An old French magazine mentions an encrypted message that was found in the estate of a 19th century French soldier. Can a reader decipher this cryptogram?

Prof. Dr. Joachim von zur Gathen, a German cryptologist and crypto book author, recently provided me a page scan from a 1954 issue of a French magazine (I don’t know if the word MARS in the top line of the scan refers to the name of the magazine or to the month March).


A cryptogram from 1834

The page in question stems from a magazine column named “Chercheurs et curieux” (“Researchers and Curiousity Seekers”), which covers questions asked by readers. Here’s  the scan:


As you see, a reader named Gabriel Liber asks whether somebody can decipher an old encrypted text. This text was found in the estate of a French soldier. It was created in 1834. The following excerpt shows this cryptogram in detail:


As you see, the text contains many French cleartext words (“je”, “qui, “sans”, …), while the rest is encrypted in an unknown cipher. Mr. Liber states that a variant of the Vigenère cipher might have been used. The numbers in brackets might be some key information.

Can a reader break this cryptogram?


A (solved) WW1 cryptogram

There’s another interesting historical cryptogram that has come to my attention recently. It was published by Paolo Bonavoglia in the Facebook group Cryptograms & Classical Ciphers. Here it is:


This encrypted message stems from World War 1. It was created in October 1916. According to Paolo, the solution is known, but he hasn’t published it yet. So, if you are interested in learning about the solution, you can either try to find it yourself or you should join the Cryptograms & Classical Ciphers group and wait for Paolo to post the solution.


Further reading: Who can decrypt this postcard?

Kommentare (4)

  1. #1 Thomas
    10. Januar 2017

    Only a guess:
    The letter frequencies of the WWI cryptogram might indicate a transposition of german plaintext. At that time the german army used turning grill ciphers (Kahn, codebreakers, p. 308).

  2. #2 Norbert
    10. Januar 2017

    Zur ersten Chiffre: Ich glaube, es ist nicht sinnvoll, ihr den Titel “Wolgemuth cryptogram” zu geben, nicht wegen des fehlenden h im Namen Wohlgemuth, sondern weil Monsieur Liber nicht eins, sondern gleich zwei voneinander unabhängige Kryptogramme eingesendet hatte, und nur das erste davon ist “citoyen Wohlgemuth” zuzuordnen (es lautet gemäß der abgebildeten Zeitschriftenseite “32 725131 71932 62 3459 de 61 648429 ts 48 St. [unleserliches Zeichen], 156”, eine harte Nuss, will mir scheinen).

    Das zweite Kryptogramm, also dasjenige, um das es hier geht (“Monsieur Scaevole Saint-Just …”) hat keine Verbindung zu Bürger Wohlgemuth: es wurde, wie Monsieur Liber schreibt, 1834 bei einem Mitglied des “Charbonnerie démocratique”-Geheimbundes beschlagnahmt.

  3. #3 Klaus Schmeh
    10. Januar 2017

    Danke für den Hinweis, das habe ich übersehen. Ich habe das Kryptogramm nun in “Saint-Just-Kryptogramm” umbenannt.
    Das Wohlgemuth-Kryptogramm ist ein weiteres, es lautet “32 725131 71932 62 3459 de 61 648429 ts 48 St. [unleserliches Zeichen], 156”.

  4. #4 Max Baertl
    21. Januar 2017

    Hier eine Transkription des WW1 Textes: