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Re: VMs: some thoughts/observations

Hi Nick et al

On 20 Feb 2004, at 10:53, Nick Pelling wrote:

Hi William,

The reason why cipher manuscripts aren't listed is probably that there aren't there to list. :-( Perhaps the closest to the VMs is the Giovanni [de] Fontana ms, which has some sections written in a (trivial) substitution cipher, but that's really about it.

BTW: there is a short shelf on ciphers at the Warburg (next to its VMs books & monographs, IIRC), but unless the Royal Holloway's Library has a surprising collection hidden somewhere, I guess that's your lot for London libraries. :-(

I'll have to check - I've not found time to go to other libraries. By chance I'll be at Holloway on 13th march - I'll check ahead and see what they have.

You also ask why many of us are dismissive of Kelley-as-hoaxer theories: my own opinion is simply that it is hard to explain why a hoaxer would go to the trouble of producing an ms with structure at every level - stroke adjacency, letter adjacency, letter pairs, word structure, word-initial, word-final, Neal keys, line-beginning, line-end, paragraph, page, language. The question also arises as to why they would use a character set which is unsuited to fast writing with a quill (this would seem to be a very poor decision), and non-flamboyant content (as opposed to alchemy or obscure religious symbols). Furthermore, even if you accept that they would be bothered to take all those on as design aims, what was their methodology - ie, how did they achieve them?

Gordon Rugg has made a spirited attempt to capture the essence of VMs-ness in tables & grilles, but it's an enterprise which seems unlikely to succeed, for the simple reason that there are too many parallel design aims which need to be satisfied at the same time. He has the right scientific intention - if it is a forgery, how was it created? - but seems not to have fully grasped the numerous different types of structure within the text. Of course, he may ultimately be proved right... but my guess is that this is unlikely.

BL:Sloane2624 ff17-20 is in Kelly's hand. Alchemical symbols are used in
the text.

I'd suggest that the best Dee/Kelley ms to look at is (the quite extraordinary) MS Sloane 3189 "Liber mysteriorum sextus et sanctus...". I've appended my notes on this ms below (originally posted to the list in August 2001), which you may find relevant.

He he he. I tried for two days to get that MS - it was being read by someone else in the reading room. The kindly staff even checked to see if the book was actually being used in case I could take an hour or so with it. No luck. Mysterious or what?

Thanks for the comments.


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