Excerpts from Splendor Solis

Splendor Solis (‘Splendour of the Sun’) was considered one of the most beautiful alchemical treatises ever produced. This very popular book was attributed to a somewhat mysterious figure named Salomin Trismosin (supposedly the teacher of Paracelsus), which first appeared some time in the 1530’s. It included artwork by Albrecht Dürer, Hans Holbein, and Lucas Cranach. The Splendor Solis contains mostly allegorical text and a series of 22 images, but was considered sufficiently useful for alchemists that it was recreated dozens of times and has never gone out of print. It was considered the most important alchemical source besides the Emerald Tablet.

As with so many books of science or magic, multiple copies and hacks of the Splendor Solis are to be found. The purported author, Salomin Trismosin, is believed by many scholars to be the invention of disciples of the radical Swiss physician and practitioner Paracelsus. This work is a classical text of late medieval alchemy in that it was equally popular as a practical guide for aspiring chemists, with details needed for many key alchemical processes clearly and accurately laid out (albeit in allegorical format) in the book, while also being treasured by the devotees of so-called philosophical alchemy and other closely related brands of mysticism.

The flowing are images from the Splendor Solis, with a couple of excerpts from the text:

“The Black Sun”
“The drowning King”

THE THIRD PARABLE AVINCENA says in the Chapter on the MOISTURES:— “When Heat operates upon a moist body, then is blackness the first result.” For that reason have the old Philosophers declared they saw a Fog rise, and pass over the whole face of the earth, they also saw the impetuosity of the Sea, and the streams over the face of the earth, and how the latter became foul and stinking in the darkness. They further saw the King of the Earth sink, and heard him cry out with eager voice: “Whoever saves me shall live and reign with me for ever in my brightness on my royal throne,” and Night enveloped all things. The day after they saw over the King an apparent Morning Star, and the Light of Day clear up the darkness, the bright Sunlight pierce through the clouds, with manifold coloured rays, of brilliant brightness, and a sweet perfume from the earth, and the Sun shining clear. Herewith was completed the Time when the King of the Earth was released and renewed, well apparelled, and quite handsome, surprising with his beauty Sun and Moon. He was crowned with three costly crowns, the one of Iron, the other of Silver, and the third of pure Gold. They saw in his right hand a Sceptre with Seven Stars, all of which gave a Golden Splendor, and in his left hand a golden Apple, and seated upon it a white Dove, with Wings partly silvered and partly of a golden hue, which ARISTOTLE so well spoke of when he said: “The Destruction of one thing is the birth of another.” Meaning in this Masterly Art: “Deprive the thing of its Destructive Moisture, and renew it with its own Essential one which will become its perfection and life.”

“The Philosophers flask”
“The hermaphrodite with an egg”
“Miners excavating”

“AND THIS IS THE FIRST PARABLE: GOD created the Earth plain and coarse, and very productive of Gravel, Sand, Stones, Mountains and Valleys, but through the influence of the planets, and the working of Nature, the Earth has been changed into many forms. Outside there are hard stones, high mountains and deep valleys, and strange things and colours are inside the Earth, as, for instance, Ores and their beginnings, and with such things earth has come from the original form, in the following manner: Where the Earth first began to grow large, or to expand and multiply, the constant operation of the Sun-Heat also formed in the interior of the Earth a sulphury vapourous and damp heat, penetrating her through and through. This penetrating work of the Sun’s heat caused in the cold and damp of the Earth, the formation of large quantities of vapour fumes, fog and gas, all of which grow with the length of time strong enough to follow their tendency to rise, thus causing on the Earth’s surface eruptions, forming hill and dale, &c. Where there are such hills and dales, there the Earth has been matured and most perfectly mixed with heat and cold, moisture and dryness, and there the best ores may be found. But where the earth is flat there has been no accumulation of such fumes and vapours, and there no ores will be found, while the uplifted part of the soil, especially, such as has been slimy, loamy, and fat, and has been saturated with a moisture from on high; got soft again, forming dough-like layers one on top of the other, which in the course, of time, under the influence of the Sun’s heat, become more and more firm, hard and baked; and other ground as gravel and sand, brittle and yet soft, hanging together like grapes, is too meagre and dry, and has not received enough moisture, consequently it could not form itself into layers, but remained full of holes, like badly prepared pap, or like a mealy dough, which has not been watered enough; for no earth can become stone, unless it be rich and slimy and well mixed with moisture.”

“Saturn: dragon with child”
“Venus: the peacock”
“The philosophers beside the tree”
“The boiling man”
“The black man”
“Severing the head of the king”