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Re: VMs: Arguments against a code book?

Hi Jean-Yves,

At 19:14 15/07/2004 +0200, you wrote:
Here is the book which was referred to hereafter, not that billig but looks exciting:

From Prof. David A. King Institute for History of Science Johann Wolfgang Goethe University D 60054 Frankfurt am Main

The Ciphers of the Monks. A Forgotten Number-Notation of the Middle Ages. David A. King Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, (Boethius, volume 44), 2001.

With indices. Hardcover, 506 pp.
ISBN 3 515 07640 9 $143.00

This book (I have my copy right here) is a treasure trove of information, with a densely packed 60-page bibliography: for example, (opening it at random) chapter four discusses the later 12th century English "ars notaria" (legal penmanship), and refers to (amongst many, many others) Charles Burnett's excellent "Notes and Note-Taking" - recommended further reading on the subject (as Professor Burnett always is).

Though "the ciphers of the monks" (of the title) seem nothing to do with the VMs in any substantive way, David King had to cast a very broad academic net in order to bring in a sufficient body of evidence to write this book - and in so doing, covers a great deal of Middle Ages-related shorthand and cipher sources. Any view of the VMs as somehow medieval (as opposed to early modern, which is quite different) should be informed by the kinds of sources cited here.

Incidentally, King writes (as an aside, page 176):-

I know of only two scientific manuscripts which contain coded scripts,
but these are unrelated to [the ciphers of the monks]. First, the coded
script attested in MS Cambridge Peterhouse 75.I of what is probably
the treatise on the equatorium by Geoffrey Chaucer. Five marginal
notes in this manuscript written in 1392 are in an alphabetic code
which was deciphered by the late Derek de Solla Price in his splendid
volume devoted to this text. <...> Second, in MS Munich Bayerische
Staatsbibliothek lat. (Clm.) 24104, fol. 79r, we find a colophon in code
at the end of some astronomical tables by the celebrated German
astronomer Johannes Regiomontanus (1436-1476). The date of
copying is 1487; thus the code is not in Regiomontanus' hand.

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

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