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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/600

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

vitriol upon iron, though he made no mention of the escape of "air" in the process. And so with most of the above mentioned experimental data of Paracelsus. Basil Valentine had also announced the doctrine of the three elements—mercury, sulphur and salt—though he had not made the interpretation of their significance as qualities of bodies as had Paracelsus. Basil Valentine had also advocated the use of metallic preparations of antimony, mercury, etc., in medicine, and he also had abused and ridiculed the physicians of his time.

Indeed, to any one who compares the many similar data and ideas in the two collected writings the conclusion seems unavoidable that one of these authors drew from the other, or else that both drew from the same common third source. But no such common source was known or is yet known. If then the writings of Basil Valentine were authentic and of the fifteenth century as assumed, then assuredly Paracelsus must have had access to a copy of the manuscripts and have freely utilized the contents without reference to the author. As he freely refers to other authors in approval or disapproval, this omission was notable. If the writings of Basilius were forgeries of the time of the publication, then they were written some sixty years after the death of Paracelsus and were borrowed not only from him, but presumably also from Agricola and minor writers whose works appeared in the latter half of the sixteenth century.

In favor of the genuine character of the newly published author spoke the real value of the contributions in the "Triumphal Chariot." Why should any one who could write such a work conceal his identity and lose the credit for it by attributing it to another? It was not probable. This conclusion was doubtless also encouraged by the disrepute in which the name of Paracelsus was held by the medical profession and the scholarly classes of the time. Here was an explanation for the apparently profound knowledge of chemistry which Paracelsus seemed to possess, but to whom they gave no credit for scholarship of any kind.

Doubtless also the name and standing of the editor and presumptive possessor of the original manuscript, Johann Thölde, a chemist, owner in the salt-works at Franckenhausen in Thuringia, and member of the Chamber of Councilors (Rathskämmerer), gave additional presumption of the genuineness of the find.

Against the originality of the writings in so far as they were to be assigned to an earlier century, was in the first place the fact that previous to their publication by Thölde no knowledge existed of any such person as Basilius Valentinus. No writer of the fifteenth or sixteenth century had referred to any such author.

Examination of the records of the order of St. Benedict in Germany or at Borne failed to discover any such name on the rolls. No original manuscript was preserved or placed in evidence at any time.