1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz – Snippet 08

Ulrich was immediately suspicious. “Would that someone be Otto Hofbauer?” he asked.

“No, it was Wolfgang Manlich.”

“From the brewer’s guild? What does he need better powder for?” Ulrich asked. “He won two of his events.”

“He might be by and far the best shot in Augsburg, but the competition in the intercity competitions is fierce, and he wants every advantage he can get. And seeing how Bartholomäus Kellner, using the special powder I made for you, leapt up five places compared with his score last year in the open one hundred yard competition, he seems to think that powder might be just the edge he needs.”

Ulrich had absolutely no idea how much it had cost to produce the super pure saltpetre and sulphur, so he resorted to the old standby. “It’s going to be expensive,” he said.

“Of course it’s going to be expensive,” Georg agreed. “I’ve bought supposedly super pure ingredients before. But I’ve never used anything as good as the saltpetre and sulphur you provided me with. If the price isn’t too much more than I’ve paid previously, I’m interested in buying as much as you can get me.” He looked at Ulrich expectantly. “So, how much is it going to cost per pfundt?”

In the face of Georg’s determination Ulrich had no choice but to admit he didn’t know. “But I’m sure I can get you a price soon.”

“How soon?” Georg asked. “Herr Manlich wants to start practicing with the new powder before he leaves for the next Schützenfest.”

“I’ll see that you have a price by Wednesday.”

“Thank you.” Georg collected his wife and they walked off.

Ulrich was still watching Georg and his wife walk away when he felt a jab in the ribs. That was a signal from Magdalena that he’d been ignoring her. He hastened to remedy the situation before she jabbed him again. “Yes?”

“I asked you what Herr Böcklin wanted,” she said.

“He just wanted to know how much it would cost to buy a supply of our new super pure saltpetre and sulphur.”

“But the assay office doesn’t sell super pure saltpetre and sulphur,” Magdalena said.

“We do now.” Ulrich noticed Paul Paler and his wife were close by. He changed direction and headed towards them. “Paul,” he called out.

Paul reacted to his name being called out by turning towards Ulrich. “Yes, Herr Hechstetter?”

“I promised Georg Böcklin that I would give him a price for super pure saltpetre and sulphur by Wednesday. See to it.”

“Yes, Herr Hechstetter.”


Paul Paler muttered into his beard as he glared after his boss. It was just like Herr Hechstetter to offload a job like that onto him and expect an answer in a couple of days.

“What did you say?” Elisabeth Welser asked.

Paul smiled at his wife. “Nothing you want to hear. Herr Hechstetter wants me to calculate a price to supply Herr Böcklin with super pure saltpetre and sulphur by Wednesday.”

“You won’t have time to do that. We’re going round to mother’s tomorrow.”

That was a good enough reason to insist he had to do it himself, but using that excuse to avoid his mother-in-law probably wasn’t worth the domestic strife it was bound to cause. “Don’t worry, dear. I’m sure Jakob Reihing will be able to assemble the necessary figures before Wednesday.”

“Good!” There was a certain something in the way Elisabeth said the word that told Paul he’d made a wise decision. “And there’s Anna Maria and Jakob. Why not ask him now?”

Paul glanced in the direction Elisabeth was pointing and easily identified Jakob and his wife. They looked happy, and he really didn’t want to break the mood, as he knew the news he had to impart would surely do.

“Come on,” Elisabeth said as she tugged at his arm. “Anna Maria, Jakob,” she called. “Wait a moment.”

Paul saw Jakob and his wife had heard and had stopped so they could catch up. Reluctantly he let Anna Maria drag him towards them.

“How can we help you?” Jakob asked.

“Herr Hechstetter just promised Herr Böcklin that he would give him a price for super pure saltpetre and sulphur by Wednesday, and I need you to collect the necessary information so I can work out a price.”

“Oh, that’s easily done,” Jakob said.

“It is?” Paul was surprised at how happy Jakob appeared to be at having such a task dumped on him at such short notice.

Jakob nodded his head. “Phillip Gribbleflotz is a compulsive note taker. I’m sure he’ll have all the information you need to calculate a price in his notes. I should be able to get you all the information you need by lunch time tomorrow.”


The next day Paul presented himself in Ulrich’s office. “Herr Hechstetter, I have the pricing estimates for the super pure saltpetre and sulphur you requested.”

“Already? That was quick work.” Ulrich held out a hand for the piece of paper Paul was holding. “I hope they’re accurate.”

“The apprentice charged with purifying the saltpetre and sulphur kept very detailed notes on everything to do with the task. From his notes it was a simple task to calculate how much it cost to produce the saltpetre and sulphur, and therefore how much we would have to sell it for to make a profit.”

“That’ll be young Phillip Gribbleflotz again?”

Paul nodded. “I’ve already set him to making more saltpetre and sulphur.”

Ulrich glanced up for the estimate he was reading. “Good, good. We really must do something for the young man to demonstrate our appreciation for his good work.”

“Well, he’s an apprentice, and they’re always short of money,” Paul suggested.

A few days later

Phillip laid down his pen and flexed his hands. He’d used the money Master Paler had given him to buy writing paper, and he was now was slowly copying a collection of treatises on alchemy by his great grandfather that he’d found in the assay office’s library. This hand written copy would be the beginning of his own library

August 1609

The parcel arrived for Phillip in the post. Mail of any kind for the apprentices was rare, and parcels, especially anything the size of the parcel Phillip received, were doubly rare. So there was a lot of interest in the parcel and his fellow apprentices gathered around Phillip as he examined the parcel.

“Who’s it from, Phillip?” Frederik asked.

Phillip pointed to the return address written on the parcel. “It’s from my mother.” He stared at the address. Last time he’d heard from his mother she’d been in Stuttgart, living in the household of her father, his grandfather. But the parcel had been posted in Neuburg. It was possible that his grandfather, who was a surgeon in the service of the duke of Württemberg, had been sent to Neuburg, but according to the only other letter he’d received from his mother since he started his apprenticeship he’d been firmly settled in Stuttgart.

Phillip untied the string that was holding the parcel together and carefully opened the wrapping to expose a number of worn journals and a letter. He opened the letter and quickly read it before shoving it under his shirt. Then he turned his attention to the journals. He picked the top one up reverently and opened it.

“What’d she send you?” Frederik asked.

Phillip lowered the journal. “These are some of my great grandfather’s diaries. My grandfather left them to Mama, but she had to wait for probate to be granted before she could take possession of them and send them to me.”

“I’m sorry to hear your grandfather died,” Christoph said.

Phillip could only nod in acceptance of Christoph’s sympathy. He certainly couldn’t tell him that his grandfather had died a year ago and his mother hadn’t bothered to let him know until now.

“Those are really the diaries of Paracelsus?” Frederik asked.

Phillip held one of them open on the front page and pointed to the name written there.

“Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim,” Frederik read. “That must be a diary from before he adopted the name of Paracelsus.”

Phillip checked the dates in the half dozen diaries he’d received. “That one is from his time at the University of Ferrara and the others cover his subsequent travels.”

“And your mother had them? You really are the great grandson of Paracelsus,” Heinrich Weidemann said with a touch of awe intermixed with disbelief.

“Was there ever any doubt?” Christoph asked.