Because people keep telling me nice things about Klaus Schmeh’s recently-started blog Klausis Krypto Kolumne (and there’s you thinking you couldn’t read German, tcha!), I thought a visit was a little overdue.
The first thing I saw there was his brief page on the Gentlemen’s Cipher, a cipher taken from “the papers of a gentleman recently deceased”, and printed in “The Gentlemen’s Magazine” in April 1748. (It was mentioned in Cryptologia in 1978)
At first glance it seemed an awful lot like a simple (monoalphabetic) substitution cipher; and the repeated 3-gram at the start of lines 4 and 5 was probably “THE”; hence I thought it would probably be easy to break. So for a pleasant change, rather than just passing it on to Tony
Gaffney Baloney to break while his half-full kettle boils (as per normal), I thought I’d instead transcribe it and try to solve it myself. Which I did.
In the end, though, all I actually did was paste my transcription into WebDecrypto, which got sufficiently close to the plaintext in a matter of seconds that I could Google it. It turned out to be nine lines from a 1699 poem by Sir Samuel Garth – “To die is landing on some silent shore / Where billows never break nor tempests roar / etc”. All of which is somewhat coincidental: so perhaps The Gentlemen’s Magazine’s correspondent “R.M.” who submitted the cryptogram was having a gentle laugh, having concocted the story of the “gentleman recently deceased”? I think so, but make of it what you will.
Anyway, if you want to see the whole thing, I’ve put up a short page describing The Gentlemen’s Cipher here. Case closed!