A SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY HOAX
belief in the fraudulent character of the work and that Thölde himself was the writer as well as the editor of the alleged Basil Valentine works. With reference to this Thölde, Professor John Ferguson, of the University of Glasgow, the first of British students of chemical literature of this period, in his "Bibliotheca Chemica" (1906), gives some pertinent information and ideas.
Ferguson calls attention to the fact that Thölde published a work in his own name "Haliographia," on salts, salt works, etc. (1603). It consists of four parts. Ferguson says:
This fourth part, it is said, appeared in 1618
with the name of Basilius Valentinus. It was certainly published at Bologna, 1644, "Ex manuscriptis et originalibus Fratri Basilii Valentini ordinis S. Benedict! collecta," without any mention of Thölde. This may be all quite straight, but somehow it needs explanation. Especially when we remember that the works of Basil Valentine are said to have been not merely edited by Thölde but actually written by him. It is a dilemma; either Thölde had appropriated the work of Basil Valentine without acknowledgment, or else he has put out or allowed to be put out, a work of his own under the name of Basil Valentine. In his discussion of this subject in the "Beiträge z. Gesch. d. Chemie," Kopp has occasion to consider the connection between Basil Valentine and his reputed editor, and he is inclined to regard Thölde as editor merely, on the ground that as the works contain a good deal of chemistry that was new for the period, he can not see why Thölde should have ascribed that knowledge to one to whom it did not really appertain. He considers that there is nothing in Thölde's life otherwise which would give occasion to believe him untrustworthy. Well, he may have been quite an honest man, but appearances are rather against him and one can sympathize with Dr. Caius: "What shall de honest man do in my closet? Dere is no honest man dat shall come in my closet!" It makes one suspicious that if Thölde could tacitly absorb into his "Haliographia" without acknowledgment a tract which afterwards appeared under Basil Valentine's name, there is no reason why he should not have used the name of Basil Valentine all along as a stalking horse and under presentation of that shot his alchemy. But on this occasion he had forgotten his pseudonymity.
Subsequently ("Die Alchemie," 1886, I., pp. 29-33) Kopp changed his views regarding Thölde and Basil Valentine, and said that there is reason to think that the writings of the latter were composed about the end of the sixteenth or the beginning of the seventeenth century instead of a hundred years earlier; that Basil Valentine's name is fictitious; that the publication of these writings was an intentional literary deception; and in that case that the responsibility must rest with Thölde. It is very remarkable that in this view, so decidedly, uncompromisingly, different from that enunciated by him eleven years earlier he should have come to exactly the same result as that elaborated one hundred years earlier and expressed with emphasis by the author of "Beytrag," a work which, so far as I have observed, was unknown to Kopp, as I do not think that he ever refers to it.
Professor Ferguson in his comments on Kopp's change of views between 1875 and 1886 seems to have overlooked or forgotten that even
- ↑ Schmieder, "Geschichte der Alchemie," in his bibliography of Basil Valentine gives 1612 and 1644 as dates of these editions.