Ciphers of Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon and his Rosicrucian fraternity made use of several different kinds and types of cipher, some of them to sign various published works issued outwardly under different names or pseudonyms, and some of them to give messages or teachings.

Bacon not only used cipher but also invented several ciphers of his own, one of which he describes in Book VI of the 1623 Latin edition of his Advancement of Learning (the De Augmentis Scientiarum, first published in English translation in 1640). This particular cipher he calls the Biliteral Cipher, which he says he invented in his youth whilst in Paris (1576-9). From the principles of this cipher Morse Code was later developed, and ultimately the binary system that computers use nowadays.

The simplest of the ciphers used by Francis Bacon and his Rosicrucian fraternity were numerical ones, wherein each letter of the alphabet has an equivalent numerical value. This is an ancient cabalistic cipher method, used in both the Hebraic Old Testament and the Greek New Testament for instance, but which has many possible variations.

Bacon’s cabalistic ciphers are based on the twenty-four letters of the Elizabethan alphabet. Three main variations are used—the Simple Cipher, the Reverse Cipher and the Kay (i.e. the ‘K’ or Key) Cipher.

The basic Simple Cipher (i.e. A = 1, B = 2, …Z = 24) is illustrated on page 141 in Gustavus Selenus’ great cipher book, Cryptomenitices et Cryptogaphiae, published in Germany in 1624. Bacon left a record of his highly developed version of this, which was published eventually by ‘T.T.’ (who is usually assumed to be Archbishop Thomas Tenison) in his Baconiana of 1679 under the title of Abecedarium Naturae (‘The Alphabet of Nature’).

Kay Ciphers are first mentioned by Francis Bacon in his 1605 version of the Advancement of Learning, but not described. In his 1623 Latin edition (the De Augmentis Scientiarum) he refers to them as the ‘Ciphrae Clavis’ (Key Ciphers). The Baconian, Mr. W. E. Clifton, discovered the working of this cipher with the help of two particular volumes from his collection of 17th century books—Thomas Powell’s The Repertorie of Records (1631) and a special edition of Rawley’s Resuscitatio (1671) of Bacon’s works—which alerted him to the fact that the cipher uses the twenty-six characters of the old alphabet primers, in which the Ampersand (‘&’) followed by ‘et’ was added to the twenty-four letter alphabet, and that K (which starts the counting) equals 10. Since the numbers 25 and 26 (which correspond to the ‘&’ and ‘et’) are treated as nulls, then A equals 27, B equals 28, etc..

The Reverse Cipher is simply the Simple Cipher in reverse (i.e. A = 24, B = 23, …Z = 1), and its use seems to be as an occasional double-check to the veracity of cipher signatures in the other two main cabalistic ciphers.

SIMPLE CIPHER

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

I

K

L

M

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12


N

O

P

Q

R

S

T

V

W

X

Y

Z

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

 

REVERSE CIPHER

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

I

K

L

M

24

23

22

21

20

19

18

17

16

15

14

13


N

O

P

Q

R

S

T

V

W

X

Y

Z

12

11

10

9

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

 

KAY CIPHER

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

I

K

L

M

27

28

29

30

31

32

33

34

35

10

11

12


N

O

P

Q

R

S

T

V

W

X

Y

Z

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

The principal cabalistic signatures used on monuments and in the various published works of Francis Bacon or ‘Shakespeare’, or the Rosicrucian fraternity in relationship to Bacon-Shakespeare, are as follows:-

Signature

Simple

Kay

Reverse

FRANCIS

67

171

108

BACON

33

111

92

FRANCIS BACON

100

282

200

FRA. ROSI. CROSSE

157

287

168

Fra. Rosi. Crosse stands for ‘Fratres Rosi Crosse’ (Brothers of the Rosy Cross) or ‘Frater Rosi Cross’ (Brother of the Rosy Cross).

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© Peter Dawkins, FBRT, 1999

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