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A Table Containing the General Heads of Natural Magick

"Preface To The Reader"


The Tenth Book of Natural Magick

John Baptista Porta

(Giambattista della Porta)


"Of Distillation"


"The Proeme"

Chapter I - "What Distillation is, and of how many sorts."

Chapter II - "Of the Extraction of Waters."

Chapter III - "Of Extracting Aqua Vitae."

Chapter IV - "How to distil with the heat of the Sun."

Chapter V - "How to draw Oil by Expression."

Chapter VI - "How to Extract Oil with water."

Chapter VII - "How to Separate Oil from Water."

Chapter VIII- "How to make an instrument to Extract Oil in a greater quantity and without danger of burning."

Chapter IX - "The description of a Descendatory, whereby Oil is extracted by descent."

Chapter X - "How to Extract Oil out of Gums."

Chapter XI - "Several Arts how to draw Oils out of other things."

Chapter XII - "How to Extract Oil by Descent."

Chapter XIII - "Of the Extraction of Essences."

Chapter XIV - "What Magisteries are, and the Extraction of them."

Chapter XV - "How to Extract Tinctures."

Chapter XVI - "How to Extract Salts."

Chapter XVII - "Of Elixirs."

Chapter XVIII - "Of a Clyssus, and how it is made."

Chapter XIX - "How to get Oil out of Salts."

Chapter XX - "Of Aqua Fortis."

Chapter XXI - "Of the Separation of the Elements."

The Proeme

Now I am come to the arts, and I shall begin from Distillation, an invention of later times, a wonderful thing, to be praised beyond the power of man, not that which the vulgar and unskillful man may use.  For they do but corrupt and destroy what is good.  But that which is done by skillful artists.  This admirable art, teaches how to make spirits, and sublime gross bodies, and how to condense, and make spirits become gross bodies.  And to draw forth of plants, minerals, stones and jewels, the strength of them, that are involved and overwhelmed with great bulk, lying hid, as it were, in their chests.  Ant to make them more pure, and thin, and more noble, as not being content with their common condition, and so lift them up as high as heaven.  We can by chemical instruments, search out the virtues of plants, and better then the ancients could do by tasting them.  What therefore could be thought on that is greater?  It is  Nature's part to produce things, and give them faculties, but art may ennoble them when they are produced, and give them many several qualities.  Let one that loves learning, and to search out  Nature's secrets, enter upon this.  For a dull fellow will never attain to this art of Distilling.  First we will Extract waters and oils.  Then, the essences of Tinctures, Elixirs, Salts, and such-like.   Then we shall show how to resolve mixed bodies into the elements, and make them all more pure, to separate their diverse and contrary qualities, and draw them forth, that we may use them at pleasure.  And other things, that will never repent us to know and do.

Chapter I

"What Distillation is, and of how many sorts."

Hether the art of Distillation were known to the learned Ancients, or no, I will not undertake to dispute, yet there is another kind of art to be read in Dioscorides, then what we use.  He says thus, There is an Oil extracted out of Pitch, by separating the watery part, which swims on the top, like Whey in Milk.  And hanging clean flocks of Wool, in the vapor arising from it while the Pitch boils, and when they are moist, squeezing them in some vessel.  This must be done as long as it boils.  Geber defines it thus, Distillation is the elevation of moist vapors in a proper vessel.  But we will declare the true definition of it elsewhere.  He makes three sorts of it, by Ascent, by Descent, and by Filtration.  But I say, by Ascent, by Descent, and by Inclination, which is a middle between the both, and is very necessary.  For when a thing is unwilling to ascend, we teach it by this to rise by degrees, by inclining the vessel, and raise it by little and little, until it becomes thinner, and knows how to ascend.  The instructions for Distillation shall be these,

"Instructions for Distillation."

First, provide a glass or brazen vessel, with a belly swelling out like a cupping glass, and sharpened upward like a top or a Pear.  Fit it to the under-vessel like a cap, so that the neck of that lower vessel may com into the belly of the upper.  A pipe must run about the bottom of the cap, which must send forth a beak, under which, there must stand another vessel, called the Receiver, from receiving the Distilling water.  Stop all the vents close with Straw Mortar, or rags of Linen, that the spirituous airy matter may not leak out.  The fire being put under this Stillatory, the enclosed matter will be dissolved by the heat of the fire into a dewey vapor, and ascend to the top.  Where, meeting with the cold sides of the head, it sticks there, being condensed by the cold, swelling into little bubbles, dewing the roof and sides.  Then, gathered into moist pearls, runs down in drops, turning into liquid, and by the pipe and nose is conveyed into the Receiver.  But both the vessels and the Receiver must be considered, according to the  Nature of the things to be Distilled.  For if they be of a flatulent vaporous nature, they will require large and low vessels, and a more capacious Receiver.  For when the heat shall have raised up the flatulent matter, and that finds itself strained in the narrow cavities, it will seek some other vent, and so tear the vessels in pieces, (which will fly about with a great bounce and crack, not without injuring the bystanders) and being at liberty, will save itself from further harm.  But if the things be hot and thin, you must have vessels with a long and small neck.  Things of middle temper, require vessels of a middle size.  All which the industrious artificer may easily learn by the imitation of  Nature, who has given angry and furious creatures, as the Lion and Bear, thick bodies, but short necks.  To show, that flatulent Humors would pass out of vessels of a larger bulk, and the thicker part settle to the bottom.  But then, the Stag, the Ostrich, the Camel Panther, gentle creatures, and of thin spirits, have slender bodies and long necks, to show that thin, subtle spirits, have slender bodies and long narrower passage, and be elevated higher to purify them.  There is one thing which I must especially inform you of, which is, that there may be a threefold moisture extracted out of plants.  The nutritive, whereby they live, and all dried herbs want.  It differs little from fountain or ditch water.  The substantial, whereby the parts are joined together, and this is of a more solid nature.  And the third is the radical Humor, fat and oily, wherein the strength and virtue lies.  There is another thing, which I cannot pass over in silence, it being one of the principles of the art, which I have observed in diverse experiments, which is, that some mixed together bodies, do exhale thin and hot vapors first, and afterwards moist and thick.  On the contrary, others exhale earthly and Phlegmatick parts first, and then the hot and fiery, which being fixed in the inmost parts, are expelled at last by the force of the fire.  But because there can be no constant and certain rule given for them, some I will mark unto you, others, your own more quick ingenuity must take the pains to observe.

Chapter II

"Of the Extraction of Waters."

The extraction of waters, because it is common, I will dispatch in a few words.  If you would Extract sweet waters out of hot plants, and such as are earthy, and retain a sweet favor in their very substance, these being cast into a Stillatory, without any art, and a fire made under them, yield their odors.  As you may draw sweet waters out of,

"Roses, Orange flowers, Myrtle and Lavender, and such like,"

Either with Cinders, or in Balneo Mariae, but only, observe to kindle the fire by degrees, lest they burn.  There are also in some plants, sweet leaves, as in Myrtle, Lavender, Citron, and such like, which if you mix with the flowers, will no way hinder the favor of them, but add a pleasantness to the waters.  And in places where flowers cannot be gotten, I have seen very sweet waters extracted out of the tendrils of them.  Especially, when they have been set abroad a sunning in a vessel for some days before.  There is a water, of no contemptible scent, drawn out of the leaves of Basil Gentle, (especially being aromatized with Citron or Cloves) by the heat of a gentle bath, heightened by degrees, and then exposing it to the Sun for some time.  There is an odoriferous water extracted out of the flowers of Azadaret, or Bastard Sycamore, very thin and full of favor.  The way to find out whether the odor be settled in the substance of the plant, or else in the surfaces or outward parts is this, rub the leaves of flowers with your fingers, if they retain the same scent, or cast a more fragrant breath, then the odor lies in the whole substance.  But on the contrary, if after your rubbing, they do not only lose their natural scent, but begin to stink, it shows that their odor resides only in their surfaces, which being mixed with other ill favored parts, are not only abated, but become imperceptible.  In Distilling of these, we must use another art.  As for example,

"To Extract Sweet Water out of Gilliflowers, Musk, Roses, Violets, and Jasmine, and Lilies."

First draw the juice out of some wild Musk Roses, with a gentle heat in Balneo Mariae, then remove them, and add others.  For if you let them stand too long, the scent which resides in the surfaces is not only consumed, but the dull stinking vapor which lies in the inward parts is drawn forth.  In this water, let other Roses be infused for some hours, and then taken out and fresh put in, which the oftener you do, the sweeter it will smell.  But stop the vessel close, lest the thin scent fly out and be dispersed in the air.  And so you will have a most odoriferous water of Musk Roses.  The same I advise to be done with Jasmine, Gilliflowers, Lilies, and Violets, and Crows-toes, and the like.  But if you are not willing to Macerate them in their own waters, the same may be done in Rosewater.  By this art, I have made waters out of flowers of a most fragrant smell, to the admiration of artists of no small account.  But because it happens sometimes by the negligence of the operator, that it is infected with a stink of burning, I will teach you,

"How to correct the stink of burning."

Because that part which lies at the bottom feels more heat then the top, when it comes to pass, that before the one be warm, the other is burnt, and often stinks of the fire, and offends the nose.  Therefore Distil your waters in Balneo Mariae with a gentle fire, that the pure clear water may ascend, and the dregs settle in the bottom with the Oil, a great cause of the ill favor.

"How to draw a great quantity of water by Distillation."

Fasten some plates of Iron or Tin round the top of the Stillatory.  Set them upright, and let them be of the same height with it, and in the bottom fasten a spigot.  When the Stillatory becomes hot, and the elevated vapors are gathered into the cap, if that be hot, they fall down again into the bottom, and are hardly condensed into drops.  But if it be cold, it presently turns into water.  Therefore pour cold water between those places, which by condensing the vapors, may drive down larger currents into the Receiver.  When the cap, and the water upon it begin to be hot, pull out the spigot, that the hot water may run out, and fresh cold water be put in.  Thus the water being often changed, that it may always be cold, and the warm drawn out by the spigot, you will much augment the quantity of your water.

Chapter III

"Of Extracting Aqua Vitae."

It is thus done.  Take strong rich Wine growing in dry places, as on Vesuvius, commonly called Greek Wine, or the tears or first running of the Grape. Distil this in a glass Retort with Cinders, or in Balneo Mariae, or else in a long necked Still.  Draw out the third part of it, and reserve the rest, for it is turned into a perfect sharp Vinegar, there remaining only the carcass of the Wine.  For the life and tenuous part is taken out.  Then Distil the same again, and the third time, always drawing off a third part.  Then prepare a vessel with a longer and straighter neck, of three cubits, and Distil it again in this.  At last, put it into the mouth of the fire.  The thin spirits of the Wine, will pass through all, and fall down into the Receiver, and the Phlegm, which cannot get passage, will settle to the bottom.  The note of perfect depuration from Phlegm, will be, if a rag being dipped in it, and set on fire, does burn quite away.  Or, if some of it, being dropped on a plain board, be kindled into flame, leaves no moisture or mark of it.  But all the work depends on this, that the mouth of the vessel be exactly stopped and closed.  So the least spirit may not find vent and fly into the air.  The fittest thing to stop them with, is an Ox's bladder, or some other beast, for being cut into broad fillets, and while they are wet, rolled and tied about where the mouths of the vessels meet, it will alone keep in the he expiring vapors.  You may observe this in the Distillation of it.  The coals being hot, the vessel boils, and a most burning spirit of the Wine, ascends through the neck of the vessel.  It is hot below, and cold on the top, till it gets into the cap, then, encountering cold, it turns into water, and runs down by the nose into the Receiver .  And what was a long time ascending, then, in a small interval of time, flows down again to the under placed glass.  Then, the cap, being cold, sends down that quality through the neck into the very belly of the Stillatory, until the spirit, being separated from the Phlegm, works the same effect again.  I used to suffer the Wine to ascend, so long as the spirit runs invisible into the Receiver .   For when the Phlegm ascends, there will appear bubbles into the cap, and streams, which will run into the water through the nose.  Then I take away that dead carcass of Wine, and pour in fresh Wine, and extract the spirit out of that the same way.

"To do the same a more compendious way."

Those who desire to do this in a shorter time, must make a Brass vessel, of the bigness of an ordinary barrel, in the form of a Gourd, but the nose of the cap must be made of Glass, or Brass of fifteen or twenty foot, winding about with circling revolutions, or mutual crossings, or as it were with the circling of Snakes, which they must set in wooden vessels, full of cold water, that passing through, it may be received into the Receiver.  For when it has Distilled the third part of the Wine in three hours, thy must cast out the residue, and put that which is Distilled into the Stillatory again.  And the second time Distil out a third part.  So also a third time in the same day.  At length, they put it into a Stillatory with a longer neck  and separate the Phlegm from it.  Some make the cap with three or four heads, setting one upon another, all being previous but the uppermost.  And every one having his nose, and particular Receiver.  They fit them to the vessel with a long neck set them on, bind them and Lute them, that they have no vent.  The water which Distilled out of the uppermost head, is clearest and most perfect.  That out of the lowest, more imperfect, and must be reserved asunder, for they will be of different estimation.  The highest will be clear from all Phlegm, the lower full of it, the middle in a mean between them both.

"How to make Aqua Vitae of new Wine ."

It may be done without the charge of charge of coals and wood, neither does it require the attendance of a learned artist, but of an ignorant clown, or a woman.  For this spirit is drawn out merely by the vehement working of  Nature, to free herself without any other help whatever. When the Wine is run out of the press into the Hogshead, and other vessels, and begins to purge, place an earthen neck, or one of wood, being two cubits in length, upon the Bung hole of the vessel.  Set the cap upon the neck, and Lute the joints very close, that there be no vent.  Set the Receiver under the nose to take the water which flows down.  Thus thine  exaltations being elevated by the working spirits of the Wine, are converted into water, merely for the work of  Nature, without the help of fire, which therefore has his particular virtues, which we will pass over now, and mention them in another place.

Chapter IV

"How to Distil with the heat of the Sun."

We may Distil not only with fire, but with the Sun and Dung.  But the last taints the Distilled waters with a scurvy scent.  The Sun extracts the best water, and is very useful for many medicines.  The heat of the fire changes the nature of things, and causes hot and fiery qualities in them.  Wherefore in all medicines for the eyes, we must use waters extracted from the Sun.  For others do fret and corrode the eye, these are more gentle and soft.  The Sun extracts more water then the fire, because the vapors do presently condense and drop down, which they do not over the fore, because they are driven up with a force, and stick to the sides of the Stillatory, and fall down again into the bottom.  There are other advantages which shall be explicated in their proper places.  Besides, it is good husbandry.  For the work is done without wood, coals, or labor.  It is but filling the vessels with the ingredients, and setting them in the Sun, and all the pains is past.  Therefore to explain the manner in a few words.  Prepare a form of three foot in height, two in breadth, and of a length proportional to the number of vessels you intend to set to work.  If many, make it longer, if a few, let it be shorter.  Board up that side next to the Sun, lest the heat does warm the Receivers, and make the water ascend again.  In the middle of the upper plank of the form, make several holes for the necks of the glasses to pass down through.  When the Sun has passed Gemini, (for this must be performed in the heat of summer only) set your form abroad in the Sun.  Gather your herbs before the sunrise, pick them and cleanse them from dust and dirt of men's feet, from the urine and ordure of worms and other creatures, and such kind of filth and pollutions.  Then, lest they should and soil the water, shake them, and wipe them with cloths, and lastly, wash your hands, and then dry them in the shade.  When they are dried, put them into the glasses, take some wire Cithern strings, and wind them into round clues, so that being let go, they may untwine themselves again.  Put one of these into the mouth of each glass, to hinder the herbs from falling out, when the glasses are turned downwards.  Then thrust the necks through the holes of the form into the Receivers, which are placed underneath, and admit them into their bellies.  Fasten them together with linen bands, that there may be no vent.  And place the Receivers in dishes of water, that the vapor may the sooner be condensed.  All things being thus provided, expose them to most violent heat of sunbeams.  They will presently dissolve them into vapors, and slide down into the Receivers.  In the evening, after sunset, remove them, and fill them with fresh herbs. The herb Polygonum, or Sparrows-tongue, bruised, and thus Distilled, is excellent for the inflammation of the eyes and other diseases.  Out of St. Johnswort, is drawn a water good against cramps, if you wash the part affected with it.  And others also there are, too long to rehearse.  The manner of Distilling, this figure expresses.

Chapter V

"How to draw Oil by Expression."

We have treated of waters, now we will speak of Oils, and next of essences.  These require the industry of a most ingenious artificer.  For many the most excellent essences of things, do remain in the Oil, as in the radical moisture, so close, that without the greatest art, wit, cunning, and pains, they cannot be brought to light.  So that the whole art of Distillation depends on this.  The chiefest means is by Expression, which, though it be different from the art of Distillation, yet because it is necessary to do it., it will not be unnecessary to mention here.  The general way of it, is this.  Take the seeds out of which you would draw Oil, blanch them, and strip them of their upper coats, either by rubbing them with your hands, or picking them off with your nails.  When they are cleansed, cast them into a Marble Mortar, and beat them with a wooden Pestle.  Then sprinkle them with Wine, and change them into a leaden Mortar.  Set them on the fire, and stir them with a wooden spoon.  When they begin to yield forth a little oiliness, take them from the fire, and prepare in readiness two plates of iron of a fingers thickness and a foot square.  Let them be smooth and plain on one side, and heated so that you can scarce lay your finger on them, or, if you had rather, that they may hiss a little when water is cast upon them.  Wrap the almonds in a Linen cloth being wetted, squeeze them between these plates in a press.  Save the Expression, and then sprinkle more Wine on the pressed Almonds or seeds.  Allow them some time to imbibe it.  Then set them on the fire, stir them, and squeeze them again, as before, until all the Oil is squeezed out.  Others put the seeds when they are bruised and warmed, into a bag that will not let the Oil strain through, and by twining two sticks about, press them very hard and close.  Then they draw the Oil out of them, when they are a little settled.

"To draw oil out of Nutmegs."

Beat the Nutmegs very carefully in a mortar, put them into a skillet, and warm them, and then press out the Oil which will presently congeal.  Wherefore, to make it fluid and more likely to penetrate, Distil it five or six times in a Retort, and it will be as you desire.  Or else, cast some burning sand into it, and mix it, and make it into rolls, which being put into the neck of a Retort, and a fire kindled, will the first time remain liquid.

"To Extract Oil out of Citron seed."

We must use the same means.  Blanch and cleanse them.  An Oil of gold color will flow out.  They yield a fourth part, and it is a powerful Antidote against Poison and Witchcraft, and it is the best Menstruum to extract the scent out of Musk, Civet and Amber, and to make sweet ointments of, because it does not quickly grow rank.

"Oil of Poppy seed."

Is extracted the same way, and yields a third part of a golden color, and useful in dormitive medicines.  Also, this is made,

"Oil of Coloquintida seeds."

The fairest yield a sixth part of a golden color.  It kills worms, and expels them from the children, being rubbed on the mouth of their stomach.  Also,

"Oil of Nettle Seed."

An ounce and a half may be extracted out of a pound and a half of seeds, being picked and blanched. It is very good to dye women's hair of a gold color.

"Oil of Eggs."

Is made by another art.  Take fifty or sixty Eggs, boil them till they are hard.  Then peal them, and take out the yolk.  Set them over warm coals in a tinned Posnet, till all their moisture be consumed, still stirring them with a wooden Spattle.  Then increase the fire, but stir them continually lest they burn.  You will see Oil sweat out.  When it is all come out, take away the fire, and skim off the Oil.  Or, when the Oil begins to sweat out, as I said, put the Eggs into a press, and squeeze them very hard.  They will yield more Oil, but not so good.

Chapter VI

"How to Extract Oil with water."

Now I will declare how to Extract Oil without Expression.  And first, out of spices, seeds, leaves, sticks, or anything else.  Oil being to be drawn out only by the violence of fire, and very unapt to ascend, because it is dense.  Considering also, that aromatic seeds are very subtle and delicate.  So that if they be used too roughly in the fire, they will stink of smoke and burning.  Therefore, that they may endure a stronger fire, and be secure from burning, we must make the assistance of water.  Those kinds of seeds, as I said, are endued with an airy, thin, volatile essence.  And by the propriety of their nature, elevated on high, so, that in Distillation, they are easily carried upward, accompanied with water, and being condensed in the cap of the Stillatory, the oily and watery vapors, run down together into the Receiver. Choose your seeds of a full ripeness, neither too new, nor too old, but of a mature age.  Beat them and Macerate them in four times their weight of water, or so, that the water may arise the breadth of four fingers above them.  Then put them into a Brass pot, that they may endure the greater fire. And kindle your coals into a vehement heat, that the water and Oil may ascend and slow down.  Separate the Oil from the water, as you may easily do.  As for example,

"How to draw Oil out of Cinnamon."

If you first Distil Fountain water twice or thrice, you may extract a greater quantity of Oil with it.  For being made more subtle, and apt to penetrate, it pierces the Cinnamon, and draws the Oil more forcibly out of its retirements.