What should you get from this? The confidence and ability to: –see a cipher or shorthand for what it is –work with and transcribe modified writing –know the limits of what youre doing –not be fooled!
The four -graphies Crypto- = hidden Stegano- = concealed Steno- = abbreviated Tachy- = speedy However… they overlap & conflict.
What to expect from this talk… Part 3: Transcribing modified texts Part 4: Some real examples
Its a complex endeavour!
Stuck in the middle with you
Privacy vs Secrecy Sex with your partner is private Sex with your tennis partner is secret Or, somewhat more cryptographically… Private = we can see it but we cant read it Secret = we cant even see it to read it
So many cipher techniques! Yes… but its not actually a problem for us. Almost all clever cipher tricks never escaped from crypto theoreticians textbooks. Just about every pre-1800 cipher youre likely to see follows one basic pattern…
The Basic Cipher Key A simple format that was used for centuries! Letter Key (homophonic if >1 per letter) Gemine (to replace doubled letters) Nulle (nonsense letters) Nomenclatura (to replace groups / words) …plus any special tricks or hacks!
Handout: cipher history stuff!
Brevity vs Speed Two specific lacks:- If you lack writing space, you need Brevity If you lack writing time, you need Speed
Brevity Medium-independent Abbreviation –Contraction –Truncation –Acronyms –Scribal traditions Symbol Dictionaries Logical conlangs Speed Medium-dependent Designed systems Easy to use Stroke-based (Modern phonetic)
Mapping Brevity & Speed
Modern shorthand structure Letter key – one rapid stroke per letter Trick for writing vowels at speed –Very short variant stroke –Discarding them completely (abjad) –Direction (relative to words initial letter) Optional: logical word construction Optional: many extra shapes (arbitraries)
Brights Characterie (1588)
Shorthand comparison to 1750 Isaac Pitman (1884) History of Shorthand, pp
Getting Started How old is it? –If pre-1600, its almost certainly a cipher. If its all numbers, is each less than 100? –If yes, probably a number cipher: else a code. Is it clearly designed for rapid writing? –If yes, probably a modern shorthand. How many different shapes (approx)? –If 25 or less, very likely to be a simple cipher.
Common Transcription Pitfalls Things to remember at all times: The text might be miscopied (especially if printed) The ink might have faded Later owners might have tried to restore it Later owners marks might be misinterpreted as original Beware wear, stains, rips, tears, contact transfers, etc Bifolios might have been shuffled or reversed Key question: what happened to it to leave it this way?
Useful Transcription Tips Patiently build up your own symbol key Look for ASCII similarities to keep it quick Transcribe shape variants defensively Dont be tricked, particularly by punctuation Transcribe 25% well, not 100% badly! Note: this always takes longer than you think!
Now… some real examples!
1. A celebrity! What is it? What happened?
2. Another writer! What is it? What happened?
3. Ludovico Spoletani (who he?) What is it? What happened?
4. The Anthon Transcript What is it? What happened?
5. The Outer Limits… What is it? What happened?