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delirium's avatar

What would you do if you found a 120 year old diary written completely in code?

Asked by delirium (13691points) May 31st, 2008

Because that’s my situation right now…. I’m thinking of posting a page or two on a cryptography website. I really want to be able to read it. I’ve figured out some simple things, like pieces that are some type of break, and a few other things, but i’m not good at the whole cryptography gig. Any Ideas?

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22 Answers

jlm11f's avatar

i would be very excited and then post a question about it on fluther!! but i think you got that part covered…...(sorry!). i suck at cryptography otherwise i would help you. but honestly, that really is interesting, i love exploring things from ages ago because i feel connected to the people from that time through the materials they have left behind.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Id probably spend countless hours trying to decode it. Its going to suck when its just boring pointless writing “theres this cute boy in class, i wonder if he likes me”

If you need some help id love to give it a shot decoding.

How exactly did you come across it if you dont mind me asking?

NOharmNOfoul's avatar

I am assuming that the part you were able to decipher was where it stated that it is 120 years old?

breanne's avatar

I’d pee my pants in excitement. It would be like discovering something freakishly cool like in Alias or Lost. I would totally scan some pages and post them to some cryptology sites.

delirium's avatar

I just got given a large number of family records. This was among them. (to put it simply).

I’ve asked the people on the XKCD forum, seeing as they’re the nerdiest group I know of with a very great outreach.

Part of me thinks that it might not be so mundane. There’s a chance that it might have to do with what would be considered to be illicit doings- sex?

I know how old it is because it belonged to a family member. It also has the date and her address written in english in the back (with some other info) in case it were lost, i presume.

cooksalot's avatar

too cool I would do just what your doing. That and posting on a cryptography site is an excellent idea.

2late2be's avatar

sell it on eBay!! LOL

delirium's avatar

Here’s some quick photos, if anyone is curious. I’m going to scan it up for the math nerds online later.
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jlm11f's avatar

uhhh good luck lol

playthebanjo's avatar

it’s all Greek to me. LOL

ninetails's avatar

I used my secret decoder ring and came up with this message repeated over and over again….,.,, drink your Ovaltine

marinelife's avatar

Delirium, you have the makings of a thread that could far outshine the cake man here! An honest to goodness mystery from the past. Already, I’d love to write a fictional account of it!

Can it become a Fluther project to decode it or are the contents too hot? (Although 120 years should have cooled off most things.)

I am assuming you have tried simple codes like letter substitutions, right?

NeroCorvo's avatar

This is incredible!

Have you made any progress with the forums?

A fantastic find!

delirium's avatar

We have new data!
Apparently its simple substitution, but the things written about don’t seem to be the….. most…. positive things ever.

Excerpt: “she told me her pa had gone to the dogs & a host of horri[ble] things he has done & still doing”.

marinelife's avatar

Sigh. It’s like the cake man. The reality never quite lives up to the mystery, does it? But do keep us posted as translation continues. Do you know th age of the diarist?

delirium's avatar

Its throughout her life, actually. So the age changes.

delirium's avatar

We’ve got the first pages scanned, right now. I’ll post ‘em when I get them.

delirium's avatar

1 where someone at some point tried to write out how to decode it…. wrong, I might add…
2
3
4
5
Book End

NeroCorvo's avatar

Even if it does not turn out to be a gripping saga it is still fascinating. The era she lived in was one of incredible change.

breedmitch's avatar

The short headings in the left margins, are you thinking that these are dates, as if it’s journal entries, or maybe that’s where the decryption code changes? or both?

breedmitch's avatar

See if you can track dowm on of the (many) competitors in the MIT Mystery Hunt. Codes and puzzles are their thing. I’ll get out my filofax.

paulc's avatar

If its simple substitution and you’ve got a pretty large set of data then you can try to use frequency analysis to start. The code might not translate to English, mind you. I found a gravestone in France while I was visiting last week that has a short bit of coded message on it. However, the stone marks an Arabic man’s grave so the words could be in any number of languages. I’m still trying to figure it out.

No matter what the contents of your code book translate to, this is a pretty cool find.

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