Alchemistenrezept ca. 1620: „Leinwandt schön blau zu färben Isac Faury"

„Unter den am besten ausgerüsteten und ausgestatteten Laboratorien, sowohl den öffentlichen wie den privaten, die es weit und breit in Italien, Deutschland und anderen Ländern gibt, habe ich keines gesehen, das dem gleichkäme… das sich in Kassel im Schloß des Fürsten befindet.“

(Josephe Duchesne, Pharmopea Dogmaticorum, Paris 1607, zit.n. Heiner Borggrefe, Das alch.Lab.)

Der „Fürst“ war Moritz der Gelehrte. „Practical experience was important to Moritz. Only when claims to revealed wisdom were wedded to solid practical understanding did they inspire much confidence in terms of the prince’s alchemical patronage“. (zit.n. Bruce T. Moran, Moritz the Learned as Alchemical Maecenas, ) Well, „auri sacra fames“ but the souvereign was also interested in richness coming from more ordinary items.

Ein bisher unbekanntes Manuskript „Leinwandt Schön blau zu färben Isac Faury“ um ca.1620 (Universitätsbibliothek Kassel) zeigt die ersten Versuche europ. Chemiker bzw. Alchemisten, den durch die Ostindischen Compagnien gehandelten neuen exotischen Farbstoff Indigo nutzbringend einzusetzen:
https://orka.bibliothek.uni-kassel.de/viewer/!image/1340964087401/355/-/

„Among the best equipped and furnished laboratories, both public and private, near and far in Italy, Germany and other countries I have never seen any similar to the one in the residence of the souvereign in Kassel.“ (cf.Joseph Duchesne, Pharmacopea Dogmaticorum, Paris 1607)

This sovereign was Moritz the Learned.
„Practical experience was important to Moritz. Only when claims to revealed wisdom were wedded to solid practical understanding did they inspire much confidence in terms of the prince’s alchemical patronage“ (cf. Bruce T. Moran, Moritz the Learned as Alchemical Maecenas, 1991). Well, „auri sacra fames“ but the sovereign was also interested in richness coming from more ordinary sources.

A so far unknown manuscript from about 1620 „Leinwandt schön blau zu färben“ found in the library university Kassel shows the first attempts of european chemists or alchemists to make use of the exotic dye of indigo traded by the East Indian Companies: https://orka.bibliothek.uni-kassel.de/viewer/!image/1340964087401/355

Leinwandt schön blau zu färben Isac Faury“

Nimm 8 Eimer Wasser laß es bis zum Sudt heiß werden doch daß es nicht siede, thu darin 2 Pfund Pottasche und eine gute Schüssel vol weißem Kleyen, danach 1/2 Pfund woraus ist eine Gattung Blutholz oder Förnebock: Als dann laß es ein mal oder 6 auffwallen und schütt es in ein Kübel laß es stehen bis Du eine Hand wol darin leiden kannst, so thu dan darin eine Pfund Indich Blau daß muß zuvor eine Nacht mit Wasser weichen, danach brichs wol auseinander und schütts zum anderen in Kübel und rüre es zu 30 oder 40 Mahlen wol …daß es wol … kommt. Dann laß es 24 Stunden wol bedeckt stehen und merk es muß nimmer kalt werden. Des anderen Tages thu wieder 1 Pfund Pottasche darin rür es … laß es 4 Stunden stehen, alsdan rür es wieder und laß es 4 Stunden stehen. Das thu 3 mal, dann laß es 2 Stunden stehen. Alsdann so färbe damit was du wilst, Leinen oder Wüllen (aber merk das wüllen muß zuvor in Alaun und Feuerwasser (?) gesotten werden. Wenn das geschehen ist so laß es 3 Stunden ruhen, und thu in die Farbe 3 Löffel vol Calx viuam und färbe damit immer fort. Wenn aber die Farb abstirbt so nimm einen Eimer voll Urin der wohl gesotten und verschäumbt ist thu darin 1/2 Lot Arsensulfid und 1/2 Lot Safran zuvor wol durcheinander gerieben, oder nimm von dem Auripigment und Quecksilber Sublimatus Corrosivus schütt es zu der Farbe, so gehet sie wieder ahn und kannst also damit fort färben. Und so die Farbe zu dicke wird so seihe es oder breß das Wasser aus. und thu wieder frische Materia nach gemeltem Gewicht darein. Dann das Wasser ist stetigs gut. Und merk das die Kuffe mit der Farbe stetigs warm stehen muß. Nota Isac sagt Birkenlaub färbt schön gelb so schön als Ferbe Blumen.

To dye linen in a nice blue by Isac Faury

Take 8 buckets of rainwater and let it become hot until it simmers but it may not boil, add 2 pounds of potash and a good bowl of white clay, after that half a pound of redwood or „Förnebock“. Then let it bubble up once or six times and dump it in a tub, let it remain until you can stand putting a hand inside, and add there one pound of indigo that had to be soaked in water overnight, after break it apart and dump it to the other in the tub and stir it 30 or 40 times so that it will be nicely mixed.

Then leave it there for 24 hours but well covered and bear in mind that it shouldn’t become cold. On the following day ad 1 pound of potash again, stir it well, leave it quiet for 4 hours, then stir it again and leave it again for 4 hours. Repeat this procedure 3 times and let it settle for 2 hours.

Thereupon you may dye whatever you want, linen or wool (but bear in mind the wool should be boiled before in alumn and „firewater“). When it is done let it settle for 3 hours and add to the color 3 spoons of lime and go on dying.

But if the color is perished off then take a bucket of urine which is well boiled and foamed and add 1/2 lot of operment and 1/2 lot of saffron well mixed before, or add operment : quicksilver sublimat, and dump that to the color, so it will start again and you can go on dying. And if the color gets too thick strain it or squeeze the water out. And add again fresh material in the right weight. Then the water will always be good. And remember that the tub should always be in a warm condition.

Nota: Isac says that birch leaves give us a nice yellow just as nice as dyers broom.

Some remarks on this chemistry:

A. „Förnebork/Förnebock“ was a riddle to us: a „Föhre“ is in old german a pine tree, so a lot of research was done about the qualities of the pine tree bark. We found that in Scandinvia they used „Förne“ for a very simple brownish dying, „Förne“ ist the layer of leaves and other organic material falling down on the ground.
But this assumption proved wrong: Faury was thinking of „Fernambuko“ wood, and this corresponds to the „Blutholz“ redwood (caesalpinia echinata) : this refers to the traditonal adding of madder (red dye) to the classical woad vats to improve the quality of reduction (see also the research work of Philip John). But caesalpina is useless here…

B. „If the dye is perished off…“ use operment“ (arsenic sulfide). Correct and helpful, it reduces the indigo.
„… use saffron“. Why adding this expensive spice to cure a vat (see below)? Because it is yellow. To cure a stalled vat the adding of more alkaline (urine) and a reducing agent is necessary, so that the reestablished vat shows again a yellowish brightgreen liquid inside. Chemically spoken the insertion of saffron is useless.

C. „…or take from the operment and quicksilver (mercurius sublimatus corrosivus / Hg2Cl2), dump it to the dye, and you can go on dying.“
Operment (As2S3) can be used as a reducing agent, it was widely used in the 18th century when some parts of textiles should only carry little dots in indigoblue or parts of complicated patterns and when the block-printing was therefore too expensive: young maidens painted with small brushes the reduced operment-indigo on the surface of the fabrics. And „auripigment“ itselfs hows a yellowish and golden colour.

Healing the vat with merc.sublim.? Quicksilver-II-clorid is already in the highest stage of oxidation and therefor useless for indigoreduction. Quicksilver-I-clorid „Kalomel“ could be useful, but it is unsoluble and the colour is black.
Perhaps this alchemistic dyer had another intention: when the vat had „died off“ and the dyer noticed a status of fouling the adding of mercurious subl. should stop the fouling and reactivate the normal fermentation. In other words, in order to prevent a too fast foulness of a vat add some mercurious sublimatus corrosivus to control the fermenting bacteria.

Anyway, merc.subl. was a common agent in pharmacy and alchemy in medieval and early modern times: for example in a standard manual for pharmacists published in 1718, 300 out of 600 pages deal with the use of quicksilver (Dr. J. Schröders Artzney-Schatz, 1718). Important for alchemists is that tartaric quicksilver „Constantini“ (Hg2,85AsF6) gives to any vessel an unstable coating layer with a golden (!) shine…

D. Why saffron - one of the most expensive spices ? Clothes in the colours of saffron were worn by the goddesses of vegetation like Helena, Medea, Iphigenia and Demeter, the seedlings of the crocus sativus were seen as manifestations of new life, of spring or as an aphrodisiacum.
From the eastern part of the Mediterranian to India saffron was a symbol of the renual of life in ancient times, and in the Greek Classic and in the Roman Empire garments of young women were often decorated with saffron drawings.
So we see here an echo of early imaginations in the history of mankind still alive in the heads of the early chemists.

E. At the end of the recipe Isac Faury recommends himself as an expert when mentioning the birch leaves for dying yellow as good as „Ferbeblumen“ (dyers broom/Genista tinctoria). A good  advice only for wool dying, not for cellulose fibres. Or it is an advice similar to the recommendation of using saffron: if ever you have problems with your indigovat: add something yellowish…

No more details about the person Isac Faury habe been found. His name refers to France, „Faury“ is mentioned in a database of Huguenots at Karlshafen/Germany, and fcan be found on a list of immigrants in 1700 James Town, Virginia. And there is a „Domaine Faury“ in Ardéche, France,
producing nice wines…

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