A code to rival Da Vinci’s

In 1912, a bookseller rummages through trunks full of illuminated medieval manuscripts in a remote Italian castle converted to a Jesuit school. A small volume, not much bigger than a paperback, catches his eye. The bookseller—a Lithuanian immigrant whose past is shaded by run-ins with revolutionaries, anarchists and spies—realizes that the book is clearly older than the rest. It is also full of unusual drawings and is written in cipher.

The Friar and the Cipher: Roger Bacon and the Unsolved Mystery of the Most Unusual Manuscript in the World is the story of that code and the effort to decipher it. It is also the story of Roger Bacon, known as “Doctor Mirabilis”—the miraculous doctor—by his contemporaries, and of his bitterest rival, Thomas Aquinas.

More here.