Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/602

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
596
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

yet this statement added in time a certain weight to the belief in his reality. Still later apparently arose a tradition that in 1515 the Emperor Maximilian I. had instituted a search to establish the identity or existence of the alleged Basil Valentine, though with negative results.[1] This statement found its way into most of the histories of chemistry and is still frequently met with. The importance of the acceptance of the statement lies in the fact that it assumes that at that early date Basil Valentine was known and an object of interest, instead of a century later. Kopp, who in his "History" (1843) repeats and credits the statement, in his "Beiträge" (1875) calls attention to the baselessness of the rumor.[2] It may be that there is confusion here between the Emperor Maximilian I. (1459-1519), and Duke Maximilian I. of Bavaria (1573-1651). (This explanation has been suggested, though the writer can not now locate the source of the suggestion.)

The question of priority in important contributions to the history of chemistry and the question as to plagiarism by Paracelsus or imposture by Thölde both hinge upon the fact as to whether the Basilius writings were written about 1500 or about 1600, and from what has preceded it would seem that the presumption is in favor of the latter date and that the burden of proof lies with the supporters of Basil Valentine.

But the evidence is not closed with the above-mentioned considerations. Though in his "History of Chemistry," Kopp had accepted the prevalent view that the writings of Basil Valentine were of earlier date than those of Paracelsus, his researches did not cease with the publication of that work. In 1875 in his above quoted "Beiträge zur Geschichte der Chemie" he entered anew and in great detail into the problem. One by one he traces back through the literature the sources of the traditional statements upon which are founded the supposed identification of the period of Basil Valentine. His continued investigations of the manuscripts in the libraries had failed to develop any originals or copies of apparently earlier date than the printed works. He announces his opinion that the evidence favors the judgment that the works of the supposed Basil Valentine are of later date than Paracelsus rather than earlier. He hesitates, however, to accuse Thölde himself of intentional deception, as nothing was known against his reputation, and it could hardly be supposed that he would not have published such a work as the antimony monograph under his own name if he really wrote it.

Eleven years later (1886) in his latest work, "Die Alchemie," and as the result of failure in the meantime to obtain from any source any evidence favoring the prevalent theory, he reiterates more decidedly his

  1. Schmieder ("Geschichte d. Alchimie," 1832), who refers to Motschmann,"Erfordia literata," Erfurt, 1729-32.
  2. Kopp, "Beiträge," III., p. 112.