The identity of the Hypnerotomachia's author has remained uncertain for over five hundred years. In the absence of definitive proof favoring the Roman Francesco Colonna or his Venetian namesake, scholars have continued to grapple with the strange acrostic, Poliam Frater Franciscus Columna Peramavit, sometimes citing it as evidence of the author's mysterious intent.
Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498) was both respected and reviled by the citizens of Florence during his brief tenure as the city's religious leader. Though to some he remains a symbol of spiritual reform against the excesses of his time, to others he is known only as the destroyer of countless paintings, sculptures, and manuscripts in the bonfires for which he is best remembered.
As of the publication of The Rule of Four, no connection has been made between the Hypnerotomachia and Savonarola.
Richard Curry amends Browning's poem Andrea del Sarto to suit his needs, and Tom, remembering Curry's usage, does the same. Browning's original line is: I do what many dream of, all their lives (emphasis added). Tom and Paul sometimes refer to scholarly books, including those by Braudel and Hartt, by shorthand titles; and Paul, in his enthusiastic overview of Florence's history, indicates that Florentine artists and intellectuals spanning several centuries were living at the same time. Tom takes the liberty of shortening the official name of Princeton Battlefield State Park to Princeton Battlefield Park, of attributing Take the 'A' Train to Duke Ellington instead of Billy Strayhorn, and of suggesting, in his first meeting with Katie, that the name of poet E.E. Cummings was intended to appear in lowercase, when Cummings himself (in this respect, at least) probably preferred conventional capitalization.
The authors take responsibility for other inventions and simplifications. The Nude Olympics traditionally began at midnight-not at sunset, as The Rule of Four suggests. Jonathan Edwards was indeed Princeton's third president, and died as described in this novel, but he did not initiate the Easter ceremonies described here, which are fully invented. Though the eating clubs on Prospect throw many formal events each year, the particular Ivy ball Tom attends is fictional. And the floor plan of the Ivy Club, like those of a few other locations mentioned, has been changed to suit the needs of the story.
Finally, time itself has taken a toll on some of the Princeton fixtures so familiar to Tom and his friends. Katie's sophomore class was the last to run naked in Holder Courtyard on the night of the first snowfall (though it did so in January, not in April): the university outlawed the Nude Olympics just before Tom's gradmtion in 1999. And Katie's beloved tree, the Mercer Oak that once stood in Princeton Battlefield State Park, collapsed on March 3,2000, of natural causes. It can still be seen in the Walter Matthau movie I, Q.
In nearly all other respects, we have tried to remain as faithful as possible to the history of the Italian Renaissance and of Princeton. We are deeply indebted to those two great settings of the mind.
I.C. and D.T.