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VMs: Re: The Fontana ciphers

Hi everyone,

At 09:57 23/09/02 +0000, Philip Neal wrote:
I made some changes to my site yesterday but I had trouble uploading it. I'll try again tonight. I have started reading the Battisti edition but I haven't finished it.

I had a quick look at Battisti's Fontana nook in the Warburg this afternoon, plus the other two German articles in the same classmark (the fourth, the 1976 article by Marshall Clagett, was on the other Giovanni Fontana, as is the book "Fontana on Fountains" - Battisti bemoans this unhelpful overlap in his text).

Unfortunately, my German is even worse than my Italian (ie, I can't even order food in it). :-9

Fontana's cipher is a mixture of abstract mnemonics (for example, vowels are rendered as a circle with a single line radiating off in a NSEW compass direction), embellished mirror writing (for example 'd' and 'b' are each mirrored and have an extra short horizontal line added), and some pure abstract symbols for the remainder. With its integral mirror-writing, it's like a kind of simple steganography, once you get the hang of it.

BTW: in the cipher/crypto history literature, are there formal categorisations of cipher alphabets' letter-formations? I'm thinking of a set such as:
abstract mnemonics
embellished mirror writing
pure abstract
appropriated functional
appropriated esoteric
My guess is that this is the kind of thing Bischoff might well have constructed... but I haven't seen one in my reading. :-/

Also: some of Fontana's pictures are (to my modern eye) just amazing fun: I particularly liked the <<rabbit on a skateboard with a rocket-like explosion coming out from its, ummm, tail, heading towards a castle to blow it up, somehow>> illustration (folio 37r, IIRC?). Now that would be *my* kind of instrument of war - *very* Wile E. Coyote. :-)

I just wish I'd had time to scan it and post it here. :-/

Cheers, .....Nick Pelling.....