[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: VMs: Latin Palaeography - Bernhard Bischoff

In a message dated 9/30/2004 2:28:59 AM Eastern Daylight Time, John.Koontz@xxxxxxxxxxxx writes:

5. Ciphers

The middle ages had a peculiar, playful relationship with cipers.  They
were used in many cases in which actual concealment was neither called for
nor earnestly intended.  German writing practice is especally rich in
these.  According to the short tract De inuentione linguarum (instead of
litterarum), published by Melchior Goldfast under the name of Hrabanus
Maurus, Boniface transmitted two systems of cipher in which the vowels a e
i o u were expressed by points or by the immediately following consonants
b f k p x; the latter system goes back to antiquity.  English examples of
the use of this cipher make the tradition plausible.  In Germany from the
ninth century on countless OHG glosses were written using both systems.
Other ciphers use the numerals for the vowels or for the letters [all
letter, or the consonants? jek], depending on their position in the
alphabet.  A further source of secret scripts was foreign alphabets, as
they occur in the above mentioned tract and, not infrequently, in other
manuscript collections:  runes (in later manuscripts often designated
'Syrian', 'Arabic', or 'Saracen' (!) [! in the origianl - jek], Greek,
Hebrew, and the alphabet of the so-called Aethicus Ister.  In addition
there are freely composed symbol alphabets which may have served for
personal use or as ciphers [of which Viynichese in the VMs is presumably
an example - jek].  A favorite method, finally, is the inversion of the
word or syllable.  The amalgamation of several methods is also found.
Ciphers are employed in the later middle ages above all in scribal
subscriptions, receipts, and charms, especially of a superstitious nature.

Speaking of ciphers.... This pastime was apparently popular among 9th - 10th century scribes:
(Apologies for lack of more details. This is just out of some notes I had jotted down for later reference.)
Page 27 of "The Cambridge Juvencus" (Helen McKee, CMCS Publications, 2000 ed.) mentions a cryptogram that "uses a code based on the Greek letters used for the numbers 1 to 23, each of which replaces the appropriate Latin letter in the inscription." (There was at least half a page of commentary, plus the translation, etc.)