical and you can vary them until you obtain the best result depending on the quality of the mineral used..

If you cant get a good quality native cinnabar, like the one coming from the Almaden mines in Spain, for experimental purpose, you can make an Ethiope mineral.

Ethiopian Mineral can be made in the following way: Pour, first, in a Pyrex glass or porcelain mortar, 60g of sulphur and over this, 100g of common quicksilver. Mix and grind very well until the sulphur absorbs the mercury completely. The composition turns black and you don't see any mercury vestiges.

Put that quicksilver and sulphur amalgam and an aqueous potash caustic solution in a 500ml or 1 litre matrass and heat up to a temperature of 60º C during some hours. You will obtain, thus, an artificial cinnabar of a beautiful red colour, called vermilion and that was formerly used in the oil painting. Empty the liquid by decantation, wash it well with water and dry it in a porcelain container to a temperature of 40 or 50 C.

After everything is very well mixed, by a large mouth funnel, pour the matter in a 2 or 3 litres conic cucurbit and place it in a bath of sand using a porringer or pot sitting on a gas stove. Place on a helm and a 500ml recipient with an air hole, applying silicon on all the joints.

At the beginning, regulate the fire so that the composition begins to sweat, and then, increase it slowly, so that it distils drop by drop.

When it doesn't distil anything anymore, increase the fire to about 300º C, so that the matter begins to sublimate. You can remove the helm and place a rubber stopper on the cucurbit mouth without closing it completely, regulating like this the entrance of air. You will see then, floating inside the cucurbit, teeny flakes of sublimate that an Iberian alchemist, named in "his" said work, "Diana's Doves", and they will deposit themselves on the surface of the composition, forming a white layer as the snow.

Continue non-stop, with the same heat regime, until you don't see any increase in the thickness of the sublimate layer. Then stop and turn off the fire. If the mercury begins to sublimate on the cucurbit walls, decrease the heat intensity.

You should not breathe the vapours exhaled by the recipient air hole or by the cucurbit mouth, because it is extremely toxic. Therefore, this operation should be executed outside or in a well-ventilated place.

In the recipient, you will find water that is mix with a spirit of salt of weak graduation and a vestige of sublimated mercury. Reject it.

Remove the helm when the alembic is still lukewarm if you didn't remove it in the previous phase. Take the cool cucurbit by the neck and rotate the base sidelong on the palm of the hand, shaking it slowly, so that the sublimate layer can been removed from the kaput. Then, incline the cucúrbita and pour the sublimate in a porringer. Keep it in a large mouth glass flask, closed and identified.

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Carefully, so not to break the cucurbit, with a long handle wooden spoon, remove the caput, rejecting it also. Repeat the operation, until you obtain the entire sublimate that you need.

If the sublimate still has some kaput sludge, sublimate it again in the same way, with the same amount of vitriol and salt. Remove it with care by the same process.

Keep it together with the other, in a large mouth glass flask well closed and identified, because it is a very violent poison, well known by the old alchemists and spagyrist as: corrosive sublimate or mercury dichloride.

Concerning this operation, we don't want to leave without telling you something about this mercury sublimate, under the alchemic point of view.

We had the opportunity to contact personally a very well-known alchemist in his country, for having written several books about alchemy and "its" work, where he describes it allegorically without giving any practical spagyrical reference (chemistry) to the matters and the modus operandi, hindering, like this, its understanding even to those that have much knowledge of the Art. Let us say that this artist, at least in the books that we read, was not much "charitable".

This operation, under the chemical point of view, has nothing special, because it is a distillation and sublimation, where the vitriol (sulphate), used for the caloric action, reacts with the common salt (chloride), freeing chlorine that, in its time, act on the sulphide (cinnabar) forming a mercury dichloride that, for being volatile at that temperature, is sublimated and deposits itself inside the cucurbit above the kaput.

After this first sublimation, and based on what Philalethes says about the purification of the philosophical mercury in his book The Open Entrance to the Closed Palace of the King, this artist, recommends to sublimate the "Azoth" seven times, to the likeness that Philalethes describes in his work.

Unlike the reasons invoked by Philalethes and Flamel concerning the purification and sublimations or distillations (at least seven) of the philosophical mercury, we didn't understand the practical reason of the seven sublimations of such "Azoth". The mercury dichloride, with the ulterior recommended sublimations, in our opinion, doesn't purify anymore nor does it improve in quality, but on the contrary, at each sublimation, there is always a loss of material, work, time and expense.

With this, we just wanted to demonstrate to you that, in our Art, it is also necessary to know chemistry (spagyrics) so not to confuse anything.

Rubellus Petrinus