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Trithemius' Volvelle (also called a wheel chart, which is a type of slide chart, being a paper constructions with rotating part(s), usually fixed one to the other with just small pieces of paper).
Continuing on an earlier post on Trithemius’ beautiful title page , I’d like to look at some beautiful images of ciphers—writing systems that were meant to obliterate the original meanings of an original though so that it could be passed along in privacy and confidence—and I’m not referring (initially) to a graduate student’s masters on post-modernist post-structuralism, just to secret writing systems.
Continuing with Trithemius we’ll look at a relative simple cipher—uncommon alphabets. The Theban alphabet is a writing system of distant and mostly unknown origins. It was first published in Trithemius' Polygraphia (1518), in which it was attributed to Honorius of Thebes. Trithemius' student Agrippa (1486-1535) attributed it to Pietro d'Abano (1250-1316).  It is also known as the Honorian Alphabet or the Runes of Honorius
after the legendary magus (Theban is not, however, a runic alphabet), or the Witches' Alphabet due to its use in modern Wicca and other forms of witchcraft as
one of many substitution ciphers to hide magical writings.
In John Falconer’s Cryptomenysis Patefacta; or, The Art of Secret Information Disclosed without a Key (published in London, by Daniel Brown, in 1685) Among such signs and gestures Falconer includes Egyptian heiroglyphs and finger alphabets (dactylology), as well as this example of a bi-lateral alphabet:
Giovanni Battista Della Porta (1535?-1615), one of the founders of modern cryptology, wrote an encyclopedic work on ciphers and deciphering in De Fvrtivis Literarvm Notis. (Naples, Joa. Maria Scotus, 1563)—one of the great and most well-known ciphers in this work was the series of twelve alphabet ciphers in which the meanings of the letters of the second half of the alphabet are reversed to stand as the first half.
This image (below) is found in Bacon's De Augmentis Scientiarum, and shows the two
alphabets as designed by him for the purpose of his cipher. Each capital and small
letter has two distinct forms which are designated "a" and "b". The biliteral system
did not in every instance make use of two alphabets in which the differences were as
perceptible as in the example here given, but the two alphabets were always used;
sometimes variations are so minute that it requires a powerful magnifying glass to
distinguish the difference between the "a" and "b" types of letters.é.
FRANCESCO LANA TERZI (1631-1687)
Prodromo all'Arte Maestra.
Brescia, Rizzardi, 1670
Terzi was a polymath who interests spilled over in every direction—he thought in big terms (on flying machines and aeronautics) and little (devising new micrscopes and writing on the proper uses of the instrument), large civil engineering problems and mechanical engineering in general, not to mention such diversifie attention spent on the problems of hearing and speech, proposing methods for the blind to read and the deaf to speak.
John Wilkins’ Mercury the Secret and Swift Messenger (published anonymously (of course!) in 1641) was basically seen to be a warning to the Crown that secret messages could be easily and not-so-discretely passed along by th perpetraitors of Cromwell’s Rebellion—something that was not generally seen as being part of the arsenal of a combatant party. As noted by Lois Potter in Secret Rites and Secret Writing Royalist Literature 1641-1660. (Cambridge, 1989)
"The very existence of a science of cryptology was not taken seriously at least on the royalist side until very late. Hence even when a packet of royalist correspondence was seized in 1658 the authors did not think themselves in danger since 'every Person's Letter was written in a distinct Cypher and that contrived with great Thought.' Until someone showed them their own letters in a deciphered state the conspirators simply did not believe that it was possible for anyone to perform such a feat"
ALSO see this site.
Though largely based on the earlier works of Trithemius and Selenus, Wilkins did, among other creations in this book, have quite a lot to say on the musical cipher, a very small and non-complex version of which follows as an example:
“Where the 5 Vowels are represented by the minnums on each of the five Lines being most of them placed according to their right Order and Consequence only the letters K. and Q. are left out because they may be otherwise expressed ... By this you may easily discern how two Musicians may discourse with one another by playing upon their Instruments of Musick as well as by talking with their Instruments of Speech.”
Musical ciphers can be just a simple impossibility—they can conceal a cryptogram without changing a composition in any way.
Derrida and Reverse Cryptology
These are all fine examples of images of cryptographic systems, which is really all I wanted to look at here. The reach of cryptotology into other disciplines is wide an deep, though I 'd like to point out one example in literature in which there is a cyrpto-like effect resulting from an attempt at clarity. There are many examples of the use of cryptology as the basis for a novel--The Gold Bug, by Edgar Allan Poe; The Adventure of the Dancing Men, a Sherlock Holmes story by Conan Doyle; Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
R. Harris' Enigma; William Gibson's Neuromancer, and Ken Follett's Key to Rebecca are just a few examples. But seldom does there occur a cryptographic-like result from an attempt at clarity--this found in the work of Jacques Derrida. It is perhaps fitting that in a recently rediscovered catalog of the curiosity dealers Wiltin & Wanton (of Ashreville, North Carolina) there was discovered M. Derrida's own "cheat sheet" to his own impossible vocabularly. We attach it here:
Jacques Derrida’s 10-Second Intellectual Monster-Turning Travel Kit of Wordy Words
"Monsters cannot be announced.
One cannot say: 'here are our monsters',
without immediately turning the monsters into pets”—JD, 1979
“Words are nothing
and nothing is nothing,
then double nothing is words—JD, 1982
Jacques Derrida, Algerian-born philosopher and non-historian, came into prominence in America with his critical approach or methodology or philosophy of deconstruction.. In the areas of philosophy and literary criticism alone, Derrida has been cited more than 14,000 times in journal articles over the past 17 years; more than 500 US, British and Canadian dissertations treat him and his writings as primary subjects.
Owing to a monstrous schedule of speaking and writing it leaves little to wonder how M. Derrida infused his confusing private vocabulary. The mystery was partially solved in 1996 when an attaché case was discovered in M. Derrida’s vacated Muncie (Indiana) hotel room. Mysteriously the name tag on the old valise was that of Justice Louis M. Brandeis, but inspection of its contents revealed additional documents naming the owner as “:Mine” and “Jacques Derrida”. The valise, originally tied together with 150-year old paper, was filled with inscrutably marked papers-in-progress as well as notebooks written in non-discernable French and heavily ill-written English. Of the highest interest though was the “Word Machine” taped to the lid of the attaché, the contents of which we outline below.
Taped to the machine was the following note in which Derrida writes of himself in the third-person:
The Hydra has many heads. You will not be able to choose between this one on the one hand, on the other that. And the play of differences between the right and the left hand that Jacques Derrida insists on in writing about Heidegger's hand disrupts the demonstrability of the properly human as the being of pointing or monstration: Hands, that is already or still the organic or technical dissipation. Nonetheless, what is pointed out or towards, what may even be handed to you (t)here is an alpha-bête, an ABC of deconstruction and Derrida, a monstrous beginning, written without hands, and with the help of many hands.
Below we offer the monster’s tool of arranging and affecting words into being.
Assume that others will be confused by incorporating any combination of three-word phrases from the following constructions—just choose any one word from each of the three columns, put them together, and—voila—you’ve got the vocabulary that will confuse and delight your associates in the occasional way that Derrida did.
“Meanings have some when their infused with the infusion of applicable privilege falsehoods which heterogenate the stratagem dilemmas of truth strangleholds. Incipient speech sensates the implied messaging of meaning of words; we and I mean to retrend those meanings discursive into their logocentric signs or irrelevant relationships. That is my journey, and by journey I don’t mean journey.” --JD, 1972
For Deconstructionism, employ one word from each column
A B C
Alternate Privilege Sign
Structural Truth Relationship
Logocentric falsehood privilege
Hierarchical Communication Language
Phenomenological stability Strategem
Discoursive Dictible heterogeneity
Sensate Didactic Dilemma
So, for example:
“The hierarchical didactic privilege…”
A B C
Hypenable Structural Discourse
Lexic Metalanguage Signifier
Readerly Semiotic Strata
Writerly Proairetic Code
Non-being Internal Opticon
Interdisparity Semic Literaticity
French Structural Observata
Barthe- Bastioned Postulatorium
Hence, for example, using the above we can concoct:
“when reading the journals last night I took issue with the writerly semic observata of the….”
“The French semic observata of the …..”
and so on, forever, into the night, with no one being the caring wiser, or wanting to be. It is sometimes easier to hide something in plain sight, especially in an encoded system like Derrida, where the self-referential bits allude to other items which have no common base for understanding--therefore when something is hidden in reference to something else that has no meaning, then, well, the "meaning" part is up for grabs, and so one is necessarily wrong, or right.