My blog post about acrostics (especially about one in a letter of resignation from a presidential advisory committee) has been quite popular among my readers. Here are a few more acrostics.

In January 2010, Jonathan I. Schwartz, CEO of Sun Microsystems, sent the following email to all Sun employees on the completion of the acquisition of Sun by Oracle Corporation:


The initial letters of the first seven paragraphs spell BEAT IBM.



The coding method used here is known as “acrostic”. An acrostic is a text, in which the first letter (or syllable, or word) of each line (or paragraph) spells out a message. Acrostics are a special case of null ciphers and belong to the field of steganography.

By the way, my new (German) book, Versteckte Botschaften, is about the history of steganography. It will be published in a few days. The book contains a whole chapter about acrostics, among others created by Arnold Schwarzenegger, PETA, Edgar Allan Poe, and WW2 soldiers.


On Monday this week I inroduced a few acrostics not contained in the book, especially the one that is included in a recent letter of resignation written by an advisory committee of Donald Trump. This article was well received, so I decided to introduced a couple of more acrostics in today’s post.


More acrostics

James May, presenter on the BBC program Top Gear, was fired from the magazine Autocar for spelling out a message using the large red initial at the beginning of each review in the publication’s Road Test Yearbook Issue for 1992:


The message reads: “So you think it’s really good? Yeah, you should try making the bloody thing up. It’s a real pain in the arse.”


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The following Rosicrucian diagram of alchemical symbolism with seven planets at top contains an acrostic, too:


The initial letters of the words around the circumference spell out VITRIOL, an archaic name for a sulfate. This figure is taken from Wikimedia – just like the next one, which shows an inscription from the Ulm Minster in Ulm, Germany:


The initial letters of the first four lines spell out IESU (“Jesus”).


A Latin acrostic

And finally, here’s a Latin acrostic I found on the website of a 2013 trade fair in Stuttgart, Germany:

Acrostic-Stuttgart-1     Acrostic-Stuttgart-2

Does a reader know more acrostics? If yes, I would be interested to learn.

Further reading: The Top 50 unsolved encrypted messages: 33. The censorship manual steganograms


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Kommentare (14)

  1. #1 Lercherl
    24. August 2017

    The Latin acrostich from Ulm is from the Sibylline oracles. It is a translation from the Greek. In the Greek original, all 27 verses form an acrostich (Ἰησοῦς Χρειστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ – Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour). This is again an acrostich, the initials ἸΧΘΥΣ meaning “fish”. Hence, the fish as a symbol of Christianity.

    The Latin version is quoted by St. Augustine in the City of God (XVIII, 23). Augustine states that, 3 being a holy number, 27, which is 3^3, is even more holy. He claims the prophecy is evidence that even the pagan Sibyl had foreknowledge of the coming of Christ. Obviously, this is nonsense, it is a clear case of vaticinium ex eventu, a prophecy after the fact written by a Christian author.

  2. #2 Thomas Ernst
    24. August 2017

    Handwritten as well as printed acrosticha often indicated the hidden text in red, as does your “Rudolfinian” example above. Early ones, such as by Optatianus and Hrabanus Maurus, usually included multiple texts. The eleventh carmen of Optantianus’ “Panegyricus” (325 AD), dedicated to Emperor Constantine, contains three acrosticha (I have the letters of the acrosticha in red, but they do not transfer as such):

    p a v c a q v i d e m c e c i n i f o r s f r i v o l a h i s q v o q i v n g a m l v d i c r a s i c n o s t r a p a n g e t t v a i v s s a c a m o e n a a m b i i t h a e c p l a v d e n s f e l i c i s n v m i n e p h o e b i c a l l i o p e p a r t i t a n o v i s s i b i v i n c v l a c v r i s f l e x i b v s v t p r i m i s d i s c o r d i r e g u l a c v l t v h i n c a l i a s o n e t a r t e s v p e r p i t h o i a f l e x v s s i c f a c i e s t o t i e n s c v m c o n f i r m a v e r i t a e s t v s s i c a n i m v s n e c v i c t v s i n e r s s e d s a v c i v s s i r i m i m p l e r i v a r i a s m e t r i c a e g r a v i o r is o b a r t e s t a n d e m n o s s e d e i m e d i t a n t e m v i x l i c e t a e s t v s r i t e v e l i t m e d i o o d v m i n a g m i n e c o l o c a t a s t r i e f f i g i e m t r e p i d o q v e p a r a n s s e r m o n e l a t e n t e r d i c e r e n e c m e t u e n s v i n c t o s i c o m n i a a b o r t v p a n g e r e s e d r v r s v m b a s s v s n v n c p r o d e r e c a r m e n i m p e r a t h i c d o c i l i s m v s a e d e f o n t e m e a b v n t o r d i n e c a s t a l i o t e x t i p e r n o m i n a v e r s v s

    The reason for making the acrosticha visibly stand out was intentional: the author meant not to create a riddle, but to show off with his artfully intertwined text. Discerning the various layers of text was both representative of the art of the writer, as well as the exegesis by the reader. A sort of master-teaches-student how to look behind the veiled surface which Op. explained:

    In hoc carmine a prima littera primi versus rubrica descendens usque ad octavam octavi, et per amfractum ascendens usque ad penultimam octavi eiusdem versus habet scriptum: PVBLILIVS OPTATIANVS PORFIRIVS HAEC LVSI. Item a prima novissimi versus usque ad octavam noni, per amfractum ascendens et descendens, usque ad penultimam noni versus, habet scriptum heroicum versum, qui dum redit fit sotadicus, et est hic: OMNE GENVS METRI TIBI PANGENS OPTVME BASSE. Item a prima littera sexti versus ad tertiam octavi tres littere HIC, et a tertia decima octavi ad quintam decimam sexti VER, et inde ad decimam septimam octavi SV, et inde a xxvii octavi ad vicesimam nonam sexti SVA, et inde a tricesimam primam octavi RI, et inde a xxxi noni ad xxix undecimi OCO, et inde ad xxvii noni LO, et inde a xvii noni ad xv undecimi RED, et inde ad xiii noni IS, et inde a xiii noni usque ad primam undecimi PAR, facit hendecasyllabum: HIC VERSVS VARIO COLORE DISPAR.

    Hrabanus Maurus proudly introduces his youthful “De laudibus sanctæ crucis” (815 AD) – a complete carneval of acrostica – with a square text without word separations in which he declares his authorship:

    M u s a c i t a s t u d i o g a u d e n s n u n c d i c e r e n u m e n […] T e m p t a v i h i c f a m u l u s s o n s d a r e e t h o c o r i a r […] A t q u e o r b e d o m i n a n s q u i s a n c i t s o l u s e t u n u s […] M u l t a q; m a g n a d o m u s m o n s t r a t v b i q u e m i c a n s […] H i s e g o n o n m o t u s c o n t u r b o r n a m i m p i e v u l t u […] S i n t s u a f a c t a p i e h i c c u n c t a q u e h i c r a p i a t

    The first and seventh letter of every first and seventh line – in mss. indicated in red or “fat” letters – yield the signature: MAGNENTIUS HRABANUS MAURUS HOC OPUS FECIT. This one is a sort of akro-meso-telestichon, with the number 7 for a basis.

  3. #3 Rich SantaColoma
    24. August 2017

    Honestly, I don’t think
    I would have noticed them.
    Kids sometimes used them:
    largely to hide a message,
    at school, to their friends.
    Unless it is pointed out, though,
    Sometimes they go unnoticed.

  4. #4 Thomas
    24. August 2017

    An acrostichic epitaph on Sir Francis Walsingham, spymaster to Queen Elizabeth I.:

  5. #5 Ralf Bülow
    24. August 2017
  6. #6 Karsten
    24. August 2017

    @Rich SantaColoma:
    not always, but as I found out myself on the last blogpost, it happens … 😉

  7. #7 robsn
    24. August 2017

    This technique can be more efficient at hiding a message than one would assume. I am a game master for pen and paper role playing games (like Dungeons and Dragon). My players are used to hidden messages in handouts they receive. Once they received a confusing letter from a friend of their characters that seemed to make no sence at all and that was not written in his handwriting. They tried Caesarian Shift and some other techniques. But they never came to the idea to read the first letter of each line… “your friend is dead / run”. When I revealed it later, they were absolutly shocked about their blindness.

  8. #8 Martin
    24. August 2017

    Das ist kein Kommentar zu diesem Artikel, aber ich weiss nicht, wie ich sonst meinen Beitrag anbringen kann:

    Ich löse ein Versprechen ein, das ich vor einigen Wochen gegeben habe. In einem Musikstück, das ein Computer selber nach einem (eingeschränkten) Zufallsprinzip komponiert, soll ein beliebiger Text versteckt (codiert) werden. Das Stück soll “gut klingen”, es darf also nicht aus einer wirren Tonfolge bestehen.

    Ich habe nun in den Ferien ein solches Programm geschrieben. Das Stück kann auf

    angehört werden. Ich vermute, dass es unmöglich ist, den versteckten deutschen Text zu dechiffrieren. Der erste, dem dies gelingen sollte, erhält von mir einen Preis von 1’000 EUR. Wenn es niemand schafft, werde ich nach und nach Hinweise zur Lösung geben. Nach jedem Hinweis wird sich aber das Preisgeld verringern.

  9. #9 Klaus Schmeh
    24. August 2017

    @Martin: Vielen Dank! Könnte ich noch die Noten zu diesem Stück habe? Dann würde ich gerne darüber bloggen.

  10. #10 Thomas
    25. August 2017

    Erinnert mich an Herzog Augusts Musikchiffre Vielleicht ein ähnliches System?

  11. #11 tomtoo
    25. August 2017

    Sehr spannend. Das Stück klingt auch Harmonisch. Aber ohne Noten ist es wohl sehr schwer. Also da müsste man als einfacher Mensch ,ja erst einmal eine Frequenzanalyse machen.

  12. #12 Ulrich
    25. August 2017

    Präzisierungen zum sog. Rosenkreuzer-Teller:
    Schwefel = Sulphur. Dagegen Vitriol(e) = Metallsulfate, z.B. grün = Eisen-, blau = Kupfer-, weiß = Zink-. Wichtigste Rohstoffe der Alchemisten zur Herstellung von Schwefelsäure und (mittelbar) von Salz- und Salpetersäure. Vitriolkristalle durchschimmernd-transparent, daher Wortstamm abgeleitet vom lat. vitrum = Glas. Nicht ganz so archaisch: manche Winzer spritzen heute noch mit Kupfervitriol.
    Umschrift in lockerer Übersetzung: “Betrachte, was im Inneren der Erde liegt: indem du es läuterst, wirst du einen zuvor verborgenen Stein erhalten (das wahre Heilmittel).“
    Oberer Bildteil zwischen den zwei Schwurhänden: Alchemistische Symbole der seit der Antike bekannten sieben Metalle; im Uhrzeigersinn: Sonne = Gold; Mond = Silber; Kupfer; Zinn; Quecksilber; Blei; Eisen (jedoch auch gleichzeitig astrologische Symbole).
    Untere Bildteil: vielleicht eine Datierung, Unter der kaiserlichen (Reichsapfel !) Hoheit von
    [drei Wappen, Heraldiker an’s Werk !]
    Eine deutlich ältere Fassung des Bildes (anno 1624) vgl. Wiki Vitriol.

  13. #13 Martin
    27. August 2017

    Lieber Tomtoo

    Weder die Notenpartitur noch eine Frequenzanalyse würde zur Lösung führen. Die Botschaft kann nur durch ein spezielles Computerprogramm entschlüsselt werden!

  14. #14 tomtoo
    28. August 2017

    Schade da fall ich aus. Aber OK zumindest hätte ich eine Idee.