An encrypted book by Guy de Cointet

The artist Guy de Cointet has created several encrypted books. Now that my readers have solved one of them for the most part, let’s look at the next one. Possibly a Fleissner grid encryption appears in it.

Deutsche Version

If you want to see exciting videos on the subject of cryptography and coecracking, you should take a look at Nils Kopal’s CrypTool YouTube channel. Dave Oranchak also has some interesting contributions on YouTube.

Thanks to a tip from Cipherbrain reader YefimShiffrin, I can present another video today. You won’t find a video of this kind at Nils or Dave. But it is still worth watching – even if in a completely different way.


Guy de Cointet

Basically it’s not about the video itself, but about the object shown in it: a coded book by Guy de Cointet.

Quelle/Source: Wikimedia Commons

French-American artist Guy de Cointet (1934-1983) has been a frequent topic on Cipherbrain lately. He was born in Paris and emigrated to the United States in 1966. He lived in New York and Los Angeles, where almost all his works were created. The artist always kept a low profile about his private life. He never appeared with a partner. He died of hepatitis C in 1983 at the age of only 49.

There is more information in the English Wikipedia entry on Guy de Cointet. There is a “Guy de Cointet Society” that maintains a website about him and also has a presence on Facebook.

The art scene became aware of de Cointet only after his untimely death. In the meantime, numerous museums and galleries have included de Cointet’s works in their programs. Even the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York, arguably the most important museum for modern art anywhere, owns several of his paintings.

As I have reported several times, de Cointet has created numerous paintings that feature coded texts. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, de Cointet’s interest in cryptography developed in his youth.

In the crypto scene, de Cointet has received little attention despite his numerous encrypted paintings. I hope that I can help this interesting artist to gain some popularity among cryptologists with my blog articles.


The book “A Few Drawings”.

Guy de Cointet has created several cryptographic books. Judging from the above website, there must have been at least six. One of them, “A Captain from Portugal?”, I have already featured on Cipherbrain. My readers have solved most of the cryptograms contained in it. On my “Encrypted Book List” the book is listed with the number 00112.

Today I want to present another encrypted book by de Cointet: “A Few Drawings”. The title is a bit misleading, because the content is not drawings, but mostly (presumably) encrypted text. According to the above website, the book was published in 1975 and printed in 1000 copies. In 2005 there was a new edition with also 1000 copies. The book has 56 pages. There are a few pages from it on the Guy de Cointet Society website.

Unfortunately, I have not yet found a website that provides scans of all 56 book pages. Instead, Cipherbrain reader YefimShiffrin tipped me off that this book is available on Vimeo, as a ten-minute video in which all the pages are flipped through. A thriller could hardly be more exciting.

I have also added “A Few Drawings” to my “Encrypted Book List”. It is at position 00113.


A Cryptogram

To kick things off today, I want to talk about the second cryptogram that appears in this book. It is shown in the video starting at 1:00. Here it is:

Quelle/Source: Guy de Cointet Society

The encoded text consists of 169 letters and is notated in the form of a 13×13 square. The proportion of vowels is realively high, which speaks for a transposition cipher. Did de Cointet use a Fleissner grid here? That would be conceivable, but there are of course other possibilities.

Can a reader find out more? Is the solution perhaps even already known? I will gladly accept hints.

If you want to add a comment, you need to add it to the German version here.

Further reading: Mein neues Buch ist erschienen: Ein Comic-Band im Asterix-Stil


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