Painting #12: Sir Isaac Newton

BORDER PHRASE: “Jack be nimble, Jack [bee] quick, and Jack jumps over the flame.”




HIDDEN HARE: Hanging on the rack in the back of the picture.

CLUES & COMMENTS: This is the key to the whole book. The colors in the magic square pinned to the wall correspond to the numbers in the magic square on Miss Penny Pockets‘ wrist. This color sequence matches the rings on the puppets; when a line is drawn from the eyes through the longest finger/biggest toe on each creature in every picture in the book (as per the clue on the book’s title page, about using your eyes and pointing to the prize), the lines point to the letters on the border, and the master riddle phrase is spelled out: “Catherine’s long finger over shadows earth buried yellow amulet midday points the hour in light of equinox look you.” The first letter from each word in that phrase spells “Close by Ampthill,” a geographical confirmer and the heart of Kit’s riddle. The letters on Sir Issac’s magic square are the first initials of towns near Ampthill, and the numbers to which they correspond are their approximate distances from Ampthill in miles.

The game of “Jack Be Nimble” was from a rhyme chanted during the old game of candle leaping, which was played by lacemakers on St. Catherine’s Day. Catherine of Aragon introduced the Ampthill region to lacemaking.

Janet Fishwick notes that picture 12 is the most important in the book–but the painting before and the painting after it in the book are red herrings.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

james pareja March 10, 2012 at 7:22 am

There is another clue considering the fact that the REAL hidden hare is not the puppet hanging on the rack, but under Sir Isaac Newton´s left eye as a RED blemish..


Ron Schneider August 30, 2012 at 4:12 pm

One confirmer I’ve never heard mentioned ANYWHERE is the harebell. The harebell appears in a few of the paintings and is mentioned in a few of the corresponding pages of the story; but there are only two page/painting combinations where it is both in the painting and mentioned in the text/story… They are, of course, #4 & #12, the two keys to the whole puzzle.


Andy January 22, 2014 at 8:24 pm

Has anyone else noticed that reading row 2 column 1, to row 1 column 1 in the coloured square spell the word “key”?


Abi February 25, 2014 at 12:04 pm

I loved this book as a child and was devastated to find the hare had been found as I always thought I would be the one to find it!

I wonder if anyone has a diagram/picture of one of the pages of the book with the lines drawn through as when I try to do it it never works for me.

Why I am posting on this page specifically is I never understand the relationship between the coloured rings on this page and everything else, and why the order of them matching the square is relevant. I’m sure I’m being dense, though…


twl_corinth March 26, 2016 at 7:17 pm

If you read Newton’s square in the order of the numbers from Penny Pockets’s square, the colours of the letters follow a repeating sequence, red-yellow-green-blue. That suggests a sequence for the rings on Newtons’ fingers… which suggests a sequence for the limbs of the puppets… which then suggests a sequence for the “pointers” of each creature in the book! Left hand, left foot, right hand, right foot.

IMHO that’s all fiendishly subtle. But I suppose once you’d realized arms/legs were pointing to letters, the simpler paintings (eg #3) could give away the sequence of the limbs anyway. Even if you never noticed the limb sequence *or* creature hierarchy, you’d end up with a jumble of unsorted letters for each page, and you’d still have a fair shot at working out the phrases, as most of them lack a plausible anagram.


Squigs April 29, 2018 at 9:09 pm

Something I noticed while looking at this picture that could be a coincidence but is amusing either way: the rings attached to the puppets in the background are all different colors, and one of the hare’s happens to be red – a red hare-ring, perhaps?


Dan April 30, 2018 at 12:24 am

The colors do have a significance, but I would not put it past Kit to throw in a very subtle pun in the process. Good catch.


Gabriel August 12, 2018 at 10:36 pm

In case anyone’s wondering, the letters in the magic square denote towns and villages as follows:
1 – M – Millbrook
2 – F – Flitwick
3 – C – Clophill
4 – R – Ridgmont
5 – K – Kempston
6 – T – Toddington
8 – B – Bromham
9 – N – Northill
10 – DU – Dunstable
11 – HI – Hitchin
12 – OL – Olney
13 – WO – Wolverton
14 – PO – Potton
15 – ST – Stony Stratford
16 – EY – Eynesbury
The distances in miles are correct to within about 0.25 miles if you measure them from the burial location itself to the towns’ centres.


Dave October 9, 2021 at 2:59 pm

Back in the day, when the hunt was on, I believed that the letters shown in the Newton paper square , were each related to a picture.
EY – Equinoctial Year (Picture 2), ST – STroke, a pictogram of a swimmer (15), OL – Our Lady, a pictogram of a seated Madonna with halo, (6, with the references to chastity, also showing an ear of corn or “spike”, Spica being the star Alpha Virgo), WO – Watchet One (4, where the “1” square in the number puzzle is coloured a light blue, sometimes called watchet), PO – Polaroid (11, “green eye glass”), DU – Double U (5, a reference to the use of “u u” to represent “w” in the element puzzle), K – Koi (14, the carp’s tail pointing to “o” and “i”), B – Bee (13), T – Tea (12), HI – Prima Hyadum, (10, the brightest star of the Hyades cluster in Taurus, sometimes known as the “first little pig”. The sun rises in Taurus in May), C – Sea (1, Lunar seas, old and Cold), R – Robin, (8, the only in-offensive item in the picture), N – (9, ENd to ENd…), M – Morning, (3, the “Horning” of the moon meaning a crescent moon), F – Fall, (16, where the marionette has fallen down).
The colours of the letters in the Newton paper square, I also associated with the ring colours of the main marionette in the picture (Jack as opposed to Jill ?), whose limbs pointed to the alchemical elements – Earth – yellow, Fire – blue, Water – green, Air – red.
Some of my interpretations may of course be wrong, for example, the obvious clue “one of six to eight” passed me by completely.
However, using the picture borders, in one of the possible orders suggested, and, bearing in mind the phrase “Jack jumps over the flame”, coupled with the numbers in the sand square, and starting from the jester in picture 2, I managed to obtain a lucid message.
Unfortunately my original notes were thrown out many years ago, and I have been unable to replicate the message at this time, and so I will not give the message here, for fear of inaccuracy.
I will say though, that the message began with the letters A, U, R, which immediately caught my eye, as being the beginning of the Latin word for gold, Aurum, but it turned out that the message was a mirror image , which started Are You A…
Perhaps someone out there will be sufficiently interested to confirm my conclusions, and the message I found.


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