NABOKV-L post 0019493, Tue, 23 Feb 2010 08:54:20 -0500

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Re: Bacon and Redwop, Nova Zembla in Wilson's poem
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Thanks to DZ for the translation below. It's a very odd assertion, I think, since Bacon was writing in Latin in the year 1252. Were redwop an anagram for powder in Latin and/or Middle English, as well as in modern English, it would be a statistical monster indeed. This anagram's history keeps getting weirder. I should say, however, that Bacon's letter is quite Nabokovian in its own way.

"It is written in the style of the Argyle cipher of 'Henry Esmond.' While the whole appears more or less connected and carries an apparent and superficial meaning, the secret sense is conveyed by a few words only. The significant words are not written in any regular sequence or with definite intervals between them, and the key to the cipher is evidently a piece of parchment with holes in it. When this is superimposed upon the page of writing, the words appearing through the holes constitute a clear and connected description of the preparation of black powder."
--"Roger Bacon's Gunpowder," Tenney Davis

Matt

PS: In my post on Wilson's "Pickerel Pond" poem, I should have noted the reference to Nova Zembla!

>>> "Dieter E. Zimmer" <mail@D-E-ZIMMER.DE> 02/20/10 11:41 AM >>>
This passage from the Pierer Encyclopaedia of 1861 explains that Roger Bacon in two of his works mentions gunpowder as used for fireworks and other amusements and so must have understood correctly how it works. However, he did not explain how it is made, mentioning it only anagrammatically as 'Redwop.'

Dieter Zimmer, Berlin

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