Alchemical Substances

Aes cyprium. Cyprian brass or copper.

Antimony. From latin 'antimonium' used by Constantinius Africanus (c. 1050) to refer to Stibnite.

Aqua Ardens - Methanol sometimes confused with Aqua vitae by initiates. Distill good wine five times. Place the ascentate in a pelican. Put the pelican in a fermenting bed of fimus equinis. Allow to circu-late. The liquid will separate into a lower turbid layer and a sky blue liquid.

Aqua Fortis - nitric acid, can be formed by 2 parts saltpetre in 1 part (pure) oil of vitriol (sulfuric acid). (Historically, this process could not have been used, as 98% oil of vitriol was not available)

Aqua Ragia/Spirit of turpentine/Oil of turpentine/Gum turpentine - turpentine, formed by the distillation of pine tree resin.

Aqua Regia (Latin: "royal water") - a mixture of aqua fortis and spirit of salt.

Aqua Tofani - arsenic trioxide. Extremely poisonous. AsO3

Aqua vitae/Spirit of Wine - ethanol, formed by distilling wine

Auric Hydroxide - formed by precipitation by potash from gold dissolved in aqua regia.

Bismuth (German: Wismuth)


Blue Vitriol/Bluestone - A mineral; copper(II) sulfate pentahydrate.; Cupric sulphate.

Brimstone (from German Brennstein 'burning stone'). Sulphur.

Butter of Antimony. White crystalline antimony trichloride. Made by Basil Valentine by distilling roasted stibnite with corrosive sublimate. Glauber later prepared it by dissolving stibnite in hot concentrated hydrochloric acid and distilling. SbCl3

Butter of tin. Hydrated stannic chloride.; hydrated tin(IV) chloride.

Cadmia/Tuttia/Tutty - probably zinc carbonate.

Calamine - zinc carbonate.

Calomel/Horn Quicksilver/horn mercury - mercury(I) chloride, a very poisonous purgative formed by subliming a mixture of mercuric chloride and metallic mercury, triturated in a mortar and heated in an iron pot. The crust formed on the lid was ground to powder and boiled with water to remove the calomel.

Caustic marine alkali. Caustic soda. Sodium hydroxide. Made by adding lime to natron.
Caustic Soda/Caustic Marine Alkali - sodium hydroxide, formed by adding lime to natron. NaHCO3

Caustic potash/Caustic Wood Alkali - potassium hydroxide, formed by adding lime to potash.

Caustic volatile alkali. Ammonium hydroxide.

Caustic wood alkali. Caustic potash. Potassium hydroxide. Made by adding lime to potash.

Chalk - a rock composed of porous biogenic calcium carbonate. CaCo3

Chrome green - chromic oxide and cobalt oxide.

Chrome orange. Mixture of chrome yellow and chrome red.

Chrome red - basic lead chromate - PbCrO4+PbO.

Chrome yellow/Paris Yellow/Leipzig Yellow - lead chromate - PbCrO4.

Cinnabar/Vermilion - refers to several substances, among them: mercury(II) sulfide (HgS), or native vermilion (the common ore of mercury).

Cobalt. Named by the copper miners of the Hartz Mountains after the evil spirits the 'kobolds' which gave a false copper ore.

Common salt. Sodium chloride.

Copper Glance - copper(I) sulfide ore. Cuprous sulphide ore.

Corrosive sublimate - mercuric chloride, formed by subliming mercury, calcined green vitriol, common salt and nitre.

Cuprite - copper(I) oxide ore. Red cuprous oxide ore.

Dutch White - a pigment, formed from one part of white lead to three of barium sulfate. BaSO4

Flowers of antimony - antimony trioxide, formed by roasting stibnite at high temperature and condensing the white fumes that form. SbO3

Flowers of sulphur. light yellow crystalline powder, made by distilling sulphur.

Fool's gold - a mineral; iron disulfide or pyrite, can form oil of vitriol on contact with water and air.

Fulminating gold. Made by adding ammonia to the auric hydroxide formed by precipitation by potash from metallic gold dissolved in aqua regis. Highly explosive when dry.

Fulminating silver - silver nitride, formed by dissolving silver(I) oxide in ammonia. Very explosive when dry.

Galena - lead(II) sulfide. Plumbic sulphide. Chief ore of lead.

Glass of antimony - impure antimony tetroxide, formed by roasting stibnite. A yellow pigment for glass and porcelain. SbO4

Glauber's Salt - sodium sulfate. NaSO4

Green Vitriol - a mineral; iron(II) sulfate heptahydrate.; Ferrous sulphate.

Gum Arabic - gum from the Acacia tree.

Gypsum - a mineral; calcium sulfate. CaSO4

Horn Silver/Argentum Cornu - a weathered form of chlorargyrite, a glass like ore of silver chloride.

King's Yellow. A mixture of orpiment with white arsenic.

Lapis solaris (Bologna stone) - barium sulfide - 1603, Vincenzo Cascariolo

Lead fume - lead oxide, found in flues at lead smelters.

Lime/Quicklime (Burnt Lime)/Calx Viva/Unslaked Lime - calcium oxide, formed by calcining limestone.

Litharge. Reddish-yellow crystalline form of lead monoxide, formed by fusing and powdering massicot.

Liver of sulphur. Complex of polysulphides of potassium, made by fusing potash and sulphur.

Luna cornea. The soft colourless tough mass of silver chloride, made by heating horn silver till it forms a dark yellow liquid and then cooling. Described by Oswald Croll in 1608.

Lunar caustic/lapis infernalis - silver nitrate, formed by dissolving silver in aqua fortis and evaporating.

Lye - potash in a water solution, formed by leaching wood ashes.

Marcasite. Mineral form of Iron disulphide. Oxidises in moist air to green vitriol. Fe(SO4)2

Marine Acid Air - gaseous form of hydrochloric acid.

Massicot. Yellow powder form of lead monoxide. PbO.

Mercurius praecipitatus - red mercuric oxide.

Milk of sulphur (lac sulphuris). White colloidal sulphur. Geber made this by adding an acid to thion hudor (lime sulfur).

Minium or Red Lead. Triplumbic tetroxide. Formed by roasting litharge in air. Scarlet crystalline powder. Pb3O4

Mosaic Gold - Golden-yellow glistening scales of crystalline stannic sulfide, formed by heating a mixture of tin filings, sulfur and sal-ammoniac.

Naples yellow/Cassel yellow - oxychloride of lead, formed by heating litharge with sal ammoniac.

Natron. Native sodium carbonate. NaCO3

Nickel. Named by the copper miners of Westphalia the 'kupfer-nickel' or false copper.

Nitrum flammans. Ammonium nitrate made by Glauber.

Oil of Vitriol/Spirit of Vitriol - sulfuric acid, a weak version can be formed by distilling green vitriol or blue vitriol. H2SO4

Orpiment. Auri-pigmentum. Yellow ore of arsenic. Arsenic trisulphide.

Pearlash - formed by baking potash in a kiln.

Pearl white. Basic nitrate of bismuth, used by Lemery as a cosmetic. BiNO3

Philosophers' Wool/nix alba (white snow)/Zinc White - zinc oxide, formed by burning zinc in air, used as a pigment.

Plumbago - a mineral; graphite, not discovered in pure form until 1564.

Potash/Salt of tartar - potassium carbonate, formed by evaporating lye. KCO3

Powder of Algaroth. A white powder of antimonious oxychloride, made by by precipitation when a solution of butter of antimony in spirit of salt is poured into water.

Purple of Cassius. Made by Andreas Cassius in 1685 by precipitating a mixture of gold, stannous and stannic chlorides, with alkali. Used for colouring glass.

Pyrites. Mineral form of iron disulphide. Stable in air.

Quicklime. Calcium oxide.

Realgar. red ore of arsenic. Arsenic disulphide.

Regulus of antimony

Resin of copper - copper(I) chloride, Cuprous chloride. Made by Robert Boyle in 1664 by heating copper with corrosive sublimate.

Rouge, Crocus, Colcothar. Red varieties of ferric oxide are formed by burning green vitriol in air.

Sal Ammoniac. Ammonium Chloride. Described by Geber.

Sal Petrae (Med. Latin: "stone salt")/Salt of Petra/Saltpetre/Nitrate of potash - potassium nitrate, typically mined from covered dungheaps. KNO3

Salt/Common salt - A mineral; sodium chloride, formed by evaporating seawater (impure form). NaCl

Salt of Hartshorn/Sal Volatile - ammonium carbonate formed by distilling bones and horns.

Sal volatile, Spirit of Hartshorn. Volatile alkali. Ammonium carbonate made from distilling bones, horns, etc.

Slaked Lime - calcium hydroxide. CaOH

Soda ash. Sodium carbonate formed by burning plants growing on the sea shore.

Spirit of box/Pyroxylic spirit - methanol, distillation of wood alcohol. CH3OH

Spirit of Hartshorn - ammonia, formed by the decomposition of sal-ammoniac by unslaked lime.

Spirit of Salt/Acidum Salis - the liquid form of hydrochloric acid (also called muriatic acid), formed by mixing common salt with oil of vitriol.

Spiritus fumans. Stannic chloride, discovered by Libavius in 1605, through distilling tin with corrosive sublimate.

Stibnite. Antimony trisulphide. Grey mineral ore of antimony.

Sugar of Lead. Lead acetate, Made by dissolving lead oxide in vinegar.

Sweet Vitriol - diethyl ether.

Thion hudor (Zosimus refers to this as the 'divine water' or 'the bile of the serpent'). A deep reddish-yellow liquid made by boiling flowers of sulphur with slaked lime. Lime Sulfur.

Tin salt. Hydrated stannous chloride.

Turpeth mineral - hydrolysed form of mercury(II) sulfate. Yellow crystalline powder.

Venetian White. Mixture of equal parts of white lead and barium sulphate.

Verdigris. The green substance formed by the atmospheric weathering of copper. This is a complex basic carbonate of copper. In more recent times the term 'verdigris' is more correctly applied to copper(II) acetate, made by the action of vinegar on copper.

White arsenic - arsenious oxide, formed by subliminating arsenical soot from the roasting ovens.

White lead - carbonate of lead, a toxic pigment, produced by corroding stacks of lead plates with dilute vinegar beneath a heap of moistened wood shavings. (replaced by blanc fixe & lithopone)

White vitriol - zinc sulfate, formed by lixiviating roasted zinc blende.

Wismuth. Bismuth.

Wood-ash or potash. Potassium carbonate made from the ashes of burnt wood.

Zaffre. Impure cobalt arsenate, left after roasting cobalt ore.

Zinc Blende - zinc sulfide.