The Vail Collection is rich in works on cryptography and ciphers. It includes Blaise de Vigenère’s Traicté des chiffres, ou, Secretes manieres d’escrire, one of the first works to describe an autokey cipher. Also of note is a 1621 edition of Johannes Trithemius’ Steganographia, a book at first thought to have been about spirit communication, but which was actually an early work on cryptography and steganography (a form of coded communication in which the actual message is disguised so as to arouse no suspicion that encoded information is present).
Not all ciphers were number or alphabet based; Philip Thicknesse makes use of musical notation as part of his code in A Treatise on the Art of Decyphering, and of Writing in Cypher : with an Harmonic Alphabet. The use of the harmonic cipher was fairly widespread, as evidenced by J. Bücking’s Anweisung zur geheimen Correspondenz systematisch entworfen. Even more impressive is Melchias Uken’s method, described in his Steganometrographia, which demonstrates how to write code in the form of an elegiac poem, either in Latin or German.
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