In case there is anyone left on the planet who doesn’t know, The Da Vinci code is one of the best-selling novels of all time. The official Dan Brown web site is now claiming more than fifty million copies sold worldwide and the book has been translated into 44 languages. A major motion picture has now also been made of the book which will be launched worldwide at the end of this week.
Thanks to its religious controversy, record sales, high-profile court battles and the launch of the movie, it has also had almost non-stop press for the last few years.
My name appears in the acknowledgements of each of those fifty million copies.
As I have a unique name and as a surprisingly large percentage of the people who read book also read the acknowledgements (which appear at the start) I’ve been asked about my role an absurdly large number of times. (Dan Brown didn’t elaborate as to why I am thanked for reasons that are discussed later).
My acquaintances that know me the least are usually the most intrigued, wondering if I’m a secret member of Opus Dei or some other secret society mentioned in the book. Those that know me well have usually worked out that the link is anagram-related.
I am the author of the Anagram Genius technology which uses Artificial Intelligence techniques to make remarkable new anagrams of any text given to it and tries to make those anagrams fun, relevant to the subject and grammatical. It is now on its ninth major version and has a development history starting in 1988. (For more information see the anagram section of my personal site.)
As a consequence of my authorship of this software, the publicity I have had for it and the power of the internet in enabling people to find me, I get consulted frequently on the subject of anagrams.
It thus wasn’t a particularly unusual event when a customer by the name of Dan Brown emailed me in September 2002 saying he had recently completed a novel using anagrams that the Anagram Genius software had found. I’d never heard of him and when I went to his website and mentioned "the Da Vinci Code" in my reply, he was amazed that I had heard of it (until he realised I’d been to his site). We exchanged a few emails over the following months, I sent him a signed copy of my Anagram Genius book in exchange for the signed copy of the Da Vinci Code he sent me and the rest is history. I don’t think anyone could have fully appreciated the impact that publication would have before it happened. The non-stop publicity ever since has given me a more-than-minor feeling of surreality: what it has done to Dan Brown cannot be imagined.
The credit in the acknowledgements was originally going to be "William Tunstall-Pedoe and his Anagram Genius software" but by the time that the book got to the Galley Proof stage in February 2003 the reference to Anagram Genius had been cut by the publisher. The explanation for the removal was that any reference to anagrams in the credits might give away the first big plot twist to the reader. This seemed like a reasonable concern (but it didn’t stop the publisher putting a page of reviews at the start of the UK paperback mentioning anagrams).
The success of the Da Vinci Code has resulted in numerous spin-off products as people have rushed to try and cash in on Dan Brown’s success and Anagram Genius has been used for at least two of these as well. The author of the book The Secrets of the Code emailed me to tell me that a section of his book had been written using Anagram Genius showing what alternative anagrams Dan Brown could have used. He did give full credit to the software including a URL but (perhaps embarrassingly considering the title of the book) failed to realise that the same software had been used by Dan Brown. By the time I told him, it was too late to be mentioned.
The software was also used in The Da Vinci Game to generate all the anagram puzzles. They were also good enough to give the software a prominent credit.
Perhaps an untapped source of interest about my involvement is the fact that this may be the first time that Artificial Intelligence software has contributed to a novel. The fact that some of the wonders of the book came out of the mind of a computer and not from that of a human is surely noteworthy, particularly considering its huge success.