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The numerical-astrological ciphers in the third book of Trithemius' Steganographia

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Abstract

I solved both Trithemius's cipher and Heidel's encrypted solution in 1993 and published amonograph on the subject in 1996. In addition to drawing on my previous research, the following article includes several new observations and references, especially with regard to the chronology of the work, additional manuscript copies of the Steganographia, and the position of the Third Book within Trithemius's complete cryptological oeuvre.

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... 63 In 1577, Philip's enciphered correspondence with Don Juan d'Austria, his halfbrother and governor of the Spanish Netherlands, was intercepted by William of Orange. The Flemish cryptanalyst Philip van Marnix managed to read the dispatches, and William warned Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth's principal pri- [36][37][38][39][40][41][42][43]. It was this decryption that convinced Walsingham of the value of cryptanalysis, which led to his hiring Thomas Phelippes as his cryptanalyst and to the establishment of a cipher school in London. ...
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This chapter discusses the rise of cryptology in the European renaissance. The rise of cryptology in the Europe of the Renaissance period cannot consider this 15th-century development in a vacuum. It is true that the increasing power of the Italian city states and a growing papal authority may have hastened the perceived need for modern cryptographic methods, but this phenomenon has to be seen from a historical perspective. The various cryptographic methods developed in classical antiquity had been mostly lost during the Middle Ages. For this reason, it is interesting to see how gradually and over a period of perhaps 150 years early modern cryptologists became increasingly aware of classical western materials even though the entire body of advanced Arabic-Islamic cryptology remained inaccessible.
... The German scholar, Thomas Ernst-and simultaneously but independently, the American Jim Reeds-pointed out that the spirit names and numbers were not nonsense magical operations, but rather a code that could actually be cracked. 42 The third book was written to demonstrate the functioning of a cryptographic system (a homophonic system, by the way). However, it was also a case of steganography, that is, not only an enciphered but also a hidden message, where angel names and astrological data turned out to be the nonsecret content manipulated to disguise the message. ...
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The rhetoric of secrecy is a recurring theme in the history of early modern science; but “secrets” and “secrecy” do not necessarily coincide. In the study of the dynamics of secrecy; the ability to withhold or share information in itself becomes a power enabling social control, regardless of the secreted content. This may be as much a matter of rhetoric as it is of a need to actually conceal information. Questions about the dynamics and rhetoric of secrecy are of special interest in the case of magic manuscripts. How much is this governed by a need to actually conceal content? This article argues that late medieval and early modern magic texts frequently included ciphers; however, they do not seem to be tools for hiding the message. Encrypting makes no content inaccessible. The function of ciphers was different: inviting engagement with the text, which can be described as a maneuver in the rhetoric of secrecy.
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