Throughout its long history the Francis Bacon Society and many of its members have tried to find out if there are encoded systems in their works. Such discoveries according to their authors, have “proved” who wrote Shakespeare, or the real identity of Francis Bacon and his mother, for example. This has been a favourite pastime among Baconians but in the opinions of many these methods do not provide adequate proof of anything.

The list of cryptologists and their works appearing in the Index of Baconianas is long, too long to be enumerated here. Included are Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence a High Court Judge and Penn Leary an Attorney in the USA amongst others, and more recently Thomas Bokenham the past President of our Society, who developed over many years the “squared cipher” method which related together a number of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, until his death at the age of 93, in 2003.

Many people cannot come to terms with the meanings within the contexts of these several ciphers or their methods. They may not be particularly interested in them nor convinced of their validity. When asked if he thought a Judge in the High Court would accept a legitimately contrived cryptogram as ‘cast-iron’ proof of evidence a barrister, currently a member of the Society recently said: “No!” Why? “Because the Judge wouldn’t understand it!”

Considerable doubt was cast over practically all cryptography discovered up to about 1957, when a certain Colonel Friedman who was a professional American cryptographer published his book The Shakespearean Ciphers Examined.

Friedman’s opinion has been taken to be sacrosanct by many of the Society’s adversaries. He argued that professionally, ‘anagrams’ (a jumble of letters out of sequence, similar to the game of scrabble): B, C, A, N, O for example, found in a text, can be re-assembled to spell B A C O N, but may create random results depending on their length and therefore are not fool proof, as this method may be unreliable.

However, the “squaring” method developed and extended by Bokenham from his researches into the original work by Euan MacDuff (a Shakespearean actor) many years after the publication of Friedman’s damning report adds a greater degree of legitimacy, yet alone complexity, for those still interested in this pursuit. In fact, certain fresh laws (or axioms) have to be conformed to, in order to ensure total authenticity. Had these new encryptions been available and investigated by Friedman in his day, it would certainly have been possible for him to come to a different verdict.

A most significant chapter in Friedman’s book highlights the work of one, Walter Arensberg in America, an art collector and philanthropist who, between the years 1915 and 1921 collected works of modern art including those of French and American avant-garde artists he befriended; he became particularly close to Marcel Duchamp, the creator of a new art called: ‘Readymade’ who later he appointed as his agent. Arensberg made many attempts to unravel Bacon’s cryptography, following the formation of The Francis Bacon Foundation in U.S.A during the years 1937 to 1950, which he also funded. In this chapter there is acknowledged the validity of Arensberg’s method in principle, as Friedman states: ‘In my opinion’, Arensberg tells us (and we agree), ‘none of the methods to which I have referred has been proved to have been employed by Francis Bacon in the works of William Shakespeare.’ In spite of this, his own conviction remains unshaken: ‘The conclusive evidence that William Shakespeare is the pseudonym of Francis Bacon is incorporated in the original editions of the Shakespeare plays and poems. This evidence consists of cryptograms in which the name of the poet is signed as Francis Bacon.’

Later, Friedman quotes Arensberg as saying: ‘The numerical key-cipher employed by Bacon and by members of the Rosicrucian Fraternity is a method of representing a text by a number which is represented by another text.’ Friedman writes: ‘This is about the most comprehensible sentence in the book..’

But he goes on to rubbish other approaches of Arensberg who, by this time, has died and is therefore unable to reply to Friedman’s refutations. Arensberg focuses in particular on the play Cymbeline by Shakespeare and The Advancement of Learning (Novum Organum) by Bacon. He finds an anagram in Cymbeline (Act II, Scene IV, lines 78 – 95): ‘o, C, An, C, f.s. ni, Bra’, read as FRANCIS BACON. We have since discovered another one in Act IV, Scene II, page 390, which reads: FR BACON. But more importantly, in Jupiter’s Label (the prologue) there is decoded in sequence, and therefore not an anagram: FRANCIS St. ALBANS. This was published originally by Alfred Mudie in 1929 and later referred to in Baconiana in an article called The Cryptographers Corner (January 1939, no. 92), but apparently the importance of such a ‘sequential’ discovery (and there are several others to hand) noted by Mudie, escaped Friedman’s notice in the otherwise scathing comments made in his book.

By way of a simple example we reproduce below a novel method, which has just recently come to light:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1 A D G K N Q T X
2 B E H L O R U Y
3 C F I M P S W Z

Using the above Table for an encryption:

B A C O N (21 + 11 + 31 + 25 + 15) = S H A K E S P E A R E

In Simple Cipher (A=1, B=2..) = 103

= N O U S  K E Y .

Is it pure coincidence?

All this may sound unconvincing to the confirmed sceptic, and one needs to be reminded that these are subjective judgements by an observer, in the absence of any corroborative or so-called ‘cast-iron’ proof – whatever that may turn out to be.

But over many years there has accumulated more than sufficient circumstantial evidence, in our opinion, to justify a case for saying that Francis Bacon seems to have encoded encryptions, not only in his own work (Novum Organum) but in certain of the works of Shakespeare where Cymbeline is the prime example – beyond reasonable doubt. There are many works available on this subject and the reader is referred for instance, to an entire chapter devoted to it appearing in the new book by Peter Dawkins a renowned researcher, called The Two Poets.

Lastly – It was Mrs. Pott – the founder of The Francis Bacon Society – who published a book: Francis Bacon and his Secret Society in 1891, in which she had this to say about: -

What the Masons Conceal.

‘They conceal the art of finding new arts’.

The art of finding arts must certainly be a most useful art. Novum Organum is an attempt toward somewhat of the same kind. But I much doubt that, if ever the Masons had it, they have now lost it, since so few new arts have been lately invented and so many are wanted.

The idea I have formed of such an art is, that it must be something proper to be employed in all the sciences generally, as algebra is in numbers, by the help of which new rules of arithmetic are and may be found.

The Society believes this premonition by Mrs. Pott will turn out to be correct.

Peter Welsford, 2004.