Sceptical Chymist/The Sixth Part
HEre Carneades Having Dispach’t what he Thought Requisite to oppose against what the Chymists are wont to alledge for Proof of their three Principles, Paus’d awhile, and look’d about him, to discover whether it were Time for him and his Friend to Rejoyne the Rest of the Company. But Eleutherius perceiving nothing yet to(348) forbid Them to Prosecute their Discourse a little further, said to his Friend, (who had likewise taken Notice of the same thing) I halfe expected, Carneades, that after you had so freely declar’d Your doubting, whether there be any Determinate Number of Elements, You would have proceeded to question whether there be any Elements at all. And I confess it will be a Trouble to me if You defeat me of my Expectation; especially since you see the leasure we have allow’d us may probably suffice to examine that Paradox; because you have so largly Deduc’d already many Things pertinent to it, that you need but intimate how you would have them Apply’d, and what you would inferr from them.
Carneades having in Vain represented that their leasure could be but very short, that he had already prated very long, that he was unprepared to maintain so great and so invidious a Paradox, was at length prevail’d with to tell his Friend; Since, Eleutherius, you will have me Discourse Ex Tempore of the Paradox you mention, I am content, (though more perhaps to express my(349) Obedience, then my Opinion) to tell you that (supposing the Truth of Helmonts and Paracelsus’s Alkahestical Experiments, if I may so call them) though it may seem extravagant, yet it is not absurd to doubt, whether, for ought has been prov’d, there be a necessity to admit any Elements, or Hypostatical Principles, at all.
And, as formerly, so now, to avoid the needless trouble of Disputing severally with the Aristotelians and the Chymists, I will address my self to oppose them I have last nam’d, Because their Doctrine about the Elements is more applauded by the Moderns, as pretending highly to be grounded upon Experience. And, to deal not only fairly but favourably with them, I will allow them to take in Earth and Water to their other Principles. Which I consent to, the rather that my Discourse may the better reach the Tenents of the Peripateticks; who cannot plead for any so probably as for those two Elements; that of fire above the Air being Generally by Judicious Men exploded as an Imaginary thing; And the Air not concurring to compose Mixt(350) Bodies as one of their Elements, but only lodging in their pores, or Rather replenishing, by reason of its Weight and Fluidity, all those Cavities of bodies here below, whether compounded or not, that are big enough to admit it, and are not fill’d up with any grosser substance.
And, to prevent mistakes, I must advertize You, that I now mean by Elements, as those Chymists that speak plainest do by their Principles, certain Primitive and Simple, or perfectly unmingled bodies; which not being made of any other bodies, or of one another, are the Ingredients of which all those call’d perfectly mixt Bodies are immediately compounded, and into which they are ultimately resolved: now whether there be any one such body to be constantly met with in all, and each, of those that are said to be Elemented bodies, is the thing I now question.
By this State of the controversie you will, I suppose, Guess, that I need not be so absur’d as to deny that there are such bodies as Earth, and Water, and Quicksilver, and Sulphur: But I look upon Earth and Water, as component parts(351) of the Universe, or rather of the Terrestrial Globe, not of all mixt bodies. And though I will not peremptorily deny that there may sometimes either a running Mercury, or a Combustible Substance be obtain’d from a Mineral, or even a Metal; yet I need not Concede either of them to be an Element in the sence above declar’d; as I shall have occasion to shew you by and by.
To give you then a brief account of the grounds I intend to proceed upon, I must tell you, that in matters of Philosophy, this seems to me a sufficient reason to doubt of a known and important proposition, that the Truth of it is not yet by any competent proof made to appear. And congruously herunto, if I shew that the grounds upon which men are perswaded that there are Elements are unable to satisfie a considering man, I suppose my doubts will appear rational.
Now the Considerations that induce men to think that there are Elements, may be conveniently enough referr’d to two heads. Namely, the one, that it is necessary that Nature make use of Elements to constitute the bodies that(352) are reputed Mixt. And the other, That the Resolution of such bodies manifests that nature had compounded them of Elementary ones.
In reference to the former of these Considerations, there are two or three things that I have to Represent.
And I will begin with reminding you of the Experiments I not long since related to you concerning the growth of pompions, mint, and other vegetables, out of fair water. For by those experiments its seems evident, that Water may be Transmuted into all the other Elements; from whence it may be inferr’d, both, That ’tis not every Thing Chymists will call Salt, Sulphur, or Spirit, that needs alwayes be a Primordiate and Ingenerable body. And that Nature may contex a Plant (though that be a perfectly mixt Concrete) without having all the Elements previously presented to her to compound it of. And, if you will allow the relation I mention’d out of Mounsieur De Rochas to be True; then may not only plants, but Animals and Minerals too, be produced out of Water, And however there is little doubt to be made, but that the plants my tryals afforded me(353) as they were like in so many other respects to the rest of the plants of the same Denomination; so they would, in case I had reduc’d them to putrefaction, have likewise produc’d Wormes or other insects, as well as the resembling Vegetables are wont to do; so that Water may, by Various Seminal Principles, be successively Transmuted into both plants and Animals. And if we consider that not only Men, but even sucking Children are, but too often, Tormented with Solid Stones, but that divers sorts of Beasts themselves, (whatever Helmont against Experience think to the contrary) may be Troubled with great and Heavy stones in their Kidneys and Bladders, though they Feed but upon Grass and other Vegetables, that are perhaps but Disguised Water, it will not seem improbable that even some Concretes of a mineral Nature, may Likewise be form’d of Water.
We may further Take notice, that as a Plant may be nourisht, and consequently may Consist of Common water; so may both plants and Animals, (perhaps even from their Seminal Rudiments) consist of compound Bodies,(354) without having any thing meerly Elementary brought them by nature to be compounded by them: This is evident in divers men, who whilst they were Infants were fed only with Milk, afterwards Live altogether upon Flesh, Fish, wine, and other perfectly mixt Bodies. It may be seen also in sheep, who on some of our English Downs or Plains, grow very fat by feeding upon the grasse, without scarce drinking at all. And yet more manifestly in the magots that breed and grow up to their full bignesse within the pulps of Apples, Pears, or the like Fruit. We see also, that Dungs that abound with a mixt Salt give a much more speedy increment to corn and other Vegetables than Water alone would do: And it hath been assur’d me, by a man experienc’d in such matters, that sometimes when to bring up roots very early, the Mould they were planted in was made over-rich, the very substance of the Plant has tasted of the Dung. And let us also consider a Graft of one kind of Fruit upon the upper bough of a Tree of another kind. As for instance, the Ciens of a Pear upon a White-thorne; for there the ascending(355) Liquor is already alter’d, either by the root, or in its ascent by the bark, or both wayes, and becomes a new mixt body: as may appear by the differing qualities to be met with in the saps of several trees; as particularly, the medicinal vertue of the Birch-Water (which I have sometimes drunk upon Helmonts great and not undeserved commendation) Now the graft, being fasten’d to the stock must necessarily nourish its self, and produce its Fruit, only out of this compound Juice prepared for it by the Stock, being unable to come at any other aliment. And if we consider, how much of the Vegetable he feeds upon may (as we noted above) remain in an Animal; we may easily suppose, That the blood of that Animal who Feeds upon this, though it be a Well constituted Liquor, and have all the differing Corpuscles that make it up kept in order by one præsiding form, may be a strangely Decompounded Body, many of its parts being themselves decompounded. So little is it Necessary that even in the mixtures which nature her self makes in Animal and Vegetable Bodies, she should have pure Elements at hand to make her compositions of.(356) Having said thus much touching the constitution of Plants and Animals, I might perhaps be able to say as much touching that of Minerals, and even Metalls, if it were as easy for us to make experiment in Order to the production of these, as of those. But the growth or increment of Minerals being usually a work of excessively long time, and for the most part perform’d in the bowels of the Earth, where we cannot see it, I must instead of Experiments make use, on this occasion, of Observations.
That stones were not all made at once, but that are some of them now adayes generated, may (though it be deny’d by some) be fully prov’d by several examples, of which I shall now scarce alledg any other, then that famous place in France known by the name of Les Caves Gentieres, where the Water falling from the upper Parts of the cave to the ground does presently there condense into little stones, of such figures as the drops, falling either severally or upon one another, and coagulating presently into stone, chance to exhibit. Of these stones some Ingenuous Friends of ours, that went a while since to visit that place, did me(357) the favour to present me with some that they brought thence. And I remember that both that sober Relator of his Voyages, Van Linschoten, and another good Author, inform us that in the Diamond Mines (as they call them) in the East-Indies, when having dig’d the Earth, though to no great depth, they find Diamonds and take them quite away; Yet in a very few years they find in the same place new Diamonds produc’d there since. From both which Relations, especially the first, it seems probable that Nature does not alwayes stay for divers Elementary Bodies, when she is to produce stones. And as for Metals themselves, Authors of good note assure us, that even they were not in the beginning produc’d at once altogether, but have been observ’d to grow; so that what was not a Mineral or Metal before became one afterwards. Of this it were easie to alledg many testimonies of professed Chymists. But that they may have the greater authority, I shall rather present you with a few borrowed from more unsuspected writers. Sulphuris Mineram (as the inquisitive P. Fallopius notes) quæ nutrix est caloris subterranei(158) fabri seu Archæi fontium & mineralium, Infra terram citissime renasci testantur Historiæ Metallicæ. Sunt enim loca e quibus si hoc anno sulphur effossum fuerit; intermissa fossione per quadriennium redeunt fossores & omnia sulphure, ut autea, rursus inveniunt plena. Pliny Relates, In Italiæ Insula Ilva, gigni ferri metallum. Strabo multo expressius; effossum ibi metallum semper regenerari. Nam si effossio spatio centum annorum intermittebatur, & iterum illuc revertebantur, fossores reperisse maximam copiam ferri regeneratam. Which history not only is countenanced by Fallopius, from the Incom which the Iron of that Island yielded the Duke of Florence in his time; but is mention’d more expressely to our purpose, by the Learned Cesalpinus. Vena (sayes he) ferri copiosissima est in Italia; ob eam nobilitata Ilva Tirrheni maris Insula incredibili copia, etiam nostris temporibus eam gignens: Nam terra quæ eruitur dum vena effoditur tota, procedente tempore in venam convertitur. Which last clause is therefore very notable, because from thence we may deduce, that earth, by a Metalline plastick principle latent in it, may be in processe of time chang’d into a metal. And even AgricolaIn Lygiis, ad Sagam opidum; in pratis eruitur ferrum, fossis ad altitudinem bipedaneam actis. Id decennio renatum denuo foditur non aliter ac Ilvæ ferrum.(359) himself, though the Chymists complain of him as their adversary, acknowledges thus much and more; by telling us that at a Town called Saga in Germany, they dig up Iron in the Fields, by sinking ditches two foot deep; And adding, that within the space of ten years the Ditches are digged again for Iron since produced, As the same Metal is wont to be obtain’d in Elva. Also concerning Lead, not to mention what even Galen notes, that it will increase both in bulk and Weight if it be long kept in Vaults or Sellars, where the Air is gross and thick, as he collects from the smelling of those pieces of Lead that were imploy’d to fasten together the parts of old Statues. Not to mention this, I say, Boccacius Certaldus, as I find him Quoted by a Diligent Writer, has this Passage touching the Growth of Lead. Fessularum mons (sayes he) in Hetruria, Florentiæ civitati imminens, lapides plumbarios habet; qui si excidantur, brevi temporis spatio, novis incrementis instaurantur; ut (annexes my Author) tradit(360) Boccacius Certaldus, qui id compotissimum esse scribit. Nihil hoc novi est; sed de eadem Plinius, lib. 34. Hist. Natur. cap. 17. dudum prodidit, Inquiens, mirum in his solis plumbi metallis, quod derelicta fertilius reviviscunt. In plumbariis secundo Lapide ab Amberga dictis ad Asylum recrementa congesta in cumulos, exposita solibus pluviisque paucis annis, redunt suum metallum cum fenore. I might Add to these, continues Carneades, many things that I have met with concerning the Generation of Gold and Silver. But, for fear of wanting time, I shall mention but two or three Narratives. The First you may find Recorded by Gerhardus the Physick Professor, in these Words. In valle (sayes he) Joachimaca argentum gramini modo & more e Lapidibus mineræ velut e radice excrevisse digiti Longitudine, testis est Dr. Schreterus, qui ejusmodi venas aspectu jucundas & admirabiles Domi sua aliis sæpe monstravit & Donavit. Item Aqua cærulea Inventa est Annebergæ, ubi argentum erat adhuc in primo ente, quæ coagulata redacta est in calcem fixi & boni argenti.
The other two Relations I have not met with in Latine Authours, and yet(361) they are both very memorable in themselves, and as pertinent to our present purpose.
The first I meet with in the Commentary of Johannes Valehius upon the Kleine Baur, In which that Industrious Chymist Relates, with many circumstances, that at a Mine-Town (If I may so English the German Bergstat) eight miles or Leagues distant from Strasburg call’d Mariakirch, a Workman came to the Overseer, and desired employment; but he telling him that there was not any of the best sort at present for him, added that till he could be preferr’d to some such, he might in the mean time, to avoid idleness, work in a Grove or Mine-pit thereabouts, which at that time was little esteem’d. This Workman after some weeks Labour, had by a Crack appearing in the Stone upon a Stroak given near the wall, an Invitation Given him to Work his Way through, which as soon as he had done, his Eyes were saluted by a mighty stone or Lump which stood in the middle of the Cleft (that had a hollow place behind it) upright, and in shew like an armed-man; but consisted of pure fine(362) Silver having no Vein or Ore by it, or any other Additament, but stood there free, having only underfoot something like a burnt matter; and yet this one Lump held in Weight above a 1000 marks, which, according to the Dutch, Account makes 500 pound weight of fine silver. From which and other Circumstances my Author gathers; That by the warmth of the place, the Noble Metalline Spirits, (Sulphureous and Mercurial) were carri’d from the neighbouring Galleries or Vaults, through other smaller Cracks and Clefts, into that Cavity, and there collected as in a close Chamber or Cellar; whereinto when they were gotten, they did in process of time settle into the forementioned precious mass of Metal.
The other Germane Relation is of That great Traveller and Laborious Chymist Johannes (not Georgus) Agricola; who in his notes upon what Poppius has written of Antimony, Relates, that when he was among the Hungarian Mines in the deep Groves, he observ’d that there would often arise in them a warm Steam (not of that malignant sort which the Germains call Shwadt,(363) which (sayes he) is a meer poyson, and often suffocates the Diggers, which fasten’d it self to the Walls; and that coming again to review it after a couple of dayes, he discern’d that it was all very fast, and glistering; whereupon having collected it and Distill’d it per Retortam, he obtain’d from it a fine Spirit, adding, that the Mine-Men inform’d him, that this Steam or Damp of the English Mine (retaining the dutch Term) would at last have become a Metal, as Gold or Silver.
I referr (sayes Carneades) to another Occasion, the Use that may be made of these Narratives towards the explicating the Nature of Metalls; and that of Fixtness, Malleableness, and some other Qualities conspicuous in them. And in the mean time, this I may at present deduce from these Observations, That ’tis not very probable, that, whensoever a Mineral, or even a Metall, is to be Generated in the Bowels of the Earth, Nature needs to have at hand both Salt, and Sulphur, and Mercury to Compound it of; for, not to urge that the two last Relations seem less to favour the Chymists than Aristotle, who(364) would have Metals Generated of certain Halitus or steams, the foremention’d Observations together, make it seem more Likely that the mineral Earths or those Metalline steams (wherewith probably such Earths are plentifully imbu’d) do contain in them some seminal Rudiment, or some thing Equivalent thereunto; by whose plastick power the rest of the matter, though perhaps Terrestrial and heavy, is in Tract of time fashion’d into this or That metalline Ore; almost as I formerly noted, that fair water was by the seminal Principle of Mint, Pompions, and other Vegetables, contriv’d into Bodies answerable to such Seeds. And that such Alterations of Terrestrial matter are not impossible, seems evident from that notable Practice of the Boylers of Salt-Petre, who unanimously observe, as well here in England as in other Countries; That if an Earth pregnant with Nitre be depriv’d, by the affusion of water, of all its true and dissoluble Salt, yet the Earth will after some years yield them Salt-Petre again; For which reason some of the eminent and skillfullest of them keep it in heaps as a perpetual(365) Mine of Salt Petre; whence it may appear, that the Seminal Principle of Nitre latent in the Earth does by degrees Transforme the neighbouring matter into a Nitrous Body; for though I deny that some Volatile Nitre may by such Earths be attracted (as they speak) out of the Air, yet that the innermost parts of such great heaps that lye so remote from the Air should borrow from it all the Nitre they abound with, is not probable, for other reasons besides the remoteness of the Air, though I have not the Leasure to mention them.
And I remember, that a person of Great Credit, and well acquainted with the wayes of making Vitriol, affirm’d to me, that he had observ’d, that a kind of mineral which abounds in that Salt, being kept within Doors and not expos’d (as is usual) to the free Air and Rains, did of it self in no very long time turn into Vitriol, not only in the outward or superficial, but even in the internal and most Central parts.
And I also remember, that I met with a certain kind of Merkasite that lay together in great Quantities under(366) ground, which did, even in my chamber, in so few hours begin of it self to turne into Vitriol, that we need not distrust the newly recited narrative. But to return to what I was saying of Nitre; as Nature made this Salt-Petre out of the once almost and inodorous Earth it was bred in, and did not find a very stinking and corrosive Acid Liquor, and a sharp Alcalyzate Salt to compound it of, though these be the Bodies into which the Fire dissolves it; so it were not necessary that Nature should make up all Metals and other Minerals of Pre-existent Salt, and Sulphur, and Mercury, though such Bodies might by Fire be obtained from it. Which one consideration duly weigh’d is very considerable in the present controversy: And to this agree well the Relations of our two German Chymists; for besides that it cannot be convincingly prov’d, it is not so much as likely that so languid and moderate a heat as that within the Mines, should carry up to so great a heat, though in the forme of fumes, Salt, Sulphur and Mercury; since we find in our Distillations, that it requires a considerable Degree of Fire to raise so much as to the height of one(367) foot not only Salt, but even Mercury it self, in close Vessels. And if it be objected, that it seems by the stink that is sometimes observ’d when Lightening falls down here below, that sulphureous steams may ascend very high without any extraordinary Degree of heat; It may be answer’d, among other things, that the Sulphur of Silver is by Chymists said to be a fixt Sulphur, though not altogether so well Digested as that of Gold.
But, proceeds Carneades, If it had not been to afford You some hints concerning the Origine of Metals, I need not have deduc’d any thing from these Observations; It not being necessary to the Validity of my Argument that my Deductions from them should be irrefragable, because my Adversaries the Aristotelians and Vulgar Chymists do not, I presume, know any better then I, a priori, of what ingredients Nature compounds Metals and Minerals. For their Argument to prove that those Bodies are made up of such Principles, is drawn a posteriori; I mean from this, that upon the Analysis of Mineral bodies they are resolv’d into those differing substances.(368) That we may therefore examine this Argument, Let us proceed to consider what can be alledg’d in behalf of the Elements from the Resolutions of Bodies by the fire; which you remember was the second Tophick whence I told you the Arguments of my Adversaries were desum’d.
And that I may first dispatch what I have to say concerning Minerals, I will begin the remaining part of my discourse with considering how the fire divides them.
And first, I have partly noted above, that though Chymists pretend from some to draw salt, from others running Mercury, and from others a Sulphur; Yet they have not hitherto taught us by any way in us among them to separate any one principle, whether Salt, Sulphur, or Mercury, from all sorts of Minerals without exception. And thence I may be allow’d to conclude that there is not any of the Elements that is an Ingredient of all Bodies, since there are some of which it is not so.
In the next place, supposing that either Sulphur or Mercury were obtainable from all sorts of Minerals. Yet still this(369) Sulphur or Mercury would be but a compounded, not an Elementary body, as I told you already on another occasion. And certainly he that takes notice of the wonderful Operations of Quicksilver, whether it be common, or drawn from Mineral Bodies, can scarce be so inconsiderate as to think it of the very same nature with that immature and fugitive substance which in Vegetables and Animals Chymists have been pleas’d to call their Mercury. So that when Mercury is got by the help of the fire out of a metal or other Mineral Body, if we will not suppose that it was not pre-existent in it, but produc’d by the action of the fire upon the Concrete, we may at least suppose this Quicksilver to have been a perfect Body of its own kind (though perhaps lesse heterogeneous then more secundary mixts) which happen’d to be mingl’d per minima, and coagulated with the other substances, whereof the Metal or Mineral consisted. As may be exemplyfied partly by Native Vermillion wherein the Quicksilver and Sulphur being exquisitely blended both with one another, and that other course Mineral stuff (what ever it be) that harbours(370) them, make up a red body differing enough from both; and yet from which part of the Quicksilver, and of the Sulphur, may be easily enough obtain’d; Partly by those Mines wherein nature has so curiously incorporated Silver with Lead, that ’tis extreamly difficult, and yet possible, to separate the former out of the Latter. And partly too by native Vitriol, wherein the Metalline Corpuscles are by skill and industry separable from the saline ones, though they be so con-coagulated with them, that the whole Concrete is reckon’d among Salts.
And here I further observe, that I never could see any Earth or Water, properly so call’d, separated from either Gold or Silver (to name now no other Metalline Bodies) and therefore to retort the argument upon my Adversaries, I may conclude, that since there are some bodies in which, for ought appears, there is neither Earth nor Water. I may be allow’d to conclude that neither of those two is an Universal Ingredient of all those Bodies that are counted perfectly mixt, which I desire you would remember against Anon.(371) It may indeed be objected, that the reason why from Gold or Silver we cannot separate any moisture, is, because that when it is melted out of the Oare, the vehement Fire requisite to its Fusion forc’d away all the aqueous and fugitive moisture; and the like fire may do from the materials of Glass. To which I shall Answer, that I Remember I read not long since in the Learned Josephus Acosta,Acosta Natural and Moral history of the Indies, L. 3. c. 5, p. 212. who relates it upon his own observation; that in America, (where he long lived) there is a kind of Silver which the Indians call Papas, and sometimes (sayes he) they find pieces very fine and pure like to small round roots, the which is rare in that metal, but usuall in Gold; Concerning which metal he tells us, that besides this they find some which they call Gold in grains, which he tells us are small morsels of Gold that they find whole without mixture of any other metal, which hath no need of melting or Refining in the fire.
I remember that a very skilful and credible person affirmed to me, that being in the Hungarian mines he had the good fortune to see a mineral that was(372) there digg’d up, wherein pieces of Gold of the length, and also almost of the bigness of a humane Finger, grew in the Oar, as if they had been parts and Branches of Trees.
And I have my self seen a Lump of whitish Mineral, that was brought as a Rarity to a Great and knowing Prince, wherein there grew here and there in the Stone, which looked like a kind of sparr, divers little Lumps of fine Gold, (for such I was assured that Tryal had manifested it to be) some of them Seeming to be about the Bigness of pease.
But that is nothing to what our AcostaSee Acosta in the fore-cited Place, and the passage of Pliny quoted by him. subjoynes, which is indeed very memorable, namely, that of the morsels of Native and pure Gold, which we lately heard him mentioning he had now and then seen some that weighed many pounds; to which I shall add, that I my self have seen a Lump of Oar not long since digged up, in whose stony part there grew, almost like Trees, divers parcels though not of Gold, yet of (what perhaps Mineralists will more wonder at) another Metal which seemed to be very pure or un(373)mixt with any Heterogeneous Substances, and were some of them as big as my Finger, if not bigger. But upon Observations of this kind, though perhaps I could, yet I must not at present dwell any longer.
To proceed Therefore now (sayes Carneades) to the Consideration of the Analysis of Vegetables, although my Tryals give me no cause to doubt but that out of most of them five differing Substances may be obtain’d by the fire, yet I think it will not be so easily Demonstrated that these deserve to be call’d Elements in the Notion above explain’d.
And before I descend to particulars, I shall repeat and premise this General Consideration, that these differing substances that are call’d Elements or Principles, differ not from each other as Metals, Plants and Animals, or as such Creatures as are immediately produc’d each by its peculiar Seed, and Constitutes a distinct propagable sort of Creatures in the Universe; but these are only Various Schemes of matter or Substances that differ from each other, but in consistence (as Running Mercury and(174) the same Metal congeal’d by the Vapor of Lead) and some very few other accidents, as Tast, or Smel, or Inflamability, or the want of them. So that by a change of Texture not impossible to be wrought by the Fire and other Agents that have the Faculty not only to dissociate the smal parts of Bodies, but afterwards to connect them after a new manner, the same parcell of matter may acquire or lose such accidents as may suffice to Denominate it Salt, or Sulphur, or Earth. If I were fully to clear to you my apprehensions concerning this matter, I should perhaps be obliged to acquaint you with divers of the Conjectures (for I must yet call them no more) I have had Concerning the Principles of things purely Corporeal: For though because I seem not satisfi’d with the Vulgar Doctrines, either of the Peripatetick or Paracelsian Schools, many of those that know me, (and perhaps, among Them, Eleutherius himself) have thought me wedded to the Epicurean Hypotheses, (as others have mistaken me for an Helmontian;) yet if you knew how little Conversant I have been with Epicurean(375) Authors, and how great a part of Lucretius himself I never yet had the Curiosity to read, you would perchance be of another mind; especially if I were to entertain you at large, I say not, of my present Notions; but of my former thoughts concerning the Principles of things. But, as I said above, fully to clear my Apprehensions would require a Longer Discourse than we can now have.
For, I should tell you that I have sometimes thought it not unfit, that to the Principles which may be assign’d to things, as the World is now Constituted, we should, if we consider the Great Mass of matter as it was whilst the Universe was in making, add another, which may Conveniently enough be call’d an Architectonick Principle or power; by which I mean those Various Determinations, and that Skilfull Guidance of the motions of the small parts of the Universal matter by the most wise Author of things, which were necessary at the beginning to turn that confus’d Chaos into this Orderly and beautifull World; and Especially, to contrive the Bodies of A(376)nimals and Plants, and the Seeds of those things whose kinds were to be propagated. For I confess I cannot well Conceive, how from matter, Barely put into Motion, and then left to it self, there could Emerge such Curious Fabricks as the Bodies of men and perfect Animals, and such yet more admirably Contriv’d parcels of matter, as the seeds of living Creatures.
I should likewise tell you upon what grounds, and in what sence, I suspected the Principles of the World, as it now is, to be Three, Matter, Motion and Rest. I say, as the World now is, because the present Fabrick of the Universe, and especially the seeds of things, together with the establisht Course of Nature, is a Requisite or Condition, upon whose account divers things may be made out by our three Principles, which otherwise would be very hard, if possible, to explicate.
I should moreover declare in general (for I pretend not to be able to do it otherwise) not only why I Conceive that Colours, Odors, Tasts, Fluidness and Solidity, and those other qualities that Diversifie and Denominate Bodies(377) may Intelligibly be Deduced from these three; but how two of the Three Epicurean Principles (which, I need not tell, you are Magnitude, Figure and Weight) are Themselves Deducible from Matter and Motion; since the Latter of these Variously Agitating, and, as it were, Distracting the Former, must needs disjoyne its parts; which being Actually separated must Each of them necessarily both be of some Size, and obtain some shape or other. Nor did I add to our Principles the Aristotelean Privation, partly for other Reasons, which I must not now stay to insist on; and partly because it seems to be rather an Antecedent, or a Terminus a quo, then a True Principle, as the starting-Post is none of the Horses Legs or Limbs.
I should also explain why and how I made rest to be, though not so considerable a Principle of things, as Motion, yet a Principle of them; partly because it is (for ought we know as Ancient at least as it, and depends not upon Motion, nor any other quality of matter; and partly, because it may enable the Body in which it happens to be,(378) both to continue in a State of Rest till some external force put it out of that state, and to concur to the production of divers Changes in the bodies that hit against it, by either quite stopping or lessning their Motion (whilst the body formerly at Rest Receives all or part of it into it self) or else by giving a new Byass, or some other Modification, to Motion, that is, To the Grand and Primary instrument whereby Nature produces all the Changes and other Qualities that are to be met with in the World.
I should likewise, after all this, explain to you how, although Matter, Motion and Rest, seem’d to me to be the Catholick Principles of the Universe, I thought the Principles of Particular bodies might be Commodiously enough reduc’d to two, namely Matter, and (what Comprehends the two other, and their effects) the result or Aggregate of those Accidents, which are the Motion or Rest, (for in some Bodies both are not to be found) the Bigness, Figure, Texture) and the thence resulting Qualities of the small parts) which are necessary to intitle the Body whereto they(379) belong to this or that Peculiar Denomination; and discriminating it from others to appropriate it to a Determinate Kind of Things, as Yellowness, Fixtness, such a Degree of Weight, and of Ductility, do make the Portion of matter wherein they Concur, to be reckon’d among perfect metals, and obtain the name of Gold.) Which Aggregate or result of Accidents you may, if You please, call either Structure or Texture.
Though indeed, that do not so properly Comprehend the motion of the constituent parts especially in case some of them be Fluid, or what other appellation shall appear most Expressive. Or if, retaining the Vulgar Terme, You will call it the Forme of the thing it denominates, I shall not much oppose it; Provided the word be interpreted to mean but what I have express’d, and not a Scholastick Substantial Forme, which so many intelligent men profess to be to them altogether Un-intelligible.
But, sayes Carneades, if you remember that ’tis a Sceptick speaks to you, and that ’tis not so much my present Talk(380) to make assertions as to suggest doubts, I hope you will look upon what I have propos’d, rather as a Narrative of my former conjectures touching the principles of things, then as a Resolute Declaration of my present opinions of them; especially since although they cannot but appear Very much to their Disadvantage, If you Consider Them as they are propos’d without those Reasons and Explanations by which I could perhaps make them appear much lesse extravagant; yet I want time to offer you what may be alledg’d to clear and countenance these notions; my design in mentioning them unto you at present being, partly, to bring some Light and Confirmation to divers passages of my discourse to you; partly to shew you, that I do not (as you seem to have suspected) embrace all Epicurus his principles; but Dissent from him in some main things, as well as from Aristotle and the Chymists, in others; & partly also, or rather chiefly, to intimate to you the grounds upon which I likewise differ from Helmont in this, that whereas he ascribes almost all things, and even diseases themselves, to their determinate Seeds; I am of opinion, that(381) besides the peculiar Fabricks of the Bodies of Plants and Animals (and perhaps also of some Metals and Minerals) which I take to be the Effects of seminal principles, there are many other bodies in nature which have and deserve distinct and Proper names, but yet do but result from such contextures of the matter they are made of, as may without determinate seeds be effected by heat, cold, artificial mixtures and compositions, and divers other causes which sometimes nature imployes of her own accord; and oftentimes man by his power and skill makes use of to fashion the matter according to his Intentions. This may be exemplified both in the productions of Nature, and in those of Art; of the first sort I might name multitudes; but to shew how sleight a variation of Textures without addition of new ingredients may procure a parcel of matter divers names, and make it be Lookt upon as Different Things;
I shall invite you to observe with me, That Clouds, Rain, Hail, Snow, Froth, and Ice, may be but water, having its parts varyed as to their size and distance in respect of each other, and as to motion(383) and rest. And among Artificial Productions we may take notice (to skip the Crystals of Tartar) of Glass, Regulus, Martis-Stellatus, and particularly of the Sugar of Lead, which though made of that insipid Metal and sour salt of Vinager, has in it a sweetnesse surpassing that of common Sugar, and divers other qualities, which being not to be found in either of its two ingredients, must be confess’d to belong to the Concrete it self, upon the account of its Texture.
This Consideration premis’d, it will be, I hope, the more easie to perswade you that the Fire may as well produce some new textures in a parcel of matter, as destroy the old.
Wherefore hoping that you have not forgot the Arguments formerly imploy’d against the Doctrine of the Tria prima; namely that the Salt, Sulphur and Mercury, into which the Fire seems to resolve Vegetable and Animal Bodies, are yet compounded, not simple and Elementary Substances; And that (as appeared by the Experiment of Pompions) the Tria prima may be made out of Water; hoping I say, that you remember These and the other Things that I formerly represented(382) to the same purpose, I shall now add only, that if we doubt not the Truth of some of Helmonts Relation, We may well doubt whether any of these Heterogeneities be (I say not pre-existent, so as to convene together, when a plant or Animal is to be constituted but) so much as in-existent in the Concrete whence they are obtain’d, when the Chymists first goes about to resolve it; For not to insist upon the un-inflamable Spirit of such Concretes, because that may be pretended to be but a mixture of Phlegme and Salt; the Oyle or Sulphur of Vegetables or Animals is, according to him, reducible by the help of Lixiviate Salts into Sope; as that Sope is by the help of repeated Distillations from a Caput Mortuum of Chalk into insipid Water. And as for the saline substance that seems separable from mixt bodies; the same Helmonts tryalsOmne autem Alcali addita pinguedine in aqueum liquorem, qui tandem mera & simplex aqua fit, reducitur, (ut videre est in Sapone, Lazurio lapide, &c.) quoties per adjuncta fixa semen Pinguedinis deponit. Helmont. give us cause to think, That it may be a production of the Fire, which by transporting and otherwise altering the particles of the matter, does bring it to a Saline nature.
(384) For I know (sayes he, in the place formerly alledg’d to another purpose) a way to reduce all stones into a meer Salt of equal weight with the stone whence it was produc’d, and that without any of the least either Sulphur or Mercury; which asseveration of my Author would perhaps seem less incredible to You, if I durst acquaint You with all I could say upon that subject. And hence by the way you may also conclude that the Sulphur and Mercury, as they call them, that Chymists are wont to obtain from compound Bodies by the Fire, may possibly in many Cases be the productions of it; since if the same bodies had been wrought upon by the Agents employ’d by Helmont, they would have yielded neither Sulphur nor Mercury; and those portions of them which the Fire would have presented Us in the forme of Sulphureous and Mercurial Bodies would have, by Helmonts method, been exhibited to us in the form of Salt.
But though (sayes Eleutherius) You have alledg’d very plausible Arguments against the tria Prima, yet I see not how it will be possible for you to avoid acknowledging that Earth and Water are(385) Elementary Ingredients, though not of Mineral Concretes, yet of all Animal and Vegetable Bodies; Since if any of these of what sort soever be committed to Distillation, there is regularly and constantly separated from it a phlegme or aqueous part and a Caput Mortuum or Earth.
I readily acknowledged (answers Carneades) it is not so easy to reject Water and Earth (and especially the former) as ’tis to reject the Tria Prima, from being the Elements of mixt Bodies; but ’tis not every difficult thing that is impossible.
I consider then, as to Water, that the chief Qualities which make men give that name to any visible Substance, are, that it is Fluid or Liquid, and that it is insipid and inodorous. Now as for the tast of these qualities, I think you have never seen any of those separated substances that the Chymists call Phlegme which was perfectly devoyd both of Tast and Smell: and if you object, that yet it may be reasonably suppos’d, that since the whole Body is Liquid, the mass is nothing but Elementary Water faintly imbu’d with some of the Saline or Sul(386)phureous parts of the same Concrete, which it retain’d with it upon its Separation from the Other Ingredients. To this I answer, That this Objection would not appear so stong as it is plausible, if Chymists understood the Nature of Fluidity and Compactnesse; and that, as I formerly observ’d, to a Bodies being Fluid there is nothing necessary, but that it be divided into parts small enough; and that these parts be put into such a motion among themselves as to glide some this way and some that way, along each others Surfaces. So that, although a Concrete were never so dry, and had not any Water or other Liquor in-existent in it, yet such a Comminution of its parts may be made, by the fire or other Agents, as to turn a great portion of them into Liquor. Of this Truth I will give an instance, employ’d by our friend here present as one of the most conducive of his experiments to Illustrate the nature of Salts. If you Take, then, sea salt and melt it in the Fire to free it from the aqueous parts, and afterward distill it with a vehement Fire from burnt Clay, or any other, as dry a Caput mortuum as you please, you will, as Chymists confess,(387) by teaching it drive over a good part of the Salt in the form of a Liquor. And to satisfy some ingenious men, That a great part of this Liquor was still true sea salt brought by the Operation of the Fire into Corpuscles so small, and perhaps so advantageously shap’d, as to be capable of the forme of a Fluid Body, He did in my presence poure to such spiritual salts a due proportion of the spirit (or salt and Phlegme) of Urine, whereby having evaporated the superfluous moisture, he soon obtain’d such another Concrete, both as to tast and smell, and easie sublimableness as common Salt Armoniack, which you know is made up of grosse and undistill’d sea salt united with the salts of Urine and of Soot, which two are very neer of kin to each other. And further, to manifest that the Corpuscles of sea salt and the Saline ones of Urine retain their several Natures in this Concrete, He mixt it with a convenient quantity of Salt of Tartar, and committing it to Distillation soon regain’d his spirit of Urine in a liquid form by its self, the Sea salt staying behind with the Salt of Tartar. Wherefore it is very possible that dry Bodies may by the Fire be re(388)duc’d to Liquors without any separation of Elements, but barely by a certain kind of Dissipation and Comminution of the matter, whereby its parts are brought into a new state. And if it be still objected, that the Phlegme of mixt Bodies must be reputed water, because so weak a tast needs but a very small proportion of Salt to impart it; It may be reply’d, that for ought appears, common Salt and divers other bodies, though they be distill’d never so dry, and in never so close Vessels, will yield each of them pretty store of a Liquor, wherein though (as I lately noted) Saline Corpuscles abound, Yet there is besides a large proportion of Phlegme, as may easily be discovered by coagulating the Saline Corpuscles with any convenient Body; as I lately told you, our Friend coagulated part of the Spirit of Salt with Spirit of Urine: and as I have divers times separated a salt from Oyle of Vitriol it self (though a very ponderous Liquor and drawn from a saline body) by boyling it with a just quantity of Mercury, and then washing the newly coagulated salt from the Precipitate with fair Water. Now to what can we more probably ascribe this plenty(389) of aqueous Substance afforded us by the Distillation of such bodies, than unto this, That among the various operations of the Fire upon the matter of a Concrete, divers particles of that matter are reduc’d to such a shape and bignesse as is requisite to compose such a Liquor as Chymists are wont to call Phlegme or Water. How I conjecture this change may be effected, ’tis neither necessary for me to tell you, nor possible to do so without a much longer discourse then were now seasonable. But I desire you would with me reflect upon what I formerly told you concerning the change of Quicksilver into Water; For that Water having but a very faint tast, if any whit more than divers of those liquors that Chymists referr to Phlegme; By that experiment it seems evident, that even a metalline body, and therefore much more such as are but Vegetable or Animal, may by a simple operation of the Fire be turn’d in great part into Water. And since those I dispute with are not yet able out of Gold, or Silver, or divers other Concretes to separate any thing like Water; I hope I may be allow’d to conclude against Them, that water it self is not an(390) Universal and pre-existent Ingredient of Mixt Bodies.
But as for those Chymists that, Supposing with me the Truth of what Helmont relates of the Alkahest’s wonderful Effects, have a right to press me with his Authority concerning them, and to alledge that he could Transmute all reputedly mixt Bodies into insipid and meer Water; To those I shall represent, That though his Affirmations conclude strongly against the Vulgar Chymists (against whom I have not therefore scrupl’d to Employ Them) since they Evince that the Commonly reputed Principles or Ingredients of Things are not Permanent and indestructible, since they may be further reduc’d into Insipid Phlegme differing from them all; Yet till we can be allow’d to examine this Liquor, I think it not unreasonable to doubt whether it be not something else then meer Water. For I find not any other reason given by Helmont of his Pronouncing it so, then that it is insipid. Now Sapour being an Accident or an Affection of matter that relates to our Tongue, Palate, and other Organs of Tast, it may very possibly be,(391) that the small Parts of a Body may be of such a Size and Shape, as either by their extream Littleness, or by their slenderness, or by their Figure, to be unable to pierce into and make a perceptible Impression upon the Nerves or Membranous parts of the Organs of Tast, and what may be fit to work otherwise upon divers other Bodies than meer Water can, and consequently to Disclose it self to be of a Nature farr enough from Elementary. In Silke dyed Red or of any other Colour, whilst many Contiguous Threads makes up a skein, the Colour of the Silke is conspicuous; but if only a very few of them be lookt upon, the Colour will appear much fainter then before. But if You take out one simple Thread, you shall not easily be able to discern any Colour at all; So subtile an Object having not the Force to make upon the Optick Nerve an Impression great enough to be taken Notice of. It is also observ’d, that the best sort of Oyl-Olive is almost tastless, and yet I need not tell you how exceedingly distant in Nature Oyle is from Water. The Liquor into which I told you, upon the Relation of Lully,(392) and Eye-witness that Mercury might be Transmuted, has sometimes but a very Languid, if any Tast, and yet its Operations even upon some Mineral Bodies are very peculiar. Quicksilver it self also, though the Corpuscles it consists of be so very small as to get into the Pores of that Closest and compactest of Bodies, Gold, is yet (you know) altogether Tastless. And our Helmont several times tells us, that fair Water wherein a little Quantity f Quicksilver has lain for some time, though it acquire no certain Tast or other sensible Quality from the Quicksilver; Yet it has a power to destroy wormes in humane Bodies; which he does much, but not causelessly extoll. And I remember, a great Lady, that had been Eminent for her Beauty in Divers Courts, confess’d to me, that this insipid Liquor was of all innocent washes for the Face the best that she ever met with.
And here let me conclude my Discourse, concerning such waters or Liquors as I have hitherto been examining, with these two Considerations. Whereof the first is, That by reason of our being wont to drink nothing but(393) Wine, Bear, Cyder, or other strongly tasted Liquors, there may be in several of these Liquors, that are wont to pass for insipid Phlegme, very peculiar and Distinct, Tasts though unheeded (and perhaps not to be perceiv’d) by Us. For to omit what Naturalists affirm of Apes, (and which probably may be true of divers other Animals) that they have a more exquisite palate than Men: among Men themselves, those that are wont to drink nothing but water may (as I have try’d in my self) Discern very sensibly a great Difference of Tasts in several waters, which one un-accustomed to drink water would take to be all alike insipid. And this is the first of my two Considerations; the Other is, That it is not impossible that the Corpuscles into which a body is dissipated by the Fire may by the Operation of the same fire have their figures so altered, or may be by associations with one another brought into little Masses of such a Size and Shape, as not to be fit to make sensible Impressions on the Tongue. And that you may not think such alterations impossible, be pleased to consider with me, that not(394) only the sharpest Spirit of Vinager having dissolved as much Corall as it can, will Coagulate with it into a Substance, which though soluble in water, like salt, is incomparably less strongly Tasted then the Vinager was before; but (what is more considerable) though the Acid salts that are carried up with Quicksilver in the preparation of common sublimate are so sharp, that being moistened with water it will Corrode some of the Metals themselves; yet this Corrosive Sublimate being twice or thrice re-sublim’d with a full proportion of insipid Quicksilver, Constitutes (as you know) that Factitious Concrete, which the Chymists call Mercurius dulcis; not because it is sweet, but because the sharpness of the Corrosive Salts is so taken away by their Combination with the Mercurial Corpuscles, that the whole mixture when it is prepar’d is judg’d to be insipid.
And thus (continues Carneades) having given you some Reasons why I refuse to admit Elementary water for a constant Ingredient of Mixt Bodies, It will be easie for me to give you an Account why I also reject Earth.(395) For first, it may well be suspected that many Substances pass among Chymists under the name of Earth, because, like it, they are Dry, and Heavy, and Fixt, which yet are very farr from an Elementary Nature. This you will not think improbable, If you recall to mind what I formerly told you concerning what Chymists call the Dead Earth of things, and especially touching the copper to be drawn from the Caput Mortuum of Vitriol; And if also you allow me to subjoyn a casual but memorable Experiment made by Johannes Agricola upon the Terra Damnata of Brimstone. Our Author then tells us (in his notes upon Popius,) that in the year 1621 he made an Oyle of Sulphur; the remaining Fæces he reverberated in a moderate Fire fourteen dayes; afterwards he put them well luted up in a Wind Oven, and gave them a strong Fire for six hours, purposing to calcine the Fæces to a perfect Whiteness, that he might make someting else out of them. But coming to break the pot, he found above but very little Fæces, and those Grey and not White; but beneath there lay a fine Red Regulus(396) which he first marvell’d at and knew not what to make of, being well assured that not the least thing, besides the Fæces of the Sulphur, came into the pot; and that the Sulphur it self had only been dissolv’d in Linseed Oyle; this Regulus he found heavy and malleable almost as Lead; having caus’d a Goldsmith to draw him a Wire of it, he found it to be of the Fairest copper, and so rightly colour’d, that a Jew of Prague offer’d him a great price for it. And of this Metal he sayes he had 12 loth (or six ounces) out of one pound of Ashes or Fæces. And this Story may well incline us to suspect that since the Caput Mortuum of the Sulphur was kept so long in the fire before it was found to be any thing else then a Terra damnata, there may be divers other Residences of Bodies which are wont to pass only for the Terrestrial Fæces of things, and therefore to be thrown away as soon as the Distillation or Calcination of the Body that yielded them is ended; which yet if they were long and Skilfully examin’d by the fire would appear to be differing from Elementary Earth. And I have taken notice of the(397) unwarrantable forwardness of common Chymists to pronounce things useless Fæces, by observing how often they reject the Caput Mortuum of Verdegrease; which is yet so farr from deserving that Name, that not only by strong fires and convenient Additaments it may in some hours be reduc’d into copper, but with a certain Flux Powder I sometimes make for Recreation, I have in two or three minutes obtain’d that Metal from it. To which I may add, that having for tryall sake kept Venetian Taclk in no less a heat than that of a glass Furnace, I found after all the Brunt of the fire it had indur’d, the remaining Body though brittle and discolour’d, had not lost very much of its former Bulke, and seem’d still to be nearer of kin to Talck than to meer Earth. And I remember too, that a candid Mineralist, famous for his Skill in trying of Oars, requesting me one day to procure him a certain American Mineral Earth of a Virtuoso, who he thought would not refuse me; I enquir’d of him why he seem’d so greedy of it: he confess’d to me that this Gentleman having brought that Earth to the publick Say-Masters;(398) and they upon their being unable by any means to bring it to fusion or make it fly away, he (the Relator) had procur’d a little of it; and having try’d it with a peculiar Flux separated from it neer a third part of pure Gold; so great mistakes may be committed in hastily concluding things to be Uselesse Earth.
Next, it may be suppos’d, That as in the Resolution of Bodies by the Fire some of the dissipated Parts may, by their various occursion occasion’d by the heat, be brought to stick together so closely as to constitute Corpuscles too heavy for the Fire to carry away; the aggregate of which Corpuscles is wont to be call’d Ashes or Earrh; So other Agents may resolve the Concrete into Minute Parts, after so differing a manner as not to produce any Caput mortuum, or dry and heavy Body. As you may remember Helmont above inform’d us, that with his great Dissolvent he divided a Coal into two liquid and volatile Bodies, æquiponderant to the Coal, without any dry or fixt Residence at all.
And indeed, I see not why it should be necessary that all Agents that resolve(399) Bodies into portions of differingly qualifi’d matter must work on them the same way, and divide them into just such parts, both for nature and Number, as the Fire dissipates them into. For since, as I noted before, the Bulk and shape of the small Parts of bodies, together with their Fitness and Unfitness to be easily put into Motion, may make the liquors or other substances such Corpuscles compose, as much to differ from each other as do some of the Chymical principles: Why may not something happen in this case, not unlike what is usuall in the grosser divisions of bodies by Mechanical Instruments? Where we see that some Tools reduce Wood, for Instance, into darts of several shapes, bignesse, and other qualities, as Hatchets and Wedges divide it into grosser parts; some more long and slender, as splinters; and some more thick and irregular, as chips; but all of considerable bulk; but Files and Saws makes a Comminution of it into Dust; which, as all the others, is of the more solid sort of parts; whereas others divide it into long and broad, but thin and flexible parts, as do Planes: And of this kind of parts it self there is also a(400) variety according to the Difference of the Tools employ’d to work on the Wood; the shavings made by the plane being in some things differing from those shives or thin and flexible pieces of wood that are obtain’d by Borers, and these from some others obtainable by other Tools. Some Chymical Examples applicable to this purpose I have elsewhere given you. To which I may add, that whereas in a mixture of Sulphur and Salt of Tartar well melted and incorporated together, the action of pure spirit of wine digested on it is to separate the sulphureous from the Alcalizate Parts, by dissolving the former and leaving the latter, the action of Wine (probably upon the score of its copious Phlegme) upon the same mixture is to divide it into Corpuscles consisting of both Alcalizate and Sulphureous Parts united. And if it be objected, that this is but a Factitious Concrete; I answer, that however the instance may serve to illustrate what I propos’d, if not to prove it; and that Nature her self doth in the bowels of the Earth make Decompounded Bodies, as we see in Vitriol, Cinnaber, and even in Sulphur it self; I will not urge that(401) the Fire divides new Milk into five differing Substances; but Runnet and Acid Liquors divide it into a Coagulated matter and a thin Whey: And on the other side churning divides it into Butter and Butter-milk, which may either of them be yet reduc’d to other substances differing from the former. I will not presse this, I say, nor other instances of this Nature, because I cannot in few words answer what may be objected, that these Concretes sequestred without the help of the Fire may by it be further divided into Hypostatical Principles. But I will rather represent, That whereas the same spirit of Wine will dissociare the Parts of Camphire, and make them one Liquor with it self; Aqua Fortis will also disjoyn them, and put them into motion; but so as to keep them together, and yet alter their Texture into the form of an Oyle. I know also an uncompounded Liquor, that an extraordinary Chymist would not allow to be so much as Saline, which doth (as I have try’d) from Coral it self (as fixt as divers judicious writers assert that Concrete to be) not only obtain a noble Tincture, Without the Intervention of Nitre or other(402) Salts; but will carry over the Tincture in Distillation. And if some reasons did not forbid me, I could now tell you of a Menstruum I make my self, that doth more odly dissociate the parts of Minerals very fixt in the fire. So that it seems not incredible, that there may be some Agent or way of Operation found, whereby this or that Concrete, if not all Firme Bodies, may be resolv’d into parts so very minute and so unapt to stick close to one another, that none of them may be fixt enough to stay behind in a strong Fire, and to be incapable of Distillation; nor consequently to be look’d upon as Earth. But to return to Helmont, the same Authour somewhere supply’s me with another Argument against the Earth’s being such an Element as my Adversaries would have it. For he somewhere affirms, that he can reduce all the Terrestrial parts of mixt bodies into insipid water; whence we may argue against the Earths being one of their Elements, even from that Notion of Elements which you may remember Philoponus recited out of Aristotle himself, when he lately disputed for his Chymists against Themistius. And here we may(403) on this occasion consider, that since a Body from which the Fire hath driven away its looser parts is wont to be look’d upon as Earth, upon the Account of its being endow’d with both these qualities, Tastlessenesse and Fixtnesse, (for Salt of Tartar though Fixt passes not among the Chymists for Earth, because ’tis strongly Tasted) if it be in the power of Natural Agents to deprive the Caput Mortuum of a body of either of those two Qualities, or to give them both to a portion of matter that had them not both before, the Chymists will not easily define what part of a resolv’d Concrete is earth, and make out, that that Earth is a primary, simple, and indestructible Body. Now there are some cases wherein the more skilful of the Vulgar Chymists themselves pretend to be able, by repeated Cohobations and other fit Operations, to make the Distilled parts of a Concrete bring its own Caput Mortuum over the Helme, in the forme of a Liquor; in which state being both Fluid and Volatile, you will easily believe it would not be taken for Earth. And indeed by a skilful, but not Vulgar, way of managing some Concretes, there may be more effected(404) in this kind, then you perhaps would easily think. And on the other side, that either Earth may be Generated, or at least Bodies that did not before appear to be neer Totally Earth, may be so alter’d as to pass for it, seems very possible, if HelmontNovi item modos quibus totum Salpetiæ in terram convertitur, totumque Sulphur semel dissolutum fixetur in Pulvearem terreum. Helmont in Compl. atque Mist. Elementor. Sect. 24. have done that by Art which he mentions in several places; especially where He sayes that he knowes wayes whereby Sulphur once dissolv’d is all of it fix’d into a Terrestrial Powder; and the whole Bodie of Salt-Petre may be turn’d into Earth: Which last he elsewhere sayes is Done by the Odour only of a certain Sulphureous Fire. And in another place He mentions one way of doing this, which I cannot give you an Account of; because the Materialls I had prepar’d for Trying it, were by a Servants mistake unhappily thrown away.
And these Last Arguments may be confirm’d by the Experiment I have often had occasion to mention concerning the Mint I produc’d out of Water. And partly by an Observation of Rondeletius(405) concerning the Growth of Animals also, Nourish’d but by Water, which I remember’d not to mention, when I discours’d to you about the Production of things out of Water. This Diligent Writer then in his instructive book of fishes,Lib. 1. cap. 2. affirmes That his Wife kept a fish in a Glass of water without any other Food for three years; in which space it was constantly augmented, till at last it could not come out of the Place at which it was put in, and at length was too big for the glass it self though that were of a large capacity. And because there is no just reason to doubt, that this Fish, if Distill’d, would have yielded the like differing substances with other Animals: And However, because the Mint which I had out of water afforded me upon Distillation a good quantity of Charcoal, I think I may from thence inferr, that Earth it self may be produc’d out of Water; or if you please, that water may be transmuted into Earth; and consequently, that though it could be prov’d that Earth is an Ingredient actually in-existent in the Vegetable and Animal Bodies whence it may be obtain’d by Fire: yet it would(406) not necessarily follow, that Earth as a pre-existent Element Does with other Principles convene to make up those Bodies whence it seems to have been separated.
After all is said (sayes Eleutherius) I have yet something to Object, that I cannot but think considerable, since Carneades Himself alledg’d it as such; for, (continues Eleutherius smiling) I must make bold to try whether you can as luckily answer your own Arguments, as those of your Antagonists, I mean (pursues he) that part of your Concessions, wherein you cannot but remember that you supply’d your Adversaries with an Example to prove that there may be Elementary Bodies, by taking Notice that Gold may be an Ingredient in a multitude of differing Mixtures, and yet retain its Nature, notwithstanding all that the Chymists by their Fires and Corrosive Waters are able to do to Destroy it.
I sufficiently intimated to you at that time (replies Carneades) that I propos’d this Example, chiefly to shew you how Nature may be Conceived to have made Elements, not to prove that she(407) actually has made any; And you know, that a posse ad esse the Inference will not hold. But (continues Carneades) to answer more directly to the Objection drawn from Gold, I must tell You, that though I know very well that divers of the more sober Chymists have complain’d of the Vulgar Chymists, as of Mountebanks or Cheats, for pretending so vainly, as hitherto they have done, to Destroy Gold; Yet I know a certain Menstruum (which our Friend has made, and intends shortly to communicate to the Ingenious) of so piercing and powerfull a Quality, That if notwithstanding much care, and some skill, I did not much deceive myself, I have with it really destroy’d even refin’d Gold, and brought it into a Metalline Body of another colour and Nature, as I found by Tryals purposely made. And if some just Considerations did not for the present Forbid it, I could Perchance here shew you by another Experiment or Two of my own Trying, that such Menstruums may be made as to entice away and retain divers parts, from Bodies, which even the more Judicious and Experienc’d Spagyrists have pro(408)nounc’d irresoluble by the Fire. Though (which I Desire you would mark) in neither of these Instances, the Gold or Precious Stones be Analys’d into any of the Tria Prima, but only Reduc’d to new Concretes. And indeed there is a great Disparity betwixt the Operations of the several Agents whereby the Parts of a Body come to be Dissipated. As if (for Instance) you dissolve the purer sort of Vitriol in common Water, the Liquor will swallow up the Mineral, and so Dissociate its Corpuscles, that they will seem to make up but one Liquor with those of the water; and yet each of these Corpuscles retains its Nature and Texture, and remains a Vitriolate and Compounded Body. But if the same Vitriol be exposed to a strong Fire, it will then be divided not only, as before, into smaller parts, but into Heterogeneous Substances, each of the Vitriolate Corpuscles that remain’d entire in the water, being it self upon the Destruction of its former Texture dissipated or divided into new Particles of differing Qualities. But Instances more fitly applicable to this purpose, I have already given you. Wherefore to re(409)turn to what I told you about the Destruction of Gold, that Experiment Invites me to Represent to you, that Though there were either Saline, or Sulphureous, or Terrestrial Portions of Matter, whose parts were so small, so firmly united together, or of a figure so fit to make them cohere to one another, (as we see that in quicksilver broken into little Globes, the Parts brought to touch one another do immediately re-imbody) that neither the Fire, nor the usual Agents employ’d by Chymists, are pierceing enough to divide their Parts, so as to destroy the Texture of the single Corpuscles; yet it would not necessarily follow, That such Permanent Bodies were Elementary, since tis possible there may be Agents found in Nature, some of whose parts may be of such a Size and Figure as to take better Hold of some parts of these seemingly Elementary Corpuscles than these parts do of the rest, and Consequently may carry away such parts with them, and so dissolve the Texture of the Corpuscle by pulling its parts asunder. And if it be said, that at least we may this way discover the Elementary Ingredients of(410) Things, by observing into what Substances these Corpuscles that were reputed pure are divided; I answer, that it is not necessary that such a Discovery should be practicable. For if the Particles of the Dissolvent do take such firme hold of those of the Dissolved Body, they must constitute together new Bodies, as well as Destroy the Old; and the strickt Union, which according to this Hypothesis may well be suppos’d betwixt the Parts of the Emergent Body, will make it as Little to be Expected that they should be pull’d asunder, but by little Parts of matter, that to Divide them Associate Themselves and stick extreamly close to those of them which they sever from their Former Adherents. Besides that it is not impossible, that a Corpuscle suppos’d to be Elementary may have its Nature changed, without suffering a Divorce of its parts, barely by a new Texture Effected by some powerfull Agent; as I formerly told you, the same portion of matter may easily by the Operation of the Fire be turn’d at pleasure into the form of a Brittle and Transparent, or an Opacous and Malleable Body.(411) And indeed, if you consider how farr the bare Change of Texture, whether made by Art or Nature (or rather by Nature with or without the assistance of man) can go in producing such New Qualities in the same parcel of matter, and how many inanimate Bodies (such as are all the Chymical productions of the Fire) we know are Denominated and Distinguish’d not so much by any Imaginary Substantial Form, as by the aggregate of these Qualities. If you consider these Things, I say, and that the varying of either the figure, or the Size, or the Motion, or the Situation, or Connexion of the Corpuscles whereof any of these Bodies is compos’d, may alter the Fabrick of it, you will possibly be invited to suspect, with me, that there is no great need that Nature should alwayes have Elements before hand, whereof to make such Bodies as we call mixts. And that it is not so easie as Chymists and others have hitherto Imagin’d, to discern, among the many differing Substances that may without any extraordinary skill be obtain’d from the same portion of matter, Which ought to be esteemed exclusively to all the rest,(412) its in-existent Elementary Ingredients; much lesse to determine what Primogeneal and Simple Bodies convened together to compose it. To exemplify this, I shall add to what I have already on several occasions Represented, but this single instance.
You may remember (Eleutherius) that I formerly intimated to you, that besides Mint and Pompions, I produced divers other Vegetables of very differing Natures out of Water. Wherefore you will not, I presume, think it incongruous to suppose, that when a slender Vine-slip is set into the ground, and takes root, there it may likewise receive its Nutriment from the water attracted out of the earth by his roots, or impell’d by the warm’th of the sun, or pressure of the ambient air into the pores of them. And this you will the more easily believe, if you ever observ’d what a strange quantity of Water will Drop out of a wound given to the Vine, in a convenient place, at a seasonable time in the Spring; and how little of Tast or Smell this Aqua Vitis, as Physitians call it, is endow’d with, notwithstanding what concoction or alteration it may receive in its passage(413) through the Vine, to discriminate it from common Water. Supposing then this Liquor, at its first entrance into the roots of the Vine, to be common Water; Let Us a little consider how many various Substances may be obtain’d from it; though to do so, I must repeat somewhat that I had a former occasion to touch upon. And first, this Liquor being Digested in the plant, and assimilated by the several parts of it, is turn’d into the Wood, Bark, Pith, Leaves, &c. of the Vine; The same Liquor may be further dry’d, and fashon’d into Vine-buds, and these a while after are advanced unto sour Grapes, which express’d yield Verjuice, a Liquor very differing in several qualities both from Wine and other Liquors obtainable from the Vine: These soure Grapes being by the heat of the Sun concocted and ripened, turne to well tasted Grapes; These if dry’d in the Sun and Distill’d, afford a fætid Oyle and a piercing Empyreumatical Spirit, but not a Vinous Spirit; These dry’d Grapes or Raisins boyl’d in a convenient proportion of Water make a sweet Liquor, which being betimes distill’d afford an Oyle and Spirit much like(414) those of the Raisins themselves; If the juice of the Grapes be squeez’d out and put to Ferment, it first becomes a sweet and turbid Liquor, then grows lesse sweet and more clear, and then affords in common Distillations not an Oyle but a Spirit, which, though inflamable like Oyle, differs much from it, in that it is not fat, and that it will readily mingle with Water. I have likewise without Addition obtain’d in processe of time (and by an easie way which I am ready to teach you) from one of the noblest sorts of Wine, pretty store of pure and curiously figured Crystals of Salt, together with a great proportion of a Liquor as sweet almost as Hony; and these I obtained not from Must, but True and sprightly Wine; besides the Vinous Liquor, the fermented Juice of Grapes is partly turned into liquid Dregs or Leeze, and partly into that crust or dry feculancy that is commonly called Tartar; and this Tartar may by the Fire be easily divided into five differing substances; four of which are not Acid, and the other not so manifestly Acid as the Tartar it self; The same Vinous Juice after some time, especially if it be not carefully(415) kept, Degenerates into that very sour Liquor called Vinegar; from which you may obtain by the Fire a Spirit and a Crystalline Salt differing enough from the Spirit and Lixiviate Salt of Tartar. And if you pour the Dephlegm’d Spirit of the Vinegar upon the Salt of Tartar, there will be produc’d such a Conflict or Ebullition as if there were scarce two more contrary Bodies in Nature; and oftentimes in this Vinager you may observe part of the matter to be turned into an innumerable company of swimming Animals, which our Friend having divers years ago observed, hath in one of his Papers taught us how to discover clearly without the help of a Microscope.
Into all these various Schemes of matter, or differingly Qualifyed Bodies, besides divers others that I purposely forbear to mention, may the Water that is imbib’d by the roots of the Vine be brought, partly by the formative power of the plant, and partly by supervenient Agents or Causes, without the visible concurrence of any extraneous Ingredient; but if we be allowed to add to the Productions of this transmuted Water a few other substances, we may much(416) encrease the Variety of such Bodies; although in this second sort of Productions, the Vinous parts seem scarce to retain any thing of the much more fix’d Bodies wherewith they were mingl’d; but only to have by their Mixture with them acquir’d such a Disposition, that in their recess occasion’d by the Fire they came to be alter’d as to shape, or Bigness, or both, and associated after a New manner. Thus, as I formerly told you, I did by the Addition of a Caput Mortuum of Antimony, and some other Bodies unfit for Distillation, obtain from crude Tartar, store of a very Volatile and Crystalline Salt, differing very much in smell and other Qualities from the usuall salts of Tartar.
But (sayes Eleutherius, interrupting him at these Words) if you have no restraint upon you, I would very gladly before you go any further, be more particularly inform’d, how you make this Volatile Salt, because (you know) that such Multitudes of Chymists have by a scarce imaginable Variety of wayes, attempted in Vain the Volatilization of the Salt of Tartar, that divers learned Spagyrists speak as if it were impossible,(417) to make any thing out of Tartar, that shall be Volatile in a Saline Forme, or as some of them express it, in forma sicca. I am very farr from thinking (answers Carneades) that the Salt I have mention’d is that which Paracelsus and Helmont mean when they speak of Sal Tartari Volatile, and ascribe such great things to it. For the Salt I speak of falls extreamly short of those Virtues, not seeming in its Tast, Smel, and other Obvious Qualities, to differ very much (though something it do differ) from Salt of Harts-horn, and other Volatile Salts drawn from the Distill’d Parts of Animals. Nor have I yet made Tryals enough to be sure, that it is a pure Salt of Tartar without participating any thing at all of the Nitre, or Antimony. But because it seems more likely to proceed from the Tartar, than from any of the other Ingredients, and because the Experiment is in it self not Ignoble, and Luciferous enough (as shewing a new way to produce a Volatile Salt contrary to Acid Salts from Bodies that otherwise are Observ’d to yield no such Liquor, but either only, or chiefly, Acid ones,) I(418) shall, to satisfie you, acquaint you before any of my other Friends with the way I now use (for I have formerly us’d some others) to make it.
Take then of good Antimony, Salt-Petre and Tartar, of each an equal weight, and of Quicklime Halfe the Weight of any one of them; let these be powder’d and well mingl’d; this done, you must have in readiness a long neck or Retort of Earth, which must be plac’d in a Furnace for a naked Fire, and have at the top of it a hole of a convenient Bigness, at which you may cast in the Mixture, and presently stop it up again; this Vessel being fitted with a large Receiver must have Fire made under it, till the bottom of the sides be red hot, and then you must cast in the above prepar’d Mixture, by about halfe a spoonfull (more or less) at a time, at the hole made for that purpose; which being nimbly stopt, the Fumes will pass into the Receiver and condense there into a Liquor, that being rectifi’d will be of a pure golden Colour, and carry up that colour to a great height; this Spirit abounds in the Salt I told you of, part of which may easily enough be separated(419) by the way I use in such cases, which is, to put the Liquor into a glass Egg, or bolthead with a long and narrow Neck. For if this be plac’d a little inclining in hot sand, there will sublime up a fine Salt, which, as I told you, I find to be much of kin to the Volatile Salts of Animals: For like them it has a Saltish, not an Acid Salt; it hisses upon the Affusion of Spirit of Nitre, or Oyle of Vitriol; it precipitates Corals Dissolv’d in Spirit of Vinager; it turnes the blew Syrup of Violets immediately green; it presently turnes the Solution of Sublimate into a Milkie whiteness; and in summ, has divers Operations like those that I have observ’d in that sort of Salts to which I have resembled it: and is so Volatile, that for Distinction sake, I call it Tartari Fugitivus. What virtues it may have in Physick I have not yet had the opportunity to Try; but I am apt to think they will not be despicable. And besides that a very Ingenious Friend of mine tells me he hath done great matters against the stone, with a Preparation not very much Differing from ours, a very Experienc’d Germane Chymist finding that I was(420) unacquainted with the wayes of making this salt, told me that in a great City in his Country, a noted Chymist prizes it so highly, that he had a while since procur’d a Priviledge from the Magistrates, that none but He, or by his Licence, should vent a Spirit made almost after the same Way with mine, save that he leaves out one of the Ingredients, namely the Quick-lime. But, continues Carneades, to resume my Former Discourse where your Curiosity interrupted it;
Tis also a common practice in France to bury thin Plates of Copper in the Marc (as the French call it) or Husks of Grapes, whence the Juice has been squeez’d out in the Wine-press, and by this means the more saline parts of those Husks working by little and little upon the Copper, Coagulate Themselves with it into that Blewish Green Substance we in English call Verdigrease. Of which I therefore take Notice, because having Distill’d it in a Naked Fire, I found as I expected, that by the Association of the Saline with the Metalline parts, the former were so alter’d, that the Distill’d Liquor, even without Rectification, seem’d by smell(421) and Tast, strong almost like Aqua Fortis, and very much surpassed the purest and most Rectifi’d Spirit of Vinager that ever I made. And this Spirit I therefore ascribe to the salt of the Husks alter’d by their Co-Mixture with the copper (though the Fire afterwards Divorce and Transmute them) because I found this later in the bottom of the Retort in the Forme of a Crocus or redish powder: And because Copper is of too sluggish a Nature to be forc’d over in close Vessels by no stronger a heat. And that which is also somewhat Remarkable in the Destillation of good Verdigrease, (or at least of that sort that I us’d) is this, that I Never could observe that it yielded me any oyl, (unless a little black slime which was separated in Rectification may pass for Oyle) though both Tartar and Vinager, (especially the former) will by Destillation yield a Moderate proportion of it. If likewise you pour Spirit of Vinager upon Calcin’d Lead, the Acid Salt of the Liquor will by its Commixture with the Metalline parts, though Insipid, acquire in a few hours a more than Saccharine sweetness; and these Saline(422) parts being by a strong Fire Destill’d from the Lead wherewith they were imbody’d, will, as I formerly also noted to a Different purpose, leave the Metal behind them alter’d in some qualities from what it was, and will themselves ascend, partly in the Forme of an unctuous Body or Oyle, partly in that of Phlegme; but for the greatest part in the Forme of a subtile Spirit, indow’d, besides divers new Qualities which I am not now willing to take notice of, with a strong smell very much other than that of Vinager, and a piercing tast quite differing both from the Sowerness of the Spirit of Vinager, and the Sweetness of the Sugar of Lead.
To be short, As the difference of Bodies may depend meerly upon that of the schemes whereinto their Common matter is put; So the seeds of Things, the Fire and the other Agents are able to alter the minute parts of a Body (either by breaking them into smaller ones of differing shapes, or by Uniting together these Fragments with the unbroken Corpuscles, or such Corpuscles among Themselves) and the same Agents partly by Altering the shape or(423) bigness of the Constituent Corpuscles of a Body, partly by driving away some of them, partly by blending others with them, and partly by some new manner of connecting them, may give the whole portion of matter a new Texture of its minute parts; and thereby make it deserve a new and Distinct name. So that according as the small parts of matter recede from each other, or work upon each other, or are connected together after this or that determinate manner, a Body of this or that denomination is produced, as some other Body happens thereby to be alter’d or destroy’d.
Since then those things which Chymists produce by the help of the Fire are but inanimate Bodies; since such fruits of the Chymists skill differ from one another but in so few qualities that we see plainly that by fire and other Agents we can employ, we can easily enough work as great alterations upon matter, as those that are requisite to change one of these Chymical Productions into another; Since the same portion of matter may without being Compounded with any extraneous Body, or at least Element, be made to put on such a va(424)riety of formes, and consequently to be (successively) turn’d into so many differing Bodies. And since the matter cloath’d with so many differing formes was originally but water, and that in its passage thorow so many transformations, it was never reduc’d into any of those substances which are reputed to be the Principles or Elements of mixt Bodies, except by the violence of the fire, which it self divides not Bodies into perfectly simple or Elementary substances, but into new Compounds; Since, I say, these things are so, I see not why we must needs believe that there are any Primogeneal and simple Bodies, of which as of Pre-exsistent Elements Nature is obliged to compound all others. Nor do I see why we may not conceive that she may produce the Bodies accounted mixt out of one another by Variously altering and contriving their minute parts, without resolving the matter into any such simple or Homogeneous substances as are pretended. Neither, to dispatch, do I see why it should be counted absur’d to think, that when a Body is resolv’d by the Fire into its suppos’d simple Ingredients, those substances are not true and(425) proper Elements, but rather were, as it were, Accidentally produc’d by the fire, which by Dissipating a Body into minute Parts does, if those parts be shut up in Close Vessels, for the most part necessarily bring them to Associate Themselves after another manner than before, and so bring Them into Bodies of such Different Consistences as the Former Texture of the Body, and Concurrent Circumstances make such disbanded particles apt to Constitute; as experience shews us (and I have both noted it, and prov’d it already) that as there are some Concretes whose parts when dissipated by fire are fitted to be put into such Schemes of matter as we call Oyle, and Salt, and Spirit; So there are others, such as are especially the greatest part of Minerals, whose Corpuscles being of another Size or figure, or perhaps contriv’d another Way, will not in the Fire yield Bodies of the like Consistences, but rather others of differing Textures; Not to mention, that from Gold and some other Bodies, we see not that the Fire separates any Distinct Substances at all; nor That even those Similar Parts of(426) Bodies which the Chymists Obtain by the Fire, are the Elements whose names they bear, but Compound Bodies, upon which, for their resemblance to them in consistence, or some other obvious Quality, Chymists have been pleas’d to bestow such Appellations.