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Woodcut of a still used to make medicinal spirits

Woodcut of a still used to make medicinal spirits

N810/0021

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Credit

SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

Medicinal distillation. Medieval apothecary using bellows on the furnace of a still used to make medicinal spirits. Flasks containing wine were placed in the opening above the furnace. Alcohol, being more volatile than water, would evaporate first and be collected in a flask (at right). Medieval texts claimed that alcohol should be distilled at least seven times before it could be used as medicine. Alcoholic spirits were known as Aqua Vitae ("water of life"). They were thought to be materialised life-force because, as an antisep- tic, they cured infected wounds. Spirits were widely used in medicines and ointments for a variety of illnesses. Image taken from a 1512 book.

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