Chemical Technology & Pharmacy. A Master Distiller’s Method for Making Liquors & Medicines. Complete with the Five Plates

Y-Worth, William (d. 1715)

Introitus apertus ad artem distillationis; or The whole art of distillation practically stated, and adorned with all the new modes of working now in use. In which is contained, the way of making spirits, aquavitæ, artificial brandy, and their application to simple and compound waters in the exact pondus of the greater and lesser composition; as also many curious and profitable truths for the exalting of liquors, being the epitomy and marrow of the whole art; supplying all that is omitted in the London distiller, French and baker &c. Experience being the true polisher hereof. To which is added, the true and genuin way of preparing powers by three noble menstruums, sc. A purified sal armoniack, the volatile salt of tartar, and sal panaristos, through which they are exalted to an higher degree of perfection than any hitherto extant, together with their virtues and dose. Illustrated with copper sculptures. By W. Y-worth, Medicinæ Professor in Doctrinis spagyricis & per ignem philosophus.

London: printed for Joh. Taylor at the Ship in St. Paul’s Church-yard, and S. Holford in the Pell Mell, 1692


Octavo: 16.7 x 10 cm. [16], 189, [3] p., [5] leaves of plates. Collation: A-N8


Bound in contemporary blind-ruled sheepskin with some wear at the corners and small losses at the head and tail of spine. A nice, clean, complete copy with only a little marginal browning to the title and final leaf. All five plates are in fine condition; the outer margin of the final plate is cut close.

The five plates show chemical and distillatory apparatus as well as an image of Yworth’s pharmacy and his distillery.

Very rare. Yworth was a master distiller and “chemical physician” from Rotterdam who moved to England. In addition to producing medicines (pills, menstruums, and tonics), he pioneered the manufacture of “artificial” wines, i.e. liquor distilled from malted corn, cider, or perry. Yworth was also corresponded with Isaac Newton concerning alchemical matters (see below.)

“William Yworth (d. 1715), distiller and chemical physician, claimed to have been born in ‘Shipham’, in the Netherlands (this location has not been traced). His early life and education are obscure, but by 1690 he was practicing as a chemical physician from his house at the sign of the Collegium Chymicum in Rotterdam. He later suggested that he had begun his studies in chemistry and philosophy about 1680. By June 1691 he had moved to England, attracted by the relatively low levels of duty payable on liquor distilled from malted corn, cider, or perry, established by statute to encourage native alternatives to French wines, whose importation had been prohibited in 1689. He resided at the Academia Spagyrica Nova, at the Blue Ball and Star, in the London suburb of Shadwell, from where he sold medicines, wrote works on distillation, and offered lessons in chemical philosophy and practice. His earliest publications, composed while he was still resident in the Netherlands and published in 1690, discussed distillation at length, as well as exhorting English manufacturers to exploit native resources, especially metallic ores…

It was Yworth’s intention, in writing the “Whole art of Distillation”, to bring together his vast working knowledge of distillation processes in order to provide both the most complete and clearest dissertation on the subject and a clear and practical manual for performing distillation processes (those of his predecessors, notable Baker, being full of errors and, where correct, too confusing or vague to follow.) The “Whole Art” contains recipes for many pills and medicinal tonics, which Yworth marketed through a network of small salesmen across London, sealing them with his own device to protect against imitations.

“In 1709 Yworth applied for a license to practice as a physician from Woodbridge, Suffolk, where it appears he and his family had been living for some while. He kept a shop there, achieving moderate prosperity, and continued to operate as both a distiller and a chemical physician. Shortage of money, however, prevented him from pursuing the most elaborate of his schemes, which involved publishing a succession of his alchemical and medical treatises. He died in 1715.”(ODNB)

Isaac Newton and William Yworth: A Collaboration between Two Alchemists

Yworth was also the author of an alchemical tract known as the ‘Processus mysterii magni philosophicus’, two versions of which (apparently in Yworth’s hand) were found among Newton’s own alchemical manuscripts. There are also extant two letters written by Yworth to Newton that indicate a working relationship between the two men. There are also manuscripts in Newton’s hand that show he was involved in the further editing of the ‘Processus’. Karin Figala and Ulrich Petzold give an analysis of Newton’s reworking of the text in their “Alchemy in the Newtonian Circle”, in Renaissance and Revolution (1993), p. 187-190)

Wing Y218; Wellcome 2354080; Ian Burton, The Science and Commerce of Whisky, 2012, p. 37