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VMs: Shorthand vs cipher...

Hi Dennis,

At 23:18 17/11/2003 -0600, Dennis wrote:
        It has occurred to me, and probably you, that this
also describes nomenclators. A nomenclator also
enciphers words, perhaps syllables, and letters.  The
difference between a shorthand system and a nomenclator
is, of course, that a shorthand system is designed to
be easy to memorize.  However, nomemclators were the
standard cipher system of the time.   Correct me if I'm

Here's a nomenclator.

                  iin           r          ly
da                very          s          excellent
olta              stink           old      fish
qoko              thistle       a          strong

qokor daiin daiin qokoly oltaly oltaiin dar

According to http://www.etymonline.com/n2etym.htm ... nomenclature - 1610, from Fr. nomenclature, from L. nomenclatura, from nomenclator "namer," from nomen "name" + calare "call out." Nomenclator in Rome was the title of a steward whose job was to announce visitors, and also of a prompter who helped a stumping politician recall names and pet causes of his constituents.

AIUI, nomenclators (in a cipher context) means simply "(sequential) lists of names", and - for the overwhelming majority of Quattrocento ciphers (and later) - that is precisely what they were. I don't recall any 2d grid-like (as you describe) nomenclators from that period, and would suspect the kind of Cartesian/geometric/diagrammatic/dimensional thinking implicit in such grids to be more typical of the late Renaissance or later... but perhaps you know different. :-)

All the same, remember that shorthand had an *extraordinarily* bad press circa 1350-1500. Secret writing (of all kinds) was thought to be diabolic - that is, the Thought Police of the day believed that if you were hiding some thoughts in text, they was probably blasphemous... so, on the balance of probability, better to burn you at the stake... just to be sure. :-o

Back then, Quattrocento "secret writing" encompassed cryptography, steganography, shorthand, tachygraphy, qabbala, etc... and all of which tended to be mastered and used simultaneously by the same (understandably edgy and publicity-shy) individuals. So, I'd say that there wasn't actually a *great* deal of (cultural) difference between shorthand and cryptography back then (shorthands appear to have been largely personal abbreviatory systems)... and that's the grey area I suspect the VMs inhabits (ie, an enciphered personal shorthand).

IMHO, the cipher is almost certainly simpler than we think (as Steve Ekwall never tires of saying) - but until we have a reasonable idea of what the plaintext shorthand would look like, we'll stay unable to figure out the details of the cipher precisely. I think we'll get there, though. :-)

Cheers, .....Nick Pelling.....

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