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Human industry has also discovered a method of extracting hydrargyros1 from the inferior minium, a substitute for quick-silver, the further mention of which was deferred, a few pages before,2 to the present occasion. There are two methods of preparing this substance; either by pounding minium and vinegar with a brazen pestle and mortar, or else by putting minium into flat earthen pans, covered with a lid, and then enclosed in an iron seething-pot well luted with potter's clay. A fire is then lighted under the pans, and the flame kept continually burning by the aid of the bellows; which done, the steam is carefully removed, that is found adhering to the lid, being like silver in colour, and similar to water in its fluidity. This liquid, too, is easily made to separate in globules, which, from their fluid nature, readily unite.3

As it is a fact generally admitted, that minium is a poison,4 I look upon all the recipes given as highly dangerous which recommend its employment for medicinal purposes; with the exception, perhaps, of those cases in which it is applied to the head or abdomen, for the purpose of arresting hæmorrhage, due care being taken that it is not allowed to penetrate to the viscera, or to touch any sore. Beyond such cases as these, for my own part, I should never recommend it to be used in medicine.

1 Or artificial quicksilver. In reality, hydrargyrus is prepared from the genuine minium of Pliny, the cinnabar mentioned in Chapter 36: it being obtained by the sublimation of sulphuret of mercury.

2 In Chapters 20 and 32.

3 This, probably, is the meaning of "lubrico humore compluere."

4 See the end of Chapter 38.

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    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), PRINCEPS
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