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Historical Note

The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili is one of the most treasured and least understood books of early Western printing. Fewer copies of it survive today than do copies of the Gutenberg Bible. Scholars continue to debate the identity and intent of the Hypnerotomachia's mysterious author, Francesco Colonna. Only in December of 1999, five hundred years after the original text was printed, and months after the events depicted in The Rule of Four, did the first complete English translation of the Hypnerotomachia appear in print.

Gentle reader, hear Poliphilo tell of his dreams,

Dreams sent by the highest heaven.

You will not waste your labour, nor will listening irk you,

For this wonderful work abounds in so many things.

If, grave and dour, you despise love-stories,

Know, I pray, that things are well ordered herein.

You refuse? But at least the style, with its novel language,

Grave discourse and wisdom, commands attention.

If you refuse this, too, note the geometry,

The many ancient things expressed in Nilotic signs

Here you will see the perfect palaces of kings,

The worship of nymphs, fountains and rich banquets.

The guards dance, dressed in motley, and the whole

Of human life is expressed in dark labyrinths.

Anonymous Elegy to the Reader,

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili


The Rule of Four


The Rule of Four Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason | The Rule of Four | Prologue