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Re: VMs: Re: What if Alberti wasn't so smart...?

Hi Petr,

At 20:56 11/01/2004 +0100, Petr Kazil wrote:
1) I'm reading a book on Dutch cryptography in the 17th century and the
author states that there was a big gap between crypto-theory and

Note that one explanation for this might be a distrust of *fragile media* for sending data (full-on polyalpha is very much more fragile (ie less deterministic) than any of the pre-1500 cipher systems we've looked at) - and another is communities' investment in the culture of using ciphers. So: perhaps it was a result of the combination of the two? Hard to say. :-o

I think is is in one of my future post of Aloys Meister's book.

Great - though I'll be getting a copy of the English version too (shame the copyright is so recent, though). :-(

3) Looking at all the ancient codes that we have dug up recently I get the
feeling that we're not looking in the right spot. It may be that one (or
two) characters from the cipherbooks match the VMS, but that does not mean
they are related. The Indus Script and Rongorongo share about 30 characters
(!) but still that does not mean they are related.

I've thought a great deal about the morphology of the VMs' character set (its philosophy, if you like), and it really seems to connect most closely with that of European tachygraphy / shorthand - generally single stroke characters, good for writing on wax tablets (but not so good for writing on paper or vellum). Why that particular kind of character set should end up on thin vellum is one of those slightly paradoxical things which any explanation would need to account for... :-)

4) We know a lot about crypto in Italy, England and France in the period
1400 -1600. But what is known abou the state of crypto in Bohemia, Poland,
Russia, Hungary etc? I have found no sources yet.

Don't forget Shihab al-Din abu 'l-Abbas Ahmad ben Ali ben Ahmad Abd Allah al-Qalqashandi's entry on cryptology in the 1412 Arabic encyclopaedia etc. :-)

5) Although a lot of new crypto material has been scanned lately, there is
nothing in there that explains the provenance of the VMS character set. And
if I remember correctly, there is still no *demonstable* theory about the
provenance of this character set.

...and my guess is that there probably won't be. :-( However, don't be disheartened - not all proofs are smoking gun proofs! :-)

6) I've written to three faculties of the Prague university and several
manuscript guys in Prague with an enquiry about Czech crypto in 1400 - 1600.
I don't expect any answer though. None of the e-mails that I've ever written
to academic people (computer linguists) has ever been answered :-)

Generic questions to busy academics normally fall on deaf ears. :-( However, if you have a very specific question which ties in with an academic's own research interests, feel free to express a (well-researched) interest in their work and (incidentally) ask them that specific question. :-)

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

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