Basil Valentine

Basil Valentine, or Basilius Benedictus (possibly 1565 to 1614)

who may have been the publisher Johann Thölde listen to our podcast on him here:

Valentine’s true identity can’t be known for sure, but my money’s on Johann Thölde, and we talk a little about both. As far as we know for the first time in the English-speaking part of the internet.

In his work L’Azoth des philosophes Valentine came up with Vitriolum as an akronym for the latin sentence: isita interiora terrae, rectificando invenies occultum lapidem, veram medicinam. Which means “See what’s inside the earth, and by rectifying you will find the stone, the true medicine.” Which also became a motto within Rosecrucian and Masonic orders (sometimes without the veram medicanam, so the acronym is just VITRIOL).

This show is special because we desided to dig a little further into a mystery than the internet would allow in English.. so to change that, here he is:

Basil Valentine is an alchemist who’s true identity is unknown, but we’ll try to get beneath the surface of this mystery and take a look at a good candidate of the true Basil.

Basil Valentine is the Anglicised version of the name Basilius Valentinus, who was allegedly a 15th-century alchemist. There are claims that he was the Canon of the Benedictine Priory of Saint Peter in Erfurt, Germany but according to John Maxson Stillman, who wrote on the history of chemistry, there is no evidence of such a name on the rolls in Germany or Rome and no mention of this name before 1600. During the 18th century it was suggested that the author of the works attributed to him was Johann Thölde. Modern scholarship now suggests that one author was Tholde, but others were involved. Tholde, a salt manufacturer in Germany (lived roughly 1565–1624) published the first five books printed under Valentine’s name.


The Basil Valentine writings provided twelve “keys,” a widely reproduced sequence of alchemical operations encoded allegorically, both in words and in images. The images were essential to the communication and had to depict the same scene, regardless of the artistry.

Numerous publications on alchemy in Latin and German were published under the name Basil Valentine. They have been translated into many European languages, including English, French, Russian and others.

You can find some of his writing online if you’re curious.

Latin only

  • Currus Triumphalis Antimonii (The triumphal chariot of antimony)
  • Duodecim Claves philosophicæ (The twelve philosophical keys)

In Latin and German

  • Porta sophica
  • The Medicine of Metals
  • Of things natural and supernatural
  • Of the first tincture, root and spirit of metals
  • De microcosmo deque magno mundi mysterio, et medicina hominis, (Of the microcosm, of the great secrecy of the world, and the human medicine)
  • Libri quattuor de particularibus septem planetarum, (Book four: Of the features of the seven planets)
  • Experimenta chymica
  • Practica
  • Azoth
  • Compendium veritatis philosophicum (German)
  • Last will and testament

So who was the man behind the works? At least possibly?

Johann Thölde

Not much can be found in English-speaking internets on this guy, nor is he in my books, so we had to dig a little deeper. And also after this podcast english speakers might know a little more.

Johann Thölde  lived from 1565 to 1614 and was born in Grebendorf near Eschwege… which is in Hessia

He was a german Alchemist, Salt extractor, Author and publisher.

He’s knows as the “Grandfather of Salt winning methods” … at least in German circles.. and that’s a bad translation.

Also the publisher of Basilius Valentinus.

He’s from a line of Salt workers.

He studied at the University Erfut and Jena

He married in the town of Frankenhausen (another salt town) and was on the town council.

1608 he was put in charge of a salt mining operation or district near Bamberg, and what happened after that is unknown.. at least until his death in 1614.


Besides salt (which is vital to alchemy) the thing he’s now mostly know for is publishing the works of a Benediktine monke known as Basilius Valentinus, who’s true identity is obscure or not known.

Some regard Thölde  as the mysterius author himself.

He also published a work on Antimony by Alexanders von Suchten (who’s also on my to-do list of shows)

in 1603 he wrote and published a book called Haligraphia.. in which he summarized all knowledge to-date knowledge of salt extraction. It described some 50 salt mines and evaporation ponds in central europe.

He also published a book for a nobleman Moritz den Gelehrten (the learned), (Maurice, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel)

Bericht Der abschewlichen Kranckheit der roten Ruhr. Erfurt 1599

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