Robert Boyle (1627-91): Work-diary XIII ('Promiscuous Observations begun the 24th of September 1655')

Content: Medical and chymical recipes from September-December 1655; sources include Sir Kenelm Digby, William How, Richard Farrar, Francis Prujean, and many others

General Information

Work-diary entries

/BP 25, p. 153/

[Authorial heading]:
Promiscuous Observations
begun the 24th of

Entry 1: Editorial notes:
Later marginal endorsements:

September 24th

1. Sir Kenelm Digby tels me, that he hath stilled Rosa solis, & had it come over tinged clearely yellow, whereas he could never bringe any Coller of a vegetable over the Helme;

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2. Dr Gurdons sp[e]cificke for the Pleurisie is this, Take in the springe the hearbe Ononis (or Crestharraw) & distill the water of it, of it in Balneo, of which let the the patient take in the beginninge of the disease (the sooner the better) 2, 3. 4 or 5 ounces at a time (accordinge to the Condition of the patient) as often as need requires it works insensibly, & taken betimes, prevents the necessity of bloodlettinge.

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September the 26th

3 Sir Kenelme Digby told me that he made his Blancher for Pearles, <thus> He tooke Diaphantum & (in lesse then an houre) Calcined <it> with seacoale then he tooke his Menstruum Insipidum, and haveing first well grinded the Calcinatum he poured on of the menstruum ad supernataonem 8 digitorum; this mixture he digested 3 or 4 months in horse dunge Then tooke it out, & in a retort drew of all the menstruum & urged the rest with a pretty stronge fire & soe had a litle oleaginous water, then he poured on againe the same menstruum upon the Caput mortuum, & digested them againe in horse dunge for 3 or 4 months as before, & drew of the menstruum alsoe in a Retort as before, this menstruum (with some litle oleaginieity passeinge over with it,) he once more poured upon the Caput mortuum digested it 6 or 7 months longer, & then drew it of in a stronge retort in a naked fire & had first a yellowish greene oile very light, & of lesse efficacy then the second, which was a thick white oile almost like Butter;

/BP 25, p. 154/

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4 The same gentleman told me [d] that lately my Lady Conwallis her daughter was recovered of a quartane Ague by paireinge the nailes of her fingers & toes & sowinge them up in a form of a Necklace in a litle Tiffany which was tyed very straite <a while before> (but <the [knot] [d] fit> straite enough to strangle) about the necke of an Eele & soe suffered to stay on till the Eele died of it selfe or els was devoured of some dogge, <into whom the Disease was transplanted.>

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5 Take a spoonefull of honey, & when it is boyled & skimmed, take it of the fire & put to it, of wheat flowre and saffron as much <(of each)> as will lye upon the point of a knife; incorporate them very well together, & lay a Pill of the bignesse of a Pease, (in the morninge for foure or 5 days togetherer,) upon the Navell of the patient, let him fast two or 3 houres after it, in some patients it <works> 2 or 3 times by stoole, There may (if need be,) some innocent plaister <be> used to keepe it on the Navell, <This is the Medicine that cur'd Mr Castile of the Desperate yellow Jaundise.>

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6 Sir K: D: tells me <he takes Amber-gris> [...] one part & pure sp: of wine 12 parts, thes he digests together in horsedunge, (the great Boltshead wherein they are put being exquisitly stopt) for 4 or 6 weeks about which time [...] the spirit will have much opened & dissolved the matter, Then he draws of what will come over in a Retort, digests them awhile longer (being first reconjoyned) & then distills them againe, & repeats this reunion digestion & distillation once or twice more, (that is till the matter doth passe over with the spirit, leaveinge very litle which, is (but a fæculent residency) behind) this liquor is to be well warmed when it is used & the things prepared with it, are to be left awhile in the aire (that the spirit may evaporate) before they be used. <This he tells me is his Greatest secret in perfuming>

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7 Sir K. D. takes of his corpus solare one part & of <quic-sylver> about 6 parts, the former he purifyes well and /BP 25, p. 155/ Calcines, the later likewise he makes very pure, these 2 he unites & digests, till the Menstruum & all become a red <precipitate> , then he draws of all the Menstruum & puts it againe upon the Caput mortuum, <these [d]> he digests the 2d time till all [d] become red the same Prossesse he reitulats till the 5th 6th or 7th time onely the last time when the menstruum is become red he draws it not of <but leaves the whole præcipitate> , this medicine he rubs with his finger upon the Palme of his hand, & gives of it one graine or 2 for a Dose,

Entry 7a: Editorial notes:

7 My Lady Wilmots medicine for <the> stoppage <of> urine is this, Take the shells of the blackest of those snailes that weare them, beat & searse them to an impalpable powder; of which give in a Cup of white wine, as much as will lye upon a shillinge, this she boasts of, as of a certaine remedy

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8 Collonell Hill highly extolls, <in> the Iliaca passio a <great> , draught of the patients owne urine,

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9 Sir K: D: Arcanum against the Pox transcribed verbatim after the Manuscript he gave me written with his owne hand, <A> most assured and tried secret, that Cures all sorts of french Pox, be they never soe Malignant, in 3 weeks or at most a month,

{Rx} Sarsaperilla, sena ana {ounce} 2.
Turbith, Hermodactils ana {drachm} 3.
Bertonica (the r I thinke should be left out) Cardus sanctus herba ina artetica (Camapitheos) ana {drachm} 1 ;.
Species aromatic rosat {drachm} 1 ;.
Ginger {drachm} 1 ;.

Beat all these things into powder & make an Electuary, secundum artem with a pound of Spanish Virgin honey first well Claryfyed,

Let the patient take about an Ounce of it every morninge & fasteinge or more or lesse accordinge to the Dispotion of his body soe as it may give him 3 stooles a day but every 7th: or 8th: day he must purge with some Convenient Pill or potion to carry away & sweepe cleane what the Electuary ripeneth & draws together,

Whilest he take the Electuary he may goe abroad soe as he takes noe cold, & use on ordinary /BP 25, p. 156/ Good Diet but drinke litle wine eat noe swines flesh, nor salt meats of hard digestion for they breed ill humors

In makeinge this Electuary take onely the meale of the best Sarsa, as it riseth by the morter [side] in beateing &, <as> it goeth first through a very fine searse, You shall not have above {ounce} 2 of this subtile pure flowre, out of {pound} 1 of Sarsa, Let your Senna be fresh & new, & carefully picked, likewise your Turbith & Hermodactiles, Dr. Farrar hath observed that it hath done very well to [quicken] the purginge faculty of the Electuary, by putinge, 3, 4 or 5 graines of Coloquintida (in subtill powder) or Troches of Alhandall into every dose. It cureth soonest if the patient use, for all his drinke, a good decoction of Sarsa China & Santalum Citrinum

Let the Purge be of Pillule di mirabil virtu, That day drinke beare at meales,

Those Pills here mentioned are of [Sepata] the famous Mounte banke & are thus made, {Rx} Aloes, Scamonii, pulpæ Coloquint. ana, & make them into a masse cum Syrupo Stæchados, They must be taken fastinge in a morninge, their operation begins very soone, 10. or 12 graines is an ordinary dose but Sir K. D. is wont to take 20 or 24 graines,

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10. Sir K. D. his Tincture for the Pox he tels me he thus make, {Rx} Tinct. Sarsaperill made with excellent {spirit of wine}, a quart, Gummi Guajac. {ounce} 8 Balsam. peruv. {ounce} 1 Let them Digest a while together. Of this he gives 2 or 3 spoonfuls in the morning, at night, & about 4 of the clocke - in the afternoone. This he values equally with the Electuary, & uses that [d] at first but this he counts better for those that have been ill cur'd, & ad discutiend reliq. morbi. Outwardly this is an admirable Balsam; For Green wounds as it is; but for old Ulcers, the {spirit of wine} must be evaporated ad Consist. Balsami,

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11 Take 3, 4 or 5 drops of blood, from behind a Cats eare whilest it is warme & before it grow cold give it the Patient in a litle Aqua Theriacalis or any other convenient Vehicle,

/original pagination, p. 5/

/BP 25, p. 177/

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12. Take, 5, 10, or 15, ounces of the finest Barbery: Gould, let it be filed into a subtile powder, (Note you must not put above 5 or 6 ounces in a glasse,) Then take 5, 10, 15 ounces of Mercury, you must sublime it with naturall Vitrioll. Then you must grind it small, & put a litle of the filed gold to it, & then you must sublime it againe, & then grind it, & put to it a litle of the gold in powder as abovesaid, Thus you must doe often, sublimeinge, & grindeing, while it hath taken up all the gold (For it is the Mercury that with often sublimeinge doth open the body of the gold, & makes it of a subtile quality, & prepares it for Medicine, which Mercury is afterwards all Consumed & vapoured away in a smoake, soe that nothinge but the bodie of the gold doth remaine, with the other medicine as you shall plainely see,)

Then take the medicine & put to it half an ounce one ounce, or an ounce & a half of Pearle, & as much of Corrall, & put it in an Urinall glasse with noe small belly & the glasse must be close stopped with a Corke, & luted at the Bothom & let it stand in a furnace in sand three fingers deepe, above the medicine; Then heat your furnace gently by degrees for a month or thereabouts, while you make it in a violent heat Then <you> must keepe it in that heat 12 months or more after that you must let it slacke by degrees, & let it continue in a moderate & gentle heat 3 or 4 months & lye a month after it is cold, Be sure when you take it out of the fire that the furnace, still, & glasse be cold, Then breake your glasse & take out the medicine & grind it very small, be sure that you picke out all the glasse very cleane,

Then you must buy a Cheny dish of 6: s or 7 s price And you must put some of your medicine in it, accordinge to the quantity you make, & put a sheet of wet paper under the dish, It must be burnt Charcoale that must not blaze, the dish must stand a good height from the Charcoale, Then you must have a very stronge spirit of Sacke, often distilled in a glasse still & you must burne it with the spirit of Sacke, while all the Mercury be consumed, & flyes away in a smoake you must not forget your wet paper for the Cheny dish will breake or Cracke, & then all your medicine will be lost,

And you must have a muffler with glasse eyes upon your face to avoid the fume It is the often sublimeinge & calineinge the gold Pearle & Corrall & its soe longe remaineinge in soe great & violent a heat in the fire, that makes the medicine of soe great virtue,

Nor can the body of Gold Pearle & Corrall be opened but by the body of the Mercury, which afterwards, is consumed & flyes away in a smoake by the Spirit of wine, which spirit of wine adds a Cordiall quality to the gold Pearle & Corall, Soe the Pearle & Corall lyeinge thus in this Continuall & great heat 12 months or more, with the Gold makes them very Cordiall & all of one nature even as man & womans seed lyes together in the wombe makes one Child

Entry 13: Editorial notes:

13. For an ague Take betweene 2 & 3 drachms of London Treacle (or in case that cannot be had about a drachme of Venice Treacle) and dissolve it in a draught (betweene a quarter & half a Pint) of good white wine Let the patient take it warme as soone as he feeles the first approches of the fit & let him afterwards, keepe himself warme & quiet in his bed, & sweat if he can, if this suceede not the first time it must be given the second time & if not then, the third time <Sir K. D. tells me <that> , with the above Medecine he hath cur'd Multitudes of Agues & divers quartaines>

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14 Take a pound of good unslaked slime & on it poure 3 or 4 quarts of spring water let it setle on the lime, for 2 or 3 days, unlesse there be need of dispatchinge, for then 2 or 3 houres will suffice; decant this water & filtre it then take eight & forty ounces of this Aqua Calcis & a dram & a half of Sublimat grind the Sublimate well with springe water (not with lime water) shake these two well together, the sublimate & Aqua Calcis turne into a muddy liquor which must be suffered to stand 3 days (unlesse need require hast) in a large Bolthead, much inclined, that it may be the easier poured out, then it must be decanted & kept for use; which is in old Ulcers to wet them 2 or 3 times a day with it at first, (but not soe often afterwards) diping cleane rags in it & aplyinge them till the Inflamation be taken away & alsoe brought into /BP 25, p. 179/ A better Condition & then it may be healed with other comon remedies, & likewise powerfully appeaseth the Inflamation of wounds & stops Gangrænes half a spoonefull of it at a time may also be successively taken inwardly in wound drinkes <This Sir K. D. Presented me as the greatest secret he ever knew to cure old Ulcers & prevent (or, as I remember stop;) Gangrenes; & he affirmes he hath don wonders with it.>

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15 Sir K. D. he makes h[is] sherbert he takes Lemons & he very carefully [pa]res of all the yellow rind which otherwise would imbitter the drinke, then he express the juice either betwixt his hands (or otherwise) this Juice carefully freed from the seeds, in a glasse or Silver vessell (non pewter platter) he makes to simmer away with a very gentle heat, till it come to the consistence of a Syrup, which be extreamely acid at the same time he provids fine Suger dissolved in in a litle rose water & boyled to a Candy height, & <into> this Suger he poures of the warme Syrup (incorporateing them well together) as much as will make the mixture of the sharpnesse he desires & the Syrup will be somewhat blacke but the whole Composition wilbe white enough & haveing kept it carefully addinge at pleasure when it first begins to coole, what quantity of Ambergrease ground with a litle fine Suger,

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[d] [blank space in MS, 4 lines] November the 5th:

16 Take the fat end of a Breast of Mutton rost it, & bast it with Tarr as the Cooke is wont to doe with Butter: rost it soe long till the flesh will part from the Bones which flesh together with all the drippeings of Tarr must be very well strained <(& if need be, evaporated to a due consistence> & this ointment used morninge & eveninge upon the part affected;

Inwardly, Mr Clodius gives in the same distemper about {ounce} ; of Rob Sambuci, which he says never failed him, <In Eresispelate, for which the former oyntment, is strangely extoll'd upon his own Experience by Dr Beauvoir.>

/BP 25, p. 180/

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17 {Rx} Radicis Rusci pulverisat {drachm} 1
Radicis Trees florent, gr 10
Vini Rhenensis {ounce} 3 sumat quotidie mane per dies 15 corpore prius debite purgato. <With this Dr. Fa. assures me hath cured above 40 Children of the King's Evill.>

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18 Distill the water of Cynoglossum and of that give from a quarter to half a Pint for many days together, <This is Mr Spencer's arcanum against the King's Evill.>

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19 For the Kings Evill an excellent outward application [d] be made of <hogs> dung & hogs Lard or Bullocks grease

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20 Dr Prujean gives about 15 or 17 grains of Mercurius Dulcis with Pill: Rudii Dr Bathurst useth the same medicine with an astringent Bolus. <This is these 2 Physitian's great Arcanum to stop the Whites in Women.>

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21 Take about an ounce of the Juice of horsedunge & give it in any ordinary Carminative Clyster <'Tis admirable in the Collicke.>

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22 Take Verdegrease & Bay salt & with faire water fry them well in a fryeing Pan then put to them a quantity of quicksilver & continue to fry them till they be pretty well incorporated then take them out & grind them in a Mortar that is not of Mettall & decant the water & with your hands Knead up & fashion the remaineinge Amalgam & then set it in the open aire, <where it will grow hard & retaine the impressions of seales which it receiv'd whilst soft. Tis Dr W's knacke, to counterfet seales.>

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23 Dissolve Luna in Aqua fortis præcipitate it into a white Calx which being exquisitly Dulcifyed may be used either alone or incorporated with whites of eggs <'Tis Dr Clarke's Cosmeticae for a Blancher.>

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24 {Rx} Reguli Ant. {ounce} 3 hydrarg. {ounce} 1 Limaturæ Argent {ounce} ;simul mixta ac probe trita imponantur maturatio et sublimentur eodem modo quo solet Merc: dulcis. <This is Pulvis Febrifugus Riveris communicated to me by Dr Tw. & to him by a Friend of the Authors to whom he himselfe imparted it.>

/original pagination, p. 9/

/BP 25, p. 181/

Entry 25: Editorial notes:

December 1° 1655

25 Take Peucedanum & make a Decoction of it in faire water or any convenient Vehicle a Drachm of the hearb to half a Pint of the Liquour & let this Decoction be drunke up at a Draught

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26 Use Tartarus Alembicatus accordeinge to Schroderus & give the same Dose that he prescribes

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27 Take fat earth well sifted & put in it what seeds you please fill with it a glasse vial or & stop it very close then reverse it & burye it (with the necke downewards that the body may shelve of the raine & stroppeings) till you have occasion to use your seeds.

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28 Dr How tells me he tooke a Bulbus of Corticum & [d] inclosed <it> dexterously in a peece of paper wherein it had the liberty to shoot both upwards & downewards & that it grew to shoot out roots & produce a perfect Flowre, he in

Entry 29: Editorial notes:

29 Take of the stone called Smithland Stone in Leicestershire calcine it well & temper it up with water to a due consistence

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30 Take Alewort (before fermentation) & boyle it away gently to the consistence of an Extract

Entry 31: Editorial notes:

31 Lohoch de Pinis newly made is to be taken inwardly

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32 Balsom of Tolu with a litle Oleum Nardinum made into an Ointment for the Thorax is excellent

/original pagination, p. 10/

/BP 25, p. 182/

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33 Dr How told me that about 2 roots of Cattaria which grew in his garden he observed no lesse then 25 catts

Entry 34: Editorial notes:

34 Polyganum Vacciferum minus

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35 Take 2 parts of lime made of stones & 1 part <of drift sand such as is [...] by the land floods & a few> beaten Brickes or which is better powdered Tyles with these mingle a convenient quantity of haire & horsedunge then make a very strong Decoction of Malt & in a Barrell of this decoction boile a great while about a Bushell of shreds of leather with this liquour temper up the Masse, which must be long & exquisitly beaten together till it be exactly incorporated then let it stand <about a day> & beat it as long & as well as before, this doe the 3th: & 4th: time & when you have used it smooth it over with a Truell wet in the aforesaid Liquour. <This is Mr Wild's mixture whereof he tels me he made his famous Marble Pillars.>

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36 Make up Muske into a Pill & give it

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December 6th

37 Dr How tells me that he hath an Indian sort of Pease which he calls [blank space in MS, 18-20 letters] which beares both its leaves & flowres underground he likewise assures me that Cochineel is neither a worm nor a flye nor a seed, but a fungous substance that adheres neere the ground to the Indian Figge. He likewise tells me that upon triall he finds the same Plant brought up in gardens & made to grow wild in the fieilds to becom as it were 2 different Plants & that the same Plant after it had been transplanted from the Garden into the feild if it be againe retransplanted into the Garden will be different either in root or leafe or both of what it was in the feild,

He told me likewise that he hath in his garden Plantæ marinæ which being planted by the south wall & kept from being watered, doe looke & prosper much better then they did in their native Soile

He told me likewise that haveinge distilled the Ros Solis it yeilded him a tincted water

He told me likewise that the hearb [blank space in MS, 11-13 letters] which is [d] present poison to sheep is a safe Purge for men

/original pagination, p. 11/

/BP 25, p. 183/

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38 The Oile of Sulphur per Campanum being anointed upon the part affected gives ease ad miraculum ferm

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39 Take Alablaster beat it small & set it in a Kettle over the fire & when it hath done boileinge & begins to grow a litle hard at the botthom take it of the fire & keep it perpetually (stirringe (which you must likewise doe from the time it begins to boile) till it grow perfecly cold then [d] powder it & sifte it very, finely & make it up into a Past of a convenient consistence with faire water

The Prosses must be used of Marble onely instead to make it up into a Past you must use Urine for water

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40 Mr Gratorax takes a Barrell of Beare & puts into it whiles it is workeinge {pound} 6 of Rases of Ginger, which he takes out & uses succesively to 2 or 3 Barrells more

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41 Make your 6 s Beare of River water (the Thames <water> will never doe well) to a Kilderkin put in immediatly after fermentation three large Orengs & as many Lemmons Skin & all sliced & then stop up the vessell exactly with Clay well beaten with Salt to exclude the aire Drinke at 6 weeke old in winter & at 3 or 4 in Summer.