The Donum Dei
Thanks to Adam McLean and the Alchemy Page for this
text. Adam McLean comments on the Donum Dei:
The Pretiosissimum Donum Dei, ``the most precious gift of
God'', is an important early alchemical work, with a famous series of
12 illustrations. I have identified over 60 manuscripts of the Donum
Dei, the earliest dating from the 15th century. Some of these versions
ascribe the work to Georgius Aurach de Argentina (sometimes
``Anrach'') and date it to 1475. There are versions in Latin, German,
French and Italian, and one in English in the British Library
MS. Harley 6453, which I have transcribed and show here. I have added
the engravings from J.D. Mylius' Anatomia Auri, 1628.
The alchemy page is likely to be of interest to anyone browsing here.
I have had the science of this Art only from the Inspiration of God,
who to this servant has vouchsafed to declare the true reasons to
judge and discern, giving strength hath less occasion to no man, nor
any excusation from him. Forsooth if I feared not the day of Judgment
I would never open anything of this science or publish it to any
man. But I am willed to render my duty to faithful men as their Anchor
of faith hath given it unto me. He that knoweth not the principles in
himself is very far from the art of philosophy for he hath not the
true book whereupon he should ground his intent. But if he do chiefly
and principally know the natural causes of himself and know not the
other, yet hath he the way to the way of the principles of the
Art. And although a man know the Matter, yet there remaineth many
things to the completement of the same. And it is necessary that our
stone be drawn out of the natures of two bodies before the Elixir may
be made complete, therefore it is worthily said: O water in form
Pontic, or bitter which dissolves the Elements, O most greatest
Nature, the creature of Nature which containeth Nature, and overcometh
the nature of the meanys what cometh with light and with light it is
engendered and she that is mother of all, how black a cloud hath she
The Chapter of the Green Lion and of what colour it is.
First in our green Lion is had the true matter and of what colour it
is, and is called Adrop or Azocke, [clopum], Duenech. If thou will
well understand this work, read it from part to part and thou shall
see miracles wrought in our days, and unless I had seen them and
touched them I could not so particularly have written them and painted
them. I have not shown all the appearances and things necessary in
this work, for there be some that be not lawful to be spoken of man,
that I have set it out in pictures to the end or completement. And
there was never no sure work so described and with authorities to the
purpose. For it is impossible to be known without it be known of God
or of a master which may fear him. Understand that it is a very long
way, therefore patience and tarrying be very necessary. For in our
Magistery there be some foolish and blind which saith they can make
Aurum potable of common Gold or else they believe that it is most best
to heal all infirmities. Also there are some Physicians which causeth
ducats to be boiled in water saying this thing is most best for the
health, but it is rather evil and not to be drunk. For it is clean
contrary, saving their reverence, that that was Aurum Potabile or if
that it was good for the health. For neither common gold or other
metals be good to heal with, but they [are] rather evil as I have said
and not able to be drunk. But I will grant they be good and most best
to buy confections with and to pay the physician. Also they be good to
be had basins full of ducats or fine gold and so show them to the sick
man for it is a great comfort to see the gold, but the true aurum
potabile of the philosophers is the Elixir complete. And this is Aurum
potabile not visible but in power, which is the great medicine, which
removeth all superfluities as well of many bodies and of metals, for
it converteth all metals imperfect from Leprosy and from Infirmity,
and likewise the bodies of man. And this is most certain. Note this is
the intent of all philosophers, but these which doth understand it to
be of common gold be blind and more than blind and deceivers. For if
common gold should give of this perfection to another, then should he
himself remain imperfect. Wherefore would you have this science
reading only one book or finding the first regiment? Now following,
the philosophers have said that the truth is not discerned without
error, and nothing converteth more sorrow to the heart than error in
this art. Therefore when I spared not my life in so great age to
practice, lest peradventure because of the chiding's of this wisdom I
might be dampened. First I shall praise God who is the beholder of all
things nor any thing that is hid from him, to whom be honour and glory
by all the world of worlds. Amen.
Of whom the father is a virgin saith, Come my well beloved that we may
embrace together, and we shall engender a new form which shall not be
like to his parents. The king therefore whose head is red, the eyes
black and the feet white is the Magistery. The Mother hath not
conceived, behold I come to thee, and am most ready to conceive a
form, to whom is none like in the world. And he is borne between two
mountains, you know the truth. This book is followed according to
Hermes Trismegistus, he varieth not from him in any text for that you
may know. Although he will not declare his name that all his ground
and foundation is Hermes as aforesaid. No chapter of him that is left
untouched in this book, wherefore be sure to follow it for there is no
surer author nor none like, it varieth not from any that anciently
hath written of this Art and he hath spoken more plainly than ever was
written of any other, if God give grace that he that readeth it may
perceive and understand, to whom be all honour and glory. Amen.
The Second Chapter.
How the bodies be dissolved into Argent Vive of
Philosophers that is into water.
The Matter of the Stone is a gross water agent, or that is a cold,
congealing the water. And believe those stones to be more precious,
which proceedeth from the animals than the other, Thou canst not
prepare any kind of stone without Duenech, the green and liquid which
is born in our mines. Some behold the last Mountains which be on the
right hand and the left, and ascend thither where our stone is found,
and in the mountain which beareth all manner of kinds of Spirits and
Aromatic or secret things, likewise in the mine of the stone which is
necessary in this work, is of an augmate or a levinge thing. You shall
find it every where, in the plains, on the mountains, and in the
waters, as well the poor as the rich hath it. It is most vile and it
is most dear. It groweth of flesh and blood. O how precious it is to
him that knoweth it. O blessed greenness which engendereth all
things. O blessed Nature, blessed is thine operation, for of an
imperfect thou makest a perfect. Therefore take not this Nature but
pure and clean, crude, clear, earthly, pure and right. If thou do
otherwise it shall not profit thee nothing.
Let we go seek the nature of the 4 Elements, which the [Amptys - .imperctys - .amxtys] bring forth from the belly of the earth.
Here is made the Solution of philosophers and it is made our Argent vive.
The Third Chapter.
How the bodies be dissolved into water and is made a new
Our Stone is a body without sound mortifying and quickening, so that
nothing contrary enter with our stone, but put himself only conjoin
the servant to his odoriferous sister and between them the art shall
be engendered. For if the white woman be married to the red man anon
they do embrace and so [hawsinge] be coupled together, by themselves
they be dissolved, and by themselves they be made, that they that were
two is made as it were one body. And know that there be three perfect
colours from the which all the others take there beginning. The first
is black, the second white, and the third red, there be many other
colours, but they be not to be cared for, for they vanish away
oftentimes before the whiteness, Then is made the commixtion of two
bodies, and it is necessary in our Magistery, and if there were but
one only body of the two, in our Stone, it should now go be tincture
by any manner of means, and therefore it is necessary the conjunction
of these two bodies, which two when they be conjoined, and received in
the commixtion of the Stone, the Stone is engendered in the belly of
the wind, and that is that which the philosopher saith. The wind hath
born him in his belly, it is plain that the wind is Air, and Air is
life, and the life is the Soul, that is oil, and water. I that am
exalted above all the circles of the world have four faces having one
father, whereof one is in the mountains, an other in the Air, another
in the Stones, and another in the caverns or hollow places.
Of the four Elements this Stone is compounded or made.
Here be the bodies wholly dissolved into our Argent vive, and is made water permanent fixed white as the tears of the eye.
The Fourth Chapter.
Here is made the putrefaction of Philosophers which was never seen and is called sulphur.
Convert the natures of the Elements and thou shalt find what thou
seekest. To convert the natures is to make a body a spirit in our
Magistery, first we make of gross thin, and of a body water, and by
consequent we make that which is beneath as that which is above, and
the contrary, for the bodies dissolved are reduced to the nature of
spirits, and they be never separated asunder, like as water is mixed
with water, and truly all the regiment and work is none other, but
water permanent having in himself all things which we need. Therefore
hold fast that water which is good operations, for he maketh white to
white, and red to red, it is on and the same thing which hath in him
flesh or soul; the agent, or calx, and the 4 Elements, to whom it hath
dominion, it is not made of other Elements which agreeth not in his
The putrefaction of the Philosophers is the head of the Crow a blackness transparent and shining.
Here be the bodies put in putrefaction and be made black earth, and when you seest thy matter to be made black rejoice for that is the beginning of the operation. And it is necessary to be putrefied.
The Fifth Chapter.
The most part of this water is made black earth and feculent.
Therefore burn our Brass with easy fire as the hen doth nourish the
egg until the body thereof be constituted or made and the tincture be
drawn out, for thou shalt not draw it out all at once, but that a
little, and a little may come out every day until it may be made
complete in a long time. I am black of white, and red of white, and
citrine of red, and certainly I am a true sayer and not liar. And know
ye that this red of the art is the Crow which in the blackness of the
night and in the clearness of the day flyeth without wings. Of the
bitterness in his throat the colour is taken, from his body the
redness, and from his back pure water. Understand the gift of God,
receive it and hide it from all unwise philosophers, for it is not
hidden from the caverns of the metals, which stone is mineral, and
animal, shining colours, or high hill, and an open sea. Behold I have
expound it to you, truly when it is first black, we call it the cave
of the science which is not without blackness, for it is the tincture
which we seek, for in every body we give or put colour, which thing
was hidden in his brass, as the Soul in man's body. Therefore dear
Son, when thou art in thy work, see first thou have the black colour,
and then art thou sure thou dost putrefy and proceedest the right way,
patience and tarrying be necessary in our work. O Blessed Nature and
blessed is thine operation, for of imperfect thou makest perfect with
true putrefaction, which is black and obscure. Then after thou shalt
make to spring new, and divers things, which thy viridity or green
lion makest divers colours appear.
The Head of the Crow is transparent blackness. This is upon the matter the black clouds, spirits or forms, This earth which is upon the matter descendeth in an other vessel to the bottom and thence worms be brought forth.
This is the black and feculent earth whereof all the Philosophers speaketh and standeth upon the water.
The Sixth Chapter.
How this earth black shall stand upon the water in the beginning, and by little and little is drowned in their profundity.
Yet seeing more the matter to wax thick and to sink to earth, and this
thickness stood first upon the water, and so leaving by little and
little the thickness they saw the earth drowned himself in the water
and stand in the bottom of the vessel under the water, which earth was
yellowish black and feculent, they said that this was perfect
corruption. Kindle the fire in the furnace after the Philosophers
manner, and cause that all the matter be dissolved into
water. Afterwards govern it with easy fire till the most part be
turned into black earth, which in 21 days will be done. Know that this
science is none other thing than the perfect inspiration of God. For
all the Magistery or art is but of one thing and we shall prove it by
the saying of the philosophers. And as we have seen and touched with
great labours and business, we have known this only thing perfect to
the white and to the red, and we could never find other things where
the perfection consisteth to the true transmutation of bodies and
perfect preparation, but to be destroyed so made black for
ever. Therefore be thou busy to thine operation in all his degrees
patiently continuing decoction until such time the tincture be come
out in black colour upon the water, and when thou seest the blackness
appear in the said water, know thou all the body to be liquefieth, and
then it behoveth to continue an easy fire upon it, until such time it
hath conceived the dark cloud which it hath brought forth. The intent
of the philosophers is that now the body dissolveth into black powder,
may enter into this water and all may be made one. For then the water
taketh the whiter as his own nature. Therefore without all be turned
into water, thou shalt never come by any means to perfect
The Head of the Crow is black earth and feculent in the which be engendered worms, whereof the one devoureth the other, for the corruption of the one is the generation of the other.
The Seventh Chapter.
How this earth is dissolved into water and again into the colour of oil and is called the oil of Philosophers.
Here is required by how long time the stone is to be turned into
blackness and what is the figure of true solution of the stone when
blackness appeareth the first time it is figure of putrefaction and
solution of the stone, but when it is vanished away and clearly gone
it is a sign of the whole putrefaction of the stone and of the
dissolution thereof, or else it is demanded if the black clouds endure
in the foresaid stone by the space of 40 days, I answer sometimes it
doth more, and sometimes less, this variation chanceth of the variety
and quantity of the medicine, and according to the wisdom of the
worker, wherefore the more quantity requireth more time, and the less
the less. The wisdom of the worker helpeth the art of separation from
the blackness. Item it is demanded by some long time this putrefaction
shall endure and the cleansing of the earth, I make answer 4[0?] days
and sometime more, and sometime less, according to the quantity of the
earth and of the water.
The Head of the Crow
Oil of Philosophers.
Here is our new black Son born, and the name of him shall be called Elixir. The black earth and feculent is turned into Argent vive as it was afore and dissolved in the colour of oil, and then it shall be called oil of Philosophers.
The Eighth Chapter.
How the Dragon is born in blackness and is fed with his Mercury and killeth himself and is drowned in the same and the water is somewhat made white.
Gold is dissolved that he may be reduced unto his first matter, that
is that it may be made truly sulphur and Argent vive. For then we may
make most best silver and Gold when it is converted into the matter of
them. Therefore it must be so well washed until it be true Sulphur,
and Argent Vive, for according to the Philosopher they be the very
true matters of metals. Therefore he that can wed a wife, and get her
with child and mortify and quicken again the kinds of generations, and
can cleanse and bring in light, and to separate the shine thereof from
blackness and darkness, shall be of most great dignity. Therefore we
conjoining our king crowned to our red children and in an easy fire
knitting them together, there shall be conceived and between them
engendered a son, For his clouds which were upon him turneth again
into his body as they came out. Therefore continue a temperate Balneo
or bathe until such time all be dissolved into water impalpable, and
that all the tincture come out in the colour of Blackness, which is
the sign and token of Dissolution.
The dark house is
Sulphur of philosophers.
Here beginneth the Dragon to wax white and to eat his own wings.
The Ninth Chapter.
Here is the water cleansed wholly from blackness and remaineth in the colour of milk, and many colours doth appear in the blackness.
The dragon here eateth his own wings and showeth forth divers colours
by many manner of ways and many times shall be moved from colour unto
colour until such time it come unto whiteness, A fierce or a most
cruel beast ought not to be fed but when it hath thirst and hunger,
and know ye that after three days it hath not, then is the Dragon
born, the house of him is darkness and blackness dwelling in all
these; Truly death, and Darkness, flyeth this Sea, and the dragon
flyeth from the bright beams of the Son which stops the holes, and our
dead form shall leave, and the king shall come from the fire, and
shall rejoice of his marriage. And hidden things shall appear, and the
milk of the virgin shall be made white, and our child now quickened is
made a tamer or overcomer of ye fire, and overcoming tincture.
The dark House.
Sulphur of Philosophers.
Here wholly the dragon is cleansed from blackness and is made white as
The Tenth Chapter.
How the black clouds which were above the water in the vessel dissolveth into the body from whence they came.
Take black: blacker than black, for divers and many colours shall
appear in it, and the virgins milk shall be made white, and our Son
now revived shall be made an overcomer of the fire and excelling
tinctures or colours, the cloud ascendeth from the Sea, and the rain
upon the earth, for every heavy and dense or thick body falleth or
slippeth to his centre. Argent vive sublimed from brass of the which
all things be, is a clear water and a true tincture, which putteth
away the shadow of ye brass, for it is white sulphur which only maketh
brass white which the spirit is held that he can not fly, know that
the neck of the vessel is the head of the Crow which you shalt kill,
and thereof shall be brought forth a dove, and after that a
phoenix. Be you fortunate or happy the whole science both to the white
and to the red with these few words.
Ashes of Ashes.
The black clouds descendeth unto the body from whence they came out and there is made connection between the earth and water and is made ashes.
The crow is black, the Dove is white, the Phoenix burneth herself that she may procreate or bring forth an other of the ashes.
The Eleventh Chapter.
This ashes is made white as marble Shining and it is the Elixir to the white and is made ashes.
Because Nature hath no moving but by the occasion of heat, Therefore
if thou measure well the heat - water and fire be sufficient to
thee. For they wash the body, they cleanse and nourish it and taketh
away the darkness thereof. This water dwelling in the air doth draw to
the earth as Iron the adamant stone. Therefore all these orders of
preparation reiterate upon it four times. And at the last calcine it
by his manner of calcining and flying, for so have you sufficiently
governed the Earth of the Stone in administration. To calcine is no
other thing then to dry and to turn in to ashes. Therefore burn it
without fear, until it be ashes, which when it is so thou hast mixed
it well. Despise not these ashes but give it them the sweat that they
have cast out, and when the water is all drank up and turned into
earth within certain days will be done. In this vessel shall appear
all ye the colours of the world, when the humidity is dried
up. Therefore let it stand certain days upon easy fire until it be
done as aforesaid. That which goeth from him put again upon him until
all be fixed and will no more go from him for ye fire, that is the
blackness which is separate from the body let it be reduced upon the
body from whence it came out and be made on body.
The White Rose.
I am the Elixir to the white transforming all imperfect bodies into
most pure silver better than the mine, whereof one part changeth a
thousand of Argent vive into most pure Silver.
The Twelfth Chapter.
How this whiteness is converted into transparent redness as the
Ruby, and this is the elixir to the red.
Take white laton and break your books to pieces lest your hearts be
broken. For our Art is easy and a little help will serve. He that
maketh me white shall make me red, for white and red proceedeth from
one Root, that which is in the white is in the red, therefore work
philosophically, and if thou make white and pass the limits, or end
thereof, thou art blessed, this thing if thou shalt see it suddenly,
admiration or marvel, fear and dread, shall come upon thee. Decant
therefore grind, and reiterate, though the work be tedious and long,
for it is done with long decoction, know ye that the flower of the
stone is the stone of the Stone, roast it therefore by certain days
until it be shining as Marble, and know when it is so, that it is the
most greatest secret. For the stone is mixed to the stone. Now most
dear friend thou hast learned to make the white.
Now it is to speak of the red, but if thou first make not white, never
can there be made true red, for no man may come from the first to the
third but by the second, So canst thou not come from black to the
citrine but by the white, because that the citrine is made one
compound of much white and a little black. Therefore make white the
black, and make red the white and you have the art. For the year is
divided into four parts, and so is our blessed work. The first is
winter cold and moist, the second is ver, hot and moist, and
flourishing. The third is the summer time, hot and dry, and red. The
fourth is the harvest cold and dry, which is the time of gathering of
fruit. This disposition colouring nature govern until such time it
bring forth ripe fruit at pleasure. But now the winter is past, the
showers be gone away. For the flowers hath appeared in our earth in
the time of ver. But we go about the white rose for they made every
imperfect or sick body to be turned into true silver.
Therefore when thou seest the whiteness appearing above in all parts
be sure, that in that whiteness is there hidden redness. Therefore
then you must draw out all the whiteness and decoct it until such time
it be made red thoroughly.
The Red Rose.
I am the Elixir to the red transforming all imperfect bodies into most
pure gold better then the mine, for one part being cast upon a
thousand of Argent Vive, we perceived that it congealed it and made it
red, and converted it into most pure gold.