Steganographia: hoc est: ars per occultam scripturam

…hoc est: ars per occultam scripturam animi sui voluntatem absentibus aperiendi certa: praefixa est sua clavis, seu vera introductio ab ipso authore concinnata nunc publici juris facta

by Johannes Trithemius, Frankfurt: 1606

Steganographia is Johannes Trithemius’ most notorious work. Many claim that it is primarily a work of cryptology with a system of angel magic at its surface. A more accurate description is that Steganographia is a combination of the two that in combination form a highly sophisticated and quite brilliant system of angel magic. The preface to his Polygraphia equally establishes, the everyday practicability of cryptography was conceived by Trithemius as a “secular consequent of the ability of a soul specially empowered by God to reach, by magical means, from earth to Heaven”. His own words confirm his intentions to design a system for communicating with the otherworldly by means of cryptographic conjurations.

“The practicability of cryptography is secular consequent of the ability of a soul specially empowered by God to reach, by magical means, from earth to Heaven”.


Trithemius, mentor to Henrich Cornelius Agrippa, wrote Steganographia in 1499 and circulated in manuscript form for many years. In private circulation, it brought such a reaction of fear that he decided it should never be published. He apparently removed the more extreme portions which may explain why the “Spirit Compass Rose” is only partially filled in the printed edition. See Lemegeton Clavicula Salomonis #2 for further detail. It continued to circulate in manuscript form and was eventually published posthumously in 1606 at which time it was instantly placed onto the Index librorum prohibitorum. Some scholars consider Trithemius Polygraphia to be the second part of Steganographia, however based on the reaction from the Church, to is more likely that Polygraphia was a revision of his Steganographia.

Trithemius mentions Sepher Raziel as one of his sources when writing Steganographia. In 1508 (published 1605) he wrote a a book on counter magic in an attempt to create a “theologica magica,” a category of magic that was compatible with the liturgy of the Catholic Church. It is also included a bibliography of necromantic texts called, Antipalus Maleficiorum. Amongst them is an entry for Sepher Razielis and many others that he likely consulted for his Steganographia.

In turn, fragments from Steganographia can be found in countless grimoires from the 16th century onwards. Most notably is the Ars Theurgia-Goetia which is apparently a refactoring of Steganographia with the addition of more spirit seals, Solomonic conjurations, and rituals not present in Trithemius.

Facsimile Editions

Johannes Trithemius

Johannes Trithemius

Johannes Trithemius, born Johann Heidenberg, was a German Benedictine abbot and a polymath who was active in the German Renaissance as a lexicographer, chronicler, cryptographer, and occultist. He had considerable influence on the development of early modern and modern occultism

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