Saturday, 14 December 2013
The Return of the Mysterious Xs in Johann Bessler's Apologia Poetica!
When I first wrote my biography of Johann Bessler (Perpetual Motion; An Ancient Mystery Solved?) I mentioned the existence of what I termed X's throughout Apologia Poetica (AP), at that time I had a suspicion that they weren't actually X's but something rather more mundane. - and it turned out that the character is actually a well-known abbreviation for Et Cetera. written not as we do etc, but as et - meaning, and the rest, or so on and so forth. Modern German also uses an alternative which is "und so weiter" abbreviated to usw but in print in Bessler's day the fraktur type was used, and the abbreviation was et, which does not immediately resemble the two letters it represents.
If there had been just an occasional use of the abbreviation then nothing remarkable would be inferred, however in his Apologia Poetica it is used so many times that one can only conclude that either the author had no idea of its proper use - or he was attempting to transmit a secret message via the X's and hinted at by the over-abundance of this abbreviation. In total he uses 684 so-called X's, in some places he uses two X's at the end of a line. In others he has ten consecutive lines each with an X at the end; but then he can go for twenty pages without a single X. On the other hand his other publications both before and after AP use no X's or etc's.
There was much discussion a while back on the Besslerwheel forum about the possible meaning of the X's and how to decipher them and the consensus was that the reason for the presence of so many could not be other than some kind of code. Given the sheer numbers plus the use of two on a line at times, seems to imply the possibility that each X indicated a letter within the particular line. I had already ruled out the possibility of each X meaning a word, because I went through the whole book looking for any kind of word within or near to any of the X'd lines which might be applied to the description of a wheel part - such as weight, lever, rotate, etc. - but none appeared.
One potential path worthy of investigation, I feel, are the passages which contain X's at the ends of several consecutive lines. I have done some work in this area without any success, but the potential to discover a significant letter within the indicated line seems possible. Given that Bessler would not have included this code unless he anticipated someone trying to break it, there has to be some kind of clue to aid someone in beginning to decipher it. One way to look for such clues is to find the unusual occurances of the mysterious X. So there are the passages with consecutive X's; the lines bearing two X's, presumably indicating the same letter twice; there is the presence of the X's even at the ends of some of Bible references which might seem the oddest place to put them.
What message might Bessler have hidden within the X's? Given the numbers of X's is 684, and assuming an average number of letters per word, as being five (taking into account one or two letters as well as longer ones) leaves us with about 135 words, which is actually quite a short message - about half the Gettysburg Address.
Any suggestions what the message might say?
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