24 January 2009

Is there an Aldine conspiracy?

Was there an Aldine conspiracy? I'm not really ready to commit one way or the other, but if there was, I imagine that it would play out like this.

Aldus Manutius moved to Venice at the end of the 15th century and set up a print shop focused on the Greek & Latin Classics. In themidst of this he brings out a volume that sounded remotely classical, but that was erotic, disjointed, and heavily illustrated - apparently partially encoded. The book ~1505 was "The Hypnerotomachia Poliphilli" (THP). It has long been assumed that the book was a book of clues to a hidden treasure.

What if the original map did not get to the vatican, but was switched yet again with a meaningless map that was hidden in the Vatican. Then years later, the courier, whoever that was, makes a side-trip to visit a printer of classics who would love to get his hands on the library of Alexandria.

He convinces Aldus that the map is authentic and enlists his support in preserving it. They succeed in following the map, but it leads nowhere due to Gutenberg's doctoring. Frustrated, Aldus decides to preserve the map for his heirs and does so by hiding bits of it in the pictures and text of THP. The Aldines have been trying to make sense of the original map ever since. They believe the key to the map is in the mysterious other book of Gutenberg.