Johannes Trithemius and the orthographies of invention

Soon after Johannes Trithemius (1462-1516) arrived at the Schottenkloster in Würzburg, he was again expressly invited to join the company of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519) in Mainz and Cologne; his Polygraphiae was still in process. In his efforts to establish Trojan origins for the Hapsburgs, Trithemius managed to fabricate the existence of manuscript which contained the chronicles of Hunibald, supposedly a contemporary of Clovis (c.466-511); like Russian nesting dolls or black lacquered Japanese concentric boxes, the invention of Trithemius claimed to be based on older sources: the Scythian Wasthald, Heligast and Doracus, who traced the exploits of the ancient Franks to the wellsprings of history and the Fall of Troy. After inquiries, Trithemius claimed the manuscript was in Sponheim, or possibly the cloister library at Hirsau Abbey, but after repeated efforts, no manuscript of the sort was ever found. Until his death, Trithemius was derided as a forger by Konrad Peutinger and Johannes Stabius. All of this has been well treated by Tony Grafton in his most recent collection of essays.

What I recently found remarkable is the alphabet above, which I found in the 1550 edition of the Polygraphiae (fol. gir). Trithemius supposedly transcribed this from Wasthald, and it seems to visually link Gothic to Greek. Of course, Trithemius claimed the codex was difficult to read, but certain of the characters are genuinely rare (the doubled H for m can be found in a manuscript in St. Germain des Prés), and my access to an obvious source, the very real Frankish Benedictine Hrabanus Maurus (c.780-856), is distorted by the poorly printed entry in Migne’s Patrologia Latina. In any case, these letters were passed along by Henricus Cornelius von Agrippa to the cursory attention of Gerard Johannes Vossius in his Aristarchus, sive de arte Grammatica (vol. I.p.38), thence to the criticism of George Hickes and various Enlightenment-era French paleographers. In time, individuals like Johannes Goropius Becanus would take arguments drawn from etymology and inscriptions to entirely new levels of effort.