Alembics, English, 15th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Reconstruction of alembics, from fragments of glas found at Selbourne Priory in Hampshire, excavated by the Inspectorate of Ancient Monuments, c 1965. Used by early chemists and alchemists, alembics were central to the proces of distillation and were used in the production of alchemical medicine and tinctures. The liquid to be distilled is heated in a lower vesel and the resulting vapour condenses on the inner dome of the alembic above. The liquid then runs down the alembic's spout into a collecting vesel.