Treatise on Petroleum and Its Treatment, along with Various Kinds of Tar and Gums


This anonymous manuscript, which most likely dates from the 18th century, is an example of how scientific works circulated in manuscript form up to modern times. The subject is mostly petroleum and its manufacture, but the treatise also includes a treatment of different kinds of tar and various gums. On the title page, a piece of paper has been glued over the top three-quarters of the page so that only the rubricated title and three lines of writing at the bottom are visible. The manuscript opens with a two-page table that presents the different materials dealt with in the work: 11 kinds of petroleum, four kinds of tar, 30 different oils, three gums, and a number of other oil-derived materials. The treatise is not complete, as the first page of text after the table contains the sixth chapter of the work, which is devoted to operations to be conducted on gums or resins to transform them into other substances. The central section of the work is devoted to different “cooking” techniques that can be applied to petroleum and oil-derived substances to purify them and prepare them for further use. One of the most interesting features of the treatise is how it shows the persistence into the modern era of a terminology and a style that is typical of the medieval and early modern alchemical tradition, which is here applied to various modern techniques. Chapters such as those dealing with sulfur and arsenic are good examples: they mention operations, such as distillation and sublimation, and apparatuses, such as the alembic, which commonly are found in much older Arabic alchemical works, but here the terms are used in the context of the modern chemical industry.

Date Created

Subject Date


Title in Original Language

وهذه الابواب تشتمل على صنعة النفظ وعمله

Type of Item

Physical Description

26 leaves (21 lines), bound : paper ; 32 x 23 centimeters

Last updated: August 29, 2017