Decode message from Charles Dickens, win 300 pounds

The “Dickens Project” has offered a prize for decoding a shorthand text by Charles Dickens. In addition, you can – unfortunately without the possibility of winning – decode some postcards.

Deutsche Version

Blog readers Ralf Bülow and Thomas Bosbach have thankfully alerted me to a new website that should be of extreme interest to Cipherbrain readers.

The site is titled “Decoding Dickens Prize.” It was created by the Dickens Project, an organization devoted to the writer Charles Dickens (1812-1870) and his work. On “Decoding Dickens Prize” a prize competition is presented. The task is to decode the following shorthand text by Charles Dickens:

Quelle/Source: The Morgan Library and Museum

The exact conditions for participation are available here. The deadline for entries is December 31, 2021.

Unfortunately, the website does not give any information about the background of the message. Therefore, I do not know when Dickens wrote it.

What is clear, however, is which writing system Dickens used. It is the Pitman shorthand, which was very popular in England at that time. Since there are probably still many people who can read Pitman, I assume that there will be many correct submissions. Perhaps a Cipherbrain reader might feel like participating as well.


The encrypted postcard

In addition to the Dickens text, the website in question presents three postcards. Two of them are also written in the Pitman shorthand and therefore not quite as interesting for this blog. They are also already solved.

The third card is encrypted. The solution is not given on the website. The picture page shows a bridge in Chatham (east of London):

Quelle/Source: Decoding Dickens Prize

On the text page, you can see that the card was postmarked in Chatham in 1905 (unfortunately, there is no higher resolution image on said page):

Quelle/Source: Decoding Dickens Prize

The recipient is, as almost always in such a case, an unmarried woman (Miss). Her last name could be Poe. Interestingly, no address is given.

The message consists partly of letters, partly of symbols. It should be somewhat more difficult to decipher than most other encoded postcards from the period. Will a reader make it anyway?

For example, I find the word TUTTUT on the far right interesting. Is this the encrypted version of an English word? With CrypTool 2 I could not find a word with this pattern. Can a reader find out more?

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

Further reading: Verschlüsselte Weihnachtspostkarte aus dem Jahr 1903 gelöst – mit überraschendem Ergebnis


Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.