Hey folks, I know I haven't posted much in a while but it's because I went down a rabbit hole.

That Latin stuff I was transcribing two weeks ago comes from a book containing made up alphabets, which, you know, is occasionally relevant to our interests 😄

I've spent more time than I probably should have "researching" its author, but the upside was I had a reason to email the director of a rare books library in Germany, and we had a delightful correspondence.

So! Bullshit alphabet, anyone?

This alphabet and its neighbors in Johannes Trithemius's Polygraphiae are mainly intended to be used as elaborate ciphertexts; spies and ne'er-do-wells won't know what you wrote to your confidant if you swap alphabets.

The odd part about this is, Polygraphiae associates this fake alphabet with a fake bit of history, which Trithemius used while at the court of Maximilian I to establish a bloodline tying him, via the Habsburgs and Franks, to the survivors of the fall of Troy. For political clout.

Show thread

Trithemius died at age 54 under a barrage of accusations of forgery, which have persisted ever since. But he's also the inventor of the modern bibliography, the author of the first printed books on cryptography, and he personally amassed one of the greatest libraries of his time, before he was kicked out of his monastery.

I'm trying to say, empathize with him a little. His brief life was a jarring mix of highs and lows, and his legacy's got some good bits in it.

Show thread

You might've noticed that the images I posted above are in some disagreement. That's because the red and black one was published in a Latin book, and is made to correspond to the Greek alphabet transliterated into Latin, while the other image is a reproduction in an English book almost 300 years later, and tries to keep the glyphs in the same order while mapping them to the English alphabet.

I don't know, does consistency even matter when reproducing fictitious alphabets? I think it's handsome.

Show thread

I learned a lot while researching this, and I think the lesson that matters most to this community is, making up an alphabet from thin air is its own pastime with super old precedent. I don't mean a whole conlang (which is also neat), I mean just an alphabet to use instead of your regular one. As a creative enterprise, it has its own merits.

So that might be something I'll do soon. And if anything comes of it, I'll post it here. 😎 Probably won't be my next project, though.

· · Web · 1 · 0 · 4

@rezmason this was a fascinating thread to read thank you! Super interesting guy and the creative act of making your own alphabet is truly inspiring, esp if you consider the symbolic and pictorial meanings (much like Chinese characters/Japanese Kanji)

Sign in to participate in the conversation

Merveilles is a community project aimed at the establishment of new ways of speaking, seeing and organizing information — A culture that seeks augmentation through the arts of engineering and design. A warm welcome to any like-minded people who feel these ideals resonate with them.