I'm definately thinking more along the lines of what Frogboy is thinking. Basically, there are a good number of techs that are there almost every single game, and then a plethora of goodie techs that appear occassionally and have a specific niche value.
I think, however, that hidden techs should have certain triggers that raise the probability of them being visible and researchable. These triggers could be almost anything. Hidden triggers could be anything from certain buildings that you own, to soldier types that you employ, to dungeons that you've romped, or the number of times you've cast spells from a certain school.
For instance, there might be a hidden tech called "Iron Wood Spears" which has a 1 percent chance of appearing at a specified point on the research tree for every lumber mill that you control. In other words, you are more likely to get more hidden techs related to woodworking if you are an empire that employs a lot of wood working, more likely to get more hidden techs related to alchemy if you use a lot of alchemy, etc. Besides, it would be silly to gain the "Alchemist's Fire" hidden tech if you don't have an Alchemy infrastructer. One, because it would be coming out of no-where and; two, you wouldn't have the infrastructure to put it to good use.
In the above case, there might be a total X number of hidden techs in the game, some of which might be discovered by two or three or four different sovereigns and some never at all during the span of the game (if not many people build Scholar's Guilds--- which is the trigger for "Dancing Quills"--- it's unlikely anyone will discover the hidden techs that uses a Scholar's Guild as a trigger.)
Another twist might be that only 1 sovereign might be able to get a specific special tech. It would work by counting up the total number of triggers currently in the game from all opponents, (let's say in this case lumber mills) calculate the percentage that each sovereign has and then distribute the tech to one of those sovereigns, with higher percentages attracting higher odds of being the recipient.