Basil Valentine, or Basilius Valentinius, was the name of a distinguished and learned Benedictine monk, who wrote treatises on medicinal compounds and alchemy. Except there’s no record that this monk ever existed.

Back in the 1600s, the public believed that Basil Valentine was a member of the Order of the Benedictines, living in austere studiousness in Germany. They probably got the German part right, but the rest was wrong. Basil Valentine was a little like Betty Crocker, if Betty Crocker’s recipes occasionally killed people. Valentine’s original inventor was probably Johann Thölde, a German merchant. Thölde spent his days manufacturing salt and his nights attempting to be an alchemist.

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His alchemy was never successful, but Thölde really created gold when he created his alter-ego. Basil Valentine’s monastic lifestyle probably made people believe that he was the kind of guy who would create the philosopher’s stone, and then give away the secrets to it in his book, “The Twelve Keys of Basil Valentine.” It probably also made them believe that Valentine had their best interests at heart when he recommended, in the Triumphal Chariot of Antimony, they eat antimony compounds for everything from syphilis to the plague.

This killed some people, but it didn’t stop Valentine’s popularity. Valentine didn’t know medicine, but he provided some useful tips on how to get chemicals like acids and ammonia. This is why Thölde is the most popular choice as the main author of Valentine’s books. Thölde knew chemistry from his profession, and he worked on another book about antimony. Some people think he was the only “Basil Valentine.” However, today most people believe that Valentine’s books had many authors. After all, it’s not like the real Basil Valentine could complain that someone was impersonating him.

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