Crystals of Porphyry and Borax
The story of this rediscovery of porcelain, Böttger’s
story, is told beautifully in Janet Gleeson's 1998 book
Arcanum. She cites an emotional poem that Böttger
wrote to Augustus late in 1709:
The King will yearn for golden fruit,
Which the weak
hand yet cannot present.
It puts but crystals of porphyry and
Before the King's throne in place of such
Yes, the hand extends even the heart, in vessels of
This rings true. Böttger was caught. I sense from the poem that
he would have liked to get out of the alchemist's bind and rest on
his great practical synthesis, the making of the translucent
"white gold." But he was not allowed to do so. Although
the porcelain was of immense value and eventually contributed to the
King’s coffers, it took time to establish a market for it.
Meanwhile Augustus did not give up his dream for gold, and
Böttger remained a prisoner. Time and again he was pressed to
make good on his promises of making gold, and he finally staged a
"successful" transmutation in 1713. Böttger was freed
in the end, even ennobled. But he was ill and exhausted. He died in
1719, the year porcelain was first made outside of Meissen. It's not
easy to keep an industrial secret.