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Privacy, Secrecy, Brevity, Speed Ciphers & Shorthands Demystified

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Presentation on theme: "Privacy, Secrecy, Brevity, Speed Ciphers & Shorthands Demystified"— Presentation transcript:

1 Privacy, Secrecy, Brevity, Speed Ciphers & Shorthands Demystified
© 2012 Nick Pelling –

2 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 you’re doing not be fooled!

3 However… they overlap & conflict.
The four -graphies Crypto- = ‘hidden’ Stegano- = ‘concealed’ Steno- = ‘abbreviated’ Tachy- = ‘speedy’ However… they overlap & conflict.

4 What to expect from this talk…
Part 3: Transcribing modified texts Part 4: Some real examples

5 It’s a complex endeavour!

6 “Stuck in the middle with you”

7 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 can’t read it Secret = we can’t even see it to read it

8 Privacy Secrecy Nerds GCHQ Mathematics Permutation Substitution
Brains / Intellect Cryptography Transformation Secrecy Spies MI6 / James Bond Disguise Psychology Transposition Visuospatiality Steganography Deception

9 Mapping Privacy & Secrecy

10 So many cipher techniques!
Yes… but it’s not actually a problem for us. Almost all clever cipher tricks never escaped from crypto theoreticians’ textbooks. Just about every pre-1800 cipher you’re likely to see follows one basic pattern…

11 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!

12 1450 Milan

13 Handout: cipher history stuff!

14 Brevity vs Speed Two specific lacks:-
If you lack writing space, you need Brevity If you lack writing time, you need Speed

15 Brevity Speed Medium-independent Abbreviation Symbol Dictionaries
Contraction Truncation Acronyms Scribal traditions Symbol Dictionaries Logical “conlangs” Speed Medium-dependent Designed systems Easy to use Stroke-based (Modern phonetic)

16 Mapping Brevity & Speed

17 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 word’s initial letter) Optional: logical word construction Optional: many extra shapes (‘arbitraries’)

18 Bright’s Characterie (1588)

19 Shorthand comparison to 1750
Isaac Pitman (1884) History of Shorthand, pp

20 Jeremiah Rich’s arbitraries…
…and hundreds more!

21 Getting Started How old is it?
If pre-1600, it’s almost certainly a cipher. If it’s 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.

22 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?

23 Useful Transcription Tips
Patiently build up your own symbol key Look for ASCII similarities to keep it quick Transcribe shape variants defensively Don’t be tricked, particularly by punctuation Transcribe 25% well, not 100% badly! Note: this always takes longer than you think!

24 Now… some real examples!

25 1. A celebrity! What is it? What happened?

26 2. Another writer! What is it? What happened?

27 3. Ludovico Spoletani (who he?)
What is it? What happened?

28 4. The Anthon Transcript What is it? What happened?

29 5. The Outer Limits… What is it? What happened?

30 Thank you for your attention!
Any questions? © 2012 Nick Pelling –

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