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Of that secrecy which consists in the materials of writing, whether the Paper or Inke.
The severall inventions of the ancients for the private conveyance, of any written message, were the subject of the last Chapter.
The secrecy of writing may consist,
|either in|| / The materials,|
\ The Forme.
1. The Materials of writing are the Paper and Inke, (or that which is instead of them), both which may be so privately ordered, that the inscribed sence shall not bee discoverable without certaine helpes and directions.
1. The chiefe contrivance of secrecy by the paper, in use amongst the Ancients, was the Lacedemonian Scytale: The manner of which was thus: there were provided two round staves of an equall length and size: the Magistrats always retaining one of them at home, and the other being carried abroad by the Generall, at his going forth to warre. When there was any secret businesse to bee writ by it, their manner was to wrap a narrow thong of Parchment about one of these staves, by a serpentine revolution, so that the edges of it might meet close together: upon both which edges they inscribed their Epistles, whereas the Parchment being taken off, there appeared nothing but pieces of letters on the sides of it, which could not be joined together into the right sence, without the true Scytale. Thus is it briefly and fully described by Ausonius.
Vel Lacedemoniam Scytalen imitare libelli,
Segmina Perfamei, tereti, circumdata ligno.
Perpetuo inscribens versu, deinde solutus,
Non respondentes sparso dabit ordine formas.
You may read in Plutarch, how by this meanes, Pharnabaz did deceive Lysander.
'Tis true indeed, that this way was not of such inextricable secrecy, but that a little examination might have easily discover it, (as Scaliger truly observes) however in those ages, which were lesse versed in these kinds of experiments, it seemed much more secret then now it doe's unto us; and in these times, there are such other meanes of private discoursing, which, even Scaligers eyes, (as good as they were) could not discover. And therefore it was too inconsiderate and magisteriall a sentence of him, from thence to conclude, all this kinde of learning to bee vaine and uselesse, serving only for imposture, and to perplex the inquirer.
'Tis certaine that some occasions may require the exactest privacie, And 'tis as certaine, that there may be some wayes of secrecy, which it were madnesse for a man to think he could unfold. Furori simile esse videtur, sibi aliquem persuadere, tam circumspectum hominen esse posse, ut se a furtivo quodam scripto, abditaque machinatione tueri possit: nam astans quilibet, vel procul distans loquitur, & factum nunciat, ut non solum à nemine percipiatur, sed ne sic quidem significare quippiam posse existemet, saith Vegetius. And Baptista Porta (who had a strange and incredible ability in discovering of secret writings, yet doth ingeniously confesse, Multa esse posse furtiva scripta, quae se interpretaturum quenquam polliceri, furorem ac delirium plane existimarem.
So that though the ancient inventions of this kind, were too easily discoverable, yet Scaliger had no reason to conclude this to be a needlesse art, or hat therefore hee could unfold any other way that might bee invented. But this by the way.
2. The other materiall of writing is the inke, or that liquor which is used instead of it, by which meanes also, there are sundry wayes of secrecy, commonly mentioned in naturall Magicke.
Thus if a man write with salt Ammoniack, dissolved in water, the letters will not appeare legible, till the paper be held by the fire: this others affirm to be true also in the juyce of onyons, Lemons, with diverse the like acid and corroding moystures.
And on the contrary, those letters that are written with dissolved Allum, will not be discernable till the paper be dipped in water.
There are some other juyces hat doe not appeare, till the paper be held betwixt a Candle and the eye.
That which is written with the water of putrified willow, or the distilled juyce of Glow-wormes, will not be visible but in the darke, as Porta affirmes from his owne experience.
There is also a secret way of writing with two severall inks, both of them alike in colour, but the one being of that nature, that it will easily be rubbed or washed off, and the other not.
A man may likewise write secretly with a raw egge, the letters of which, being throughly dryed, let the whole paper bee blacked over with inke, hat it may appeare without any inscription. And when this inke is also well dryed, if you doe afterwards gently scrape it over with a knife, it will fall off from those places, where before the words were written.
Those letters that are described with milke or urine, or fat, or any other glutinous moysture, will not bee legible unlesse dust be first scattered upon them, which by adhering to those places, will discover the writing. This way is mentioned by Ovid,
Tuta quoque est, fallitque oculos e lacte recenti
Litera, carbonis pulvere tange, leges.
And 'tis thought that Attalus made use of this device, the better to excite the courage of his Souldiers. Being before the Battell to sacrifice to the Gods for successe, as hee pulled out the intrals of the beast, he described upon them these words, Regis victoria, which he had before written backward in his hand with some gummy juyce. The intrals being turned up and downe by the Priest to find out their signification, the letters did by that meanes gather so much dust as to appeare legible. By which omen the Souldiers were so strangely heightned in their hopes and valour, that they won the day.
Unto these experiments of secrecy in the Materialls of writing, some adde those other wayes of expressing any private intimation by drawing a string through the holes of a little tablet or boord; these holes should bee of the same number with the leters, unto which by compact they should be severally applied. The order of the threeds passing through them, may serve to expresse any words, and so consequently any sence wee would discover.
To this purpose likewise is that other way of secret information, by divers knots tied upon a string according to certaine distances; by which a man may as distinctly, and yet as Secretly, expresse his meaning as by any other way of discourse. For who would mistrust any private newes or trechery, to lye hid in a threed, wherein there was nothing to be discerned, but sundry confused knots or other the like marks?
The manner of performing it, is thus. Let there bee a square piece of plate, or Tablet of Wood like a Trencher, with the twenty foure Letters described on the toppe of it, at equall distances, and after any order that may bee agreed upon before hand, on both the opposite sides, let there bee diverse little teeth, on which the string may be hitched or fastned for its severall returnes. As in the following figure.
Where the string is supposed to be fastned by a loope on the first tooth, toward the letter A, and afterwards to be drawne successively over all the rest. The markes upon it doe expresse the secret meaning. Beware of this Bearer who is sent as a spie over you. When it is taken off, and sent to a confederate, hee may easily understand its intention, by applying it to his owne Tablet, which must be answerable unto this. The instrument may be made much longer then is here expressed: But if the matter to be revealed should happen to be more then the Tablet would beare, then may it be supplyed, either by another string, or else by beginning again with that part of the same string, wherein the last letter was terminated.
There may be divers other inventions of this kind, but I have not observed any more remarkable, then those which are already mentioned.