From 1884-1887 a series of 25 encrypted newspaper advertisements was published in the “Daily Telegraph”. The key is known. Can you help me to decrypt these messages?
The book The Agony Column Codes & Ciphers by Jean Palmer (i.e., Tony Gaffney) is a treasure trove for everybody interested in old cryptograms.
The Agony Column Codes & Ciphers presents over a thousand encrypted newspaper advertisements from Victorian England. Many of the encrypted ads covered contain love messages. Others were placed by business people in order to send news to partners and customers. Ignatius Pollaky, a private investigator of the Victorian era, communicated via newspaper ads, too.
Tony, who is an excellent codebreaker, has solved most of the cryptograms described in his book, but some still wait to be deciphered. On Klausis Krypto Kolumne I have published many an article about these mysteries. More articles about unsolved ads will follow, as there are still a few nice ones left.
Today, I want to introduce a series of 20 encrypted ads Tony has already broken. My goal is to get a complete decryption of these messages. For this purpose, I need the help of my readers.
Let’s look at the advertisements first. They were published in the Daily Telegraph by a certain RUBY in the 1880s. Here they are (the ads are contained on pages 213-217 of the book; I numbered them from 1 to 25):
As Tony found out, a one-to-one cipher (MASC) had been used two encrypt all these ads. He identified two different keys. The first one was used for advertisements #1 – #15 and #24:
The following key was used for advertisements #16 – #23:
Note that ads #5 and #25 are not encrypted.
Decrypting the ads
As mentioned above, I would like to know the content of this advertisement series. However, decrypting 23 messages is a lot of work, even if the key is known. So, I hereby ask my readers for help. Please take one of these ads (or at least a few lines) and decrypt them. If enough readers do so, the complete series will be available in the clear very soon.
I start with decrypting advertisement #1:
RUBY – My darling many thanks for your letter and especially for its assurances. I will write fortnightly and shall fully expect letter form you as often. I love you more and am for ever “thine alone”. I want to write a long letter if you can suggest a plan. Write at once and believe me, dearest one, with most wattionate love, your own.
Edited to add: #2 decrypted by Beth Henderson:
RUBY – my dear own girl why have you not written. I fully expected a letter ey last mail. Heard from “Dicky.” Do please write me a long letter regularly and tell me how you are. With fondest love believe mi thine alone. – ANYTHING.
Edited to add: #3 decrypted by Thomas Bosbach and Christopher Feige:
dearest why have you not written to me privately. Surely I am not yet forgotten. Your ordinary letter with “Uncles” P.S. came three days ago. I am very glad to hear you are stronger. Continue to improve darling and when I come home we shall again have the bliss of each others company and you my pet (as a great favour) may have more.
Edited to add: #4 decrypted by Jerry McCarthy:
Dearest thanks for your letter of the fourth of june and especially for its promise of aprivate letter by next mail which iquite long for. Mind you write fortnightly as iasked if only afew lines, you will, wont, you my darling. Idont care if “wobbert does not write but imust hear from my sweetheart. Farewell my love ilive in anticip – atirn of again having you and.
Edited to add: #6 decrypted by Jerry McCarthy:
Both your darling letters came this week. Am so very sorry to hear of your illness. Darling you must get strong again for my sake and wait for my home coming. Iam so deeply grateful for your assurances of continued love dear one. Do write often dearast for your letters are my greatest joy. Ever believe in my constancy Isabel dear and think of me always as your own loving.
Edited to add: #7 decrypted by Jerry McCarthy:
My darling so many thanks for the note enclosed with “Jolly” letter to “Nan”. Iam writing this week to “Miss Hesse” so look out for the letter which will tell you all. Farewell my dearest love.
Edited to add: #8 decrypted by Jerry McCarthy:
Dearest ido think it mean of you not to write oftener especially when you know how ilong for your letters. Do please darling will you. Ihave not had an ordinary letter for amonth. Goodbye dear one, my own love. Remember your.
Edited to add: #9 decrypted by Jerry McCarthy:
Your note sent to Nan came on Thursday but why have you not written privately. Ihope you have the letter isent Miss Hesse. Reply to it soon dearest. With very fondest love believe me, darling thine alone.
Edited to add: #10 decrypted by Jerry McCarthy:
Dearest iam awfully sorry iwas unable to write last week as iwas up on the Himalayas twenty miles from apost-office. Whyh ave <em>you not written to me lately. Ihave not had either aprivate or other letter. Do write to me once darling along letter. Iwill write to “Wobbert” next week. Fondest love my darling from your own.
Edited to add: #11 decrypted by Jerry McCarthy:
Dearest, how few your ordinary now are and inever get aprivate one. Is it because my absence is no longer felt. Do write darling to reassure me. Have you yet had my note to. Miss Hesse. Heaps of love darling from your own.
Edited to add: #12 decrypted by Jerry McCarthy:
Darling look ianve at the date below this and tell me if can remember A nything about time last year. Was it not supremely grand. Write and tell me your recollections of it. Ihave not heard from you for so long. Why is it dearest. Write soon love and believe my dreaming of this date and hoping for another.
Edited to add: #13 decrypted by Jerry McCarthy:
Dearest ihad your last letter safely. All of them have been destroyed for safetys sake. Upto the end of this year iwill write fortnightly and then every four weeks beginning with January twentyfourth. Will that do. Fondest love my darling and write soon.
Edited to add: #14 decrypted by Jerry McCarthy:
Only aline to thank you for the two letters received this week. write to me privately dearest will soon. Fondest love darling form your own.
Edited to add: #15 decrypted by thomas Bosbach:
Dearest I did not write last week because now you will see this on my birthday. Why have you not written. Send me a private and ordinary letter by return please darling. Fondest love sweetheart and happiest wishes for the new year from your own.
Edited to add: #16 decrypted by Thomas Bosbach:
Darling mine I am so longing to get a private letter from you. Do write soon dearest. So many thanks and tell me if the meeting I proposed for next can be arranged. Fondest love dearest from
Edited to add: #17 decrypted by Michael Schroeder:
How unkind of you not to write. How are you sweetheart; quite well. I hope the cause of your silence is not that I have offended you in any way. write and reassure me dear. I expect Kate will speak to you when next you meet. Fondest love darling from your own.
Edited to add: #18 decrypted by Michael Schroeder:
Why do you not write privately darling mine. You may depend upon my coming home as soon as possible if only for your sake and for.
Edited to add: #19 decrypted by Michael Schroeder:
Darling since last I wrote I have sent a letter to Hesse. Have you had it. Write ae (sic) a long reply to it dearest. Have you seen ‘Nan’ yet. Accept my fondest love dear and beleive (sic) me your own.
Edited to add: #20 decrypted by Michael Schroeder:
It really is too bad of you not to write. Am I forgotten already. You are most unkind and I will stop writing if you do. I want you to answer my letter to ‘v’ and tell me if the meeting I proposed for next can be arranged. Fondest love dearest from.
Edited to add: #21 decrypted by Michael Schroeder:
I think it awfully mean of you not to answer either my private or letters. Why is it darling that you are so unkind to me. Do write soon dear love and tell me I have not offended you. Fondest love darling mine from your own.
Edited to add: #22 decrypted by Michael Schroeder:
Why have I been forgotten. You are most unkind darling and I am going to write no more until I hear from you. Please do write to your own.
Edited to add: #23 decrypted by Michael Schroeder:
ANYTHING. – You may write to at number three falcon terrace falcon road clapham junction your letter will reach me. I will try to arrange a meeting.
Edited to add: #24 decrypted by Michael Schroeder:
Send me a letter darling as soon as you see this and give me an address to which a can write to you privately. I want to arrange with you to meet me at Dover on my return in August and give me the least. Do write at once dearest to your own loving sweetheart.