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An excerpt from Liber
A Laboratory room will generally be relatively large (space permitting), probably somewhere along the lines of fifteen feet to a wall. There will be either a hearth or a means of heating, (oven, forge, braziers, etc.) according to the tastes and Arts of the magus in question and either candles or oil lamps if there is no window or other natural light source. Ill-lit labs, while common in fortress or cavern covenants, are to be avoided where possible, as they can lead to unfortunate accidents. Where possible, a laboratory should be illuminated by means of strategically placed Lamp Without Flame formulae, as this minimises the risk of hot wax or burning oil ruining an experiment.
Tables should be either central or lining the walls; marble or other stone is preferable, although wooden tables and benches are satisfactory. There should also be sufficient shelving in the room for texts and reagents; a cluttered work area will slow down a magus at work. Often, a lectern for any texts in use while working can be useful as well, preventing any risk of reagent or material damaging the text during procedures.
It is also wise to keep a bucket of water in the laboratory and to keep it full at all times - this can be gainful employment for your apprentice and has the added virtue of teaching him to always anticipate the future. A bucket of water or sand can be very useful for the out-of-hand Ignem experiment or for those embarrassing occasions when a sudden unexpected backlash from a delicate Muto process turns you into a fish. Mock not; I have known a Magus die from lack of preparedness under just such circumstances.
The laboratory should always have the following equipment for the use of the Magus; a balance and weights, calibrated from one half-dram up to one pound, as accurate as he can make it; several glass beakers and bottles (glass is preferable for these things); a pestle and mortar of good stone; several stirring rods of wood, glass and stone; measuring spoons; an hourglass or a time candle (several, set for different periods of time, are advisable; alternatively, a waterclock); an adequate supply of parchment, ink and quills for notes; a variety of ground quartz or glass lenses; a heating brazier or crucible; if the surroundings allow it, a cauldron of sufficient size over the hearth; otherwise a kettle or container in which fluids can be heated; phials, retorts and reactive tubes (again, glass is preferable for these things); funnels and sand, muslin or fine parchment for filtration. Muslin can also be used during mixing procedures to allow the essence of a material into the mixture without mixing in the physical material, although for this silk is preferable. If you can find a glassmaker of sufficient skill, then condensers and pipettes are necessary for the well-equipped magus.
It is often wise to employ the services of a smith to construct a set of stands and brackets for the laboratory equipment most commonly used in a certain configuration; for instance, if you intend to spend most of your laboratory time distilling raw vis from the aura, then having your laboratory equipment set up in such a way as to make it merely a matter of setting the ball rolling can be most helpful and timesaving. A few clampstands and a tripod or two can often make the difference between success and failure.
For the more complex magical procedures such as item investiture, it is wise to create a warding circle that will contain the magicks during enchantment, thus preventing Faerie molestation or infernal corruption of your work as well as ensuring that any mishaps singe no more than a circle of floor. The circle is a simple adaptation of the Parma Magica ritual, and will be continuously renewed by the ambient aura once in place.
The most common mistake made when establishing a laboratory is the assumption that everything is a matter of glass and metal, balances and alembics. It is all very well having a fine laboratory if the shelves lie empty of reagents and materials. Over your years as a magus you will undoubtedly acquire a fascinating array of materials of bizarre and unusual nature that will end up on the shelves of your laboratory; but there are some things that any magus laboratory should never be without. Ensure before establishing your laboratory that you either can guarantee supplies of the following or that you can make very good friends with an apothecary who is willing to deliver. Running out of Aqua Fortis halfway through analysing three pawns of Terram vis can be a mortifying experience.
First of all, the laboratory should have at all times adequate supplies of the standard acids and bases; water of sulphur, Aqua Fortis and Aqua Regia, quick lime and potash; the acids being reasonably easy to create in the laboratory given time, water and sulfur, and the other relevant ingredients (see Basic Procedures in Chapter four). It is wise to keep liquids such as Aqua Regia in earthenware rather than metal or glass. Likewise, a selection of oils is advised both for use as reagents and catalysts in magical operations as well as any vis content they may have. Oils mixed with certain plants acquire the ability to act as temporary carriers for Raw vis; thus allowing you to dissolve, for instance, Terram vis in Aqua Fortis, then filter the resultant liquor through thin clay, thereafter dissolving the residue in gently heated agar gel which has been treated with an infusion of hellebore seeds. The agar gel will carry the essence of the vis for sufficient time for you to, for instance, smear it on the sword you have been enchanting, thus allowing the vis to sublime into the metal of the sword through the inscriptions made on the blade by the Magus.
Likewise, one should endeavour to keep at all times a stock of herbs and spices; many of these plants contain trace amounts of Vis and if properly prepared can considerably ease the work of creating a potion or an item. Indeed, study of them under the correct circumstances can even lead to the insight into the new spell one has been trying to develop. Nor should one ignore the minerals; magnesia, quicksilver, lead, iron pyrites, salts and other common solids are all used in more standard laboratory procedures than I care to mention.
The complete laboratory, therefore, is not merely a matter of glassware, nor of location, but a conjunction of many different factors, not least of which is the foresight and wisdom of the Magus himself. Any fool can mix two chemicals in a bowl; only a Hermetic Magus can plumb the mysteries of the world, and the laboratory is his tool with which to accomplish this great work.
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