- Glossary -
Terms marked with an asterisk (*) have separate glossary entries
A spindle, or sometimes conical-shaped tube, commonly made of earthenware or glass, used for elongating the neck of a retort* and hence placing the receiver* farther away from the source of heat.; Generally used to facilitate condensation during distillation. 
Air Furnace (Wind Furnace) A furnace* in which heat is maintained by a draft of air. Material to be heated is often placed in a crucible*.  
Air-pump [also pneumatic pump/engine; wind pump] A machine for exhausting the air out of a vessel by means of the strokes of a piston. 
Albation (Albification) See: Purification 
One of the oldest vessels used for distillation*, consisting of a wide-mouthed vessel (usually a cucurbit* or a matrass*) containing the substance to be distilled and a capital* (head) in which the vapors are condensed. The capital usually features a neck to facilitate the addition of materials and a beak to convey the vaporous products to a receiver*. While "alembic" strictly refers to the upper part of the apparatus (the capital), it is often used to refer to the whole. See also: Twin alembics*. 
A pear-shaped pot generally made of earthenware or glass, open at both ends. Each aludel has a short neck at top and bottom, so that a series of them may be conjoined in succession by means of the neck. Also: in alchemy and early chemistry, aludel can refer to a glass vessel used primarily for sublimation*. 
Amalgamation The softening of metals by combination with mercury; the combination of metals in an alloy. 
Analysis SEE decomposition*.  
Assaying To test the composition of (an ore, alloy, or other metallic compound) by chemical means, so as to determine the amount of a particular metal contained in it; to determine the degree of purity of one of the precious metals. See:Metallurgical Processes*. 
Athanor (Digesting Furnace) A furnace* in which constant heat is provided by a tower with a self-feeding supply of fuel. Alchemical: sometimes regarded as a furnace for incubation and hence figured as the 'house of the chick'. 
(Also Ballance) A pair of scales serving to ascertain the equality or the difference of the absolute weight of comparative bodies. 
Battery An apparatus consisting of a series of cells, each containing the essentials for producing voltaic electricity, connected together. Also used of any such apparatus for producing voltaic electricity, whether of one cell or more. 
Bell (Bell Glass)
Glass receivers* of varying sizes, used generally used for collecting, transferring, and preserving gasses. They are either closed and vaulted at the top; open at the bottom; or, furnished with a short wide neck. 
An instrument constructed to furnish a strong blast of air; formed of an upper and lower board joined by flexible leather sides, with a valve through which air enters and fills the cavity, and with a tube or nozzle, through which the air is forced out in a stream when the machine is compressed; sometimes applied to the "blower" of a blast-furnace.  
The prepared bladder of an animal, which may be inflated and used as a float, or as a receptacle for gases.  
Blast Furnace A furnace* in which a "blast" of air is forced through the fuel and the material to be heated, producing rapid combustion* and high heat. Usually employed for smelting* or other metallurgical operations. See also: air furnace*.  
A tube through which a current of air (or other gas) is directed laterally into the middle of a flame, by which a portion of the flame is diverted in the direction of the jet, the heat of which increases towards the end of the stream.; a simple method for short term increase in heat required in various processes. 
Burner (Lamp)
A vessel containing oil, which is burnt at a wick, for the purposes of illumination or heating, sometimes for use with a blowpipe*. 
Calcination (Pulverisation) Reduction of substances, usually mineral, by fire, to powder or ash by the removal of moisture; subjecting a substance to a roasting temperature; sometimes used to describe other processes, as the addition of corrosive substances.  
Capital (Lat. Capitum; Head)
The upper part or head of an alembic*, in which the vapors are condensed The capitum is usually tubulated, with a small projecting neck often furnished with a ground stopper to facilitate the addition of materials, and a beak to convey the vaporous products to a receiver*, in which they were condensed*.  
Cinefaction The reduction of a substance to ashes. 
Circulation The continuous distillation* of a liquid for the purpose of refining, or rarefying it. Circulation is the exaltation* of a pure liquid, by applying heat and through circular solution and coagulation* in a Pelican.* See: Circulatory.* It contains in itself the processes of digestion*, sublimation* and distillation.* 
Coagulation Conversion of a liquid to a solid (solidification), either by crystallization, or by cooling of the fused substance/s; the reduction of a liquid to a solid mass by the removal of moisture. 
Combustion The action or process of burning; consumption or destruction by fire; the energetic combination of a body with oxygen or other elements, resulting in heat and light.  
An instrument for taking measurements and describing circles, consisting of two straight and equal legs connected at one end by a movable joint. 
Congelation (Coagulation) The conversion of a liquid to a solid state; sometimes used synonymously with crystallization or coagulation. See: Coagulation* 
Conjunction Term used to describe any mixture, union or mixing of substances; specifically, the moment of their union. Alchemical: often represented as marriage; copulation; the union of male and female, brother and sister, or king and queen. The resultant product is often depicted as an androgyne, which may also represent the moment of conjunction or union. 
A vessel, usually of earthenware, made to endure great heat, used for fusing* metals, or for collecting molten metal.  
Cucurbit A vessel or retort*, originally gourd-shaped, used in distillation* and other chemical (or alchemical) processes, or for storing liquids, etc.,; It forms the lower part of an alembic*. 
Small cups made of bone ashes or porous porcelain; principally used for assaying* precious metals which are not oxidated* by heat and air. 
Cupellation The process of heating material in a cupel*with a current of air for the purpose of refining.* 
Decomposition (Also analysis) The separation of a substance into its chemical elements. See also: Putrefaction* 
Descending Furnace (Descensory) An oven or chemical furnace in which liquids descend when separated from other matter. 
Descension One of the three main types of distillation*,in which fire is applied on the top, or upper surface of a vessel, and the liquid produced, or essence, flows down into the receiver* below. Sometimes performed in a descensorium, or descending furnace*. 
Digestion An operation by which a substance is exposed to the action of a liquid at a temperature ranging from about 90F. to the boiling point, for the purpose of separating the pure from the impure. Digestion is often performed in a flask with the assistance of an Athanor* or Sand Bath*. Sometimes referred to as Putrefaction*, Extraction*, or Subtilisation*. 
Dissolution See: Putrefaction 
Distillation The process of driving off gas or vapor from liquids or solids by heating and condensing to liquid products. The three main types of distillation are evaporation*, descension*, and filtration.* 
Electric generator (dynamo) A machine which converts mechanical energy to electricity for transmission and distribution; usually driven by mechanical power from a rotating shaft.  
Electrical machine Any of a wide variety of devices consisting of two materials which, when rubbed together, produce static electricity, and an object used to collect the resulting charge. The charge may be produced by direct contact (friction), or by inductance ("influence"). Many such machines were developed in the 18th and 19th centuries.  
Electricity Electricity may be created by any means that produces disturbance of the molecular condition of bodies: by friction (frictional electricity), by chemical action (galvanic electricity), by heat (thermal electricity), by magnetism (magnetic electricity). Occasionally electricity and its related adjs. are used in a narrower sense with reference to the electricity produced by friction, as distinguished from galvanism or from magnetic or thermal electricity. 
Electromagnet A piece of soft iron surrounded by a coil of wire, through which a current of electricity may be passed, rendering the iron temporarily magnetic. 
Elevation Vaporisation by means of heat. Alchemical: A process in which spiritual portions are elevated from the material or corporeal; the subtle raised from the gross in the form of vapor at the top of a vessel. Dry elevation is called Sublimation*; humid or moist elevation is called Distillation.* 
Eudiometer A device used for measuring the proportion of oxygen in samples of air. In its simplest configuration, it consists of a glass tube or bottle closed at one end, with a stopper at the other, often supported by a metal framework. 
Evaporation (Ascension) One of the three main types of distillation*, in which, under applied heat, the vapors of a liquid rise, generally within a container, such as an alembic*, and are then condensed by cooling. Alchemical: Often represented as vapors ascending from earth to heaven; a serpent eating its own tail; or, a flight of birds. 
Exaltation (Elevation) Alchemical: The elevation* of a substance to a higher dignity and virtue, resulting in an augmentation of intensity and purity. 
Extraction Frequently a cognate for Digestion*. A process by which the essential,purer, or subtler parts of a substance are dissolved, or removed from the baser material or matrix and endowing it with great power. The extraction of elemental property. 
Fermentation A chemical change accompanied by effervescence. Often: transformation of carbohydrate material that typically involves decomposition without the participation of oxygen. Alchemical: One of the many processess demonstrating transmutation of matter, in which the 'Philosopher's Stone' worked on other substances, converting them to gold. Often represented as leavening bread with yeast; the raising or levitation of the king and queen of philosophy; the winged flight of the same, sometimes copulating. 
Filtration One of the three main types of distillation*, where liquid is removed by capillary movement through a wick, a strip of cloth, or a filter. 
Fixation Depriving a substance of its volatility, fluidity or mobility; turning spirit to body (corpora), rendering it fixed. Alchemical: Often represented as dragons or lions without wings. 
Furnace (Stove, Oven)
A chamber, single or divided, constructed of stone, brick, or metal, in which materials are subjected to heat. Kinds of furnaces include: Air* Furnace; Blast* Furnace; Fusion* Furnace; Lamp* Furnace; Muffle* Furnace; Portable* Furnace; Reverberatory* Furnace; Sand* Furnace.  
Fusion The action or operation of rendering solid substances fluid by the application of heat, know as hard fusion. Watery fusion: the melting of certain crystals by heat in their own water of crystallization. 
Fusion (Melting) Furnace
An enclosed structure for the application of high temperatures for longer durations of time in the process of fusing or chemically uniting two or more substances, usually metals. 
Gasometer (Gazometer)
A large tank or reservoir in which gas is stored, to be distributed by means of pipes; generally constructed of iron-plate. More generally: an apparatus used to collect or mix gases.  
Hydrometry The determination of the specific gravity of liquids. 
Inhumation Placing a soluble substance or substances in animal dung (sometimes mixed with pigeon dung and vinegar) for the process of dissolution* or putrefaction through the application of gentle or protracted heat. *Alchemical:Often figured with same images as putrefaction*. 
Kaliapparat A five-bulbed glass apparatus invented by Justus Liebig for analyzing the carbon and hydrogen content of organic compounds, using potash solution in the lower three bulbs. 
Ladle A large spoon with a long handle and a cup-shaped bowl, used chiefly for handling liquids. 
Lamp See:Burner 
Lamp Furnace (Simple)  
Mass spectrometer An apparatus used to separate a stream of charged particles into a spectrum, by means of magnetic or electric fields, in order to determine the masses of isotopes. 
Matrass (Florence flask)
A vessel with a round bottom and a long, slender neck, used for distillation* or for heating solutions. The modern Florence flask may have a round or flat bottom. 
Mercury Barometer  
Metallurgical Processes See: Assaying*; Refining*; Smelting* 
Microscope An optical instrument, consisting of a lens or a combination of suitably adjusted lenses, (or, rarely, also of mirrors) by which objects are so magnified that details indistinct or invisible to the naked eye are clearly revealed. 
A vessel of a hard material (e.g. marble, brass, wood, glass), having a cup-shaped cavity, in which ingredients used in pharmacy, cookery, etc. are generally pulverised or pounded with a blunt device known as pestle*. 
A vaulted or arched, flat-bottomed earthenware vessel, open at one end and closed at the other, placed in a furnace* to afford a space shielded from actual contact with the fuel; sometimes with openings at the side; often placed over a cupel*. 
Multiplication Commonly synonymous with transmutation. Alchemical:The specific transmuting power of the 'Philosopher's Stone', or an increase in the Stone itself. Often represented assaffron spreading its own color. 
Oxidation The action or process of oxidating; combination with oxygen; conversion into an oxide or oxygen-compound. Also, the removal of hydrogen from a compound.  
An apparatus used for distillation*, consisting of a head with two curved tubes connected to the body of the vessel; vapors condensed in the head could return to the body via the tubes. 
An instrument (usually club-shaped) for bruising or pounding substances in a mortar*. 
Pictet's apparatus A metal reflector or series of reflectors used by Marc-Auguste Pictet (1752-1825) to demonstrate that radiant heat is reflected in the same way as light.  
Pneumatic Trough Used to collect gases for examination. Originally used water, but Joseph Priestley's modification using mercury enabled water-soluble gases to be studied as well. 
Portable Furnace  
Pressure Chamber A chamber designed to hold material under pressure, or in which pressure can be applied. 
Pressure Measurement The techniques and devices used to indicate or ascertain the amount of pressure exerted in the execution of continuous force upon or against a body by some other body in contact with it; as with a pressure-anemometer*, transducer*.  
Projection Alchemical: The last of the great alchemical processes, in which the powder of, or the 'Philosopher's Stone' itself is applied to the molten metal to be transmuted; thus instantly changing it into gold or silver. 
Pulverisation SEE:Calcination  
Purification The separation* and removal of the impure, base or gross from the pure. Alchemical: Sometimes referred to as albation, albification or 'whitening', in which the black color occasioned by putrefaction* (often called Death, or the Impurity of Death)is replaced by the color white, being of itself a symbol of the purity succeeding the black of putrefaction.Often represented as a swan. 
Putrefaction The disintegration or decomposition of a substance, often by purification* in heated moisture; the conversion of metal into apparently inert mass or powder. It is the property of putrefaction to destroy the old, original nature of a substance, and to introduce a new nature. Alchemical: Often represented as the the crow's head; crow's bill; ashes of Hermes' tree; toad of the earth; motification [a corps sometimes placed in a sepulchre, or on a bier, sometimes sekeltal];death of a grain of wheat; the slaying, or dismemberment ofa body or bodies; hell; Cimmerian darkness. 
Pyrometer An instrument for measuring the expansion of solid bodies under the influence of heat. 
Radiometer (light-mill) An apparatus thought to measure radiant energy of heat and light, consisting of a set of vanes, shiny on one side and blackened on the other, mounted in an evacuated vessel. 
A vessel for receiving and condensing the product of distillation*; also, an airtight vessel for receiving and containing gases. 
Refining In metallurgy:To purify or separate (metals) from dross, alloy, or other extraneous matter; in iron-working, to convert grey pig-iron into white or plate metal by partial decarburization. See also:purification*, separation*. Alchemical: the separation of the the pure from the base, or impure. 
Refrigeratory A vessel at the head of a still filled with cold water through which the worm passes, for condensing alcoholic and other vapours; any vessel or apparatus employed for a similar purpose. 
A vessel generally made of glass, but occasionally of metal or earthenware, provided with a long neck, bent downwards, in which liquids to be distilled are heated. 
Reverberatory Furnace (Reverberatory)
A furnace* containing a chamber with a hemispherical top or dome. The heat of the furnace reflects or "reverberates" off of the dome back onto the material being heated, generating high temperatures. 
A circle of metal, or two circles at either end of a metal rod, employed to hold or transport vessels. 
Rumford Stove  
Sand Furnace (Sand Bath, Sand Heat)
A furnace* or other vessel partially filled with dry sand, in which retorts* may be placed and heated; for distillation* or digestion* processes requiring gradual, regular heat greater than that provided by the water bath*.  
Separation An alteration in which the pure is separated from the impure or base. See also: purification*, decomposition*. Alchemical: Sometimes referred to as albation, albification or "whitening," in which the black color occasioned by putrefaction* (often called Death, or the Impurity of Death)is replaced by the color white, being of itself a symbol of the purity succeding the black of putrefaction. 
Smelting In metallurgy: the melting or fusion of ore in order to extract a metal. 
An apparatus for distillation, consisting essentially of a closed vessel in which the substance to be distilled is subjected to the action of heat; often connected to an alembic* or other vessel for the condensation of vapors.  
Sublimation The conversion of solid to vapor,followed by condensation of the vapor in solid form upon cool surface; the volatising of a dry substance by fire, causing it to cling to the sides of a vessel. Alchemical:Often represented as a soul or spirit, or occasionally a homunculus rising towards heaven. 
A vessel or furnace* used for sublimation*, the conversion of a solid substance into heat by means of vapor. See also: furnace*. 
Subtilation (Subtilisation) A dissolving or separating of the subtle,or purer parts from the gross or base matter. 
Synthesis SEE: Congelation 
An instrument for measuring temperature by means of a substance whose expansion and contraction under different degrees of heat and cold are capable of accurate measurement. 
An implement consisting of two limbs connected by a hinge, pivot, or spring, for grasping objects difficult to lift with the hand. 
Tube (pipe) A hollow body, usually cylindrical, and long in proportion to its diameter, of wood metal, glass, or other material, usually used to convey or contain a liquid or fluid. 
Twin alembics (twins)
Two alembics* joined together; used for double distillations*. 
Water Bath (Balneum Mariae)
[Also bain-marie] A recipient of water into which vessels containing delicate materials are placed to be heated. 
Wollaston's cryophorus An apparatus consisting of a glass tube with a bulb at each end; invented by William Hyde Wollaston (1766-1828) to demonstrate the freezing of water by evaporation. 
A long spiral or coiled tube connected with the head of a still*, in which vapor is condensed.