Overview of the Six Baconian Cipher Methods

System Architecture of the Great Cryptographic Hedge Maze, Part I

By FB Decipherer

Fr.B‘s magisterial classic, The Advancement of Learning (1623 edition) ends with a brief but uniquely exotic Appendix tacked on at the end there, wherein it is set in motion, in only a few pages, several novel engines which not only have had influence on the modern World in which we live (400 years later!), but were actually key in creating it.

These include:

  • First published description of the Binary Code, the foundation of all Digital Systems, such as Smart Phones, the Internet, Online Banking, GPS, and perhaps most indispensable for many living today, Programmable Microwave Ovens.
  • First published description of Telecommunications, providing an in-period example of a bank of specifically five lanterns (which could be kept either shuttered or unshuttered) to transmit (at night anyway) one letter of the English Alphabet at a time.
  • First published description of Digital Steganography, the basis of Digital Watermarks, and therefore the foundation today of Digital Rights Management.

There is no doubt at all that we can identify the very first real-world application of the Binary Code: the steganographic concealing of hidden messages within Fr.B‘s public texts, such as his ultra-classic books about Philosophy, still revered today, not to mention the stage-play scripts of his ribald, violent stage plays, published under now-famous, laughably obvious pseudonyms such as “Will Shake-speare”. Fr.B explicitly tells us that this is why he invented the Binary Code in the first place.

In this brief exotic Appendix, Fr.B mentions having invented six methods for infolding secret texts within public documents:

1. The Biliteral Cipher
2. The Anagram Cipher
3. The Clock or Time Cipher
4. The Capital Letter Cipher
5. The Symbol Cipher
6. The Word Cipher

But he only documents one of them, his Biliteral Cipher, today called the Binary Code. Extensive samples of this are illustrated in Experiment One, they are the indispensable foundation of it. He documents the Biliteral Cipher in brilliant detail, providing several illustrations originally drawn with his own pen.

Yet the other five are only mentioned in passing, leaving us, with exasperation, wondering how they worked, what they did, and even if they actually existed.

Very recently the last of the six Riverbank Monographs came to light and was added to the others in the Exhibits section of this website. Turning the antique sepia pages for the first time, a startling surprise came to light: a sketchy, but apparently unique, high-level summary of the six methods has existed all along (since 1916).

Page 31 of Fundamental Principles Of The Baconian Ciphers provides the only summary in print of the six Cipher Methods alluded to by Fr.B in the appendix to The Advancement of Learning.

They are summarized below.

The Biliteral Cipher

See Experiment One.

Two font styles are used within the same block of text to encode binary ones and zeros.

The modern Decipherer of the Biliteral Cipher was Elizabeth Wells Gallup in the earliest years of the Twentieth Century.

The Anagram Cipher

The Long Word referred to is Honorificabilitudinitatibus. There is an xx-long Wikipedia article on this one word, it was not a creation of Shakespeare, it existed long before.

Not currently understood how the Long Word presents a useful example of the Anagram Cipher.

The Clock or Time Cipher

Apparently an adjunct of the Word Cipher, with snippets of unencrypted plain-text interspersed anywhere within the main body of text, but what is needed are the beginning and ending delimiters of each text snippet so that they can concatenated.

Where the numbers 1 through 12 appear in the outer text, they act as a word offset to the keyword which acts as a delimiter.

The Capital Letter Cipher

An adjunct of the Biliteral Cipher, all of the uppercase letters within a range of text lines (how many, and where?) are concatenated and decoded (in groups of five) as in Experiment One, as opposed to (normally) sequential letters in a block of text.

The Symbol Cipher

No useful information is provided here.

The Word Cipher

See Experiment Eleven, which presents extensive background information.

The modern Decipherer of the Word Cipher was Dr. Owen Owen in the earliest years of the Twentieth Century.

M.B.G mentions the fundamental design feature of the overall scheme: to access the Word Cipher, one has to first decode the provided user manual, which is encoded in the Biliteral Cipher.

She distinguishes between the two: the Biliteral Cipher yields the most historical significance, the Word Cipher is most expressive for a literary genius like FrB.

One reason that the Word Cipher is of interest because advanced custom software (Machine Vision OCR and Convolution Neural Networks) shouldn’t be necessary. Of primary importance is detection of clusters of keywords, starting with no readily understandable, non-cryptic definiton of what a keyword or a cluster is; it will need to be reverse-engineered.

The good news, however, is that there is a superabundance of existing applications, including some desktop applications, which might be completely suitable, maybe even automated Microsft Word would suffice.

The Capital Letter Cipher is of interest because, if this project’s Machine Vision OCR for the Biliteral Cipher can be brought to completion, the Capital Letter Cipher can be seen as a serial application of the already existing decode algorithm.

Even these meager scraps provide food for thought:

  1. To completely decode Fr.B‘s Cipher Autobiography, do all six methods have to be used?
  2. Was this the Friedman’s own discovery, or did they have an unnamed additional source of information “up their sleeve”?

Notes for this page:

Copyright © 2023 New Gorhambury

The Tudor Rose

Respectfully dedicated to A. Phoenix, whoever you are

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