Alchemical Substances

James Richard Fromm


Aes cyprium. Cyprian brass or copper.

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

Aqua Regis. A mixture of Nitric Acid and Hydrochloric Acid.

Aqua tofani. Arsenious oxide. Extremely poisonous. Used by Paracelsus.

Blue vitriol or bluestone. 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.

Butter of tin. Hydrated stannic chloride.

Cadmia, which was also called Tuttia or Tutty, was probably zinc carbonate.

Calamine. Zinc carbonate.

Calomel. Mercurous chloride. Purgative, made by subliming a mixture of mercuric chloride and metallic mercury, triturated in a mortar. This was heated in a iron pot and the crust of calomel formed on the lid was ground to powder and boiled with water to remove the very poisonous mercuric chloride.

Caustic marine alkali. Caustic soda. Sodium hydroxide. Made by adding lime to natron.

Caustic volatile alkali. Ammonium hydroxide.

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

Chalk. Calcium carbonate.

Chrome green. Chromic oxide.

Chrome orange. Mixture of chrome yellow and chrome red.

Chrome red. Basic lead chromate.

Chrome yellow. Lead chromate.

Cinnabar or Vermillion. Mercuric sulphide.

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. Cuprous sulphide ore.

Corrosive sublimate. Mercuric chloride. first mentioned by Geber, who prepared it by subliming mercury, calcined green vitriol, common salt and nitre.

Cuprite. Red cuprous oxide ore.

Dutch White. Mixture of one part of white lead to three of barium sulphate.

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

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, very explosive when dry. Made by dissolving silver oxide in ammonia.

Galena. Plumbic sulphide. Chief ore of lead.

Glass of Antimony. Impure antimony tetroxide, obtained by roasting stibnite. Used as a yellow pigment for glass and porcelain.

Glauber's Salt. Sodium sulphate.

Green Vitriol. Ferrous sulphate.

Gypsum. Calcium sulphate.

Horn silver, argentum cornu. A glass like ore of silver chloride.

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

Lead fume. Lead oxide obtained from the flues at lead smelters.

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.

Marcasite. Mineral form of Iron disulphide. Oxidises in moist air to green vitriol.

Massicot. Yellow powder form of lead monoxide.

Mercurius praecipitatus. Red mercuric oxide. Described by Geber.

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

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

Mosaic gold. Golden-yellow glistening scales of crystalline stannic sulphide, made by heating a mixture of tin filings, sulphur and sal ammoniac.

Naples yellow, or Cassel yellow. An oxychloride of lead, made by heating litharge with sal ammoniac.

Natron. Native sodium carbonate.

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

Nitrum flammans. Ammonium nitrate made by Glauber.

Oil of Vitriol. Sulphuric acid made by distilling green vitriol.

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

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

Philosophers' Wool, or nix alba (white snow). Zinc oxide made by burning zinc in air. Called Zinc White and used as a pigment.

Powder of Algaroth. A white powder of antimonious oxychloride, made 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.

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

Slaked lime. Calcium hydroxide.

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

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.

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.

Tin salt. Hydrated stannous chloride.

Turpeth mineral. A hydrolysed form of mercuric sulphate. Yellow crystalline powder, described by Basil Valentine.

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

Verdigris. Cupric carbonate.

White arsenic. Arsenious oxide. Made from arsenical soot from the roasting ovens, purified by sublimation.

White vitriol. Zinc Sulphate. Described by Basil Valentine. Made by lixiviating roasted zinc blende (zinc sulphide).

White lead. Basic carbonate of lead. Used as a pigment.

Wismuth. Bismuth.

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

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


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Copyright 1997 James R. Fromm