Also known simply as: Twelve Keys
One of the most important works on alchemy ever written, Basil Valentine’s Twelve Keys, was first published in the early 15th century. During the Renaissance, the book was widely circulated and reprinted numerous times. Valentine reveals many of the ancient art’s secrets in it, including the twelve keys required for practice. It is attributed to “Basil Valentine” but the author’s true identity is unknown. Basil Valentine is thought to be a German alchemist and physician from the 15th century. However, the name is most likely a pseudonym, as no records relating to the individual have ever been discovered by historians.
Alchemy is a mysterious and secretive ancient practice. Its objectives are frequently misunderstood, and it has been linked to everything from magic and mysticism to fraud and quackery. But, at its heart, alchemy is a practical philosophy based on experimentation and discovery. Basil Valentine’s Twelve Keys provides a clear and concise introduction to this complex subject. It explains the fundamental principles of alchemy and how they can be applied in the modern world in simple terms. It also contains step-by-step instructions for conducting experiments, making observations, and interpreting results.
The book is divided into twelve allegorical chapters, each representing a different key or secret that leads to alchemy knowledge. The book begins with a brief history of alchemy, which can be traced back to ancient Egypt and Greece. It then describes the four elements (fire, air, earth, and water) and three principles (sulfur, mercury, and salt) that comprise all matter. Following that is a discussion of metals and their properties.
The twelve keys or secrets required for successful alchemy practice are at the heart of the book.
The first key is about the four elements and their characteristics. The second key explains how mercury, the universal solvent, is created. The third key describes the process of producing sulfuric acid, which was required for metal dissolution. The fourth key explains how to create gold from other metals. The fifth key is about the philosopher’s stone, a legendary substance thought to have the ability to turn base metals into gold.
The sixth key explains how to create an elixir that cures all diseases and extends one’s life indefinitely. The seventh key describes a method for producing synthetic diamonds. The eighth key explains how to make silver from lead. The ninth key contains instructions for making gold leaf. The tenth key demonstrates how to create an invisibility potion. Finally, the twelfth key explains how to make a fountain of youth that will keep anyone who drinks from it eternally young.
There are numerous illustrations throughout the book showing apparatus used in various operations as well as pictures of chemicals being prepared or reacted together. There are also numerous tables that list various chemical substances and their properties.
Basil Valentine was a trailblazing thinker whose contributions to alchemy and medicine were profound. Scholars are still studying and debating his ideas today. The Twelve Keys of Basil Valentine is highly recommended reading and an excellent place to begin learning about alchemy.