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VMs: Is VMS unique - Was: Folio and Quire numbers
IMHO VMS is unique. I've been making a loose and informal inventory of old
crypto methods and I've found examples from France, England, Italy, Germany,
Bohemia, and the Dutch Republic. All these methods are pretty standard and
would have been cracked by now.
The fact that the VMS has not been cracked could point to a complex mix of
crypto methods. But I've found no evidence yet that such mixes were in use
in 1400 -1700.
I know Nick's "adapted shorthand" theory and I hope he can crack the VMS
that way, but the examples I've seen of shorthand and wax tablet writing
didn't look very VMS-like.
The statistics of the VMS don't point to any common language. So cleartext
doesn't seem an option.
In this way the VMS is unique and we've been stuck in this situation for a
On the other hand all the evidence points to a West European provenance and
a period between 1400 - 1700. The VMS is clearly part of this culture, it's
not a stand-alone artifact.
While we've not made much progress in cracking the VMS, we've come to
understand both it's weird and it's ordinary aspects much better. So in one
way we're going round in circles, but in another way we know the VMS better
My personal guess is that the VMS is a one-off artifact like the (take
cover!) Phaistos disk and by it's very nature unsolvable. AFAIK the
provenance of "THAT disk" is better known than the provenance of the VMS. At
least it comes from a well documented archeological dig. Where the VMS comes
from we don't really know.
NB: At the moment I'm reading (trying to read) a set of paleographic
exercises to get a feel for old scripts. There is some (standard) crypto in
the exercises and I'll try to post it. It surprises me how much old Dutch
writing looks like old Italian writing. At first sight is seems to have been
pretty standard all over Europe (but I might be pretty much wrong here).
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