Copyright
Robert Boyle.

The sceptical chymist online

. (page 18 of 21)
Online LibraryRobert BoyleThe sceptical chymist → online text (page 18 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


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 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 [Errata:
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_, which (sayes he) is a meer poyson,
and often suffocates the Diggers [Errata: 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 [Errata: damp as the
Englishmen also call it] (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
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 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 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 [Errata: height], 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 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. 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 [Transcriber's Note: Topick]
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
[Errata: use] 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 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 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. [Errata: 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. [Errata:
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.

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_,[31] 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.

[Footnote 31: _Acosta_ Natural and Moral history of the Indies, L. 3.
c. 5, p. 212.]

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 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 _Acosta_ 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;[32] 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 unmixt 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.

[Footnote 32: See _Acosta_ in the fore-cited Place, and the passage of
_Pliny_ quoted by him.]

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 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_ 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 Animals 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 may Intelligibly be Deduced from these three; _but
how two of the Three_ Epicurean Principles (which, I need not tell,
you [Transcriber's Note: 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 [Errata: 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 [Errata:
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, 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
[Errata: Aggregate or complex] of those Accidents, which are the
Motion or Rest, (for in some Bodies both are not to be found) the
Bigness, Figure, Texture) [Errata: delete )] and the thence resulting
Qualities of the small parts) [Errata: delete )] which are necessary
to intitle the Body whereto they belong to this or that Peculiar
Denomination; and discriminating it from others to appropriate it to a
Determinate Kind of Things, as [Errata: (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 [Errata: This] Aggregate or result of
Accidents you may, if You please, call either _Structure_ or Texture.

[Errata: no paragraph break] Though [Errata: (Though] indeed, that do
not so properly Comprehend the motion of the constituent parts
especially in case some of them be Fluid [Errata: 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 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 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 and
rest. And among Artificial Productions we may take notice (to skip the
Crystals of Tartar) of Glass, Regulus, Martis-Stellatus [Errata:
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 to the same purpose, I shall now add only, that if we
doubt not the Truth of some of _Helmonts_ Relation [Errata:
Relations], 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 [Errata: Chymist]
first goes about to resolve it; For not to insist upon the
un-inflamable Spirit of such Concretes, because that may be pretended


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18 20 21

Online LibraryRobert BoyleThe sceptical chymist → online text (page 18 of 21)