Anagrammatological studies

“Chercher L’Anagrammateur Royale!” – a cry that may well have been heard in and around the French Royal Court during the Renaissance period. The function of the Anagrammateur Royal was straightforward : “… to turn the names of dignitaries into flattering epithets.” as explained in the paper ‘Of Anagrammatology’ which was published in the special  ‘Literature and Pseudoscience’ edition of the journal English Language Notes (47.2, Fall/Winter 2009). It was authored by William Sherman, who is Professor of Renaissance/Early Modern Studies and Director of the Centre for Renaissance & Early Modern Studies at the University of York, UK. As well as covering the Elizabethan history of the anagram, Professor Sherman also touches on what might be called the New Anagrammatism – the modern-day use of anagrams by literary cipher-hunters, linguists and even cryptographers.

“…they now look like one of the twentieth century’s master codes – or rather as the playful, irrational, or inscrutable double of the systems pursued by the harder sciences.”

But, in the end, explains the professor –

“…anagrammatology can remind us that literature’s relationship to science (pseudo- and otherwise) has been closer and more complicated for a far longer period than we tend to remember.”

[Many thanks to prof. Sherman for his assistance with this item.]


With the idea of temporarily reviving the idea of an ‘Anagrammateur Royal’, Improbable presents an online competition, featuring a few modern-day variants on some current UK royal figures – yours to identify. The winner, defined as the first person to e-mail all six correct answers to : will receive no less than a full resolution complimentary digital copy of the very latest issue of the Annals of Improbable Research magazine (deadline for entries – April 30th)

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