# Can you translate these plaintexts?

Sometimes, deciphering a cryptogram is easier than reading the deciphered message. Here are two plaintexts I have difficulties to understand.

One of the most beautiful examples of steganography I know is a message hidden in a drawing from the 17th century. This drawing, which shows an apple tree, was a birthday present to Augustus the Younger, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (1579-1666), who was known to have an interest in encryption and codes. Under the pseudonym Gustavus Selenus, Augustus even wrote a book about cryptology.

### A Latin message in an apple tree

I introduced Augustus’ apple tree steganogram on this blog in 2015 (thanks to Gerhard Strasser for making me aware of it). Here’s the picture that contains the message:

Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel

To decode the message, one needs to divide the picture into 20 columns and mark each one with a letter of the alphabet (the letters P and B, T and D, as well as I and J, respectively, are identified):

Now, each apple represents the letter that stands at the top of the column it is located in. Read from top to bottom, we can decode the following message:

INDE HIC LONGAT IBI SINT TEMPORA PROSPERA FIAT

I have introduced this nice steganogram many times in my presentations. However, I was never able to say what the plaintext message means. Although I had four years of Latin at school, I could not translate it. Can a reader tell me what these words mean?

### The La Buse cryptogram

The message hidden in the apple tree is not the only decrypted text I have trouble to understand. Many readers certainly know the story of French pirate Olivier Le Vasseur (ca. 1690-1730), also known as “La Buse” (“the Buzzard”). In the early 18th century, Le Vasseur seized numerous ships in the Indian Ocean. In 1729 he was captured and executed on the French island of La Réunion.

According to a well-known legend, Le Vasseur, when he already had the gallows rope around his neck, threw a parchment bearing an encrypted message into the crowd and shouted: “Find my treasure, the one who may understand it!”. Though many have tried, Le Vasseur’s treasure has never been found.

Here’s the alleged message:

Public domain

This ciphertext is encrypted in a Pigpen cipher. In 1947 a certain Reginald Cruise Wilkins broke it. According to Nick Pelling’s blog, the plaintext reads as follows:

aprè jmez une paire de pijon tiresket
2 doeurs sqeseaj tête cheral funekort
filttinshientecu prenez une cullière
de mielle ef ovtre fous en faites une ongat
mettez sur ke patai de la pertotitousn
vpulezolvs prenez 2 let cassé sur le che
min il faut qoe ut toit a noitie couue
povr en pecger une femme dhrengt vous n ave
eua vous serer la dobaucfea et pour ve
ngraai et por epingle oueiuileturlor
eiljn our la ire piter un chien tupqun
lenen de la mer de bien tecjeet sur ru
nvovl en quilnise iudf kuue femm rq
i veut se faire dun hmetsedete s/u dre
dans duui ooun dormir un homm r
esscfvmm / pl faut n rendre udlq
u un diffur qecieefurtetlesl

I have tried to read and translate this message, but the French I learned at school proved far from sufficient to make sense of it. I’m not sure whether it is at all possible to translate these lines. It is well possible that we are dealing with pseudo-French nonsense. Can a reader say more about Le Vasseur’s plaintext? Does a translation already exist? If not, is it possible to create one?

And no, I don’t think that a translation of this message will lead us to a hidden treasure.

Further reading: How artists depicted cardsharping with steganography

## Kommentare (15)

1. #1 TWO
JFC Brunsum
25. September 2019

Latin :

and this far there are better temporary succesess

2. #2 Lercherl
25. September 2019

INDE HIC LONGAT IBI SINT TEMPORA PROSPERA FIAT

This should be LONGA TIBI. Also, FIAT should probably be FIANT (plural “may they be” instead of “may it be”), since it goes with TEMPORA, “times”.

Loosely translated “may you live a long and happy life here”. More literally:

inde: from now on
hic: here
longa tempora: long times
tibi: to you
sint: may they be
prospera: happy, prosperous
fia(n)t: may it (they) become

May your time here henceforth be long, and may it become happy.

The French is very garbled and does not make much sense, probably the en- or decryption is not quite correct. Possibly some kind of recipe (for a love philtre?)

3. #3 Klaus Schmeh
25. September 2019

@TWO, Lercherl: Thank you very much for your help!

4. #4 Kerberos
25. September 2019

Hallo,
die Buchstaben oben in der Sonne sind hebräisch?

5. #5 Thomas
25. September 2019

Yes, it says ‘Yahweh’ (the name of God).

6. #6 Norbert
25. September 2019

This pirate cipher thing is a bit bizarre. On one hand, there is a plaintext which is mostly complete rubbish with here and there a couple of French(-ish) words popping up. One might tend to buy this, because the ciphertext could be an x-th-generation copy of the original, and after all, a pirate is not generally assumed to be an expert in orthography.

But then, on the other hand, we should have to admire that Le Vasseur was an expert in linguistics, as he apparently used a very modern, 20th-century-shaped alphabet for his pigpen cipher, distinguishing i from j and u from v. Even the most elaborate ciphers of Louvois some decades before Le Vasseur had not made any difference between these letters! Furthermore, the plaintext makes use of the letter k which (imho) in French was (and is) used only for foreign words (afaik, in the Louis XIV letters broken by Bazeries, there is not a single instance of the letter k). And then: one pair of homophones in the pigpen scheme, but why on earth for “z”, of all letters? Not to mention that, according to Nick Pellings blog, Reginald Cruise Wilkins claimed that the cipher features a digit-to-letter substitution, but when it came to writing down a number in the ciphertext, Le Vasseur apparently wrote the number (2) instead of the allegedly associated letter E.

In a way, this reminds me of Craig Bauer’s solution to Zodiac Z340: Not a sufficient share of sense-making plaintext to make me buy the whole solution. So, my opinion is that Wilkins’ solution is to be rejected. And I strongly doubt if the ciphertext is meaningful at all. (OK… To be honest, I found the real solution myself – will publish it after having unearthed the treasure 🙂 )

7. #7 x3Ray
25. September 2019

Das Steganogramm und die Übersetzung sind (inkl. Verweis auf den Blog hier) auch zu finden im Artikel von Gerhard Strasser, S. 12:

8. #8 x3Ray
25. September 2019

@Norbert #6 Da sind sicher einige Fehler drin, woher auch immer die stammen. Man könnte das mitunter auch mit Dialekt erklären, das Kreolische in einer seiner zahlreichen Formen drängt sich da auf.

Nichtsdestotrotz scheinen viele (zu viele) Fehler im Text zu sein, nimmt man nur mal die vorletzte Zeile, da scheint “pl faut n rendre” doch eher zu “il faut prendre” zu sein.

Wäre ich ganz fies, würde ich sagen, dass der Ausgangstext mit einer schlechten OCR-Software bearbeitet und die dann falschen Zeichen in eine Pigpen-Variante umgewandelt wurden. 😀

9. #9 Norbert
25. September 2019

@x3Ray

mit einer schlechten OCR-Software bearbeitet und die dann falschen Zeichen in eine Pigpen-Variante umgewandelt

Das allerdings könnte der Wahrheit sehr nahe kommen, chapeau! Die wahrscheinlichste Erklärung für alles scheint mir, dass der Pigpen-Text ein Hoax aus vermutlich dem 20. Jahrhundert ist. Sagen wir, der Fälscher hat einige französische Texte zusammengemixt, unter anderem ein Küchenrezept (“prenez une cullière de miel[le]”, man nehme einen Löffel Honig – warum? Um die Bären abzulenken, die den Schatz bewachen?). Auch ein bisschen Liebeslyrik ist wohl dabei. Als nächstes hat er alles ein bisschen verwischt und verändert und ein bisschen Zufall hineingerührt, bis nur ein paar Wortfetzen erkennbar blieben. Das Ergebnis hat er dann verschlüsselt, und hier unterlief ihm ein entscheidender Fehler: Die Pigpen-Variante bedient sich des modernen englischen Alphabets, statt an das Französisch (Kreolisch? Bretonisch?) der Zeit um 1730 angepasst zu sein. Das (spätestens) überführt ihn.

10. #10 TWO
Fliegeerhorst Wunstorf
25. September 2019

The French is phonetically written by somebody with only a rudimentary education,

The first line translates to :

After love a pair of dove rings

It seems they are navigational instructions.
Migraine now and ran out of Tylenol

11. #11 TWO
Fliegeerhorst Wunstorf
25. September 2019

Latin :

Melior Fiat

Longat Longe(t)

12. #12 Kerberos
25. September 2019

Apropos:
Ist Piet Klocke wirklich “Kryptodingens”?

13. #13 Gregor Damschen
Oldenburg
25. September 2019

In addition to Gerhard Strasser’s paper, p. 12, and Lercherl’s comment #2, I would like to emphasize that the Latin text is also a hexameter:

Índe hic lónga tibí sint témpora próspera fíant.

Because of the elision at the beginning one has to pronounce it that way:

Índic lónga tibí sint témpora próspera fíant.

14. #14 x3Ray
2. Oktober 2019

@Norbert #9
War vielleicht etwas überzogen von mir, man kann da sicher “plausible” Erklärungen für Abweichungen, Fehler usw. finden. Es gibt verschiedene Quellen, wo sich Leute irre viel Arbeit gemacht haben, ich verweise mal einfach nur auf Nigel Wards Seite (dort auch viel weitere Links):