Situating ciphers among alchemical techniques of secrecy


This paper offers a contextual framework for the historical analysis of alchemical ciphers. It argues that they differ from other ciphers due to their unique context: the alchemical tradition embodies a performative culture of secrecy, which employs a variety of techniques to achieve this performance. This paper contends that the distinction between ‘secret as content’ versus ‘secrecy as practice’ presents a useful framework for understanding alchemical rhetorics of secrecy and their relationship to alchemical cryptography. Additionally, it demonstrates how these principles can be applied in interpreting several examples.

Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Historical Cryptology HistoCrypt 2023. Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 195
Sarah A. Lang
Sarah A. Lang
Digital Humanities researcher

My research interests include leveraging Computational Humanities for the historiography of Alchemy and Chymistry. I am the author of the blog LaTeX Ninja’ing and the Digital Humanities.