The Somerton Man, Virginia and North Carolina…?

Though his recent attempt at crowdfunding via Indiegogo fell well short of the mark he aimed for, Derek Abbott is back in the news again (well, Channel 9’s 9News, anyway).

Today, he’s revealed that his wife (Rachel Egan) has consented for her DNA to be put in a kind of DNA search engine: and that this has revealed potential matches with eight families in Virginia and six families in North Carolina, all of whom he has now contacted.

The particular family tree also has a connection to Thomas Jefferson, which was a nice media bonus: though that link wasn’t enough to get American crowdfunders to pony up for a ride on his seaside donkey when he partially revealed it earlier in the year. Oh well.

And there is always the possibility – I hate to mention it, but because it’s the blight of DNA paternity testing, I thought I really have to – that Rachel Egan’s grandfather was someone else entirely. Hence it could easily play out that, “Who Do You Think You Are?” final-reel style, she and Derek A will trace her grandfather but find him to be someone who definitely didn’t die on/near Somerton beach in 1948.

But, as Tamam Shudologists will be quick to point out, we have evidence of American stitching in his coat and some Juicy Fruit chewing gum in a pocket (though I’d point out he can’t have had much fun chewing gum with hardly any teeth): so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he was indeed an American.

Something to chew on, anyway. 😉

“My life is all but over…”

It’s all very well concluding (as Aussie über-codebreaker Captain Eric Nave seems to have done back in 1949, later followed by Jim Gillogly and many others) that the curious message on the Rubaiyat is acrostic rather than enciphered: but does that help us crack it at all?

Ragged Right / Rubaiyat

Because the lines are strongly ragged-right justified, others have suggested that the letters taken as a whole may well encrypt an acrostic poem: and given also that the cryptogram was itself written on the back of a soft-back book of poetry, I personally have long struggled to come up with anything that seems even half as plausible.

Note that I’m really not saying here that the Rubaiyat cryptogram is necessarily a love poem: the poems in the Rubaiyat cover many different emotions, thoughts and feelings (perhaps most famously drunkenness, regret and mortality), so there is still plenty of room for manoeuvre.

However, I think that the presence of the crossed out line #2 (“MLIAOI“) and the extremely similar (but far from identical) line #4 (“MLIABO AIAQC”) is an extremely strong indication that what we are looking at is not a transcription of something that previously existed (say, of a telegram or of a speech) but is instead a record of composition by the author him- or her-self.

That is, I think the writer was probably making up a poem in their head and was quite possibly writing down the first letters of the words in that poem as an aide-memoire to themselves. He/she started to write down line #2 but then realized it was out of order, crossed it out, and wrote down the real next line (line #3), followed by what we now see as line #4.

The first big question, then, is about what the precise relationship between line #2 and line #4 is. Clearly they are not identical: yet they seem to share many of the same words, and very likely the same rhythm and meter. Hence it seems likely that “AOI” is somehow interchangeable with “ABAOI”: though unlikely to be the same, I think it is likely that they work the same within the overall poetic framework.

I am now strongly convinced that only one of the many, many claimed solutions for these lines proposed over the last 60 years that I have seen comes close to approaching the right combination of features that match this template of likely features:

* My Life Is Almost Over, I…
* My Life Is All But Over, And I Am [Quietly Content?]

Note that the scansion and meter are both far from exact here: but as melancholy Strine poetry goes, it’s far from terrible.

What About The Rest?

Line #5 seems (to my eye) to end with an underlined ‘R’: if this is indeed an acrostic letter (and not, say, the second half of the ‘AR’ Morse Prosign for “All Received”), then I do wonder if it is short for ‘Repent’, a fairly decent (and Rubaiyat-themed) rhyme for ‘Content’.

At the same time, if line #1 and line #3 end with D and P respectively, might it be that they rhyme? What D-word and P-word pair not only rhymes but also has roughly the right stress pattern that could be of any use in Strine poetry?

My guess is that if someone were to write a programme to generate potential D-/P- rhyme pairs, there would be only be something like 20 or 30 high ranking candidates (for example, I suspect we could safely rule out ‘Damn’/’Pram’, ‘Deep’/’Peep’ and so forth). Whether that would be enough to infer the rest of those two lines from their last words is marginal at best, if not questionable. All the same, finding good rhymes to go there might well be a good start: so why not try? :-)

Freemasonry and three snakes…?

Though it’s probably no surprise to any of you cleverly inferential bunch, I’ve just got back from holiday – hence Cipher Mysteries’ pin-drop quiet for the last few days.

Anyway, one of the [inevitably many] cipher-mystery-related things I read/re-read while away was a rough-and-ready English translation of the Copiale Cipher, which appears to have been composed by a German ‘Oculist’ secret society in the 1740s.

Pages 100-101 say (I’ve reformatted it into a list, but kept the clunky translation intact):

The so called key *tri* has in its turn something very special, it seams to be thought of beginning from agitation, is commendable by means, and it perished to a great part, as follows:
* On the green cloth there is first of all an olive branch, this is the sign of piece and tranquility.
* Secondly, the drum is there, so that its acoustic noise bum bum bum gives the sign for a general revolt.
* Thirdly, the fama, which signals the alarm with the trumpet, calls the *bigx* together again to regain their natural freedom and therefore to build a corps.
* Fourthly, the three-headed monster means the rule and governance, which, by means of power and perfidy, deprive man of his natural freedom and enjoyment of the timely things and of what we, human beings, need.
* Fifth, the sublime heap means tyranny, with which scaver we are printed.
* Sixth, the three snakes, which are placed in a hieroglyphic and mystical way, stand for nature, justice and bravery.
* Seventh, the lance, pistols and flag are weapons of the *bigx*, to regain their lost freedom and to rejoice themselves in piece and calmness of all timely goods.

Although I’m intrigued by all of the above, the three snakes in particular struck a distant chord for me – might this somehow explain the snakes on the second La Buse cryptogram?

Left:

snake-left

Right:

snake-right

Bottom:

snakes-bottom

I know, I know – the bottom snake is actually a pair of snakes. But… I’m going to run with this for a bit regardless, see where it all leads. :-)

One web page I found in this snakey vein mused about the seven snakes used as page dividers in the Rohonc Codex (along with various other interesting stuff). Also: Serpens was the constellation where the 1604 supernova famously occurred, but that doesn’t obviously seem connected to this present case. And here’s a more obviously symbolic drawing incorporating three snakes, though from where the image came I don’t know.

As far as people researching the Copiale Cipher go, the whole ‘Key Lodge’ section from p.100 to p.104 that this snake mention is embedded in seems to have no obvious external parallel. Specifically, Andreas Önnerfors writes:

My assessment is that the rituals, symbols and ideology of the “so-called Key lodge” (“die so genannte Schlüssel loge”) described on pages 100-104 are absolutely unique.

And so my question to you all is: has anyone seen any mention elsewhere of a decorative Freemason pattern involving three snakes? Or did the Oculists dream it up all by themselves?

Cartographic mysteries of the second “La Buse” cryptogram…

The second “La Buse” cryptogram is a funny old thing: Emmanuel Mezino swears to its authenticity, but I’m really not as convinced as he is – given that a number of key elements (such as the cryptography, the dates, the drawing style, etc) seem jarringly incongruous to my eyes, there seems plenty of good reasons to infer that it is (at best) a later copy and/or an assemblage of earlier pieces, or (at worst) a modern fake.

Here’s Yannick Benaben’s image of it, the earliest that I’ve found on the web:-

cryptogramme_la_buse

And then there’s the cryptogram’s map to consider. Even though La Buse (Olivier Levasseur) ended his piratical career in the Indian Ocean, he seems to have begun it in the Caribbean, so it perhaps shouldn’t be at all surprising that this cryptogram should contain a very high-level map of the Florida / Caribbean area.

west-indies-map-cropped

Many names on the map can be identified without difficulty:
* Florida – though because this area became ‘La Louisiane’ (named after Louis XIV of France, of which it was a colony) in 1682, it would seem that this map predates (or appears to predate) 1682.
* Virginie (= “Virginia”)
* Golfo Mexicano (= “Gulf of Mexico”)
* Tragillo (= “Trujillo”)
* Jamaica
* Cuba
* Tropicus Cancri (= “Tropic of Cancer”)
* Hispaniola – it looks to me as though the island of Hispaniola has been miscopied into two halves.
* S. Dominici (= “Santo Domingo”, Hispaniola’s capital city founded by Columbus’ brother Bartholemew in 1496, and also another name for Hispaniola).
* La Bermuda (= “Bermuda”, although on the map this is positioned way too close to the coast)

Curiously, the map has a snake design that wiggles – coincidentally or not, I can’t say – roughly up the path of the Mississippi. It’s far from historically obvious that the Mississippi River was only discovered (by Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette, says Wikipedia) in 1673: and hence it is tempting to suspect that this snake design was added simply to cover up a cartographic slip-up by a later forger or hoaxer (i.e. adding the 1673+ Mississippi River to a map supposed to be linked to La Buse, who died in 1730). But that’s just my speculation, please don’t read too much into it. :-)

The other map labels, though, are slightly less straightforward.

* Boriquen – this is clearly Boriken, the original Taino Indian name for Puerto Rico (although Columbus called it “San Juan Bautista”, i.e. St John the Baptist Island, which is presumably why the capital is called San Juan, and why the island’s motto is “Joannes est nomen eius”).

* Guanima was the original (pre-1520) name of the Bay of Marantzas on the north coast of Cuba, while “Guanahani” was the Taino Indian name for the first island to which Columbus came (the controversy over which island that actually was continues to the present day). And so it seems likely to me that the island on this map marked as “Guanima” was intended to be “Guanahani”, but got mangled in the copying.

* Boca Ioneque – I have no idea what this is. It’s next to “Guanima” and looks as though it is attached to an island, but I’m not sure if that’s helpful or not. All suggestions welcome!

* “Acalaia” / “Alcaldia” (town hall?), apparently on the Yucatan peninsula – though I did manage to work out what this (miscopied and mangled) label was late last year from some 16th century maps, I now cannot find my careful notes on it at all, bah. :-(

* R. Fuado – I have no idea what this is.

* C. de S. Marie – I have no idea what this is either.

* C. de S ???? – I can’t even read this, let alone guess what it is.

My Thoughts

This map is hugely odd. Not just the mix of languages (Spanish, French, Latin) or the miscopied labels (Guanima, Tragillo) or the suspicious snake tail (covering the Mississippi?) or the miscopied geography (Hispaniola), but the whole thing seems jarring to me. Manu may be convinced, but to my eyes this is all over the place.

But what do you think?

Can you help with Fred Pruszinski?

The more I think about poor old Fred Pruszinski and the suitcase he took from Broken Hill to Somerton Beach perched on the back of a stolen motorbike the weekend just before the Somerton Man died, the more I want to know the rest of what happened.

In my opinion, Pruszinski’s story could well turn out to form a parallel strand of the Somerton Man’s history: while I don’t yet know how these could be linked, I do now have a strong suspicion that I’m starting to ask the right kind of questions – and to me, that’s a really big deal.

So… rewind the time and place, if you will, back to November 1948 and Broken Hill. Pruszinski was just out of school, and was an avid miniature rifle shooter (he became Honorary Secretary of Silver City Miniature Rifle Club in 1949, and then shot for West Rifle Club), and went on to work for the local mines as an engine driver: so he must surely have had a reasonably wide network of friends and acquaintances.

Many of those people will have been at Pruszinski’s (sadly early) funeral in 1953. According to newspaper reports, his pall-bearers were J. Heslop, Don Hargreaves, Don Carlin, Kevin Cook, John Winkler, and Pat Fitzpatrick (along with Don Purcell, another close friend), while F. Anderson and Jack Brownett of West Broken Hill Rifle Club were there too, along with Pruszinski’s family and doubtless many more friends and workmates.

Some of those people must surely still be alive, right? I don’t honestly believe all trace of memory of Fred Pruszinski can already have been wiped from the world’s collective mental slate. And the unusual sequence of events that happened that weekend in November 1948 must surely have been the talk of Broken Hill for some time. People talk, that’s what they do: so why not listen? :-)

Unsurprisingly, what I want to do now is place a small advertisement in Broken Hill’s Barrier Daily Truth, saying something along the lines of:-

Can you help? I’m an historian trying to find people who knew Richard Frederick Arthur (‘Fred’) Pruszinski, formerly of 247 Williams Street, Broken Hill. He was the Honorary Secretary of Silver City Miniature Rifle Club, and then a member of West Broken Hill Rifle Club. At his funeral in 1953, his pall-bearers were Don Hargr[e]aves, Don Carlin, Kevin Cook, John Winkler, J. Heslop, and Pat Fitzpatrick, assisted by Don Purcell. Do you have any memories of Fred Pruszinski? If so, please email nickpelling@nickpelling.com , thanks very much!

It’s a pretty good first attempt, but it has a fairly obvious shortcoming: people who knew Fred Pruszinski first-hand in 1948-1953 will be quite old now (85 or so, in fact), to the point that email may not be a good first way of asking for a response – so I think that including a telephone number as well could well yield much better results.

Hence here’s my request to you lovely people: would any Cipher Mysteries reader in Australia be kind enough to volunteer to help this by putting forward their phone number for me to add to this ad?

This many years after the event, I don’t realistically expect it to raise more than two or perhaps three telephone calls (in fact, zero or one may be closer to it), but I’d like to try all the same.

Someone out there must know what Fred Pruszinski was doing back then, surely?

Ina Harvey, the case, and the needle…

Gerry Feltus very helpfully included the text of Ina Harvey’s 1st December 1982 Adelaide News interview with Tom Loftus in “The Unknown Man” (pp.197-200). Harvey recalled a “strong and fit”, “professional” man with “an air of refinement” who had checked into the Strathmore Hotel close to Adelaide’s railway station for a few days before 1st December 1948.

She noted that “[He] had no baggage, except for a small black case – such as a doctor or musician who played the flute might carry”. Because she had suspicions about the man, she asked an employee to go into the man’s room (#21 or #23, she couldn’t recall) and have a look in the mysterious case – to her surprise, “the only item in the case was a needle”. Furthermore, “[from the employee’s] description I got the impression it could have been a hypodermic syringe.”

Pete Bowes now proposes that this flute case could well have been important: he suggests that it formed some kind of signal, a “covert [sign] of identification“, a chess move played out as part of a wider spy game unfolding on the streets of Adelaide in 1948.

Well… OK. But has Pete’s instinctual metal detector found the needle in a haystack we’ve all been grasping blindly for? In this instance, I don’t honestly think so. So if not a spy narrative, then what on earth was going on with the “needle” and the small black case?

And My Suggested Explanation Is…

What if… the small black case was actually a rifle case, for a takedown (easily dismantled) .22 rimfire rifle?

And what if the “needle” were a barrel cleaning rod, for (duh) cleaning the rifle barrel?

With Fred Pruszinski’s short life and indeed the whole rifle socks scenario, we have already seen how miniature (typically .22 calibre) rifles were popular in Australia in the years after WW2, mainly because of the difficulty of getting full-calibre shot.

For this reason, many WW2-era weapons (such as the Martini Cadet training rifle) were recommissioned by companies such as Sportco as sports or competition rifles, and sold (for the most part) into rifle clubs. I’m not a rifle expert at all, but I do know that some rifles did definitely come apart into pieces: for example, the very rifle that Fred Pruszinski had in a suitcase that he took from Broken Hill to dump on Somerton Beach that very weekend was a takedown rifle – but only its stock was ever found (Pruszinski, who knew rifles well, insisted that he left both the barrel and the stock in the suitcase on the beach).

What, then, are the odds that the man staying at the Strathmore had come to town with a discreet little black carrying case for a takedown .22 calibre rifle? You know, the kind of case that a professional man would use to carry his rifle to Rifle Club meetings?

And – spookily enough – what are the odds that the rifle that Fred Pruszinski dumped on Somerton Beach was the same one that was meant to go in the Strathmore Hotel visitor’s little black case, and that was meant to be cleaned by the cleaning needle in it?

Might all these pieces, all moving around Adelaide on the same weekend, be parts of the same convoluted puzzle?

The Voynich Manuscript’s Three Crowns…

A recent comment to Cipher Mysteries by ‘Jimbo’ made me look again at the the various crowned nymphs in the Voynich Manuscript.

The Three Crowns

As far as I can see, there are three crowns in the Zodiac section, firstly in Cancer:-

voynich-crown-in-cancer

There’s another in Leo:-

voynich-crown-in-leo

And another in Libra:-

voynich-crown-in-libra

There are also plenty of nymphs with a ‘tressed’ hairstyle in both the zodiac section and the water section, that some people (incorrectly, I suspect) think resembles some kind of crown. Here is a set of three examples from the Voynich’s Sagittarius page (rotated upright):-

voynich-tresses

Incidentally, one thing I can’t recall being mentioned elsewhere is that one particular nymph seems to directly link the zodiac pages to the water pages, by virtue of her standing in some kind of miniature bath or basin:-

voynich-basin

Observations

To my eyes, there’s a big codicological (i.e. composition-layering) mystery about the whole way the nymphs were drawn. Not only were they originally all drawn with a single breast (and if there is some kind of long-standing graphical tradition of drawing one-breasted nymphs, it is something that decades of nymph-maniacal Voynicheros have apparently failed to uncover), but many specific details – most notably things such as these three crowns and the tressed head-dresses – were apparently added to the original drawing in a later ‘phase’ or composition pass.

And that begs the question: what was so wrong with the original unadorned ‘ugly duckling’ layer that the author felt compelled to dress it up with additional breasts, as well as crowns and tressed hairstyles? I don’t know, but I do wonder how far understanding that layering would carry us towards understanding the whole manuscript.

As far as the crowns go, the Cancer crown is somewhat dull, and was clearly added in a later pass; whereas the Leo crown was painted red and – crucially, I suspect – seems to have been part of the original layer, rather than an addition in a later construction phase.

The Libra crown is, like the Cancer crown, also clearly a later addition. Some people have speculated that this might have been modelled on a real crown that existed in the 15th Century, such as the Holy Crown of Hungary:-

Fugger_Chronicle_Holy_Crown_of_Hungary-cropped

…or perhaps something to do with Barbara of Cilli.

My Own Conclusions

Feel free to infer what you like from all the above.

For me, however, the Leo crown is the real deal, and the Cancer crown (added in almost the same place on the zodiac roundel preceding the Leo roundel) is a fake, designed to draw attention away from the Leo crown. Moreover, I strongly suspect that the Libra crown, for all its similarity to the Holy Crown of Hungary, is very probably a misdirection as well.

Yet… what was so telling about the red crown drawn in the original layer on the Leo zodiac roundel that the author wanted to distract our attention away from it? That, I think, is the right question to be asking here.

Edit: here’s what the Leo crown looks like, scaled up and overdrawn in Gimp. What does it mean? I don’t know but… I’m looking.

voynich-crown-in-leo-overdrawn

Westminster Under School Crypto Challenge

At a Westminster Under School Open Day not so long ago, I was delighted to find out from Miss Ellis (WUS’s Head of Mathematics) that after their final exams, Year 8 boys there spend time discovering the joys of cryptography and code-breaking: specifically, they go to Bletchley Park, find out about Enigma, and break some ciphers.

All the same, what with “The Imitation Game” and so forth, Nazi cryptography is at risk of becoming old hat (or do I mean alter Hut?). But what about Allied codes and ciphers? And – dare I ask it – what about that pesky WW2 cipher pigeon? Of course, once she found out that I knew about such wonderfully recondite (yet also historically and cryptologically rich) subjects, she set about trying to persuade me to give a presentation at the school.

What, me talk about Allied codes and ciphers, wartime pigeons, Typex machines, and D-Day history for two hours? (To be fair, I should perhaps say “for only two hours”.)

Needless to say, she didn’t have to twist my arm particularly hard. Or… at all, truth be told.

And so a few weeks ago, I pitched up at Westminster Under with a giant printout of the enciphered pigeon message, a 50-plus-slide Powerpoint presentation (heavy on nice photos, but light on text), and… a big empty space where I had originally hoped a Typex machine would be. (My cunning plan to borrow one from a friendly crypto collector fell through a few weeks beforehand, sadly. Oh well!)

To make the crypto side of the talk as ‘hands on’ as possible, I gave the boys a practical challenge using Double Transposition (The link is to a description I adapted from a genuine WW2 document Stu Rutter and I found at the National Archives in Kew.)

The boys divided into teams of three or four on a table, for each team to encipher secret messages for a different team to decipher (i.e. by supplying a pair of transposition keys with the message). Once they had got the hang of the technique, I set everyone the challenge of reliably enciphering the same short message at high speed: this was competitive and fun, yielding quite a nice balance of serotonin and adrenaline. 😉

In fact, there was a very specific Cipher Mysteries point to the exercise. Because we can tell that the cipher pigeon’s message was enciphered in only three minutes, we can deduce that it can only have been made using a machine cipher – nobody, I’m sure, could reliably encipher a message of that size in three minutes using Double Transposition, nor indeed with any of the other non-machine ciphers the Allies used in WW2. And Typex aside, the only other Allied machine cipher was the M-209, which had a ten-letter indicator (both the cipher pigeon message and Typex messages had five-letter indicators).

Incidentally, one nice crypto thing is that, having first gone through the history of the Typex machine, I decided to see how on the ball everyone was by throwing out a properly difficult crypto question to the audience:

Early in the war, German cryptanalysts noted that the probability of the letter ‘X’ appearing in the last 4 letters of a Typex message was extremely low. What did that tell them?

Naturally, when a boy (I didn’t get his name, sorry) at the far side called out the answer, I was hugely delighted, because many, many adults would not have reached that. (And so I leave it as an exercise for the reader, just as you’d expect).

As I’m sure will be no surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed myself – it was a great opportunity to give my cipher pigeon / Typex material a bit of a public airing – and I really hope that a fair few of the boys did too. They behaved in an exemplary manner, and were every bit as sharp, fast and engaged as I hoped they’d be. All credit to them for that, and a twenty-one gun salute to Miss Ellis not only for making it happen, but also for helping out on the tables for the Double Transposition exercise (which was very kind of her, and utterly necessary as it turned out).

Same again next year? I hope so! :-)

PS: right at the end, one of the teams very kindly handed me a nice Double Transposition cipher challenge they had devised, which I thought I’d share with you here (I hope that’s OK with them). I’ve kept their original keys ( 😉 ) but modified their cipher only very slightly:

Sender: Strawberries & Cream
Primary Transposition Key: 9, 1, 10, 4, 2, 7, 6, 8, 3, 5
Secondary Transposition Key: 3, 1, 4, 5, 9, 2, 6, 8, 7, 10
Cipher Message:
SCCJL SRMTS SNJZH SCXFS VPTCT FSSLS XHZCS DVNQC
DHTKK TLSMT RKTSS FWSPW SNMZP XWVQM CZLKS X

Can you decipher it? Enjoy! :-)

Voynich Talk in York with Rene Zandbergen & Bill Sherman

Many apologies, I thought I’d posted about this weeks ago but I obviously hadn’t, bah! :-(

At 11am to 12.15pm this Saturday (20th June 2015), the York Festival Of Ideas will be hosting Cracking the Code, a 75-minute panel discussion with Bill Sherman (currently of the V&A), John Clark (University of York), Rene Zandbergen, and Sir Dermot Turing (Trustee of the Bletchley Park Trust). It’s at the University of York, and it’s freeeeeeee.

If you don’t know Bill Sherman, shame on you: he’s the person who curated the “Decoding the Renaissance: 500 Years of Codes and Ciphers” exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library from November 2014 to last March, that gave the Voynich Manuscript its first working holiday away from the Beinecke since Hans Kraus donated it to them. He’s also the author of “John Dee: The Politics of Reading and Writing in the English Renaissance” (on the shelf to my right), and numerous other books and articles.

The title of the session isn’t much help (nor indeed was the York Festival of Ideas PR), so I have honestly no idea what they plan to panelize (panelify?). When Rene and Bill did a talk at the Folger last November, it claimed to be a “conversation” that would “review what is known (and not known) and focus on new approaches to this old problem, including science and art history, Medieval and Renaissance history, codicology and conservation, and the history of collecting.

Hmmm… ohhh kayyyy, then. :-)

Anyhow, just in case they accidentally veer off into the marshy horrors of Baxland, I’ll bring a crate of rotten tomatoes: no pressure, people, but if you press that button, the stage will end up looking as if the red team won at Splatoon, I swear it.

But that aside, I’m looking forward to it. 😉

Declassified NSA documents…

Hans Jahr very kindly left a comment here on Cipher Mysteries recently, pointing me at a treasure trove of declassified NSA documents relating to William Friedman.

Some of these had already been declassified by different NSA mechanisms: but even so, there’s simply so much new material to go through here that it’s enough to make your head spin.

Of course, I’ve started trying to go through these (e.g. there’s not that much new on the Voynich Manuscript, but there’s a lot on the role of Typex II in the post-WW2 years), but it’s going to take a while. Please feel free to browse and search yourselves, and let me know if you stumble onto anything interesting. :-)

Incidentally, given that Friedman evaluated the Chaocipher in 1942, there may well be some Chaocipher-related correspondence in there somewhere for Moshe Rubin to find. (There’s a large Excel spreadsheet briefly listing out all the items).

Speaking of whom, Moshe Rubin also very kindly dropped me a email about an NSA page containing recently declassified Beale Papers documents.

As you’d expect, many have dated badly and many others are of little use, but that still leaves many other interesting things in the heap. Browse and enjoy; and if you do happen to find something about four miles from Buford’s Tavern… :-)

More generally, though, the NSA has posted up a list of declassified topics: this includes not only Friedman and Beale, but also VENONA, the death of John F. Kennedy, UFOs, etc etc.

Yet personally, I’m more interested by this unbelievably long list of declassified code/cipher stuff, which includes items relating to just about every country that ciphered anything in the first half of the 20th century. It took me half an hour to speed read through the titles alone!

I picked out a few choice items, firstly on Double Transposition (more on that in a few days’ time):-

NR 1479 CBKH37 6021A 19401200 TRAINING PAMPHLET NO. 40 DOUBLE TRANSPOSITION CIPHERS NUMERICAL SOLUTION
NR 1871 CBLI66 4262A 19340000 GENERAL SOLUTION FOR THE DOUBLE TRANSPOSITION CIPHER
NR 2017 CBLJ73 6206A 19450212 GERMAN POW REPORTS ON DOUBLE TRANSPOSITION CIPHER SYSTEM USED BY AMERICAN
NR 4608 ZEMA36 13947A 19430200 SIGRED-2 INSTRUCTIONS FOR USING DOUBLE TRANSPOSITION CIPHER

Next, some documents on secret writing (at least one person here likes that :-) ):

NR 3464 CBQM37 4000A 19200000 SECRET INKS
NR 3465 CBQM37 4852A 19430109 POSTAGE STAMP CODE – ANTHONY E. SCOTTINO CASE
NR 3468 CBQM37 863A 19431129 SECRET WRITING
NR 3469 CBQM37 896A 19430326 WORKSHEETS OF THE LAB BRANCH ON SECRET INK TESTS
NR 3470 CBQM37 897A 19430601 MISCELLANEOUS PAPERS ON POW CENSORSHIP AND SECRET WRITING
NR 3471 CBQM37 898A 19440331 LETTERS CONTAINING SECRET WRITING CONDEMNED BY LAB AFTER EXAMINATION

There’s a report on the Zimmerman Telegram:-

NR 1872 CBLI66 4263A 19380000 ZIMMERMAN TELEGRAM OF JANUARY 16, 1917 AND ITS CRYPTOGRAPHIC BACKGROUND

A few pages I’ll try to get around to looking at before very long:-

NR 3552 CBSC73 6101A 19430500 SECURITY OF ALLIED CIPHERS
NR 3857 ZEMA109 46120A 19431113 UNITED KINGDOM “EXAMPLES OF OPERATIONAL EXPERIENCE IN THE USE OF PIGEONS BY THE R.A.F.”
NR 4660 ZEMA42 4410A 19420120 INTERCEPT OF CARRIER PIGEON MESSAGE

And finally, a fair few photos:-

NR 4181 ZEMA169 41048A 19170000 PHOTOGRAPH. WILLIAM F. FRIEDMAN, SIS, ASA, NSA
NR 4195 ZEMA169 41111A 19420000 PHOTOGRAPH: BRIG. JOHN H. TILTMAN, UK
NR 4693 ZEMA46 41289A 19450000 PHOTOGRAPHS: EQUIPMENT – BOMBE

1 2 3 4 108