The Keys to The Da Vinci Code

Professor Thomas Beyer

Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code, has been an extraordinary commercial success. By the spring of 2005, the book had sold over twenty five million copies in more than forty languages. Responding to the widespread interest in Brown’s clever mixture of fiction and fact, at least a dozen books of commentary and criticism have appeared – some to explain the “hidden secrets” of the work, some to refute what they perceive to be the author’s attack on traditional Christian, or in particular Catholic, beliefs and traditions.

This project began as a first Year Seminar at Middlebury College where sixteen students used the work as the starting point for a seminar that focused on research methods and the preparation of scholarly responses – an attempt to identify and distinguish fact from fiction.  The annotations that follow were just one piece of the scholarly product, accompanied by research papers and oral presentations that are also appendixed. I was, however, interested as much in the process of scholarly inquiry as in the product.

What follows is a set of annotations organized by chapter. They contain more information than some will need, but they were and are intended to provide for the widest possible audience, including those for whom English is not their first language, a comprehensive guide to the novel. The choices of which items to annotate were left essentially to the students themselves. The selection and breadth and depth of their comments are based on their own perceptions and expectations of a potential readership. While I have provided some modest editing of the entries to provide uniformity, you will find a certain unevenness in the quantity and quality of different chapters directly attributable to their individual authors.

Students relied heavily upon electronic editions of the Oxford English Dictionary and the Encyclopedia Britannica for text, and on Google and Mapquest for images. All of these sources are cited appropriately throughout.

The Keys to The Da Vinci Code is not a commercial product. It is intended to share the scholarly efforts of future scholars with a wider audience. Those who wish to make use of the material contained herein are simply requested to cite the source as follows:

The Keys to The Da Vinci Code, ed. Thomas R. Beyer (Middlebury College: 2005).

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©Thomas R. Beyer, 2005.

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