Friday, April 09, 2010


James Gaffarel (1601-1681) was a French scholar of Hebrew and astrology who was appointed as librarian to Cardinal Richlieu. He proposed in his Unheard-of Curiosities (English translation 1650) that the letters of the Hebrew alphabet could be read in the night-sky. Using the stars as a form of geomatria and an alternative to the Babylonian-Greek circle of animals or Zodiac, Gaffarel's cryptography was of sufficient interest to Sir Thomas Browne to not only introduced the word 'cryptography' into the English language in Pseudodoxia Epidemica but also alluded to Gaffarel in The Garden of Cyrus -

Could we satisfie ourselves in the position of the lights above, or discover the wisdom of that order so invariably maintained in the fixed Stars of heaven; Could we have any light, why the stellary part of the first mass, separated into this order, that the Girdle of Orion should ever maintain its line, and the two Starres in Charles's Wain never leave pointing at the Pole-Star, we might abate the Pythagoricall Musick of the Spheres, the sevenfold Pipe of Pan; and the strange Cryptography of Gaffarell in his Starrie Booke of Heaven.

Cabalistical heads, who from that expression in Esay (Isaiah 34:4) do make a book of heaven, and read therein the great concernments of earth, do literally play on this, and from its semicircular figure, resembling the Hebrew letter כ Caph, whereby is signified the uncomfortable number of twenty, at which years Joseph was sold, which Jacob lived under Laban, and at which men were to go to war: do note a propriety in its signification; as thereby declaring the dismal Time of the Deluge. (Bk 1 chap.4)

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