History of Science and Technology in Islam

The Arabic Origin of Summa perfectionis magisterii

And the Other Geber Latin Works


Cleansing of Salt Alkali

Latin Texts of Geber and their Arabic Equivalent from Jabir

a short note


This is another process that is given here to show the Arabic origin of Geber’s Latin works. There are multitudes of other processes in Geber’s texts that have Arabic equivalents. We shall report these as this work is progressing.



Cleansing of Salt Alkali, Geber, Of the Investigation, Russell’s translation, p. 7 [1]

Salt alkali is cleansed as common-salt, and it is Sagimen Vitri. First it is ground, and then the whole dissolved in Common Water hot: afterward Filtred, Congealed, and Calcined with moderate Fire.


Making of Salt Alkali, Geber, The Invention of Verity, Russell’s Translation, p. 205

True Salt-Alkali is made of Zoza (or Soda) dissolved, filtred, and the Solution boyled away to One third part, and then the Salt, in a short time settles to the Bottom in Crystals; and so it is prepared.



Description of Alkali Salt (Al-Qali), Jabir, Sunduq al-Hikma, folios 66b-67a [2]

Translation of the Arabic Text

“Take from alkali (al-qali) one ratl. Pour on it four times its weight clear water.  Leave it for one day and night, and stir it every now and then until the water is decreased by one ratl. Next day filter it to remove trash. Keep it since it contains the salt. Place it in a ceramic vessel and kindle a mild fire under it until it coagulates like sugar. This is what is called salt alkali (milh al-qali) and its action is good, God knows better.”


We need to mention here that this is one only of several other Arabic descriptions for obtaining salt alkali.



[1] The Alchemical Works of Geber, Translated by Richard Russell, Introduction by E. J. Holmyard, Reproduced by Samuel Weiser,  1994.

[2] Sunduq al-Hikma, Jabir ibn Hayyan, Dar al-Kutub al-Misriyya, Cairo, MS Tabi’iyyat 303.

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