The rhetoric of secrecy is a recurring theme in the history of early modern science; but “secrets” and “secrecy” do not necessarily coincide. In the study of the dynamics of secrecy; the ability to withhold or share information in itself becomes a power enabling social control, regardless of the secreted content. This may be as much a matter of rhetoric as it is of a need to actually conceal information. Questions about the dynamics and rhetoric of secrecy are of special interest in the case of magic manuscripts. How much is this governed by a need to actually conceal content? This article argues that late medieval and early modern magic texts frequently included ciphers; however, they do not seem to be tools for hiding the message. Encrypting makes no content inaccessible. The function of ciphers was different: inviting engagement with the text, which can be described as a maneuver in the rhetoric of secrecy.


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pp. 125-141
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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