Ignaz Meyer, a Bavarian teacher and town writer, wrote an encrypted diary. The content of this joural gives interesting insights into the life of a 19th century individual who had a drinking problem and was not very successful in his job.
In 2012, Christoph Lang, director of the Town Museum in Aichach, Germany, showed the museum’s depot to trainee, Emanuel Schormair. Lang told Schormair that many of the books and items stored in this place had never been cataloged, let alone examined in detail. To show the trainee an example, Lang randomly took a book from one of the shelves.
This book proved to be a hand-written journal containing strange letters and symbols. When Lang was just about to put the tome back into the shelf, the trainee had already become curious and took a closer look at it. As it turned out, this journal was an encrypted diary. Somebody had put a sheet with two substitution tables into it, …
… which made it possible to read the enciphered writing. Christoph Lang and his trainee decided to find out more about this strange work.
As became clear, the author of the encrypted diary was a certain Ignaz Meyer, a 19th century local teacher, town writer, church musician and attourney assistent. Christoph Lang found the following photograph, which probably shows Meyer:
As Ignaz Meyer had a clear handwriting, decrypting his diary entries with the substitution tables turned out to be not too difficult.
The content of the diary proved quite interesting. The author wrote about his alcohol excesses and his card gambling addiction. He complained about his laziness and reported about his frequent outbursts and his sloppy work attitude, which caused critique from parents and superiors. In addition, Meyer had trouble with his doctor, who repeatedly criticized his unhealthy lifestyle.
Apparently, Meyer didn’t love his wife too much, and sometimes he even became physical. Because of his difficult character, Meyer had to change his job and his residence several times.
Some of Meyer’s entries reference passages in other diary volumes. This means that there must have been several other journals of the same kind, but none of these has been found to date. The volume Lang and Schormair examined was written between 1870 and 1879.
Originally, the journal had 378 pages, but eight are missing. The remaining 370 pages contain 189.848 words (or 1.080.343 characters), which represents a considerable amount of text. It comes close to Enerst Rinzi’s journal, which comprises about 1.5 million characters. Considering that other volumes written by Meyer are lost, his overall corpus must have been even larger than Rinzi’s.
Like many encrypted diaries, this one includes sexual content. It seems as if Meyer only found relaxation when he slipped into his wife’s clothes and performed female work, such as knitting, sewing or spinning. On the other hand, he was quite fond of the opposite sex. He had one or two affairs and occasionally went to a brothel. With his wife he fathered four children.
Ignaz Meyer’s diary is not mentioned in the standard crypto history literature. However, last year German radio station Bayern 2 broadcast a 25 minutes documentary and published an online article about it. When googling for interesting crypto stories a few weeks ago, I came across the Bayern 2 page. As the information provided sounded quite interesting, I contacted Christoph Lang. To my delight, he sent me a number of scans, transcriptions and photographs.
Unfortunately, it isn’t known who created the subtstitution tables that were contained in the book. Lang believes that they were made by a scholar between 1960 and 1980.
It goes without saying that I am quite impressed by this encrypted diary. I want to thank Christoph Lang very much for providing me all this information.
Of course, I took Ignaz Meyer’s diary on my encrypted book list. It has received the identifier 00098.
For those who speak German, here are a few excepts from the diary (check here for more):
31.1. (Fr.) der doktor ist ganz erzürnt auf mich und spricht vom künden wenn ich noch einmal einen rausch in die kanzlei bringe nun darf ich nicht mehr ins wirthshaus gehen ich darf überhaupt vor peter und paul nicht mehr ausgehen wenn ich das hereinbringen will was ich brauchte seit ich hier bin und das sind 33 m abends erst um 8 uhr nach hause gekommen – kaffe aufgegangene nudel bier brod erbsensuppe
3.2. (Mo.) um 7 uhr schon in der kanzlei sein müssen der doktor hat in meinen räuschen ein haar gefunden und ist sehr grob mit mir abends um 7 uhr aus der kanzlei – kaffe fleisch blaukraut bier butterbrod suppe tabak
11.2. (Di.) heute wurde das erstemal meine kleidung mit kölnischem wasser besprengt und heute stank ich auch nicht daß ich nun einen alten regenschirm habe weil mir der gute nicht vergönnt war verdrüßt mich recht heute der frau nochmal 9 m 22 pf für zimmereinrichtung gegeben ich habe nun für die kanzleikasse 20 m aus meiner kasse genommen – 0 M. 0 Pf. – 9 M. 22 Pf. – kaffe geröst kartoffel bier
15.2. (Sa.) heute meinte der doktor schon wieder ich hätte die vergangene nacht geschwärmt ich entgegnete daß ich nicht mehr nüchtern leben könnte oder ich müßte mir den hals zuschnüren er entgegnete daß es leute gäbe die es nicht glauben zu hause geht es nun sehr sparsam her mit dem essen die frau erhält eben alle monate 100 m und muß damit alles bestreiten – kaffe wecken brod bier butterrod
Further reading: An encrypted diary written by an Austrian servant and soldier