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The Copiale cipher
Kevin Knight, Beáta Megyesi, Christiane Schaefer

The Copiale Cipher is a 105 pages manuscript containing all in all around 75 000 characters. Beautifully bound in green and gold brocade paper, written on high quality paper with two different watermarks, the manuscript can be dated back to 1760-1780. Apart from what is obviously an owner's mark (“Philipp 1866”) and a note in the end of the last page (“Copiales 3”), the manuscript is completely encoded. The cipher employed consists of 90 different characters, comprising all from Roman and Greek letters, to diacritics and abstract symbols. Catchwords (preview fragments) of one to three or four characters are written at the bottom of left–hand pages.

Transcription, transliteration and decipherment brought to light a German text obviously related to an 18th century secret society, namely the "oculist order". A parallel manuscript is located at the Niedersächsisches Landesarchiv, Staatsarchiv Wolfenbüttel.

Publications

Knight, K., Megyesi, B. and Schaefer, C. 2011. The Copiale Cipher presented as part of invited talk at ACL Workshop on Building and Using Comparable Corpora.

Knight, K., Megyesi, B. and Schaefer, C. 2012. The Secrets of the Copiale Cipher. Journal for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism.

In the press

A collection of articles published about the Copiale Cipher: get.pdf
Some of our favorite articles and comments about the Copiale Cipher: get.pdf

Download

  • Extra pages from the Oculist's archive in Wolfenbüttel (added February 2012):
    • Documents from the Masters of the Oculists:
    • Extra file from the Oculists about their rituals and rules (not corrected):

    Contact information

    If you have any comments or questions, please do not hesitate to contact us: Kevin Knight, Beáta Megyesi, Christiane Schaefer.

    Acknowledgements

    We would like to thank Wilfried Fiedler, Meißen and Wolfgang Hock, Berlin for making the manuscript available to us, Per Cullhed, Carolina Library, Uppsala University for helping us dating the book, Jan Casserstedt for helping us transcribing part of the manuscript, Eugenie Csakli for the English translation and Bengt Dahlqvist for parts of this webpage. Finally we would like to thank Andreas Önnerfors for proof reading and his expertise.

    This work was supported in part by the US National Foundation grant 0904684, and in part by Uppsala University Vice Chancellor's special grant as well as the Faculty of Languages at Uppsala University.



    transcription table cropped decipherment table 1
    copiale-p1_small (135K)

     

    copiale-53 (96K)

     

    copiale-cover_small (159K)

     

    copiale-watermark_small (134K)

     


    Last Update: Nov. 24, 2012