View Full Version : Twelve Keys of Basil Valentine -- Correct Plate Orientation?

12-31-2016, 09:48 PM
Does anyone know the proper/original display of Basil Valentine's "12 Keys"?

"The 'Twelve Keys of Basil Valentine' is recognised as one of the most important and influential of alchemical works. It was first published in 1599 as a text only piece but achieved its widest distribution as part of a compendium the Tripus Aureus (Golden Tripod) edited by Michael Maier and published by Lucas Jennis at Frankfurt in 1618. This was later included in the more massive compendium Musæum Hermeticum also published by Jennis in 1625.

The earliest edition did not have any illustrative plates but Lucas Jennis provided twelve engraved plates (probably by Merian), one for each of the 'keys'. These plates obviously drew on the allegorical descriptive imagery of the text, but added a coherence to the symbolism." -Mclean

It appears to me these commonly circulated (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Twelve_Keys_of_Basil_Valentine) plates are mirrored backwards (http://www.levity.com/alchemy/twelvkey.html).

It makes most sense to me that this manuscript has the correct orientation (https://ia600302.us.archive.org/7/items/lesdovzeclefsdep00basi/lesdovzeclefsdep00basi_bw.pdf) of the "Twelve Keys". Notice the how the signature of the artist is on the plates, and how the Sun is on the right and Moon is on the left on the majority of the plates.

Can anyone here clear this up for me?

01-01-2017, 12:34 AM
Interesting observation, but do you feel it matters if it is mirrored?


01-01-2017, 01:54 AM
Interesting observation, but do you feel it matters if it is mirrored?

In several engraved books it would not be incredibly relevant, but in the 12 Keys it would be relevant. The 8th Key has a "hint" about how to read the images:


I am using the "conventional images", not the "reversed" ones that Schmuldvich posted (I am calling them "reversed, though I do not discard that he can be right... it's interesting to investigate it).

So... you have a lot of things in this image, but ONE of them is 2 archers. The one on the left has been shooting with a 0% of accuracy... he never managed to shoot the center of the target.
The one on the right made 3 shot and one of them managed to hit the center of the target.

This idea has been understood by many as a guide about hot to read the images: from right to left (like a hebrew text)... as if they were showing you a process that has an order and the right way to "read" it is from right to left and not the other way (or you'll miss the target).

So it is a book in which "left and right" matters. You know, it's like a "sequence"...

Other than that, the book is filled with references to the cardinal points... so if the images are mirrored and the illustrator understood correctly what Basil Valentine said (I am saying it because Basil Valentine was not involved in the making of the engravings), then if the images are "mirrored", then you have 2 cardinal points "misplaced" in each drawing.

So it does matter in this case to know which ones are the "real" drawings IF we assume that the illustrator did a good job (i.e, if the drawings are more than simple "decorations").

01-01-2017, 04:22 AM
Solid reply, zoas; your input is always appreciated

Dev, I think it matters. As was pointed out by zoas, yes, with these particular plates and accompanying text it is relevant because we are to see these plates as one whole...in sequence. What is facing one way may be "away" in one display and "towards" in another. Not only that, but I find it is important with inspired art to denote which hand or arm is doing what. Right hand generally aligns with "doing" whereas left hand tends to imply "receiving". Many more examples, such as if the Sun is on the right and Moon on the left, or if they are juxtaposed, could have meaning assuming of course that these "drawings are more than simple decorations", imo

For example...


In the First Key we see the man on the right (the same side as the Queen) with the wolf jumping over the crucible on the left (the same side as the King)...or...do we see the man and the Queen on the left side of the image starting things beginning the sequence, with the King and wolf jumping over the crucible on the right leading our eye to the next plate in sequence? Which makes more sense?

Also worth investigating in the First Key is if the Queen is holding the flowers in her left hand or right hand, and if the King is holding his sceptre with his right or left hand. Both meanings have relevance, but one has the true implied meaning of the original artist.

Is the man on the left side or right side of the Ninth Key? Which direction is the top bird facing...towards the previous Key, or is it facing towards the next Key in sequence? Which way is the three bottom principles spinning...clockwise or counterclockwise? Again, relevant.

The Twelfth Key has the Sun on the left and Moon on the right..., or does it show the Sun on the right and the Moon on the left? Is the Artist holding the instrument with his right hand implying he is actively involved in the process, or is the tool in his left hand with the implication he is just observing the ongoing processes? Etc.

01-03-2017, 10:32 PM
I had wondered if a key to the sequence might be, in assigning 12 signs of Zodiac to the 12 keys, maybe using animal reference.
Also, Libra- scales, Sagitarius - archer, Gemini- Janus, Saturn- Capricorn & Aquarius

Also I had wondered if you could look at the 12 keys, and how they correspond to the 15 (?) plates of the Mutus Liber. (Some of the plates of the ML are very similar to each other and some people considered them a repeat)

For example :
Plate 4 & 9 & 12 ML - show catching of celestial rays = Key 2 BV - refers to condensation of solar rays
Plate 6 ML - shows a 5 petal flower, = Key 5 BV - shows a 5 petal flower
Plate 7 ML -purification of Saturn by fire & water = Key 1 BV - grey wolf is being purified by fire, also Saturn
plates 10 & 14 of ML might correspond to key 6 of BV (weights & measures)

01-03-2017, 10:57 PM
I had wondered if a key to the sequence might be, in assigning 12 signs of Zodiac to the 12 keys, maybe using animal reference.

They match in a very interesting way the "Nuctamerom" (attributed to Apollonius, though it's obviously a false attribution). Just find the original version (I mean "original" because during the XX century some "mediums" corrected it by "channeling" new versions which are pointless). But it is interesting to cross the 12 keys and the nuctameron.

01-04-2017, 07:18 PM
what about XII =

I suggest reading Ripley’s, Key to the Golden Gate and St. Dunstan: Philosophia Maturata, to apprehend the nature of the starting matter. YWorth is good but Bolnest is better to achieve the means for Weidenfeld’s philosophical menstrums. The “work on metals” is to no avail unless you can make a simple philosophical mensturm.

Knowing the means to the above is mental gymnastics until you can make a Vegetable Stone in the lab. Once you can do that you will realize the difference between the White and the Red. Hollandus’ Vegetable Stone and Ripley’s and St. Dunstan’s White are the same Way of the Poor.

All is done with the one thing only which was once living, if you can catch the Spirit in that Dragon fire. The artful manipulation of heat allows the Spirit to fashion a new body from the death’s head in the Dragon’s fire. All of this is done with the elements obtained from the Dragon’s fire.