This is the text of a paper published in JOM (Journal of Metals) in the January 2000 issue, p. 12-13. The published version has an overlay illustration that shows mercury distillation from Vannucio Biringuccio’s "Pirotechnia", first published in 1540.

Quicksilver from Cinnabar: The First Documented Mechanochemical Reaction?
Laszlo Takács

Three English translations are available. The earliest one is Sir John Hill’s work, first published in 1746, the second edition followed in 1774 [6]. His translation of the sentence on the preparation of quicksilver (mercury) reads: "This is obtained from native Cinnabar, rubbed with Vinegar in a brass Mortar with a brass Pestle." Hill’s translation of "On Stones" is supplemented by valuable commentary that reflects broad knowledge of the sciences and technology of his time. He remarks: "We have now many Ways of extracting the Quicksilver from Cinnabar, but all by the Assistance of Fire" [8]. This statement suggests that, by the middle of the 18th century, the mechanochemical decomposition of cinnabar was no longer applied in metallurgical practice.


CybeRose note: I include this item to show that Sir John Hill was far more intelligent and broadly informed than some critics would have us believe.