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VMs: John de Foxton's "Liber Cosmographiae"...

Hi everyone,

While browsing through the shelves at the Warburg (next to all its Voynich books!), I found "The Cipher Alphabet of John de Foxton's 'Liber Cosmographiae'", by John Block Friedman, excerpted from Scriptorium - International Review of Manuscript Studies, XXXVI, 1982, pp.219-235.

John de Foxton's cipher is simple, and used 135 times in his book to hide sensitive words or concepts - 12 of them relate to "sexual, gynaecological, or obstetric matters", for instance.

He also has a section on steganography, hiding his own name in "fortissime Xro tonante" - ie, FO-rtissime X-ro TON-ante. [*] Friedman remarks that this seems to correspond best to John Erghome's "octava occultatio", and gives an example of it (which I failed to copy down, sorry). Erghome was a significant book-collector of the 14th century, and (IIRC) one of John de Foxton's patrons.

When looking for analogous texts, Friedman namechecks the VMS a couple of times (though in a despairing "so much has been written elsewhere that I really don't want to say anything myself" kind of way), as well as Giovanni Fontana's books in cipher - but wasn't able to name any further examples.

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

[*] Perfection lies low in Germany, right? :-)