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The Da Vinci Code
Best seller by Dan Brown

This very popular bestseller has re-awakened an interest in Leonardo da Vinci all over the world.
But are we sure that everything written about Leonardo’s works is true?
The story is gripping and although it is fiction, it does refer to many real events.
Some of these references concern Leonardo and may mislead readers who may think that some or all of the material is factual.


 
2 The Cryptex
Did Leonardo have a secret project?
 



These pictures represent the Cryptex, as described in the novel. Dan Brown writes that it was Leonardo da Vinci who had the idea of this miniature combination-lock strongbox. Indeed, the illustrated edition of the book includes a page from Leonardo’s manuscripts with a mechanism that appears to be similar to the one used for the Cryptex. The drawing in question is on a page from Manuscript B, folio 33 verso, to be precise. Leonardo’s design has nothing to do with the strongbox featured in the novel and there is no trace of this mechanism in the other Codices. So the author must have invented it. In fact, the drawings on this folio are: a means of wheeled transport, a cannon spindle and various mechanisms relating to a complex system with tip-up boxes of a size much larger than a lockable document box.




 

The page shown to readers of the novel is actually page 33v of Manuscript B. The machine described has nothing whatever to do with the Cryptex.


Manuscript B - folio 33 verso.

Leonardo’s drawings feature a great many more significant and mysterious mechanisms that deserve our attention: we would do well to study them closely. This is what L3 is all about. The fascination with the Cryptex and the confusion it has aroused is an indication of interest in a subject that should be approached with greater seriousness.

The design for the Cryptex is not by Leonardo.

 


The Cryptex described by Dan Brown is a little combination-lock strongbox for documents. It consists of a series of 5 rings set into a cylinder with a plug at the end. Each ring has a cut corresponding to a letter inscribed on the outside.
  If the rings are rotated so that the cuts/grooves are lined up, then the way is clear for the plug to be removed completely, revealing the contents of the hollow cylinder.

Mario Taddei (e-mail link)
   
 
 

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