The Copiale cipher is a volume of 105-paged encrypted manuscript, with more than 75,000 handwritten characters. It was written in abstract symbols and Roman letters. The manuscript remained a mystery as no one could decipher it for more than 260 years. It was finally cracked in 2011 with the help of modern computer techniques. The team of researchers found it to be an encrypted German text. The mysterious script took more than two centuries for the world to understand its meaning. The key element was mathematics. It is needless to say that there is a store of information we would never have an idea of. Let’s catch up on all that facts about Copiale Cipher that has been unheard so far.
1 What did the Copiale manuscript look like?
The manuscript has green cover and is bound in brocades of gold. The pages are yellow and are held by threads. It contains only numbers, abstract symbols and some recognizable letters. It was a book written in mathematics. They are 105 pages without spaces, written almost without studs with a careful calligraphy. All this is in a code without legend.
2 What was contained in the mysterious manuscript?
This encrypted text contains the foundations of a secret Masonic society of the mid-eighteenth century: the Oculists or the Great Eye sect. Researchers found that the manuscript had the description of an Oculist initiation ceremony. It portrays an initiation ritual in which the candidate is asked to read a blank piece of paper.
On confessing an inability to do so, he is given eyeglasses and asked to try again. He is asked to do so again after washing the eyes with a cloth. All this is followed by an operation in which a single eyebrow hair is plucked.
3 It was found to be a homophonic cipher
The cryptographers called the manuscript a homophonic cipher. It was a substitution code that does not have a straightforward correspondence between the original and encoded information. The original language was probably German.
4 Structure of Copiale Manuscript
The book was structured in three parts. The first describes the initiation rite for the new members of the sect. The second and third part deals with more abstract concepts, such as a mixture of religious ideas and mathematics. They form the philosophical basis of sect.
5 The Deciphering Team
Kevin Knight was a computer scientist at the Information Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California. He collaborated with Beata Megyesi and Christiane Schaefer of Uppsala University in Sweden to decipher the first 16 pages. They turned out to be a detailed description of a ritual from a secret society that apparently had a fascination with eye surgery and ophthalmology.
6 How was the decryption done?
The decryption method used a mix-up of computer tools with paper and pencil. The procedure was simple yet laborious. A computer program was used for calculating the frequency of the letters in German. It was further contrasted with the repetitive frequency of the symbols.
Small and big errors were found and corrected. The accents and some letters were marked as small modifications in the translation and the Roman letters were used to indicate the separation of words.
7 What was the belief of the Eye Doctors
The text notes that people proclaimed themselves as “eye doctors” but they weren’t really eye specialist. They believed that the meaning of the universe could be understood through geometry and number. The candidate had to demonstrate his readiness in the system of reading, or in the art of ciphering that they used. They believed the elect to open the eyes to the world.
8 What was it like to decipher the cipher?
Deciphering the Copiale Cipher was interesting for Masonry experts. It is because the book dates back to 1760-1780. That is almost a century before Victorian England. It is rather a period beyond excellence of sects and secret meetings. Through this, they escaped from their own rigidity.
Andreas Önnerfors is an expert on freemasonry at the Swedish University of Uppsala and a student of the historical significance of the discovery. He remarks – “In a way, they left their own identity at the door”.
9 What were the symbols used in ceremonies?
The Copiale Cipher explains in detail the importance of the ceremonies and the rite of initiation. Various symbols were drawn, and mosaics of mathematics were built. In the center was a round star that represented God as the greatest master of works and geometry. The 3 is the Trinity, the 5 is the human being.
10 The Cipher to Occultists Rescue
The Copiale Cipher contains some of the passwords that the Oculists used in order to be undiscovered. One such was- “When you are not sure if one of the present ones is a Mason, you wonder what the weather does on the outside.” The answer is good or bad, according to the circumstances.
11 The most difficult part of the project?
The symbols and numbers that constructed the text contained messages in German. Moreover, the book had been found in Democratic Germany. The fall of the Berlin Wall brought a new challenge for cryptography. Knight reported that he deciphered the book without even speaking German which was the base language of the text. The decoding was mathematical and non-linguistic.
12 The use of Nulls and Roman letters
After trying 80 languages, the cryptography team realized that nulls were the Roman letters meant to mislead the code breaker. The letters represented the spaces between words made up of elaborate symbols. Another crucial discovery was of the colon indicating the doubling of previous consonant. They were the abstract symbols that held the message.