Guy de Cointet’s pigpen encryption solved
Among the five cryptolgic “cold cases” I presented the day before yesterday was the Pigpen cipher by French artist Guy de Cointet. Blog reader Rossignol solved it.
My blog readers were once again very quick. On Saturday, I presented five unsolved encrypted messages on Cipherbrain that I thought were solvable. At the ICCH webinar that evening, I wanted to briefly discuss these “cold cases” with the people who attended. That worked, too. However, two of the five cases were already no longer cold cases when the discussion took place.
But first things first. At 10:25 a.m., I published my cold case article on Cipherbrain. At 14:51, blog reader Gerd presented the solution to one of the five cryptograms (it was a World War II steganography puzzle). P. Herden and dku also contributed to the decipherment. I will go into more detail in the next few days.
At 18:00 the ICCH webinar started. At 18:05 blog reader Rossignol announced the solution to another of the five cases. It was about the Pigpen cipher by artist Guy de Cointet. When my webinar time slot started at about 6:30 p.m., I briefly introduced the five “cold cases” and said one of them had already been solved. I was not aware at that time that there were already two.
Guy de Cointet’s Pigpen Cryptogram
The aforementioned Guy de Cointet (1934-1983) was a French artist who lived in California. In 1972, he created a nearly 40-page book titled “A Captain from Portugal” (all the pages are here). In it there is a drawing on every page. The book does not contain any text in the usual sense. Most of the pages look something like this:
These patterns could be encrypted messages, but I don’t know more about it. I found the following page particularly striking, which looks strongly like a Pigpen encryption:
A Pigpen encryption is not too difficult to crack in many cases, but this one proved to be a tough nut to crack. Among other things, this was due to the fact that no spaces between words are recognizable.
Blog reader Rossignol from Paris, who has often attracted attention on Cipherbrain with extremely competent contributions, was not deterred by this and took on the cryptogram of his compatriot de Cointet. I assume he performed a frequency analysis and tried to reconcile the result with the French language. This worked.
Rossignol determined the following Pigpen variant:
Note that a Pigpen character (third square, bottom left) stands for the space character. This is unusual. An additional difficulty turned out to be that the individual lines in the cryptogram are written from right to left. Here is the raw plaintext:
TRUEH IA J OV ZEVAS E ORCNI D SU OCF SELBAY ALEM SEDIR ELF XUA TN EY SED SIU TEAP ED XU EP A SEREH MMOH D XUA
Reading this from right to left, we get:
J AI HEURTE SAVEZ VOUS D INCROYABLES FCORIDES MELANT AUX FLEUIS DES YEUX DE PAETHERES A PEAUX D HOMM
Due to missing dots three errors got into the cryptogram (C->L, I->R, E->N). Corrected, the plaintext is as follows:
J AI HEURTE SAVEZ VOUS D INCROYABLES FLORIDES MELANT AUX FLEURS DES YEUX DE PANTHERES A PEAUX D HOMM
This is the beginning of the twelfth stanza of the poem “Le Bateu ivre” by Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891):
J’ai heurté, savez-vous, d’incroyables Florides
Mêlant aux fleurs des yeux des panthères à peaux
D’hommes ! Des arcs-en-ciel tendus comme des brides
Sous l’horizon des mers, à de glauques troupeaux !
Congratulations to Rossignol for this success!
By the way, the cryptogram can be decoded more easily: If you mirror the graphic, the text is readable from left to right. Also the Pigpen table becomes easier, because CBA becomes ABC, FED becomes DEF and so on. Whether the artist mirrored the text himself or whether it was the photographer is unfortunately unknown to me.
More puzzles from this book
The book “A Captain from Portugal” by Guy de Cointet has even more puzzles to offer. For example, the following drawing is striking (it is the only one in the whole book that does not consist of geometric symbols):
There is no text for this drawing, but those who know a little bit about the history of mathematics will recognize where this picture comes from. The task is to find a path that leads exactly once over each of the seven bridges. Can a reader find such a path? Is there one at all? If there are such paths, is there one where the starting point is also the ending point?
Here is another drawing from “A Captain from Portugal”:
I do not know if there is a riddle question for this. Does a reader know more?
Finally, the book contains other possible coded messages. The following could be one:
Can a reader solve this cryptogram? Is it an encrypted text at all?