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The Freemasons are known to have created a great variety of encrypted documents. Can a reader solve this one from the 19th century?

Encrypted documents created by the Freemasons have always played an important role on this blog. Among crypto historians, the Freemasons are best known for the Pigpen cipher, which is sometimes even referred to as the “Freemason alphabet” because of its popularity among Freemasons. The Pigpen cipher is the most popular secret writing in crypto history.

Pigpen-2-bar

Apart from the Pigpen cipher, the Freemasons used many other encryption systems. Here’s an especially beautiful one:

Triangle-Book-1

Sometimes the Freemasons even created books that were completely written in in a code, like the following:

Ecce Orienti

This code is not an encryption in the strict sense. Instead, the words of the original text are abbreviated. A book like this is sometimes referred to as a “Cypher”, which is a little confusing, as “cypher” (or “cipher”) usually has a different meaning in cryptology – it is a synonym of “encryption algorithm”.

A Cypher usually contains Freemasonic ritual descriptions or similar treatises.  The Cypher is meant as a mnemoic aid for the reader, who is expected to know the content. For a non-Freemason this abbreviated text is not readable, which  is, of course, desired.

While printed Cyphers are quite common, hand-written ones seems to be a lot more rare. Last year, Walter C. Newman from Virginia sent me a scan of one he found on  a fleamarket. Here it is:

Lane-Manuscript-bar

Via Google I recently found another hand-written Cypher (or at least a page of it). It is displayed on Pinterest. Here it is:

Freemason-Document

According to the Pinterest page, this is an “Antique 1800’s Hand Written Masonic Cipher Code Book Freemasons Masons Old OOAK”. The picture is taken from eBay, where this Cypher was offered for sale.

As it seems, some of the words in this Cypher are represented by their initial letters, others by their first and last letters. Can a reader decipher this text? Or  does a reader know a printed Cypher with the same content?


Further reading: Ten more uses of the pigpen cipher

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Kommentare (5)

  1. #1 Thomas
    19. September 2017

    This is part of an initiation rite, the words are abbreviated.
    The plaintext: https://www.freezingblue.com/flashcards/print_preview.cgi?cardsetID=319618, No. 23 pp.

  2. #2 Thomas
    20. September 2017

    Correction: It is the interrogation of an Entered Apprentice (E.A.). (The link under #1 is the oath of a Master Mason).
    Thus this text taken from https://www.proprofs.com/flashcards/story.php?title=entered-apprentice-lecture is more precise:

    “What did the Worshipful Master then do to you?

    He made me a Mason
    How?

    In due form
    What is the due form?

    Kneeling on my naked left knee, my right forming a square, my body erect, my naked left hand supporting the Holy Bible, Square and Compass, my naked right resting thereon,in which due form I took the obligation of an Entered Apprentice.
    Repeat your obligation as an Entered Apprentice

    I, …, of my own free will and accord, in the presence of Almighty God and the Worshipful Lodge,erected to him, and dedicated to the Holy Saints John, do hereby and most solemly swear”

    There are still some differences in choice of words.
    The author of this memorandum has the initials “A.B.”, probably he was preparing himself for becoming an Entered Apprentice.

  3. #3 Thomas
    20. September 2017

    The plaintext of this sheet (A.B. does not stand for the name of the book’s owner but for Tom, Dick or Harry):

    “What did the Worshipful Master in the … then do with you?
    He made me a Mason.
    How?
    In due form.
    What is that due form?
    Kneeling on my naked left knee, my right forming a square, my body erect, my left hand supporting the Holy Bible, Square and Compass, I took on myself the solemn oath of obligation of an Entered Apprentice.
    Would you repeat that obligation?
    I, A. B., of my own free will and accord, in the presence of Almighty God and this Worshipful Lodge – here inserted rectangle – erected to Him and dedicated to the Holy Saints John, do hereby and hereon most solemnly and sincerely promise and swear”

  4. #4 Thomas
    20. September 2017

    Insert between “Compass” and “I took”: “in which due form”

  5. #5 Klaus Schmeh
    6. Oktober 2017

    @Thomas: Thanks! Another mystery solved.