Salomon Trismosin's alchemical wanderingsThis is a story of the supposed adept and teacher of Paracelsus, Salomon Trismosin's, wandering in search of the secret of transmutation. It is included in Aureum vellus, oder Güldin Schatz und Kunstkammer..., Rorschach, 1598, which was the first printing of the Trismosin writings.
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When I was a young fellow, I came to a Miner named Flocker, who was also an Alchemist, but he kept his knowledge secret, and I could get nothing out of him. He used a Process with common Lead, adding to it a peculiar Sulphur, or Brimstone, he fixed the Lead until it became hard, then fluid, and later on soft like Wax.
Of this prepared Lead, he took 20 Loth (10 ounces), and 1 mark pure unalloyed Silver, put both materials in flux and kept the composition in fusion for half an hour. Thereupon he parted the Silver, cast it in an ingot, when half of it was Gold.
I was grieved at heart that I could not have this art, but he refused to tell his secret process.
Shortly thereafter he tumbled down a mine and no one could tell what was the artifice he had used.
As I had seen it really done by this miner, I started in the year 1473 on my travels to search out an artist in Alchemy, and where I heard of one I went to him, and in these wanderings I passed 18 months, learning all kinds of Alchemical Operations, of no great importance, but I saw the reality of some of the particular processes, and I spent 200 Florins of my own money, nevertheless I would not give up the search. I thought of boarding with some of my friends, and took a journey to Laibach, thence to Milan, and came to a monastery. There I heard some excellent lectures and served as an assistant, for about a year.
Then I travelled about, up and down in Italy, and came to an Italian tradesman, and a Jew, who understood German. These two made English Tin look like the best fine Silver, and sold it largely. I offered to serve them. The Jew persuaded the Trader to take me as a Servant, and I had to attend the fire, when they operated with their art I was diligent, and they kept nothing from me, as I pleased them well. In this way I learnt their art, which worked with corrosive and poisonous materials, and I stopped with them fourteen weeks.
Then I journeyed with the Jew to Venice. There he sold to a Turkish merchant forty pounds of this Silver. While he was haggling with the merchant I took six Loth of the Silver, and brought it to a Goldsmith, who spoke Latin, and kept two Journeymen, and I asked him to test the Silver. He directed me to an Assayer on Saint Marks' Place, who was portly and wealthy. He had three German Assay-assistants. They soon brought the Silver to the test with strong acids, and refined it on the Cupel; but it did not stand the test, and all flew away in the fire. And they spoke harshly to me asking where I got the Silver. I told them I had come on purpose to have it tested, that I might know if it was real silver.
When I saw the fraud, I returned not to the Jew, and paid no more attention to their art, for I feared to get into trouble together with the Jew, through the false silver.
I then went to a College in Venice, and asked there if they could give me two meals daily while I looked for employment. The Rector told me of a Hospital where there were other Germans, and there we got sumptuous food. It was an Institution for destitute strangers, and people of all nations came there.
The next day I went to Saint Marks' Place, and one of the Assay assistants came up, and asked me where I got that Silver? Why I had it tested, and if I had any more of it? I said I had no more of that silver, and that I was glad to have got rid of it, but I had the art and I should not mind telling it to him. That pleased the Assayer, and he asked me if I could work in a Laboratory? I told him I was a Laborant travelling on purpose to work in alchemical Laboratories. That pleased him vastly, and he told me of a nobleman who kept a laboratory, and who wanted a German Assistant. I readily accepted, and he took me straight to the Chief Chemist, named Tauler, a German, and he was glad to get me. So he engaged me on the spot at a weekly wage of two crowns and board as well. He took me about six Italian miles out of Venice to a fine large mansion called Ponteleone. I never saw such Laboratory work, in all kinds of Particular Processes, and medicines, as in that place. There everything one could think of was provided and ready for use. Each workman had his own private room, and there was a special cook for the whole staff of Laboratory assistants.
The Chief Chemist gave me at once an Ore to work on, which had been sent to the nobleman, four days previously. It was a Cinnabar the Chief had covered with all kinds of dirt, just to try my knowledge, and he told me to get it done within two days. I was kept busy, but succeeded with the Particular Process, and on testing the ingot of the fixed Mercury, the whole weighed nine Loth, the test gave three Loth fine Gold.
That was my first work and stroke of luck. The Chief Chemist reported it to the nobleman, who came out unexpectedly, spoke to me in Latin, called me his Fortunatum, tapped me on the shoulder and gave me twenty-nine crowns. He spoke a funny kind of Latin I could hardly understand, but I was pleased with the money.
I was then put on oath not to reveal my Art to anyone. To make a long story short, everything had to be kept secret, as it should be. If someone boasts of his art, even if he has got the Truth, God's Justice will not let such a one go on. Therefore be silent, even if you have the highest Tincture, but give Charity.
I saw all kinds of operations at this Nobleman's Laboratory, and as the Chief Chemist favoured me, he gave me all kinds of operations to do, and also mentioned, that our employer spent about 30,000 Crowns on these arts, paying cash for all manner of books in various languages, to which he gave great attention. I myself witnessed that he paid 6,000 Crowns for the Manuscript Sarlamethon. A process for a Tincture in the Greek Language. This the nobleman had soon translated and gave me to work. I brought that process to a finish in fifteen weeks. Therewith I tinged three metals into fine Gold; and this was kept most secret. This nobleman was gorgeous and powerful, and when once a year the Signoria went out to sea, to witness the throwing of a Gem Ring into the water at the ceremony of wedding the Adriatic, our gentleman with many others of the Venetian nobility went out in his grand pleasure ship, when suddenly a hurricane arose and he with many others of the Venetian Lords and Rulers, was drowned.
The Laboratory was then shut up by the family, the men paid off, but they kept the Chief Chemist.
Then I went away from Venice, to a still better place for my purpose, where Cabalistic and Magical books in Egyptian language were entrusted to my care, these I had carefully translated into Greek, and then again retranslated into Latin. There I found and captured the the Treasure of the Egyptians. I also saw what was the great Subject they worked with, and the ancient Heathen Kings used such Tinctures and have themselves operated with them, namely, Kings Xofar, Sunsfor, Xogar, Xophalat, Julaton, Xoman and others. All these had the great treasures of the Tincture and it is surprising that God should have revealed such Secrets to the Heathen, but they kept it very secret.
After a while I saw the fundamental principles of this art, then I began working out the Best Tincture (but they all proceed, in a most indescribable manner from the same root), when I came to end of the Work I found such a beautiful red colour as no scarlet can compare with, and such a treasure as words cannot tell, and which can be infinitely augmented. One part tinged 1,500 pages Silver into Gold. I will not tell how after manifold augmentation what quantities of Silver and other metal I tinged after the Multiplication. I was amazed.
Whereof thou art a part,
What thou knowest of this art,
This is really what thou art.
All that is without thee
Also is within,
Thus wrote Trismosin.