Vigenère, Blaise de°

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VIGENÈRE, BLAISE DE ° (1523–1596), French diplomat, humanist, and Christian kabbalist. As French ambassador in Rome from 1566, Vigenère sought out Jewish scholars and immersed himself in Hebrew studies and the Kabbalah. He became a pupil of Gilbert *Génébrard and Nicolas Le Fèvre de la Boderie, two eminent French Christian Hebraists, and first began to publish at the age of 50. Vigenère was a well-known translator, but mainly achieved fame as the author of books on alchemy, astrology, cryptography, and Kabbalah.

His works include a Traité des comètes avec leurs causes et effets (Paris, 1578); and a Traité des chiffres, ou Secrète manière d'écrire (Paris, 1586), which was quoted at length by his cousin, Claude Duret, in his work Thresor de l'histoire des langues de cest univers (Paris, 1613). Kabbalistic material was more prominent in his Prières et oraisons (Paris, 1595), probably based on the second translation of the *Zohar undertaken by Guillaume *Postel. Vigenère himself wrote that the contents were "mainly drawn from the Zohar, the Sefer ha-*Bahir or Book of Splendor, the Midrash Tehillim, and other little-known works." The Christian Kabbalah is again prominent in a work which appeared posthumously, the Traité du feu et du sel (Paris, 1608; Discourse of Fire and Salt, 1649). In his Traité des chiffres, Vigenère paid generous tribute to Guy *Le Fèvre de la Boderie and his brother Nicolas, whose achievements had never fully been recognized.


F. Secret, in: Bibliothèque d'Humanisme et Renaissance, 17 (1955), 294ff.; idem, Le Zôhar chez les kabbalistes chrétiens de la Renaissance (19642), 83–88; idem, Les kabbalistes chrétiens de la Renaissance (1964), 200, 203–8; Nouvelle Biographie Générale, 46 (1866), 140–2.

[Godfrey Edmond Silverman]