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Ancient Cryptography » Ancient Texts » Edward Elgar's Dorabella Cipher » Intro to the Cipher

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tonybaloney

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Re: Intro to the Cipher
« Reply #20 on: June 02, 2008, 06:20:30 PM »
Aaron,

Do I detect a note of skepticism – perhaps the following will clarify it for you -

Four versions of the ‘clock dial’ arrangement (none with the symbols attached) appear in a 1920’s notebook – where an elderly Elgar appears to be trying to recall his system.

Using one of the ingenious ‘clock dials’ as a mnemonic aid I believe he wrote the message straight of without any prior composition.

The resulting plaintext appears to be gibberish until we remember Elgar had a love of word play & word puzzles, often using phoneticised spellings i.e. ‘My Dear Dorabellllla – How many ells long is that…..’; ‘gorjus’ for gorgeous; ‘flopsikon’; ‘warbling wigorously in Worcester wunce a week’; ‘bung yirds’ for young birds; ‘xqqq’ for excuse; ‘ckor’ for score; etc. etc

In another letter to Dora dated 26th Feb 1899 Elgar writes are you living backwards like the Queen in Alice’

The first line didn’t make much sense to me until I remembered seeing the following in a letter from Elgar to Dora Penny dated Sept. 24th 1898 ‘…. and then some Sunday at Wolverhampton you can give us tea and fire eggs at me as of yore.’

The middle line – ‘antiquarian net’ – would seem to mean circle of elderly friends.

The last line – On Elgar’s visits Dora would often sit turning the pages, or sing, for Elgar at the piano – I assume there must have been occasions when asked to do this she had declined (her father being a Rector) and religious duties taking priority.

The final word - a letter from Elgar to Alice Stuart-Wortley (17th July 1910) is signed ‘Yours aye, E.’

The following are 2 contemporaneous messages you may wish to unravel – it was by considering how difficult the second of these would be to solve if the word divisions were removed and the whole encipherd using Elgar’s symbols, that led to the above solution.

DAAER oter Ditheer ndaer Elenher. Ewer iveler taer Utneyper. Idneyser sier taer Radfleldber Ollegecer. Erceyper taer heter Ospitalher. Evening Standard, Thu 1st Aug 1889

MA petite Marie, nod efto raur hsuf nke swoton gnihb tae. 8. 10. 9. 1. 21. 15. 7. seutno yadta 9.8. 7. - 22 – 13 niaw tidal orsei amo dneb ius eriw onll tliaf. – J’en suis. Evening Standard, Mon 11th Nov 1872

Tony

Eth emors edoc ytheor si ydott.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2008, 03:49:27 AM by tonybaloney »

Aaron

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Re: Intro to the Cipher
« Reply #21 on: June 02, 2008, 07:20:39 PM »
I am aware of Elgar's unusual habit of mangling words in his ciphers, but unfortunately that makes it much harder to tell when one has found the correct solution. I have seen the "antiquarian" solution a long time ago, and while it does have a few words of sense in it, it is quite possible there are other messages embedded in the original cipher as well. I know Elgar liked to mesh messages together.

tonybaloney

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Re: Intro to the Cipher
« Reply #22 on: June 03, 2008, 04:43:42 AM »
Aaron wrote –

‘I am aware of Elgar's unusual habit of mangling words in his ciphers,’

What ciphers are you referring to? Apart from one small fragment I am aware of no other ciphers by Elgar.

‘I know Elgar liked to mesh messages together’

I don’t understand what you mean by this, could you give some examples of it?

‘it is quite possible there are other messages embedded in the original cipher as well’

are you suggesting it contains more than one solution?

One knows when one has found the correct solution when you can apply a strict set of rules to it that reveal the underlying message and not gibberish.

Tony

Aaron

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Re: Intro to the Cipher
« Reply #23 on: June 03, 2008, 07:42:44 AM »
Elgar's compositions have a composite of various messages hidden within. Thus Elgar's "Enigma Variations".

As far as the mangling of words, I meant his spelling habits in general of spelling phonetically in some of his letters.

tonybaloney

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Re: Intro to the Cipher
« Reply #24 on: July 31, 2008, 12:38:12 PM »
Update –

The ‘Elgar Society’ offered a £1,500 prize for the correct solution to the ‘Dorabella Cipher’ – needless to say my solution was sent in over a year ago – the competition closed on the 2nd of June 2008 – the cheque not having arrived yet! I contacted them only to discover the 3 judges haven’t even looked at the entries yet – but was told an announcement would be made on the 30th of September – I can’t wait . . . .

Below is the page from Elgar’s notebook where an elderly Elgar seems to be trying to recollect his system.



Tony

Aaron

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Re: Intro to the Cipher
« Reply #25 on: July 31, 2008, 05:42:21 PM »
Good luck! :D I can't say I've seen that particular image before...

tonybaloney

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Re: Intro to the Cipher
« Reply #26 on: September 21, 2008, 11:07:46 AM »
The only other message written in this cipher appears in the margin (bracketed against a couple of lines of music) of a ‘Crystal Palace Saturday Concert Programme’ dating from 1885/6 (over a decade before the ‘Dorabella cipher’)



Its solution can be found by using one of the other clockdials from the 1920’s notebook entry.

tonybaloney

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Re: Intro to the Cipher
« Reply #27 on: September 30, 2008, 09:16:34 AM »
The following has just been posted on the Elgar Society's website -

CIPHER COMPETITION 2008 ADDED 30 SEPTEMBER 2008
No convincing solution was forthcoming so, sadly, it has not been possible to award the prize.
The competition seems to have set many eager sleuths to work, with, no doubt, countless hours of frustrating effort bringing little reward. From personnel experience we know that the siren-like draw of this never-ending quest can become a n all-consuming addiction. So heartfelt commiserations to any cipher widows - or widowers - out there! The Dorabella Cipher continues to taunt a large and enthusiastic web community that includes a number of professional code-breakers. Sometimes the solution seems tantalisingly close, a few cracks appear in its impenetrable surface, but they lead nowhere and we’re back where we started. Clearly the efforts of many skilled potential entrants were to no avail and they were unable to extract a solution. The judges share their conviction that when the correct solution is found it will be glaringly obvious.
Nevertheless, seven individuals were brave enough to submit entries to the competition, encompassing an encouragingly wide global spread. Some merely hinted at what steps to take towards decipherment, with their authors admitting they remained stumped. Others, despite taking arbitrary liberties with the decoding process, produced awkwardly assembled, contrived and unconvincing ‘solutions’.
One or two entries did contain some impressively ambitious and thoughtful analysis. These entries, though, having matched Elgar’s symbols to the alphabet, invariably ended up with a fairly arbitrary sequence of letters. When a phonetic interpretation of the resulting TXT like ‘message’ is attempted, in the manner of Eric Sam’s 1970 Musical Times solution, the results read as a disconnected chain of bizarre utterances, such as an imaginative mind could conjure up from any group of random letters, and make little sense. One implausible, though entertaining interpretation made liberal use of racy 20th Century American slang – perhaps a spoof entry!
Another solution suggested that the code was a form of musical notation. Whilst an interesting idea, when transcribed, the resulting somewhat messy arrangement of notes can hardly be called music. Others have attempted similar musical mappings of Elgar’s cipher symbols before with equally unsatisfactory results. In fact, any sequence of code or symbols can be translated into ‘random’ music of this sort. I do, though, rather enjoy the implication that Elgar may have shared the aesthetic principles of John Cage. (Not as implausible as it might seem!)
So, in spite of much admirable effort, Elgar’s puzzle remains stubbornly impenetrable. It will no doubt continue to exercise many minds for years to come.

Kevin Jones, Chair of judging panel
Emeritus Professor of Music, Kingston University
September 2008
More on Elgar’s Dorabella Cipher can be found in Professor Jones’ article for the BBC 2007 Proms website.

- - -

(I shall make some comments upon this later when I've calmed down) Tony

tonybaloney

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Re: Intro to the Cipher
« Reply #28 on: September 30, 2008, 03:46:40 PM »
!*&$   -/:   ^@+{   ^*";   &@).   >.   ^)%#-   <?&%   "&+#~    :*&")+}~$£)^.

Aaron

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Re: Intro to the Cipher
« Reply #29 on: September 30, 2008, 04:26:40 PM »
At least you tried. :) Those other notes you produced do seem to contain promising leads... maybe one day a true solution will be found.

*wonders if your last post was a random set of curse words or a colorful cipher*

tonybaloney

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Re: Intro to the Cipher
« Reply #30 on: October 01, 2008, 11:33:35 AM »
‘Tried ‘ –

I bloody-well succeeded – the fact that the panel of judges K. Jones (Professor of Music), A. Neil (ex Chairman of the Elgar Society) and R. Anderson (Professor & Elgar scholar) were not convinced by my solution does not mean it is incorrect.

I call into question the competence of the 3 judges to decide upon a cryptographic solution and the Elgar Society’s wisdom in selecting them.

If you have ever looked at Eric Sams’s solution (another musicologist & scholar by the way) it is glaringly obvious that having a few letters behind your name does not necessarily imply you know what you’re talking about – especially if you step out of your own field of expertise.

Tony

Aaron

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Re: Intro to the Cipher
« Reply #31 on: October 01, 2008, 11:55:36 AM »
What was your solution then? I thought the hellcat solution was derived by Jean Palmer... from the "The Agony Column Codes & Ciphers". Or was your solution included in his book?

Also, no offense, but I seriously doubt Dorabella would have managed to make sense of the initial set of letters you've derived, considering that they didn't exactly pass along more and more complex ciphers to each other during their friendship. This was just a one-shot, and I don't think Elgar meant for it to be *that* complex.  Also, did I/J and U/V not yield anything promising? I noticed the message you posted uses XYZ for the last dial on the clock.

I definitely think the clock dial is a large part of the solution, though.

tonybaloney

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Re: Intro to the Cipher
« Reply #32 on: October 01, 2008, 05:07:07 PM »
My real name is Tony – Jean Palmer is a pseudonym I used for ‘The Agony Column Codes & Ciphers’ - sorry if I hadn’t made that clear – the ‘hellcat’ solution is mine.

I too doubt if Dorabella would have managed to make sense of the initial set of letters derived but I’m sure she would have recognized my final solution as being basically correct ( I grant the odd word may be wrong)

The whole point is Elgar never meant it to be that complex – to him it wasn’t – he simply wrote out the message (I believe he did it straight off in one go without any prior composition) he could easily have done this if you consider he probably derived his simple substitution system in his school days after coming across a version of the Pigpen cipher, his ingenious ‘clock dial’ mnemonic aid would have allowed him to write it as quickly as someone writing in different symbols as in  say shorthand – it is the combination of the 3 simple systems (simple substitution, backslang & phonetic spelling) that make it complex (each system by itself is trivial) - Elgar only writing it and not having to decipher it would not have realized how complex his little puzzle for Dora had become.

XYZ - The Pigpen ciphers having 26 or 27 squares do not combine letters – Elgar as a teenager would not necessarily have known the convention of combining I/J & U/V and would be just as likely to combine the XYZ – frequency comparison of the 2 arc symbols only, indicate that XYZ were combined.

No offense taken.

Aaron

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Re: Intro to the Cipher
« Reply #33 on: October 01, 2008, 09:04:38 PM »
Gotcha, thanks for clearing that up. And you do make a good point... perhaps he hadn't thought to decipher it to check how complicated it would be. I've certainly played around with combining 3 or 4 different ciphering methods myself, and it certainly makes things a mess, especially if they have to be done in a certain order to decipher the message...

tonybaloney

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Re: Intro to the Cipher
« Reply #34 on: March 06, 2009, 10:19:44 AM »
The ‘Crystal Palace Saturday Night Concert Programme’ (Liszt fragment) given in context here. This is from a bound volume of programmes – size 8” x 5” (sorry haven’t gone metric yet) – print it of this size and note how tiny Elgar writes his symbols. It is Symphonic Poem No.3 in C Major, “Les Preludes" (after Lamartine) – the only other marginal notes throughout this volume are all in plaintext & are:-

Very good performance; slightly out of tune; poor; beautiful; I think you know this a little; very well done august; this is the thing! It; one of Wagners endings; not so striking as some; no need to say anything about this; this is made of No.4 cello:

The solution can be found using  the same ‘clock dial’ & alphabetical arrangement I give for ‘Dorabella’, the only difference being the perimeter symbols point outwards not inwards & the single arc symbols are in the 3 & 9 o’clock positions as opposed to the 12 & 6 o’clock – the superscript stands for a capital letter & the full stop doubles the previous letter.



PS. Those who have been following this saga for over a year & a half may be amused to know I started a small claims case against the Elgar Society only to be ‘struck out’ by District Judge Stary at a preliminary hearing.

Why is this site called ‘village idiot vs world’?!

Aaron

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Re: Intro to the Cipher
« Reply #35 on: March 06, 2009, 11:12:44 AM »
Why is this site called ‘village idiot vs world’?!
Because that's the name of the webcomic I started on this site many years ago.  I still haven't gotten around to drawing the second strip, but at least I'm practicing my drawing skills now. XD If you check out the main url you'll see all my various creations.

Thanks for all your efforts with the Dorabella Cipher by the way, it's what inspired me to start these forums in the first place. :)

tonybaloney

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Re: Intro to the Cipher
« Reply #36 on: March 08, 2009, 10:25:08 AM »
Quote
(I shall make some comments upon this later when I've calmed down) Tony

Ignoring all the waffle in Prof. K. Jones’s summary of the competition results given previously – the error he makes is in thinking my proposed alphabet to be a “fairly arbitrary sequence of letters” or/and “group of random letters”
Consider the following list which comes from all the messages in my book which is relevant to the time period & type of message – (226,285 characters - 51,067 words – 1,545 messages)

TO   1432     YOU   1844     YOUR   527      WRITE   403      DARLING   340                       
I    1219     AND   987      WILL   464      SHALL   214      LETTER    326                       
OF   600      THE   787      HAVE   370      YOURS   133      ALWAYS    126                       
IN   573      FOR   664      LOVE   331      AGAIN   119      DEAREST   126                       
MY   534      NOT   459      FROM   259      WOULD   104      RECEIVED  116                       
ME   529      ALL   378      WITH   259      THINK   102      THANKS    113                       
A    504      ARE   337      WELL   233      THERE   91       LETTERS   100                       
AT   438      BUT   253      THIS   221      GOING   82       ADDRESS   90                       
BE   407      CAN   224      THAT   189      QUITE   79       BETTER    89                       
IS   362      SEE   174      HOPE   156      ABOUT   78       MONDAY    87                       
IF   312      ONE    165      DEAR   153      AFTER   76       CANNOT    81                       
IT   303      WAS   126      KNOW   152      BLESS   75       BEFORE    67                       
DO   290      DAY   125      SEND   151      HEART   75       PLEASE    65                       
AM   283      HAS   116      VERY   138      COULD   73       TUESDAY   64                       
SO   278      NOW   114      COME   135      WHICH   72       SHOULD    62                       
AS   264      HOW   111      EVER   135      NEVER   70       SATURDAY  60                       
ON   260      OWN   110      WHEN   132      FIRST   65                                 
NO   194      MAY   110      LAST   128      STILL   63                                 
OR   176      GOD   107      HOME   124                                         
WE   153      ANY   101      ONLY   120                                         
BY   149      LET   91       BEEN   119                                         
GO   111      HAD   85       SOON   113                                         
HE   87       TWO   81       TIME   111                                         
UP   79       SAY   78       NEXT   108                                         
..   ...      HER   77       DON’T  105                                         
..   ...      DID   68       WHAT   102                                         
..   ...      OUT   68       MUCH   99                                         
..   ...      ...   ...      MORE   99                                         
..   ...      ...   ...      MEET   98                                         
..   ...      ...   ...      LONG   96                                         
..   ...      ...   ...      HERE   90                                         
..   ...      ...   ...      MUST   86                                         
..   ...      ...   ...      WEEK   82                                         
..   ...      ...   ...      HEAR   78                                         
..   ...      ...   ...      GOOD   77                                         
..   ...      ...   ...      TRUE   76                                         
..   ...      ...   ...      TILL   74                                         
..   ...      ...   ...      TOWN   67                                         
..   ...      ...   ...      SAME   67                                         
..   ...      ...   ...      GIVE   66                                         
..   ...      ...   ...      THEN   65                                         
..   ...      ...   ...      MANY   64                                         
..   ...      ...   ...      WISH   61                                         
..   ...      ...   ...      TELL   60                                                                  


Its’ has a frequency of 14 on this list

Or the following which is much more comprehensive (being based on the British National Corpus 100,000,000 word databank) but not period or message type specific

Frequencies per million                                                

of   31109      the   64420     that   9936      which   3893      people      1146
to   26062      and   27002     with   6821      there   2852      should      1105
a    22222      was   9368      this   4506      their   2761      between     968
in   19466      for   8815      have   4416      would   2467      before      896
is   9961      you    4755      from   4360      about   1798      through     846
it   9298       are   4713      they   3754      could   1653      because     715
on   7199       his   4678      were   3282      other   1427      however     664
he   6756       had   4639      been   2756      these   1252      government  660
be   6742       not   4618      will   2598      first   1220      against     597
i    6531       but   4393      when   2069      after   1217      another     575
as   5621       she   3762      more   2022      where   1033      thought     532
by   5528       her   3480      said   2018      years   925       number      488
at   4868       has   2708      what   1936      being   917       without     483
or   3747      one    2609      into   1700      those   861       different   482
an   3613       all   2486      some   1681      still   744       children    477
we   2784       can   2211      them   1572      three   691       system      476
if   2118       who   2086      only   1552      under   648       during      475
do   2016       its   1782      time   1509      world   629       within      472
so   1767       him   1684      then     1378      while   603         
up   1743       out   1452      over   1357      might   592         
no   1601       two   1428      also   1328      right   588         
my   1438       may   1372      like   1264      think   562         
me   1239       new   1323      your   1212      never   542         
mr   683        now   1211      very   1092      since   537         
go   649        did   1210      than   1074      again   529         
us   573        any   1189      most   1048      found   521         
..   .....      see   1033      made   990       house   506         
..   .....      way   925       just   982       place   499         
..   .....      how   915       back   937       going   482         
..   .....      our   914       many   931       great   476         
..   .....      own   724       work   901                 
..   .....      too   710       much   889                 
..   .....      get   709       down   862                 
..   .....      off   645       such   825                 
..   .....      man   639       make   769                 
..   .....      use   637       even   746                 
..   .....      day   594       must   739                 
..   .....      old   545       know   734                 
..   .....      say   512       both   733                 
..   .....      end   481       year   730                 
..   .....      put   475       good   729                 
..   .....      ...   ....      last   707                 
..   .....      ...   ....      well   670                 
..   .....      ...   ....      take   665                 
..   .....      ...   ....      same   611                 
..   .....      ...   ....      life   598                 
..   .....      ...   ....      here   590                 
..   .....      ...   ....      does   587                 
..   .....      ...   ....      used   585                 
..   .....      ...   ....      come   574                 
..   .....      ...   ....      each   539                 
..   .....      ...   ....      long   526                 
..   .....      ...   ....      home   525                 
..   .....      ...   ....      need   521                 
..   .....      ...   ....      part   518                 
..   .....      ...   ....      left   478                         

God’ has a frequency of 190 on this list

The words given in the above list comprise about 50% of all words in a text – i.e. take any paragraph and you will find half the words in it will be on this list.

There are approximately the following quantities of English words – (which could possibly be halved unless you’re a champion Scrabble player)
2 letter words 100
3 .................. 1000
4 .................. 5000
5 .................. 9000
6 .................16000

It is true that in any arbitrary or random set of 87 letters/message you will find words occurring by chance – about 10 three letter words per message, about 1or 2 four letter words per message, a 5 letter word only occurs about once every 10 messages, a six letter word about once every 100 messages etc.

The point is that these are any words at all – not just common or high occurrence words that one would expect to find in a message. (It makes no difference that the words are written in ‘backslang’ just as it would make no difference if the message was simply written backwards).
 
HELP - I have tried to calculate from the above (and from individual letter frequencies of words etc.) the odds of finding 2 common 3 letter words & a 4 letter word in a random 87 letters – ending up with answers varying from thousands to 1 against to millions to one against.
There must be a way of correlating all this but I haven’t the math skills – will someone please tell me what the true odds are?
Also consider how by simply reversing the perimeter etc. The proposed alphabet produces 2 more high frequency words in the Liszt fragment (‘one’ & its)


By the way – the reason ‘dminuneho’ doesn’t follow the backslang rules is because Elgar wanted the sound of the ‘ho’ on the end of it to follow through with the next words as in ‘Oh am sorry you theo....etc’ don’t think I’ve mentioned that before!


He may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot but don't let that fool you. He really is an idiot.
- Groucho Marx

Come the millennium, month 12,
In the home of greatest power,
The village idiot will come forth
To be acclaimed the leader. - Nostradamus (1555)

ps - you should have realised by now I ain't smart enough to have made it up - I can't even get the above lists to line up nicely.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2009, 07:49:08 AM by tonybaloney »

Aaron

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Re: Intro to the Cipher
« Reply #37 on: March 08, 2009, 08:12:00 PM »
Nice! And sadly, while I am usually good at math, statistics is my weak point. Also, I fixed your post with the teletype (tt) tag. It forces the text to use a fixed-width font.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2009, 08:12:23 PM by Aaron »

tonybaloney

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Re: Intro to the Cipher
« Reply #38 on: March 09, 2009, 05:31:35 AM »
Thanks for lining that up Aaron

Aaron

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Re: Intro to the Cipher
« Reply #39 on: March 09, 2009, 08:43:41 AM »
No problem. :)