In older writings, it should probably be no surprise that secret recipes and secret writing often go hand in hand.

Today I was looking through Trinity College Library MS. 1351 (shelfmark O.7.23), a late 15th century manuscript “in an ugly hand”. I was led there by Daniel V. Thompson’s (1935) “Trial index To some unpublished sources for the history of mediaeval craftsmanship” (in Speculum), which contains a long list of unpublished manuscripts, most of which have some “receipts” (recipes) for making colour.

Two nice things about this manuscript are (a) that Trinity College have digitized it and placed it entirely online; and (b) that the manuscript is (the catalogue notes) “likely MS. 34 in the Catalogue of Dr Dee’s library. Experimentorum diversorum liber. De vernisio quo utuntur scriptores. Secreta philosophorum. De usu virgae visoriae et huiusmodi secreta multa: papyro 8vo.

As a result, it links all the usual suspects in an interesting way: which was well worth a blog post, if you ask me. 🙂

Anyway, here’s a simple cipher I found on fol. 10r that I thought you might all particularly appreciate. Even though seeing its basic key is very easy, I think you’ll find it still takes more than a little effort to decrypt it all:

Today’s Simple Cipher


(Click on the above if you want a slightly higher resolution image to work from.)

Rather than just giving you the key, I thought it would be more fun to leave it to you all to see how you get on, I hope you don’t mind. Anyway, it’s much more fun than the GCHQ Christmas puzzle (which I actually thought was a bit tiresome).

Shall I give you a clue? Well… I wasn’t planning to, but seeing as you pulled that face… perhaps a small clue, then. Which is: you don’t actually need to be a cryptologist or code-breaker to break this cipher. Enjoy! 🙂

Anyone with a reasonably capacious memory for Voynich trivia will probably recall Tim Mervyn’s name. He has appeared in various Voynich TV documentaries, and has been grinding away on his ‘K:D:P’ (Kelley:Dee:Pucci) theory for many years (this was briefly summarized in Kennedy & Churchill’s book).

He has now resurfaced with six reasonably substantial essays (though not yet fully published yet, I think) giving his version of his three protagonists’ stories, as well as how he believes that these separate strands came together to yield the twisted and tangled shape of the Voynich Manuscript. In short, he thinks that it was Kelley:Dee:Pucci who created it, but that rather than being a hoax (e.g. via Gordon Rugg’s CompSci-inspired Cardan grilles), it’s actually a real cipher (albeit a rather complicated one).

I have to say that one hugely annoying thing about the way he presents his arguments is that he spends a whole lot of time specifically rubbishing Rene Zandbergen, for reasons that are neither accurate nor fair. Mervyn seems to believe (a) that Rene is hugely dogmatic about a 15th century dating (he really isn’t), and (b) that the only evidence Rene could possibly rely on to support such a dogmatic dating is the radiocarbon dating (it isn’t).

In fact, Mervyn’s arguments against a 15th century origin for the Voynich Manuscript are particularly superficial (he comes across as thinking that everything after D’Imperio is essentially nonsense), while his external arguments (e.g. against people proposing such obviously-crazy non-16th-century dating) are of the “well-they-would-say-that-wouldn’t-they” variety. This unfortunately weakens and cheapens what he’s trying to do, whereas I think he’s got quite an interesting story to tell, one which will take me a fair while to properly deal with here. For what it’s worth, I think he should have put more effort into bullet-proofing his own arguments rather than airily dismissing everyone else’s.

Still, I’m really excited about what Mervyn is doing, though for a reason he might not have expected. Without going all TL;DR on you, I have long argued that almost all John Dee literature tends to fall into exactly one of only two very precisely defined camps:

* “John Dee the magus, astrologer, angel summoner and esoteric magician”
* “Dr John Dee, the independent scholar and wannabe Elizabethan courtier”

Yet for me, though, there’s a third side of Dee that has almost no literature at all:

* John Dee, the would-be Court cryptographer

For example, many sections of Dee & Kelley’s angel séance texts boil down, in my opinion, to nothing more complex than accounts of experimental cryptography, a reading which fits both main camps extremely badly. And yet nobody has stepped forward to write about this at all, which I think is a large lacuna in the literature landscape.

So to my eyes, then, even if Mervyn’s six essays fail to give a satisfying account of the Voynich Manuscript (which I have to say from my first read-through looks broadly to be the case, though there is much of specific 16th century interest there all the same), they may well prove to be the first modern examples of the cryptographic Dee literature I’ve been waiting for for such a terribly long time.

…or are there more Dee-as-cryptographer books out there? My old friend and virtual sparring partner Glen Claston was himself very much taken with Dee’s cryptography, but never published anything (to my knowledge): so please let me know via the comments sections here if you know of any papers, articles or even book sections that cover this. Thanks!

A few weeks ago, some new ciphertexts pinged on my Cipher Mysteries radar: the story goes that they had been found just after WWII in wooden boxes concealed in the wall of an East London cellar that German bombing had exposed. Hence I’ve called them “The Blitz Ciphers”, but they’re probably much older than the 1940s…

They were handed down to the discoverer’s nephew (the present owner), who now finds himself caught between a desire for relative anonymity and a desire to know what they say. So far, he has been good enough to release three tolerably OK photos from a much larger set he took: but will these be enough for us to crack their cipher?

[Of course, despite the story’s plausibility, I have to point out that this might conceivably still be a hoax designed to make cryptographic fools of us: but if so, it’s such a classy job that I really don’t mind. 🙂 ]


Generally, the Blitz Ciphers’ writing appears to have been added in two hands: a larger, paler, more calligraphic presentation hand, and a smaller, darker, tighter annotation hand. While the presentation hand serves to establish the content and layout structure, the annotation hand is restricted to supplementary paragraphs and additional short notes apparently explaining key letters or terms.

Broadly speaking, the text on the first page (the ‘title page’, above) seems to have been laid down in three sequential phases:-
* #1: the circular ‘boss’ / ‘plaque’ and the two large paragraphs – large presentation hand, brown ink, quite faded in places.
* #2: the third large paragraph at the bottom – mid-sized annotation hand, brown ink.
* #3: the annotations to the other paragraphs – small-sized annotation hand, darker ink.
This general construction sequence seems to hold true for the other pages too.

The second page we have contains two curious diagrams: one a drawing of an octagon (though note that there is a square missing from the lines connecting all the vertices of the octagon), and the other an abstract tree-like representation of something unknown.

Our third page contains a large “John Dee”-like 20×20 square table, where each grid square contains individual cipher letters. The table has an array of red dots gridded within it, where each of the 16 internal red dots is surrounded by a letter repeated four times in a 2×2 block. Red dots near the sides all have two dotted square characters on the edge beside them, apart from a single one near the top right, suggesting a possible copying error. There is also a single correction (near the top left of the 20×20 table) made in the presentation hand.

The support material appears to be handmade paper (I don’t have access to them to look for a watermark, sorry!), while the inks for the two hands appear to be quite different. Though I can’t prove it, I suspect that the larger presentation hand was written using a quill pen (suggesting genuine age or some kind of ceremonial presentation aspect) while the smaller annotation hand was written several decades later with a metal nib. They could possibly have been written by the same person using different pens, but differences between the two hands argue against this.

My initial dating hunch was the first layer could well be 16th century and the second layer 17th century: but having said that, the whole thing could just as well be much more recent and instead have been deliberately written in that way to make it appear ‘venerable’ and old-looking. (More on this below.)

The Blitz Cipher Alphabet

The letter forms are clear, distinct, and upright: the presence of triangles, squares and circles and various inversions perhaps points to a cryptographer with a mathematical or geometric education. It’s closer to a demonstration alphabet (designed for show) than a tachygraphic script (designed for repeated large scale use). Here’s the provisional transcription key I’ve been working with:-

Despite some apparent ambiguities in how to parse or transcribe the various cipher shapes used, the fact that the 20×20 table has only a single letter in each cell is a fairly strong indication that each table cell contains a single cipher glyph, suggesting that about 50 distinct characters are in use. The text has a language-like character frequency distribution, with “:” [E] being the most frequently used character (the “tilted Jupiter glyph” [B] and the “joined-up-II glyph” [D] are #2 and #3 respectively). The “Greek phi glyph” [S] often appears at the start of lines and paragraphs.

I’ve shown all this to some cipher historians and codebreakers for their early reactions. Glen Claston notes that “the alphabet is based on the types of symbols used by astrologers, with a few I recognize as alchemical symbols“, though – inevitably contrariwise – I suspect this might well be a coincidence arising from the simple shapes and symmetries employed. Peter Forshaw suggests parallels with some geometric cipher shapes used in Della Porta’s “De furtivis literarum notis“, though Tony Gaffney similarly cautions that such “shapes were very common back then, the numerous ‘ciphers of diplomatic papers’ in the British Library are full of them“.

The Blitz Cipher System

As with the Voynich Manuscript, the peaky frequency distribution probably rules out complex polyalphabetic ciphers (such as Alberti’s code wheel and Vigenere cipher): yet it doesn’t obviously seem to be a simple monoalphabetic substitution in either English or Latin (but please correct me if I’m wrong!)

Unlike the Voynich manuscript, however, I can’t see any obvious verbose cipher patterns significantly above chance: so the main techniques left on the cryptographic smorgasbord would seem to be:
* a homophonic cipher, like the Copiale Cipher (but if so, the encipherer didn’t flatten the stats for “:” [E] very well)
* a nomenclator cipher (i.e. using symbols for common words, like “the”, “Rex”, or “Mason” 🙂 )
* an acrostic / abbreviatory / shorthand cipher.

All the same, there are some intriguing patterns to be found: David Oranchak points out that “‘SBDBlDMDBl’ is an interesting sequence, since it is length 10 but only consists of 5 unique symbols.” I suspect that the presentation hand uses a slightly different enciphering strategy to the annotation hand, which possibly implies that there may be some kind of homophone mapping going on. The fact that there is also an annotation applied to a single letter [c] on the title page may also point to a nomenclator or acrostic cipher.

Personally, I’m intrigued by the circular ‘boss’ at the top of the title page: this has three letters (C, M and E) calligraphically arranged, i.e. the two dots of the colon have been separated above and below the M. To my eyes, this looks suspiciously like a cryptographic conceit – might it be the case that “:” (E) is in fact a kind of letter modifier? For example, it might encipher a repeat-last-letter token (if the text had a lot of Roman numbers), or perhaps a macron-like “overbar” superscript denoting a scribal abbreviation (i.e. contraction or truncation). Something to think about, anyway!

As for the plaintext language: if this was indeed found concealed in an East London cellar, English and Latin would surely be the main suspects, though Tony Gaffney tried Latin and couldn’t find any kind of match.

Blitz Cipher Theories & Hunches

If you’re expecting me to start speculating that these documents were from a 16th century Elizabethan secret society frequented by John Dee and/or William Shakespeare, sadly you’ll be quickly disappointed. Similarly, though I concur heartily with Glen Claston that these genuinely intriguing ciphertexts may well ultimately prove to be high-ranking 18th century Mason or Freemason ciphers, it is just too early to start saying. We simply don’t know as yet enough of the basics.

What I personally have learned from the tragically fruitless, long-term debacle that is Voynich Manuscript research is that speculative theories are almost always a hopeless way of trying to decipher such objects. Hunches are cool and useful, but they need to stay restrained, or everything goes bad. Please, no theories, let’s try to crack these using the proper historical tools at our disposal!

I’ve just watched the National Geographic / Naked Science documentary on the Voynich Manuscript, courtesy of a Stateside friend (thanks!). Regular Cipher Mysteries readers will already know how my review of it is supposed to go – ‘that, despite a few inaccuracies, it was great to see the Voynich Manuscript being brought to a popular audience‘.

But actually, the whole thing made me utterly furious: it was like watching yourself being airbrushed out of a family photograph. Let me get this straight: I researched the history like crazy, reasoned my way to the mid-15th century, stuck my neck out by writing the first properly new book on the Voynich for 30 years, talked with the documentary producers, sent lists of Voynich details for them to look at, got asked to fly out to Austria (though they later withdrew that at the last minute without explanation), kept confidences when asked, etc.

And then, once the film-makers got the radiocarbon dating in their hands, my Milan/Venice Averlino/Filarete theory became the last man standing (Voynich theory-wise). So why did it not get even a passing mention, when just before the end, they thought to edit in a map of Northern Italy with swallowtail-merloned castles and the narrator starts (apropros of nothing) to wonder what will be found in the archives “between Milan and Venice”. Perhaps I’m just being a bit shallow here, but that did feel particularly shabby on their part.

However pleased I am for Edith Sherwood that her Leonardo-made-the-Voynich-so-he-did nonsense merited both screentime and an angelic child actor pretending to be young Leonardo, the fact remains that it was guff before the radiocarbon dating (and arguably double guff afterwards): while much the same goes for all the Dee/Kelly hoax rubbish, which has accreted support more from its longstandingness than anything approaching evidence.

Perhaps the worst thing is that we’re all now supposed to bow down to the radiocarbon dating and start trawling the archives for candidates in the 1404-1438 timeframe. Yet even Rene Zandbergen himself has supplied the evidence for a pretty convincing terminus post quem: MS Vat Gr 1291 was completely unknown in Italy before being bought by Bartolomeo Malipiero as Bishop of Brescia, and so its stylistics could not sensibly have influenced the Voynich before 1457. In fact, 1465 – when the manuscript was carried from Brescia to Rome and became much better known – might even be a more sensible TPQ. And that’s without the cipher alphabet dating (post-1455 or so) and the parallel hatching dating (post-1440 if Florence, post-1450 if elsewhere in Italy).

And I’ll leave you with another thought: a couple of seconds after hearing the Beinecke’s Paula Zyats say “I don’t see any corrections”, the following image got edited in – a part of the f17r marginalia that looks to my eyes precisely like an emendation.

Voynich Manuscript f17r marginalia

Really, what am I supposed to think? *sigh*

A nice email arrives from Anne Reeves of The John Dee of Mortlake Society: there’s an AGM scheduled for Tuesday 19th October 2010 at 8pm at St Mary’s in Mortlake (£5 for non-members, but includes a glass of wine), though you can turn up to chat from 7pm. According to the JDoMS’s newsletter, their guest speaker will be Jenny Rampling, who will give a talk on “Dee the Alchemist“. Rampling is a Wellcome Research Fellow at Cambridge’s Department of the History and Philosophy of Science, is doing a PhD on 16th century intellectual history, and even organized a two day conference on Dee at St John’s last year… so doubtless knows her stuff.

Given that I didn’t know that Dee had any strong connection with alchemy beyond owning a copy of the Voarchadumia (which reminds me that I still haven’t got round to reviewing that here, sorry!), this sounds fairly intriguing. Most of the ‘alchemical-Dee’ literature I’ve seen seems pretty speculative and thin (e.g. I’m far from convinced that the Monas Hieroglyphica is Dee’s alchemical pièce-de-resistance, even if lots of alchemists did appropriate his Prince-like monad), so it should be quite fun.

Oh, and if you can’t wait that long for your fix of Dee-related arcana, she’s also giving a talk at the British Society for the History of Mathematics Autumn Meeting and AGM on 2nd October 2010 in Birmingham, entitled “John Dee and the Elizabethan mathematics of everything“, which focuses more on his Mathematicall Praeface to Henry Billingsley’s (1570) “Elements of Geometrie“. Just so you know! 😉

The next European Skeptics Conference starts in Budapest in a few days’ time (17th-19th September 2010), and features Klaus Schmeh giving a talk on the Voynich Manuscript.

Though Klaus has invested a lot of effort into building up a hardline skeptical position on VMs theories (basically, that more or less everything written on it is either pseudoscience or pseudohistory), I personally don’t think this is particularly fair. Compared to the frankly fantasmagorical literature on the Phaistos Disk or even the wistfully nationalistic fancies floating around the Rohoncz Codex, I’d actually say that the majority of VMs theories do tend to rest on a far less rumpled bed of historical evidence and tortuous historical reasoning (if you put the alien Nazi Atlantean end-times theories to one side).

Yet it is also true that VMs theories also often share the same historical methodological flaw (some people would call it an “antipattern”). What I call the “Big Man” fallacy is the conviction that the only way of constructing a convincing explanation for the VMs would be to weave it into the narrative of a well-known historical (but occult- or cryptography-tinged) personality. As examples of this, you could quickly point to theories name-checking Roger Bacon, Leonardo da Vinci, Trithemius,  John Dee, Edward Kelley, Francis Bacon and perhaps even (I’ll say it so that Klaus doesn’t have to) Antonio Averlino.

Of course, the awkward truth about the Renaissance is that for every one half-decent such historical candidate, there were probably a hundred better qualified ones long lost in the fog of time: so the odds are always strongly against anyone succeeding in taking on the Voynich in the absence of proper scientific / codicological data to build upon.

Perhaps this marks the line between cynicism and skepticism I mentioned a few weeks ago: whereas a cynic dismisses any such speculative exercise as a unsupportable waste of effort, a skeptic realizes that the challenge of acquiring proper, revealing historical information is always going to be significant, and so struggles to retain a core of optimism. Is getting to such an extraordinary end line worth precariously balancing optimism and pessimism for? I think so, but… opinions differ! 🙂

Honestly,I do try to look at things that are entirely unconnected with cipher mysteries. But somehow (I really don’t know how) they keep creeping in regardless.

For example, last night I settled down to watch “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” on DVD with my son on loan from the library (the DVD that is, however hooked on books Alex may be). Big mistake. The central part of the film has Miss Eglantine Price (Angela Lansbury) scouring Portobello Road bookstalls to try to find the missing half of a grimoire for the secret of the Star of Astoroth (the film-makers meant “Astaroth”, of course, though it’s not clear whether this mistake was also in Mary Norton’s books from which the film was evolved [by replacing time travel with Nazis]). Bibliophily, demonology, magic, codicology: already we’re in prime cipher mysteries territory. 🙂


What is written on the Star is revealed to be “Treguna, Mekoides, Trecorum Satis Dee” – these are the words of the ancient “substitutiary locomotion” spell to make inanimate objects jump about (and fight against Nazis). But what do they mean? Well… Satis is obviously Latin for sufficient (which you may recognise from the Renault Vel Satis – curiously, even though it seems they were trying to allude to ‘satisfactory velocity’, vel actually means ‘(inclusive) or’ in Latin [which is presumably why logicians use ‘v’ for or]); while Dee is obviously a direct homage to our cipher mysteries chum John Dee. Trecorum seems to be some kind of dizzy half-child of trigarum [‘team of three’] and decorum: but Treguna and Mekoides seem just to be a bit of grimoirish fun. Let me know if I’ve missed anything. 🙂

Finally, perhaps the spookiest vaguely-linked item of the day has to be Angela Lansbury’s workout video, “Angela Lansbury’s Positive Moves”. According to mbot’s comment here, this includes “many chair-based exercises as well as a portion where Angela speaks to us while taking a bubble bath surrounded by candles. It’s kind of amazing.” I don’t know about you, but I feel fitter just thinking about it.

For decades, Voynich Manuscript research has languished in an all-too-familiar ocean of maybes, all of them swelling and fading with the tides of fashion. But now, thanks to the cooperation between the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and the documentary makers at Austrian pro omnia films gmbh, we have for the very first time a basic forensic framework for what the Voynich Manuscript actually is, vis-à-vis:-

  • The four pieces of vellum they had tested (at the University of Arizona / Tucson) all dated to 1420-1, or (to be precise) 1404-1438 with 95% confidence (“two sigma”).
  • The ink samples that were tested (by McCrone Associates, Inc.) were consistent with having been written onto fresh vellum (rather than being later additions), with the exception of the “cipher key” attempt on f1r which (consistent with its 16th century palaeography) came out as a 16th-17th century addition.
  • It seems highly likely, therefore, that the Voynich Manuscript is a genuine object (as opposed to some unspecified kind of hoax, fake or sham on old vellum).

The f1r cipher “key” now proven to have been added in the 16th/17th century 

The programme-makers conclude (from the ‘Ghibelline’ swallow-tail merlons on the nine-rosette page’s “castle”, which you can see clearly in the green Cipher Mysteries banner above!) that the VMs probably came from Northern Italy… but as you know, it’s art history proofs’ pliability that makes Voynich Theories so deliciously gelatinous, let’s say.

Anyway… with all this in mind, what is the real state of play for Voynich research as of now?

Firstly, striking through most of the list of Voynich theories, it seems that we can bid a fond farewell to:

  • Dee & Kelley as hoaxers (yes, Dee might have owned it… but he didn’t make it)
  • Both Roger Bacon (far too early) and Francis Bacon (far too late)
  • Knights Templars (far too early) and Rosicrucians (far too late)
  • Post-Columbus dating, such as Leonell Strong’s Anthony Askham theory (sorry, GC)

It also seems that my own favoured candidate Antonio Averlino (“Filarete”) is out of the running (at least, in his misadventures in Sforza Milan 1450-1465), though admittedly by only a whisker (radiocarbon-wise, that is).

In the short term, the interesting part will be examining how this dating stacks up with other classes of evidence, such as palaeography, codicology, art history, and cryptography:-

  • My identification of the nine-rosette castle as the Castello Sforzesco is now a bit suspect, because prior to 1451 it didn’t have swallowtail merlons (though it should be said that it’s not yet known whether the nine-rosette page itself was dated).
  • The geometric patterns on the VMs’ zodiac “barrels” seem consistent with early Islamic-inspired maiolica – but are there any known examples from before 1450?
  • The “feet” on some of the pharmacological “jars” seem more likely to be from the end of the 15th century than from its start – so what is going on there?
  • The dot pattern on the (apparent) glassware in the pharma section seems to be a post-1450 Murano design motif – so what is going on there?
  • The shared “4o” token that also appears in the Urbino and Sforza Milan cipher ledgers – might Voynichese have somehow been (closer to) the source for these, rather than a development out of them?
  • When did the “humanist hand” first appear, and what is the relationship between that and the VMs’ script?
  • Why have all the “nymph” clothing & hairstyle comparisons pointed to the end of the fifteenth century rather than to the beginning?

Longer-term, I have every confidence that the majority of long-standing Voynich researchers will treat this as a statistical glitch against their own pet theory, i.e. yet another non-fitting piece of evidence to explain away – for example, it’s true that dating is never 100% certain. But if so, more fool them: hopefully, this will instead give properly open-minded researchers the opportunity to enter the field and write some crackingly good papers. There is still much to be learnt about the VMs, I’m sure.

As for me, I’m going to be carefully revisiting the art history evidence that gave me such confidence in a 1450-1470 dating, to try to understand why it is that the art history and the radiocarbon dating disagree. History is a strange thing: even though thirty years isn’t much in the big scheme of things, fashions and ideas change with each year, which is what gives both art history and intellectual history their traction on time. So why didn’t that work here?

Anyway, my heartiest congratulations go out to Andreas Sulzer and his team for taking the time and effort to get the science and history right for their “DAS VOYNICH-RÄTSEL” documentary, which I very much look forward to seeing on the Austrian channel ORF2 on Monday 10th December 2009!

UPDATE: see the follow-up post “Was Vellum Stored Flat, Folded, or Cut?” for more discussion on what the dating means for Voynich research going forward…

Why, lookie here. An eBay trader is selling a $999 crystal ball allegedly from a boarded-up Voodoo family estate. It says here that the ball was manufactured according to the “alchemic recipe” given in “Apocalypsis spiritus secreti” (by the Venetian Giovanni Battista Agnelli, a book best known from its 1623 printed edition, but John Dee owned a copy too).

And if that alone is not enough to get you wrench open your chequebook against your will, you’ll be signing cheques in your own blood by the time you’ve read the next bit, just in time for Christmas delivery (of course):-

They name Wilfrid Michael Voynich along with his London & New York book shops as being the source of & a number of text & artifacts [in this estate] which their financial records corroborate. They name him as being “met and turned” in Italy in 1898 & apparently had dealings with him until his death in 1931, and with his wife until the time of her demise 1960, whom by the way, they claim “was known to us prior to their marriage”. The timeline makes this LiDiex no more than eleven years old at the time of his “turning”. They name Voynich as their intermediary with the Jesuits of Villa Mondragone in 1912. Their journal entries concerning the “Black Robes” as they refer to the Jesuits & their acquisition of “ancient devices and texts” span decades & a number of articles from this estate have such attributes.

The “LiDiex” is some kind of multi-generational voodoo craftsman, in case you’re wondering. Continuing…

They claim this sphere is, “one of the fifty three made for our Mistress’ use by alchemic recipe contained in the text”, pertaining to their copy of a 16th. century text titled, the Apocalypsis spiritus secreti, by Giovanni Baptista Agnelli, obtained by the Jesuits that allegedly belonged to a John Dee in the 16th. century & obtained by them in 1912. Here again we urge you to research the names mentioned here.

The 1888 LiDiex “under guise” is alleged to have accompanied Voynich to Villa Mondragone in 1912 where he gained access to items in the Jesuit’s possession. Some were purchased, but others were stolen, such as two crystal spheres that had once been the possessions of John Dee which they burgled, replacing them with glass.

John Dee, Wilfrid Voynich, Villa Mondragone, Jesuits, alchemy, Agnelli, LiDiex, crystal balls? Fabulous, amazing, incredible… nonsense, I suspect. Caveat lector, never mind caveat emptor. But make up your own mind!