My list of encrypted books keeps growing. The latest entry (book number 80) is one of the most peculiar.

When it comes to encrypted books (yes, I’m talking about books, not about letters or sheets), the Voynich manuscript is by far the most popular. For those who still don’t know: the Voynich manuscript is a 230 page hand-written book probably created in the 15th century. Its encryption code has never been broken. Hardly anything is known about its origin, its purpose and its author.


However, the Voynich manuscript is by far not the only encrypted book. E.g., the Rohonc Codex is another manuscript written in a code. Like the Voynich manuscript, it has yet to be solved.


And then there are numerous encrypted diaries, encrypted Freemason manuals, encrypted notebooks and encrypted gang manifests.


My list of encrypted books

As I’m quite fascinated about this kind of things, I started assembling a list of encrypted books, which is available on a static blog site.

To simplify referencing the books on my list, I asserted each one a five-digit number, starting with 00001. It should come to no surprise that I put the Voynich manuscript at the top position. Number 00002 is the Rohonc Codex. Meanwhile I have reached number 00080, and the list still keeps growing.

While the Voynich manuscript and the Rohonc Codex are still unsolved, most other encrypted books on my list have long been broken. In many cases the encryption method used is not very strong – it’s probably too exhausting to write an entire book in a complex code.

Among my favorite encrypted books are the following:

  • Ancient Mysteries (00006): manifest of a 19th century secret society for women
  • Triangular book (00050): an 18th century Freemasonic manifest with triangular pages
  • Action Line Cryptogram (00018): Some of my readers solved the mystery of is nine-pager. It turned out to be a manual published by a society named Oddfellows (it still exists but I had never heard of it before). London-based crypto mystery expert Nick Pelling finally found a cleartext version of this book.


Book number 00080: an Orwellian experience

Shortly before I wrote this blog post, I added book number 00080 to my list. Like many others I had found it on a very simple way: I typed in “enciphered book” on Google. One of the hits I got was the site of a London-based artist named Hyo Myoung Kim. Hyo Myoung, who was born in Korea, has created a version of George Orwell’s “1984” enciphered in a color code. Every character in this classic is represented by a rectangle in a certain color.


1984 enciphered in color is available as a PDF for download. Hyo Myoung created it in 2010, which makes it one of the most recent books on my list. It’s certainly one of the most peculiar ones, too.


1984 enciphered in color is a piece of art. It is not meant to have any practical purpose. This is not uncommon. A number of other encrypted books on my list are art works, too. E.g., the Codex Seraphinianus (00005) created by Italian artist Luigi Serafini in the 1970s is also a piece of art. The same holds for the Book of Woo (00022).


Book number 00056: The Cylob Cryptogram

One of the most mysterious pieces on my list might be an artwork without a practical purpose, too: the Cylob cryptogram (00056). The Cylob cryptogram is a book purchased by musician Cylob (Chris Jeffs) in a London book store araund 1995. Although it is printed, no other copy is known to exist. The whole book is filled with geometrical objects most of which are rectangular in shape. It doesn’t contain any letters or numbers.


If a reader has an idea of what this strange book is about, please tell me. Additional information is available on Nick Pelling’s Cipher Foundation page.

Further reading: When Encryption Baffles the Police: A Collection of Cases

Kommentare (37)

  1. #1 Klaus Schmeh
    9. August 2016

    Bart Wenmeckers via Facebook:
    Very cool klaus. I am always surprised by the number of books and thank you for taking the time to write in english.

  2. #2 Klaus Schmeh
    9. August 2016

    Mark Romo via Facebook:
    Enciphered in color. That’s cool!

  3. #3 Tomtoo
    9. August 2016

    About the Cylob
    Maybe its a joke by the musician himself and it goes about music ?

  4. #4 Tomtoo
    9. August 2016

    That’s just imagination but the lower two signs on the first page could stand for fifth half. He is dj the upper. Sign looks like a mixture of an gramophone and a Cd player. Could just be the sign for a turntable.

  5. #5 Tomtoo
    10. August 2016

    I don’t think that a piktogram stands for a letter. Its more like hyroglyphes that are made out of a piano keyboard and more.

  6. #6 Tomtoo
    10. August 2016

    Its a love story

  7. #7 Franziska Hufsky
    10. August 2016

    I love the color code!

  8. #8 Jerry McCarthy
    10. August 2016

    Regarding 1984, co-incidentally, I have just last night finished reading this book! When you say “every character in this classic is replaced….” do you mean every person, (Winston, Julia, Mr. O’Brien, etc) or every letter/number/punctuation??

    • #9 Klaus Schmeh
      10. August 2016

      I mean letter/number/punctuation.

  9. #10 tomtoo
    10. August 2016

    i think he means every char/letter

  10. #11 tomtoo
    10. August 2016

    its not a fivth its a fortht

    so it says for (my) half

  11. #12 Jerry McCarthy
    10. August 2016

    #9. Agreed. Interestingly, the letter ‘c’ is represented by a white space, which initially made it hard to find, as it looks (almost) like the gap between words (at least on my PC).

    Just for fun, I selected and copied the first few pages of the document, and pasted them into a Word Processor. The original English-language text appeared in the WP’s default font (TNR 12). So it would seem that Mr Kim has simply created a color-based font.

  12. #13 tomtoo
    10. August 2016

    its no font its music on a keyboard mixed with a turntable.
    the point is a needel.
    and chords are in there.
    sry for my english sir but that are just modern hieroglyphics .

  13. #14 tomtoo
    10. August 2016

    sry i was missunderstanding you.
    i was so selfish in my imagined finding !
    peace !

  14. #15 tomtoo
    10. August 2016

    do you read with a braille reader ?

  15. #16 Jerry McCarthy
    10. August 2016

    Errrm. No. Ich bin kein Blinder. Ich habe nur den Adobe Reader benutzt.

  16. #17 tomtoo
    10. August 2016

    iam not amused 😉

  17. #18 tomtoo
    10. August 2016

    whats so funny about doing this ?

  18. #19 tomtoo
    10. August 2016

    und jerry erzähl mal die story die da drinn steckt ?

  19. #21 Thomas
    10. August 2016

    Jerry #11
    Did you get black or coloured letters? I tried it and got letters of the same coloures. I wonder if Word can convert the coloured letters into little squares.

  20. #22 tomtoo
    11. August 2016

    @klaus schmeh
    iam not shure if you are still interested in the solfing of the cylop pages.
    but its modern hieroglyphs.
    inspiered by a piano keyboard and a turntable and a mixdesk.
    i just say on the first page the lowest two pictograms say “for” “half”. the point later is a needel. look at the levels on the mixing desk.
    so maybe someone comes up with the complete story ?

    • #23 Klaus Schmeh
      11. August 2016

      Yes, I’m still interested.

      >inspiered by a piano keyboard and a turntable and a mixdesk.
      Sounds interesting, but what’s the message behind these hieroglyphs?

  21. #24 Klaus Schmeh
    11. August 2016

    Wolfgang Wilhelm via Facebook:
    Der erste englischsprachige Artikel? Das wundert mich, da schon einige Vorträge auf Englisch waren… Ich bin gespannt, wann mal ein Artikel in der Voynich-Sprache erscheint )))

  22. #25 jml
    11. August 2016

    @ Jerry:”the letter ‘c’ is represented by a white space, which initially made it hard to find, as it looks (almost) like the gap between words”
    “c” is scripted in a very bright yellow, not in white!

  23. #26 tomtoo
    11. August 2016

    i think i did enough in solfing that puzzle.

  24. #27 Jerry McCarthy
    12. August 2016

    @jml : “c” is scripted in a very bright yellow, not in white!

    OK. But not on my screen. 🙂

  25. #28 Jerry McCarthy
    12. August 2016

    @Thomas @ 21.

    All my letters were black, but I use OO. Mayhap different
    word processors/different Adobe readers behave differently during copy/paste. 😉

  26. #29 Jerry McCarthy
    12. August 2016

    It is a shame, Klaus, that when you submit a reply to somebody else’s message, all the message numbers (the # numbers), which follow your reply, change 🙁 .

    • #30 Klaus Schmeh
      12. August 2016

      You’re right, but I’m afraid, I can’t change this. It’s a default of the WordPress system.

  27. #31 Dampier
    22. August 2016

    @Klaus, you could just add a new comment every time instead of clicking “answer” (Which seems to be available to authors only – and in the e-mail notifications. I don’t use that function because I don’t want to spoil the numbering of the comments)
    Your comments would then file at the end of the queue and not below the one you’re answering. So you would have to address the person you are answering to (@Xy …). But that’s at least a way to keep the comments’ chronological order.

  28. #32 Dampier
    23. August 2016

    @Jerry McCarthy

    Just for fun, I selected and copied the first few pages of the document, and pasted them into a Word Processor. The original English-language text appeared in the WP’s default font (TNR 12). So it would seem that Mr Kim has simply created a color-based font.

    I guess this is rather a challenge for a DTP operator than for a cryptographer 😉 So I tried to find out.

    When I copy/paste some of the text into my editor (TextEdit on OS X) it shows the colours, but replaces the font with Helvetica 12pt (The default format is RTF, so it keeps the text formattings as far as possible – in this case it doesn’t have the original font, so it switches to the default). If I put in on text-only mode (.txt), it turns black. So the colour information must have been assigned to the letters later, it is not part of the font.

    There were no font formats which allowed to assign color to the glyphs in 2010. Even OTF can’t do that nowadays. Today there are font formats which include colours, especially for making tables of emojis or so. They work with SVG graphics. So today you can make multicolour fonts, e.g. with a software like Glyphs 2.0.

    According to the PDF file, Mr. Hyo Myoung Kim in 2010 used Adobe InDesign CS4 and a font called “untitled.ttf”. So he must have found a way to assign the colours in InDesign, and he must have found a way to automate it, as I don’t think he assigned the colours one by one (although … he’s an artist, who knows …)

    The font must consist of black rectangles only. As the font name is “untitled.ttf”, I think the artist made it by himself with a font software like fontographer, which shouldn’t be too complicated. As I have no font software at the moment, I tried to find a free font as blocky as possible. In the end I chose “orthogon” which you can barely read in a normal way.

    I suspected the “search and replace” tool in InDesign to be capable of automating that. I had to try around a bit, but it turned out that you can actually search for a letter and replace it with a colour – i.e. black A to pink A, black Z to blue Z etc.

    I made one colour swatch for each letter (the font doesn’t contain numbers and interpunction), so i wouldn’t get confused when assigning them, and I can change colours for whole letters later. That was useful when I saw that some colours were too similar.

    Then I found me a text and assigned the colours to the letters one by one. It worked out fine. With that workflow I could also “encrypt” a whole book now.

    The PDF I made behaves exactly like the original one by Mr. Hyo Myoung Kim. I made a pic in Photoshop as well and used a painting filter to wipe out the thin white lines in the letters.

    Maybe someone wants to try to decipher it?

    Must be hard to even make a transcript out of the colours … here is the PDF as well. When you zoom in, you can even (almost) read the text, or you just copy/paste it into your text editor :))

  29. #33 Jerry McCarthy
    23. August 2016

    @Dampier #32

    Nicely done….

    Indeed, it was not her story 🙂

  30. #34 Jerry McCarthy
    23. August 2016

    @Dampier #31

    Indeed. Exactly like the rest of us do….

  31. #35 Jerry McCarthy
    23. August 2016

    Incidentally, who is this mysterious “juergencambridge” 🙂

  32. #36 Dampier
    23. August 2016

    @Jerry, thanks. It was really fun to “break that code” :))

    Incidentally, who is this mysterious “juergencambridge”

    I also used to wonder. Must be this guy …. The editor-in-chief.

  33. #37 Dirk Haar
    3. Mai 2017

    cylob: bei 24 Zeichen lägen ja Griechisch oder Koreanisch nahe, letzteres eher.
    Aussehen tut’s für mich wie eine Anleitung; ich dachte zunächst an ein PC-Spiel o.ä. (wo die in den 80er gerne mal als Kopierschutz verwendet wurden), wenn das ein Spiel aus Korea wäre, dann kennte das hier (oder in UK) niemand.
    Die Symbole selbst haben aber (wie auch andere schon schrieben) etwas von einer CD/Mixer-Anordnung, und erinnert an Beispiele, wie in einer Synthesizer-Software Module miteinander verknüpft werden können.