Archival Documents   »”The Transmission”

Materials related to “Agrippa – The Transmission” (Dec. 9, 1992), which was originally planned as a multi-location “fibre optic and modem line” simulcast of live readings and images of the scrolling text of William Gibson’s poem. Not all the planned sites, events, and technologies of the “Transmission” actually occurred; and some sites, such as the Americas Society in New York City, featured only a local screening of Gibson’s poem.

Archival Documents   »Net Talk, 1992

Early anticipation and discussion of Agrippa on the New York City-based ECHO BBS.

Archival Documents   »Press Releases

Press releases for the publication and exhibition of Agrippa (a book of the dead).

Archival Documents   »Letters About Agrippa

Letters related to the design, publication, and exhibition of Agrippa (a book of the dead)

Archival Documents   »Exhibition Materials

Exhibition announcements, catalog material, and other documents related to showings of Agrippa. See also “The Transmission”

“I hesitated before untying the bow that bound this book together…”

Label on Agrippa CoverAgrippa (a book of the dead) appeared in 1992 as a collaboration between artist Dennis Ashbaugh, author William Gibson, and publisher Kevin Begos, Jr. The Agrippa Files is a scholarly site that presents selected pages from the original artist’s book; a unique archive of materials dating from the book’s creation and early reception; an emulation of Gibson’s included poem in its original born-and-die-digital form (it ran from a diskette once before an encryption-like effect made the diskette unrunnable); analysis of the code on the diskette resulting from a 2012 hacker’s contest; a simulation of what the book’s intended “fading images” might have looked like; a video of the 1992 “transmission” of the work; a “virtual lightbox” for comparing and studying pages; full-text scholarly essays and interviews; an annotated bibliography of scholarship, press coverage, interviews, and other material; a detailed bibliographic description of the book; and a discussion forum. (continued…)

New on the Site
Agrippa cryptography algorithm implemented in Javascript by Ayal Ryger. Can be used to decrypt the pre-encrypted text of Gibson’s poem; or to encrypt any plain text. (Only the decryption function was present on Agrippa’s disk to act on the pre-encrypted poem. The encryption function in this Javascript implementation was reverse engineered.)
Recovery of the code from an original 1992 diskette containing Gibson’s poem and an emulated “run” of its software. (Go to The Poem Running in Emulation)
Original footage from December 9, 1992, public debut of Agrippa at the Americas Society in New York City during the “Transmission” event. (Go to The “Hack”)
Essay by Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, with Doug Reside and Alan Liu, “No Round Trip: Two New Primary Sources for Agrippa



Annotated bibliography of published writings and online sites about Agrippa (a book of the dead) as well as its creators.

Archival Documents

Documents and media related to the creation, publication, and early reception of Agrippa (a book of the dead)

Montage of Documents

Agrippa (a book of the dead)

Agrippa (a book of the dead) was published in 1992 in two limited editions (Deluxe and Small) by Kevin Begos, Jr., Publishing, New York, New York. The deluxe edition comes in a heavy case designed to look like a buried relic and includes pages of DNA sequences set in double columns of 42-lines each like the Gutenberg Bible, copperplate aquatint etchings by Dennis Ashbaugh, and a poem by William Gibson on a self-erasing diskette. It was originally priced at $1500 (later $2000). Each copy is partly unique because of handmade or hand-finished elements. The small edition, set in single columns and without etchings, was sold for $450. See “Bibliographic Description” for a fuller overview of Agrippa and exact specifications.

The Beginning of “Agrippa” the Poem

I hesitated
before untying the bow
that bound this book together.

A black book:
Order Extra Leaves By Letter and Name

A Kodak album of time-burned
black construction paper

The string he tied
Has been unravelled by years
and the dry weather of trunks
Like a lady’s shoestring from the First World War
Its metal ferrules eaten by oxygen
Until they resemble cigarette-ash

Inside the cover he inscribed something in soft graphite
Now lost
Then his name
W.F. Gibson Jr.
and something, comma,

Then he glued his Kodak prints down
And wrote under them
In chalk-like white pencil:
“Papa’s saw mill, Aug. 1919.”

. . . . . . . . . . . .