World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Liber Ignium

Article Id: WHEBN0032299495
Reproduction Date:

Title: Liber Ignium  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Alchemy, Hermetic Definitions, Digestion (alchemy), Hermetic Journal, Mutus Liber
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Liber Ignium

The Liber Ignium ad Comburendos Hostes (translated as On the Use of Fire to Conflagrate the Enemy, or Book of Fires for the Burning of Enemies, and abbreviated as Book of Fires) is a medieval collection of recipes for incendiary weapons, including Greek fire and gunpowder, written in Latin and allegedly written by a certain Marcus Graecus ("Mark the Greek")—a person whose existence is debated by scholars. The work has been subjected to numerous academic analyses, and with contradictory conclusions with regards to origin and influence on its contemporaries.[1][2]

One of the most influential studies of the Liber Ignium was conducted by Marcellin Berthelot; it is still cited in 20th century works on the topic.[1][2]


The Liber Ignium is a collection of 35 recipes without any internal classification, as it was typical of "secret recipe" list of the era.[1] Of these, fourteen are related to warfare, eleven with lamps and lights, six with the prevention and treatment of burns, and four with the preparation of chemicals, chiefly saltpetre. Some recipes were found to be worthless.[2]

Recipe no. 14 contains advice for the harvesting and processing of saltpeter. In Berthelot's interpretation, it says: "saltpeter is a mineral of the earth, and is found as an efflorescence on stones. This earth is dissolved in boiling water, then purified and passed through a filter. It is boiled for a day and a night and solidified, so that transparent plates of the salt are found at the bottom of the vessel."[2] Furthermore, there are four recipes (nos. 12, 13, 32, and 33) that describe mixtures resembling gunpowder.[2]

Origins and influence on contemporaries

The premillennial Byzantine Greek origin of the text has been rejected by scholars, who date it to the late 13th century.[3][4][5][2][6] Study of the text has suggested that it was originally translated from Arabic, possibly by a person from Moorish Spain.[7][8][9]

The influence the Liber Ignium had on Roger Bacon and Albertus Magnus has been debated. Early scholars like the 18th-century scientist Johann Beckmann thought that both men had read and quoted it, but others have claimed that all three were based on a common source.[1] Iqtidar Alam Khan writes that while the Liber Ignium contents can be traced back to Arabic and Chinese texts, the work of Bacon appears to represent a parallel tradition, especially because the decoded formulas of Bacon contain considerably less nitrate.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d Partington, James Riddick. A History of Greek Fire and Gunpowder, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998, pp. 58-60
  2. ^ a b c d e f Joseph Needham; Gwei-Djen Lu; Ling Wang (1987). Science and civilisation in China. Cambridge University Press. pp. 39–41.  
  3. ^ Partington, James Riddick. A History of Greek Fire and Gunpowder, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998, p. 43
  4. ^ Kenneth Warren Chase (2003). Firearms: a global history to 1700. Cambridge University Press. p. 58.  
  5. ^ Kelly DeVries (1992). Medieval military technology. University of Toronto Press. p. 143.  
  6. ^ Chisholm, Hugh (ed.) Gunpowder, Encyclopædia Britannica, 1910, p. 724
  7. ^ Pan, Jixing. On the Origin of Rockets, T'oung Pao, Vol. 73, pg. 5–6
  8. ^ Partington, James Riddick. A History of Greek Fire and Gunpowder, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998, p. 42
  9. ^ Dana, Charles E., Notes on Cannon-Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 50, pg. 149
  10. ^ Iqtidar Alam Khan (2006). "The Indian Response to Firearms, 1300-1750". In Brenda J. Buchanan. Gunpowder, explosives and the state: a technological history. Ashgate Publishing. pp. 51–52.  
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.