Yesterday I visited the exhibition “Top Secret!” in Mons, Belgium, together with a few friends and blog readers. Apart from many fascinating exhibits, three interesting photographs of rare cipher machines caught my attention. Can my readers say something about the background of these devices?

Yesterday I spent a very interesting day in Mons, Belgium, at the “Top Secret!” exhibition. After I had published a blog post about my planned trip to this place earlier this week, a number of friends and blog readers joined me – namely Karl and Elisabeth de Leeuw, Carsten Haucke, and Norbert Biermann. Renowned Belgian cryptographer Jean-Jacques Quisquater, who is the curator of this exhibition, gave us a tour through the exhibits.


Among other things, Jean-Jacques showed us an Enigma (the beige cover indicates that this specimen was probably used in the desert of Northern Africa) …


… and this very rare Hagelin B-21 cipher machine:


In addition to machines and other items, the exhibition featured many written explanations and photographs. I found three of these photos especially interesting. First of all, the following picture (courtesy of CEGESOMA) caught my attention:


The caption says: “Ciphering a telegram by the Havas press agency in Paris” (1920-1939). I have never seen this cipher device before (it resembles the one I introduced last week). Does a reader know more about it?

The following machine is also very interesting (photograph by the Bibliothèque nationale de France):


This is probably an early cipher machine that connects the keys of one typewriter with the types of another, thus implementing a simple substitution cipher. The first devices of this type were built in the early 20th century. This picture might have been taken around 1910. The caption “Device allowing its user to write in Morse code” is, in my view, not correct. Can a reader say more?

Finally, the following picture (courtesy of CEGESOMA) allegedly shows a ciphering machine named Belin cryptograph:


In my view, this is not a cipher machine, but a Belinograph, i.e., a machine for sending pictures by telegraph, telephone or radio.

If a reader knows more about these devices, please let me know.

Further reading: A great event: the European Historical Ciphers Colloquium 2017


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Kommentare (9)

  1. #1 Dampier
    6. November 2017

    Cool stuff!

    (abo :))

  2. #2 Rossignol
    Paris, France
    6. November 2017

    The second picture is that of the pneumatic crypto-machine of Sidney Hole.

    US Patent 1923 :

  3. #3 Jerry McCarthy
    England, Europa
    6. November 2017


  4. #4 Thomas
    6. November 2017

    Sidney Hole`s machine was manufactured in 1926 and can (or could) be seen in the London Science Museum:

  5. #5 joe
    6. November 2017

    B-21 mit Fialka Schlüsselscheiben

  6. #6 George Keller
    New York
    6. November 2017

    I wonder if the rotors shown in the photo of the Hagelin B-21 Cypher Machine are really from a “Fialka”. I am attaching a foto of my Fialka rotor.

  7. #7 Ralf Bülow
    7. November 2017

    Sidney Hole’s machine is mentioned on the Science Museum’s website, unfortunately without a photo

  8. #8 Jerry McCarthy
    England, Europa
    7. November 2017

    #5. Ja! Ich hatte auch so gedacht! Mann kann ganz einfach sehen, dass sie Russische Buchstaben haben.

  9. #9 Rossignol
    Paris, France
    7. November 2017

    About the third picture: Circa 1934, Édouard Belin built a cryptograph based on his Belinograph.

    In the journal “La Science et la Vie” number 206 August 1934 there is an article on cryptography. The end of the article describes the Belin cryptograph (in french, sorry).

    I scanned the article:

    The device varies the speed of the transmitter and receiver cylinders while keeping the synchronization. It adds fake sync tops to scramble the transmission.
    I doubt that this cryptograph was used by the military or diplomats.