Solomon or Salomon Trismosin[a] (fl. late 15th & early 16th-century) was a legendary Renaissance alchemist, claimed possessor of the philosopher's stone and teacher of Paracelsus. He is best known as the author of the alchemical works Splendor Solis and Aureum Vellus.
Little is known about Trismosin's life beyond the legendary tales of his journeys found in works attributed to him. These tales, according to historian of religion J. Peter Södergård, had little value other than providing an "aura of historicity" to the texts attributed to him. The name Salomon Trismosin is also likely a pseudonym. Occultist Franz Hartmann claimed the actual name of Trismosin was "Pfieffer" (though he provides no evidence for this claim) and historian Stephen Skinner suggests Ulrich Poysel as his name, being that he was also a teacher of Paracelsus. Most of the source for his life comes from a short autobiography written in Aureum Vellus.
He is said to have begun his interest in alchemy when observing an alchemist and miner named Flocker perform an alchemical operation that allegedly transmuted lead into gold. The miner died shortly after, never revealing his secret to the young Trismosin. This led to a lifelong search for such alchemical secrets.
In 1473 Trismosin writes that he set out on a travel to find a true alchemist. He found only frauds and fools claiming to have transmuted base metals into silver and gold, which put him off this search for some time. Having abandoned his search, he came to a college in Venice where he reports that he met with a German alchemist named Tauler. Tauler taught Trismosin his alchemical secrets and Trismosin learned how to transmute mercury into gold.
Patronized by a local nobleman, Trismosin claims he continued these transmutational experiments until the nobleman died in a hurricane. Later he claims that he learned the secret of duplication. He apparently later went to a place "where" he reports "kabbalistic and magical books in the Egyptian language were entrusted to me". He followed in a medieval Christian tradition of alchemists reporting their travels to the east, where they learned ancient and esoteric secrets of alchemy.
Paracelsus records he met Trismosin in Constantinople in 1520 where he was instructed in the art of alchemy. Little else is known of their meeting but Trismosin is best known today for his mentorship of Paracelsus.
Aureum Vellus is a Latin collection of treatises on alchemy attributed to Trismosin. The earliest version of the book was printed in 1598 in Rorschach, Switzerland; it was translated into French by an "L. I" in 1612 as La Toyson d'Or and translated from French into English by William Backhouse as The Golden Fleece (Ashm. MS 1395). The collection contains the earliest printed edition of Splendor Solis (see below) along with a short autobiography of Trismosin (which is the source for much of Trismosin's life) among other treatises. The book popularized many concepts from the Rosarium Philosophorum in Europe.
Splendor Solis is a very well known alchemical treatise. It was first printed in Aureum Vellus as part of a larger collection but is best known for a c. 1582 manuscript edition, painted beautifully with alchemically allegorical figures and heightened with gold. It has been called "the most beautiful and splendid treatise on alchemy ever made."
The manuscript consists of 100 pages of German text, interspersed with 22 large allegorical illuminations. The illuminations are steeped in symbolism and the specific meaning is not known; several are suspected to depict esoteric alchemical processes, possibly for the creation of the philosopher's stone.
- Other variations include Trismosinus and Trissmosin.
- Södergård, J. Peter (1996). "Decoding the Hermetic Discourse in Salomon Trismosin's Splendor Solis: A Semiotic Study of Three Ways of Reading". Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis. 16: 313–344. doi:10.30674/scripta.67236.
- Hartmann, Franz (1945) [1st ed. 1887]. The Life and the Doctrines of Philippus Theophrastus Bombast of Hohenheim: Known by the Name of Paracelsus (4th ed.). New York: Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company. p. 6.
- Splendor Solis. M. Moleiro.
- Skinner, Steven; Prinke, Rafał T.; Hedesan, Georgiana; Godwin, Joscelyn (2019). Splendor Solis: The World's Most Famous Alchemical Manuscript. Watkins Publishing. ISBN 9781786782595.
- "Salomon Trismosin's alchemical wanderings". The Alchemy Web Site.
- Waite, Arthur Edward (1921). "The Sun of Alchemy" (PDF). Occult Review. 33 (3): 135–141.
- Powell, Neil (1976). "The Medieval Masters". Alchemy, the Ancient Science. A New Library of the Supernatural. New York: Doubleday and Company. pp. 54–79.
- Patai, Raphael (1994). "Solomon Trismosin and his Jewish Master". The Jewish Alchemists: A History and Source Book. Princeton Legacy Library. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. pp. 268–270. ISBN 9781400863662. JSTOR j.ctt7zvb6p.30.
- Long, Kathleen Perry (1995). "Salomon Trismosin and Clovis Hesteau de Nuysement: The Sexual Politics of Alchemy in Early Modern France". L’Esprit Créateur. 35 (2): 9–21. doi:10.1353/esp.1995.0010.
- "Detailed record for Harley 3469". The British Library: Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts.
- "Splendor Solis images". The Alchemy Web Site.