Rabanus Maurus (784?-856), the Archbishop of Mainz, was one of the greatest writers of the Carolingian age. Rabanus compiled an early encyclopaedia, wrote commentaries on the Bible, and devised a complicated system of coded poetry, shown here.
Princeton’s Magnencij Rabani Mauri De Laudib[us] sancte Crucis opus begins with an introduction by Jakob Wimpheling (dated 1501) and includes 30 full-page poems printed in red and black, followed by a transcript in ordinary type for the sake of clarity and a Declaratio explaining the whole ingenious arrangement. The encrypted poems are composed in a grid of 36 lines each containing 36 letters. Rabanus sometimes incorporated a figure within the grid, creating both a figurative and a literal picture poem.
Saint Odilo of Cluny, an 11th-century devotee of Rabanus’s poetry wrote “no work more precious to see, more pleasing to read, sweeter to remember, or more laborious to write can or could ever be found.” Gustav Mahler was also a fan and composed his 8th symphony around one of Rabanus’s poems.
Other images of these poems can be found at http://www.almaleh.com/