To celebrate the launch of The Secret Commonwealth, I thought I would share this deck of alethiometer cards I created. As alethiometers are even rarer in our world than in Lyra’s, I hope these cards can help you hone your skills in their stead.
Printing Your Cards
I recommend taking the PDF file down to your local copy shop and asking them to print the pages double-sided on thick card. They may even be able to cut them apart roughly for you, but you’ll probably need to finish them off at home.
Once you’ve cut your cards to size, you might like to use a dye-based inkpad to colour the edges of your cards. Try the colour out on a scrap of paper first. Gold acrylic paint would also look lovely, but make sure you clamp the cards tightly together, and cover the front and back of the deck so you don’t get paint on the face of the cards.
To assemble the box, I recommend using a glue stick. Double-sided tape is very strong, and convenient, but if your folds are slightly off, and the tape remains exposed, it will stick to everything. Forever. Wet glue is also not ideal, as it might cause the card to buckle.
The alethiometer was invented in Lyra Silvertongue’s world by a scholar named Pavel Khunrath. Our world’s Heinrich Khunrath was an alchemist; unlike his parallel-world counterpart, he neither invented a truth-telling instrument, nor was he burned at the stake, but he did publish a text titled, The Amphitheatre of Eternal Wisdom, of which Frances Yates writes:
“Except in the title, the word ‘Amphitheatre’ does not occur in the work, and one can only suppose that Khunrath may have had in mind in this title some thought of an occult memory system through which he was visually presenting his ideas.”
However, our world’s Giordano Bruno more closely matches Pavel Khunrath’s career. Bruno was a 16th-century occultist who was eventually tortured and burned at the stake by the Inquisition, and although he doesn’t seem to have developed a memory theatre, as other mnemonists had done, he did create an interesting memory wheel that worked by combination and in this sense bears some resemblance to the alethiometer.