• Show transparency and repeatability.
  • Demonstrate a sufficient technology platform for upcoming experiments, using Google Colab.
  • Provide a provisional proof of the project’s main premise.

Future Experiments will focus more on Technology and less on background information.

Experiment One

with thanks to:

The primary goal of this project is to settle the controversy (which has been, improbably, raging for generations) about whether there are ‘Messages to the Future’ secretly embedded within the text of the First Folio of William Shakespeare.

There are. This project will provide visualizations which will demonstrate this, in a way which will be incontrovertible: that the First Folio is riddled with many diverse cipher systems, which have always been secretly lurking there since 1623 — though this is heatedly denied by some.

The 1623 Folio is the most-closely analyzed document in the history of the English Language. Yet, amazingly, its main reason-to-be, acting as a vehicle for the hidden messages, has slipped by almost completely unnoticed.

The evidentiary foundation of this project is the digital content generously provided to the public by the Bodleian Library of Oxford University, via the World Wide Web. Downloads are freely available of high resolution digital scans from one of their copies of the 1623 First Folio, one of the foundational documents of Anglo-American civilization.

A series of Experiments will be performed here, drawing from many online resources, but beginning with the Bodleian Library First Folio scans.

Comprehensive transparency will be striven for, going forward, in order to encourage independent repetition of the experiments, and publication of results.

This strange excursion begins at a most unlikely place: the Shakespearean play, Troilus and Cressida, which is widely understood to be the least successful of the 36 plays of the First Folio. It is rarely, if ever, performed. It begins with an even more unlikable one-page ‘Prologue‘, making it only worse, a slice of nothing-pickle on top of a nothing-burger.

But we put forward the hypothesis here, that the Prologue can be understood to be the intended entranceway to a wondrous cryptographic labyrinth, one which has been hidden in plain sight for precisely 400 years.

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And now that the entrance to the secret has been found out,
The world will wonder how it could miss it so long. —Fra Bacon

Troilus and Cressida is the only one of the 36 plays which doesn’t appear on the First Folios’s Catalogue page.

It doesn’t appear at all in the earlier press runs of the Folio. Additional evidence points to it being the very last of the plays included into the Folio. But why bother at all if it is so woefully lacking? Scholars seem baffled by it.

But the idea put forward here resolves the oddities:

It was always intended to be the worst of the 36 plays, with the Prologue being the most insufferable page of all.

The illustration below shows a digital reflection of the Bodleian Library Prologue page onto this website. It can be maximized and paged:

This Experiment is inextricably entangled with the work of the brilliantly accomplished American cryptographer William F. Friedman (1891 – 1969).

Friedman was one of the founders of the US National Security Agency, and many recognize him as being the foremost Cryptographer of the 20th Century. He may have coined the term “Cryptanalysis”

As a person, Friedman was erratic, complex, and a dubious character.

In a booklet (or ‘monograph’) published in 1916, while he managed the Cryptography Department set up within Riverbank Laboratories of Illinois (the nation’s first privately-funded research institute) he seems to be saying that he devoted several man years to the study of secret codes within the First Folio. (Why?)

Below is a view of his monograph, where he decodes the Prologue from Troilus and Cressida using the Biliteral Cipher of Sir Francis Bacon, which is first described in an appendix to Bacon’s magisterial classic, The Advancement of Learning (1623 edition). There, Bacon steps through the then-novel method of how to encode and decode embedded hidden messages, providing several illustrations drawn by his own pen.

Today we call it the Binary Code. It was the World’s first published description of the Binary Code, and its first real-world Application.

The illustration below shows a digital reflection of the page from Friedman’s 1916 monograph. It can be maximized and paged:

The Keys for Deciphering the Greatest Work of Sir Francis Bacon
26 Pages, Riverbank Laboratories, Geneva, IL, 1916

On Page 9, above, Friedman steps through the method used to decode the hidden message embedded within The Prologue.

The purpose of our Experiment One is to re-create this method using modern technology, and demonstrate its validity.

Results appear to show that Sir Francis Bacon (Francis St Alban) was, in fact, secretly one of the co-authors of the First Folio.

With each letter classified as to its a or b form, the procedure of deciphering was a simple step forward. Under each letter the original text was written the a or b designating the form to which it belonged, and the whole was then divided off into groups of five, each such group of a’s and b’s representing one letter as shown in Bacon’s cipher key (see page 4). Facing this page is a transcription of the “Prologue” arranged in groups of five:beneath each letter is the a or b, to which form each letter belongs. Each such combination or group will be found to represent a corresponding letter in the cipher key. This is shown in order to enable the reader to follow the method of deciphering —simple enough when the difficult preliminary step already described of assigning the letters to their respective class has been accomplished.
Wm F Friedman

Friedman’s description of the decoding method on Page 9 (left and below), is very terse, so next it will be expanded upon, with illustrations.

In the monograph, Friedman makes reference to Bacon’s cipher key, which encodes one letter of the alphabet (either upper or lower case) into a quintet of binary values, here, either an ‘a’ or ‘b’. This is equivalent to binary 1’s and 0’s.

A pair of Biformed Alphabets are also used, one each for upper and lower case. At left, the upper row of lowercase letters encode a printed letter with an ‘a’ form, while the bottom line encodes a lowercase letter into the ‘b’ form.

It can be seen that in some cases the difference between the two forms is easy to see (such as lower case ‘z’ here) but in other cases, (such as the letter ‘x’), the difference is miniscule. Readers don’t notice the two forms, however, so that blocks of text can contain roughly equal numbers of ‘a’ and ‘b’ forms; readers just pass off the lack of uniformity as Sloppy Typography.

Thus, secret messages can be concealed within a larger body of outer text.

The sample above from the Prologue clearly shows the two forms of upper case ‘T’. At the same time the lower case ‘h’s are nearly identical.

At left is a sample of Page 7 of the monograph, showing how the original First Folio text has been divided into groups of five, with each letter (and this is the hard part) already having been decoded as being ‘a’ or ‘b’.

Beginning with Experiment Two, automating the onerous process of classifying a letter as the ‘a’ or ‘b’ form (using AI technology) will become the major focus of this project as a whole.

But as Friedman notes in the last sentence of his description (on Page 8) his monograph illustrates the classification of the Biformed Values already completed. Therefore what comes next is relatively easy.

The following shows the above monograph illustration converted into a spreadsheet file:


The following provides documentation of a simple program which reads the spreadsheet file and processes it to reveal the hidden message, exactly, in principle, as documented in The Advancement of Learning. Using current technology, though.

Details of the technical setup in use are given in the Colophon Page.

The kind of document presented here (a Jupyter Notebook) records both the source code of the program (using the Python computer language), and also the output results produced by one execution of the program.

Lab Notebook, “Experiment-1”

In the paragraphs below, note that what Bacon called, “The Biliteral Cipher” is what we now call “The Binary Code”. And instead of illustrating it with 1’s and 0’s (as we do currently), he used a’s and b’s.

Especially please note the third row of the output at Out[61]:

And lower down the page, with every third row combined into the Raw Decoded Message:

Finally, providing some visual styling:

This exactly matches the paragraph “Deciphered Message” at the bottom of the page shown above in Friedman’s 1916 Riverbank monograph.

Sir Francis occasionally chose from a wide variety of name-variants with which to identify himself, but “Francis St Alban” would appear to be his most favored moniker, and the one he chose to make official.

So in the very first line of the decoded text, he covertly identifies himself as Author. Crucially, an intrinsic limitation of this steganographic method is that the inner and outer messages are directly coupled: the author of one also has to be the author of the other. Isn’t this proof?

Alternately, is there some kind of fakery that would be humanly possible to apply here, and produce the same result?

Experiment Four will endeavor to show how unlikely that is, preferably in a way which will be, if, as envisioned, nearly obsessively quantitative. This is in contrast to (it would seem) every other approach attempted so far, which was always giving deniers material to work with.


View the Jupyter Notebook: the experimental commands used here, and the results recorded.

View and download the Python source code from Github.

Independently run this experiment on Google Colab, or create a clone of it to run on a Colab account of your own.

How’s this for Transparency and Repeatability?

Notes for this page:

  • You don’t actually need Google Colab for a program like this, only Microsoft Excel (if you can stoop that low, I can’t). Next experiment, however, we begin Object Recognition using Convolutional Neural Networks on Colab to perform the Folio decoding for us.
  • The bizarre and seemingly inexplicable later work on this subject by W.F.F is the subject of this video by A.Px, and is foundational to this project.
  • One of the additional security features Fr.B built in was that the Cipher only lives within specific areas of the text of any public page; the Prologue to Troilus and Cressida is an exception, so it sticks out like a sore thumb. Within the Prologue, the cipher is present from beginning to end, including the heading, “The Prologue.” Many self-proclaimed “debunkers” overlook this key point.
  • So it appears that the Prologue page was inserted right at the very end, the last page added to the Folio, and was the last of an escalating spiral of hints and clues from Fr.B, who saw the decades passing by, and was facing Eternity, with no one apparently yet penetrating even the shallow layers of his multi-tier cipher system. The Prologue page therefore, is expected to be (by design) the simplest and easiest to decode of any of the 900+ pages of the Folio. It’s as though the owner of the hedge labyrinth was urgently pointing to the entrance, while there still was time.
  • The cunning design makes it easiest to decode the Prologue page, and also makes the decoded message to be found there, entirely scandal-free. So the expected initial message, if intercepted, is on one level, a sweet-and-light love-gift to the Queen (who was also secretly his biological mother). And also it was she who would have had him executed in a moment if any of the scandalous entries of his Secret Biography fell into her hands. Thus it is set up to offer her a sweet confection initially, “just in case”.
  • Put another way, it could have served him as an Early Warning signal that the lower levels of the cipher-system had been decoded, earlier than he was counting on.
  • After Elizabeth died in 1602, Fr.B was less in danger, and for this reason, he may have accelerated working even more hints and clues into the later editions of his works.
  • W.F.F may have plagiarized the decoding from the work of E.W.G., which, as mentioned, is the Hard Part.
  • E.W.G describes the result of her work on the play Trolious and Cressida as being a disappointment, there was no History-changing scandal revealed in the decode. Some have chided the formidable E.W.G as being blind to the big picture, since, what if it were true that the works of Fr.B contain (in summary) the poems of Homer and Virgil, steganographically? Wouldn’t that comprise a seemingly superhuman literary feat?
  • While the embedding of Homer and Virgil (if it is real) might appear to be a superhuman feat, there is something even eerier: notice that from the Bodleian Prologue page that the language is quintessentially Elizabethan, nearly incomprehensible to modern readers. Yet the decoded message which pops out (“Francis St Alban, revering…”) is modern, grammatically correct and perfectly spelt English. A worthwhile experiment would be to submit the decoded text to an English instructor for routine grading, not telling them in advance where it came from. How was Fr.B able to look into the future to know, exactly, how readers, centuries in the future, would be reading?
  • A key clue left by Fr.B is that his Cipher will appear especially in places where italickes are in use. The stage-directions of the scripts are one place. The Prologue is notably in line with this, the cipher lives within it from beginning to end.
  • The first book available to the public about the NSA was James Bamford’s, The Puzzle Palace in 1983. The existence of the NSA had remained a secret until then! In his book he says that the NSA’s main auditorium was named the William Friedman Auditorium.
  • The following links provide special express-service to the Riverbank monograph which delves most deeply into decoding the First Folio Biliteral Cipher, focuses on the Prologue:
  • 27/108 to 28/108
  • 95/108 to 99/108
  • A subtlety of the Cunning Design is that the line width of the of grid enclosing the Decoded message is 14 characters, exactly the width of “FrancisStAlban”. This is a hint that this name-variant was his most favored signature. If there is even a difference of one character in the undecoded outer text, this signature will not appear in the decoded text.

Copyright © 2024 New Gorhambury

The Tudor Rose

Respectfully dedicated to A. Phoenix, whoever you are

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