This liquid is frequently named in English recipes, and sometimes puzzles the American reader. Wherever methylated spirit is to be used, alcohol of 95 p. c. may be substituted for it. The term is applied in England to alcohol to which one tenth of its volume of wood naphtha (strength not less than 60 degrees o. p.) has been added, the object of such addition being that of rendering the mixture undrinkable through its offensive odor and taste. The purification of this mixed spirit, or the separation of the two alcohols, though often attempted, has always proved a failure commercially. It might be supposed that, owing to the low boilingpoint of methylie alcohol, simple distillation would effect this; but experience has shown that both spirits distil over simultaneously. This is, no doubt, due to the difference of their vapor densities.
Methylated spirit, being sold duty free, can be employed by the chemical manufacturer as a solvent in many processes for which, from its greater cost, duty-paid spirit would be commercially inapplicable. But in the preparation of medicines containing spirit as the vehicle or menstruum by which more active substances are administered, the employment of methylated spirit is highly improper. The Council of the Pharmaceutical Society obtained from the Pharmacopoeia Committee of the Medical Council the decided opinion that "the substitution of 'methylated' for 'rectified' spirit in any of the processes of the Pharmacopoeia should be strictly prohibited," and in Great Britain the use of methylated spirit in the preparation of tinctures, sweet spirits of nitre, common ether, or any medicine to be used internally, is now prohibited by law.
The steady refusal of our American legislators to permit the use of methylated or some similar form of alcohol in the arts, duty free, is but one illustration out of thousands of the manner in which true progress is obstructed by mere politicians.