Here’s an encrypted postcard from the early 20th century, which was sent to a young woman in Landreville, France. Can a reader decipher it?

When I blog about an encrypted postcard, I often need to take a geography lesson. There are dozens of places all over Europe and North America I learned about, just because somebody sent encrypted greetings from there or because somebody living there received such a note.

The encrypted postcard I am going to cover today has taken me to a small village named Landreville, located in the French department of Aube. Before I go into detail, I need to mention that this card was provided to me, like so many others, by comedy hacker Tobias Schrödel. Only yesterday, I received a copy of Tobias’ new book It’s a Nerd’s World. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m sure, it’s good. Although the title is English, the book is written in German.

Let’s come back to the afore-mentioned postcard. Here’s the picture side of it:

The stamp is hard to read, but the department name AUBE can be seen:

To my regret, no date is visible. However, it is clear that this postcard was sent in the early 20th century. The recipient was an unmarried woman (mademoiselle) named Valentine Carrey living in Landreville. Like most other encrypted postcards, this one was apparently written by a young man to his loved one.

No street name is mentioned. This is not surprising, as Landreville is a small village. According to Wikipedia, it had 537 inhabitants in 1962; older data are not available.

The encrypted message is quite short. Nevertheless, it’s probably easy to decipher if one has a basic knowledge of the French languange and some codebreaking experience. My guess is that some letters have been left in the clear, while others are substituted with the numbers from 1 to 9. The 2 apparently stands for the E. The expression “St2 V1628t382” decrypts to “Ste Valentine”. Having said this, the message is almost deciphered. Can a reader do the rest?

And can a reader tell me what “Ste” means? I would expect that it’s the French female form of “saint”. However, to address one’s spouse as a saint sounds a little weird to me, but perhaps this was common a hundred years ago.


Further reading: An encrypted postcard from New York City

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Kommentare (12)

  1. #1 Gextan
    16. Mai 2019

    Ste valentine
    Quand est-ce qu’on l’abreuvera ? -> when will we make him/it drink ?
    Camille Brossard

    « Ste » is short for « sainte »
    So it is possible that Camille is writing from a city called Sainte valentine , which would be quite a coincidence with the name of the lady

    « Est-ce qu’on » is pretty straightforward to decipher

    More tricky is the first word. At first i was reading « 2518t » but i think we should read « Q518t ». This being said many french readers will see « quand ». Did i mention french was my mother tongue ? « Quand » is written « quant » which is a very common mistake when french people are writing down this word

    Most tricky part is the final word. Again, at the beginning i was misreading it : «1bg25v2g1». I was unable to do anything with that. It took me a while to figure out that it was written « 1b925v291 ». 9 and not g. From that moment the solution was easy to find

    The message looks like some kind of private joke between the 2 persons.
    Are they talking about a relative that can drink a lot of alcohol without being drunk ?
    Are they talking about a baby who never stops drinking his baby bottle ?
    I cannot say

  2. #2 Thomas
    16. Mai 2019

    “Euant – est ce qu´on L´Abreu vera?
    Camille Brocard”

    “Ste. Valentine”: Why “Sainte”? – I suppose this is an allusion to Saint Valentine, the patron of lovers.

  3. #3 Thomas
    16. Mai 2019

    As to the date: Judging from the image above, the stamp is a “semeuse lignee rose 10c”, sold from 1903 until 1907. In 1906 Valentine got married to another man: (http://www.memorialgenweb.org/memorial3/html/fr/complementter.php?table=bp&id=3111206).

  4. #4 Rossignol
    Paris, France
    16. Mai 2019

    @Thomas

    I think the first character is not a 2 but a capital Q in cursive script.
    Quant-est ce qu’on l’abreuvera ?

    for

    Quand-est-ce qu’on l’abreuvera ?

    [ When will we drink for it? ]

    You’re right, it’s an allusion to Valentine’s Day.
    When will you celebrate Valentine’s Day?
    i.e. When will we celebrate your engagement?

  5. #5 Thomas
    16. Mai 2019

    @Rossignol

    That sounds perfect! (I erroneously assumed that L’Abreu is a name and one r of “verra” had been omitted.) So maybe Camille referred to Valentine’s engagement with Jules whom V. was going to marry in 1906?

  6. #6 Eberhard
    16. Mai 2019
  7. #7 Thomas
    16. Mai 2019

    Or maybe Camille Brocard referred to his own engagement and wanted to invite Valentine: On 14 January 1904 he married Marie Dumey (Les Archives de l’Aube, Landreville 1903-1912, p. 232).

  8. #8 True Dan
    17. Mai 2019

    The last Krypto Kolumne e-mail I have received was on 28 April. As I have tried to reinstate my e-mail address on the mailing list I am told that I am already subscribed. Can you please help restore my e-mail address to the distribution list?

  9. #9 Jerry McCarthy
    England, Europa
    17. Mai 2019

    #5 @Eberhard.

    This paper seems to have been removed; I am getting 404’s this morning.

    There was a rebuttal here: https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/05/no-someone-hasnt-cracked-the-code-of-the-mysterious-voynich-manuscript/

  10. #10 Rossignol
    Paris, France
    17. Mai 2019

    @Thomas

    I think it’s your first hypothesis that’s the right one:
    Camille referred to Valentine’s engagement with Jules.

    This is clearly a response to the announcement of his engagement.
    It’s a short phrase for “When do you present us Jules that we pay him a drink?”

    @Jerry McCarthy

    The University of Bristol retracted the story:
    http://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2019/may/voynich-manuscript.html

  11. #11 Jerry McCarthy
    England, Europa
    17. Mai 2019
  12. #12 Jerry McCarthy
    England, Europa
    17. Mai 2019

    #9 @Rossignol

    Apologies; I didn’t see your mail until I’d pressed send on my #10.