By Todd Garrison

This blow-by-blow account was created for all the Neal Stephenson readers who, in anticipation of his upcoming book, Quicksilver, took it upon themselves to try to solve the cryptographic puzzle they encountered at the Baroque Cycle Web site. If you had difficulty making heads or tails of it or are simply curious as to what it all means, what follows is an explanation of how one person arrived at the solution. Bear in mind that this narrative will reveal the translation of the code written in Wilkins’s script, so if you are still interested in solving it for yourself, you may want to reconsider reading further.

Some time ago I received an email from HarperCollins’s Author Tracker system, notifying me of some news relating to the publication of Quicksilver. I was directed to their promotional Web site,, where they had posted some information about its release date, an author bio and an excerpt from the book. Now sated, my attention was drawn once again to its strange introductory page. Without fanfare, nor any form of communication whatsoever, appeared this image of some parchment strewn with strange symbols. Added in the corners were little icons of what appeared to be oldish-looking glassware. What a strange way to welcome you to the site, I thought. In order to get to the Good Stuff, one must first pass through this page—an indication that it was meant to be noticed. Was this some sort of secret message? If this had anything to do with Neal Stephenson, I found it hard to believe it was all just window dressing. Sensing there was a mystery to be uncovered, I decided to dive in and see what I could come up with.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

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