Title page of Cryptoryptomentyces et Cryptographiae, £4000 at Thomson Roddick.

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This 1624 book on codes and secrets that draws largely on and extends an earlier work by Johannes Trithemius called Steganographia is said to be the work of one Gustavus Selenus. That is in fact a pseudonym used by Augustus the Younger, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneberg, who as well as this work on cryptography, had also written on chess – and gave his name to a design of chess pieces. Tables and illustrations of ciphers, codes and cryptograms illustrate the work.

However, the title-page gives this work another claim to fame. It drew the attention of Sir Edwin Dunning- Lawrence, a British MP and lawyer. He saw in it pictorial puns that pointed to Francis Bacon (a skilled cryptographer) as the true author of the works credited to Shakespeare.

One panel is said to show Bacon handing a text to Shakespeare (the man holding a spear), while the panel at the foot of the page supposedly depicts Augustus holding the Cap of Maintenance over the head of Bacon as he writes.

Sir Edwin believed he had found cyphers in Shakespeare plays placed there by the ‘real’ author, Bacon.

He put forward his theories in several publications, including Bacon is Shake-Speare (1910), The Shakespeare Myth (1912), ‘Macbeth’ Proves Bacon is Shakespeare (1913), and Key to Milton’s Epitaph on Shakespeare (1914)

A first of the Selenus book, in an early calf binding, hammered for $6000 (£4800) in a PBA Galleries sale of February 2017 in Oakland, California.

Seven years later, at UK saleroom Thomson Roddick (20% buyer’s premium) in Carlisle, another copy in old vellum came up with the ownership inscription of Jo. F. Herbsteri, 1744.

It came from a north of England consignor. Offered in Cumbria on May 2, it sold at the mid estimate of £4000 to a North American phone bidder.