This post brought to you courtesy of Anke Timmerman and the Knowledge unlatched consortium (https://twitter.com/KUnlatched)
was obviously a challenge.
Her book can be found here, and can be read online for free:
Now, onto the recipes, or at least some of those in English that I can read:
The prose text “Lead”, found on page 313, starts with the simple manufacture of lead acetate, and the distillation thereof, which produces the usual red liquid that is a weird mixture of organic substances. This is no different from the Ripley method suggested by Jennifer Rampling, and I think also that which is produced from John of Rupescissa’s quintessence of alchemy recipe.
It even says to put the stilled liquid upon the stuff left behind in the alembick, which Ripley recommends, but then you put it onto silver and make it brittle.
At this point I start to wonder if it really means lead, and doesn’t mean some other thing. The description of thin plates, vinegar and the resulting white powder is clearly of lead acetate though, I’ve not heard or seen anything else give such a result.
More specifically, the instructions say to put the distilled liquid back onto the white product of calcination of the stuff left after the distillation. Why it would be white is unclear to me, since if it is lead it should be blackish after calcination. So perhaps something unusual is happening here.
Or of course the poem is not meant to be taken practically.
The Thomas Hend text on page 317 is also clearly a lead and vinegar one. It has suddenly become clear to me how variations in the concept were all the rage in late 15th/ early 16th century England. You see this a lot in alchemical recipes, new fashions in activity and substance that sweep across Europe or countries and hold sway for decades, until something else comes along. That vinegar had been used in earlier recipes is not in doubt, but what happened in the later 15th and early 16th centuries was the codification and spread of specific series of actions which we could dub Ripleyan. These recipes continue to turn up in alchemical literature into the 17th century, in the works of Basil Valentine, as explored by Lawrence Principe.
I define them specifically as ones that on the surface use vinegar and have metals, oxide or carbonate, dissolved in the vinegar. It is then distilled, and a red liquid produced. You can get a reddish liquid from such a process, as I have proved myself (https://distillatio.wordpress.com/2013/11/19/382/) and as modern esotericists have also shown. The only slight problem is that things start to diverge from what you would expect given modern chemistry and it all gets a bit complicated and the best thing to do is stop and do something else for a while.
Or do more experiments and read more sources, both of which I am planning on doing this year.