7 Chemicals of Alchemist’s Arcana

“Sulphuric Acid * Iron Oxide * Sodium Carbonate * Sodium Nitrate * Liquor Hepatis * Red Pulvis Solaris * Black Pulvis Solaris

The alchemist’s vocabulary does not always translate directly into a modern formula. They were keen on Natron, which was a generic word that included both the salts of sodium carbonate and sodium nitrate. Vitriol, however, is what we know as sulphuric acid and Aqua Fortis was nitric acid. Black pulvis solaris was formed from ground black antimony (stibnite–a sulphide of antimony) mixed with ground sulphur. Red pulvis solaris was a mixture of mercury (which could be extracted by heating cinnabar) and sulphur.

The alchemists also made a strong connection between the seven prime metals and the planets. The sun was linked to gold, the moon to silver, Mars to iron, Mercury to quicksilver, Saturn to lead, Jupiter to tin, and Venus to copper.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

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