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Giambattista della Porta, De furtivis literarum notis (Naples, 1563)

On Secret Writing

Della Porta was the most accomplished cryptographer of the Renaissance. This work includes a set of movable cipher disks to code and decode messages. A cipher disk is a paper rotating wheel attached to the page by a piece of string. The cipher disk, or code wheel, rotates to align corresponding characters for the code on the inner and outer dials.

The 1563 Naples imprint on the title page is fictitious. The book was actually published in London in 1591 by John Wolf. Scholars find this work interesting as a clue to possible cryptographical aspects of Shakespeare’s plays.

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Exhibit Gallery OERs

Wondertooneel: Women and Museums

Wondertooneel Learning Leaflet

What were women doing in the museum? 

Levinus Vincent, a wealthy Dutch merchant with ties to the East Indies, created a spectacular 'Chamber of Wonders' natural history museum in Haarlem. Visiting dignitaries admired his museum, including Peter the Great and King Charles III of Spain. The detailed depictions of interior spaces include figures of women engaged in a variety of activities. Museums such as Vincent's offered women opportunities for participation in the natural sciences as donors, collectors, discoverers, visitors, patrons, lecturers and curators. This OER explores the significance of women in these early museums.


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Maria Merian: World-Traveling Entomologist

Maria Merian Learning Leaflet

How do art and travel benefit natural history? 

Maria Merian (1647-1717), skilled in both art and natural history, studied the relationships between flowers and insects. She conducted field expeditions around the world, carried out research in gardens and museums, and produced detailed sketches and beautiful paintings, and even bred insects to aid in her entomological investigations. 


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