Fascinating stories about hidden messages in texts, pictures and other objects – this is what my new book “Versteckte Botschaften” is about. Here are some of the highlights of this work.
The following picture from the 17th century contains a hidden message. Can you find it?
The hidden message is encoded in the windows. Every window stands for a letter of the alphabet, as indicated in the following table:
The message reads: WIR HABEN KEIN PULVER MEHR (“We have run out of powder”).
The afore-mentioned picture bearing a hidden message is taken from the book Cryptographia by Johannes Balthasar Friderici. It is an example of Steganography. Steganography is defined as the practice of hiding data within other data or an object. I have written about steganography on this blog many times before.
Already in 2008 I published a book (in German) about the history of cryptography, titled Versteckte Botschaften. Now, a completley new edition of this work has been published. The title is still the same, but the content has changed considerably.
One of the highlights of this book is the fascinating story of the decryption of the book Steganographia written by Johannes Trithemius (1462-1516).
The Steganographia contains hidden messages that were discovered in the late 1990s by two scientists independently from each other. One of them was Thomas Ernst, a reader and frequent commenter of this blog.
My book chapter is one of the first popular-scientific treatises of this discovery. Thomas Ernst himself invested a lot of time in proof-reading it. He even re-wrote some of the passages. For another summary of this great story check the website of Jürgen Hermes, which was one of my sources (I forgot to list this article in the references, which is the first erratum that was found in the book).
Other highlights of Versteckte Botschaften include the following stories:
- Numerous paintings from the 16th and 17th century contain hidden messages.
- Many magic tricks are based on steganography.
- Cheating at card games and other games is often based on steganography, too.
- Spies, prisoners and abduction victims have used steganography.
- Hitec steganography helped to solve a murder case.
To my regret, this book is only available in German so far. If you know an English publisher interested in a translation I would be very interested to know.
Further reading: Bigram substitution: An old and simple encryption algorithm that is hard to break