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The spirits (arwāḥ) found in Arabic alchemical texts, namely zi'baq, kibrīt, nūshādir and zarnīkh are identified with their modern counterparts, which are mercury, sulfur, ammonium chloride (carbonate) and arsenic (arsenous) sulfide, respectively. Jābir's conception of spirits has been shown to be related to his practice. The puzzling experiments of Jābir on ‘mineral and organic’ spirits are compared as far as possible with modern knowledge of chemistry. These comparisons lead to an understanding of Jābir's sequence of manipulations within the logic of his alchemy. In treatment of naturally occuring spirits, Jābir aimed at removing the combustibility of spirits and so improving their effect on fusible bodies. Jābir's notion of transmutation (iqlāb) of fusible bodies is shown to be a flexible term that is equivalent to purification (tanẓīf) or reformation (iṣlāḥ).
The present article is devoted to two issues. The first is the identification of lead and tin in medieval Arabic alchemy. The second is the investigation of whether Arabic alchemists differentiate between these problematic substances or not. These two issues are investigated in the light of a comparison which is made between the facts that are stated about the two problematic substances in the original Arabic alchemical works and those stated in modern chemical literature. It is proved that Arabic alchemists made a sharp distinction between lead and tin. Also, it becomes clear that these two metals were used in a satisfactory purity in the era of medieval Arabic alchemy. As a consequence of the present study, some conclusions are drawn about the existence of some categories of ‘derivatives’ of fusible bodies in Arabic alchemy which are degenerate to modern categories of oxides, carbonates, etc.
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