Sunday, 1 June 2008

"Codes and Ciphers through The Middle Ages"...

I happened upon the following post a few days ago here, and thought I ought to reproduce it here for anyone that's interested (the cryptography history lane tends to be filled with caravans, and as a result is somewhat slow-moving). When the volume finally appears (in 2009?), I'll be just as interested in the paper on the Voynich Manuscript as the rest of it. Having said that, I'm a bit concerned that Kahn is not only misspelt but a little bit misrepresented (for instance, Kahn discusses medieval Arabic cryptology on pp.89-99) in the blurb.

Oh, and they're not interested in publishing two papers on the VMs in the same volume. Just so you know not to offer them one (like I did, *sigh*).

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Call for contributions for a volume of collected essays:

Codes and Ciphers through The Middle Ages

This call is designed to expand and enhance an essay collection that is based on two panels entitled “Codes and Ciphers through The Middle Ages,” which took place at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo MI, in 2006 and 2007.
It seeks to fill a major gap in the study of codes and ciphers in the medieval world. The codes and ciphers of the Middle Ages have received little or no modern scholarly attention. David Khan’s 1181-page volume _The Code-Breakers: The Comprehensive History of Secret Communication from Ancient Times to the Internet_, for example, devotes a mere thirty-four pages to the ancient and classical world, and little more than one sentence to the Middle Ages, claiming that “ciphers, of course, had been used by monks throughout the Middle Ages for scribal amusement” (106). But the construction and use of codes, ciphers, secret languages and mathematical secrets in the Middle Ages were much more than amusement: they were central to intellectual culture as modes of concealing dangerous, magical or secret information, and as a means of connecting oneself to the divine. As such, they appear in the writings of major figures ranging from Isidore of Seville to Hrabanus Maurus, Alcuin and Hildegard of Bingen. They also figure in the manuscripts of lesser known students of magic in Heidelberg, and numerous anonymous texts and manuscripts including Anglo-Saxon riddles, Old Norse literature and runes, and the computus. Clearly, codes and ciphers were a multilingual, cross-period, inter-cultural phenomenon in the Middle Ages; they warrant more scholarly attention. Given current emphases on “security,” and the proliferation of forms of encryption on the internet, fostering scholarly discussion of history of cryptography seems especially relevant to the 21st century. Current contributions address the uses of codes, ciphers, secret languages and mathematics in the writings of Hildegard, the Voynich Manuscript, Anglo-Saxon riddles, Hrabanus Maurus’ _In honorem sanctae crucis_, the Pseudo-Bedan _Propositiones_ and the _Propositiones ad Acuendos Juvenes_ attributed to Alcuin. While we welcome contributions on any aspect of codes and ciphers in any period of the Middle Ages, we are especially interested in essays that will widen the scope and increase the depth of the collection.

Please submit detailed abstracts or drafts of essays (style: CMS 14th edition) by 1 July 2008 to: Sharon M. Rowley at or

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