In one of his books British priest and novelist Sabine Baring-Gould (1834–1924) published a short cryptogram. Can a reader solve it?
The history of cryptography has seen many interesting books, for instance, Giambatista della Porta’s De furtivis literarum notis, Herbert Yardley’s The American Black Chamber, and David Kahn’s The Codebreakers. Tobias Schrödel’s marvelous crypto bibliography contains no less than 538 entries ranging from Aarhof’s Wampun, Zinken und Geheimtinktur to Zanotti’s Crittografia. I have done my best to add a few German books to Tobias’ list, for instance, Kryptografie – Verfahren, Protokolle, Infrastrukturen and Codeknacker gegen Codemacher.
Curiosities of olden times
One of the less important books listed in Tobias’ bibliography is Curiosities of Olden Times written by British priest and novelist Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924). As a German, I was a little confused about this man’s first name, as “Sabine” is a very popular German female given name. According to the German Wikipedia article about “Sabine”, Baring-Gould is the only male person bearing this name having come to fame. The English Wikipedia article even lists him as a female person.
Curiosities of Olden Times is not a cryptography book. In fact, it is a book about curiosities of all kinds containing a cryptography chapter. This chapter is not of great importance, as it only reports on well-known cipher methods without going into much detail. The book is available online. The following page describes a few encrypted ads in the Agony Column of The Times, a topic that is certainly familiar to many readers of this blog:
The most interesting part about this book is a cryptogram, which Baring-Gould introduces as an example to test the reader’s sagacity. Here it is: