What is alchemy?

The Mirror of Alchemy was written in the 1541 in Latin and translated to English at the closing of the 16th century, stands out both as a misattributed work (not having actually been written by Bacon) and an exceptional, if short, guide to the process of creating elixir. Categorizing the metals according to their digestion through natural processes, it posits the replication of nature in a laboratory setting as the sole way to work with alchemical materials, through cosmic forces as then understood to be true.

This has been ascribed to Roger Bacon [1214?-1294]. This English text was issued in The mirror of alchemy, composed by the thrice-famous and learned fryer, Roger Bacon. Also a most excellent and learned discourse of the admirable force and efficacie of Art and Nature, written by the same Author. With certain other worthie treatises of the like argument. London, 1597.


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 nothing.

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 and clear, white outwardly, but red inwardly, and of the like Sulphur. It wants only decoction or digestion.

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.


The Mirror of Alchemy by Roger Bacon

Check out interview with Andrew Gough about alchemy


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