telegraphic codes and message practice
scanned code directory

figure codes 1

This page is devoted to an earlier category of codes in which cipher words were alphabetically ordered and consecutively numbered. They might be used with any sequential list or tabular arrangement of phrase matter (meaning molecules). As all codes did, they yielded economy. In addition, users could pre-arrange to count up or down when translating into and out of code, thereby securing an increased degree of secrecy.

I use the expression figure codes with hesitation; the category might include code condensers as well, which are discussed elsewhere.

I will gradually move my discussions of codes falling under this category, from the overlong codescan notes page, to this. All scanned codes are listed chronologically at the scanned code directory.

1869     Universal Code for Telegraphing by Cypher
1870     Robert Slater. Telegraph Code, to Ensure Secresy in the Transmission of Telegrams

some points

  1. Universal Code for Telegraphing by Cypher (1869) is the first Google scan of a British Library holding that I’ve encountered. Will look/watch for more.

    The project involves books published between 1700 and 1870, and is described here — The British Library and Google to make 250,00 books available to all (20 June 2011).


1869 The Universal Code for Telegraphing by Cypher
Constructed on the Principle of Using Words to Represent Numbers and Combinations of Numbers
Liverpool: George Philip and Songoogle

65 p. ; 8ยบ
Accession date 28 August 1869.

Second title page has it somewhat differently:
Selected Words for Telegraphing, arranged alphabetically with numbers attached.
Set immediately below this second title is a monogram JF. Who was JF?

successive title pages (cropped, combined), The Universal Code for Telegraphing by Cypher (1869)

This may be an incomplete — perhaps never completed? — code entered solely for copyright purposes.

Each spread bears a single page number, with figures 1-40 on left page, and 41-80 (and their respective dictionary cypher words), on the right. The book consists of 65 such double-pages (130 ordinary pages).

1 / 1 Aback
1 / 80 Affect

65 / 1 Whine
65 /80 Zodiac

pages 32 (left and right), The Universal Code for Telegraphing by Cypher (1869)


1870 Telegraph Code, to Ensure Secresy in the Transmission of TelegramsRobert Slater
London: W. R. Gray
1888 third printing (U Toronto copy)
HE7675 S6 1888

Robert Slater, Secretary of the Socièté du Cable Transatlantique Français, Limited.

Numbered vocabulary : Abridge 00101 > Zurich 25000. The vocabulary is not specialist in any way, let alone classified. Probably best used in conjunction with specialized code, whose codewords aren’t numbered.

The code was developed solely for secrecy: all its ciphers depend on prearranged numbers or rules for addition, subtraction, transposition, alteration of series, or other (progressively) complex operations. Its examples 1–9 (pp vii – xv) are a delightful display of patter/nonsense literature, each a variation of the sentence —
The Queen is the supreme power in the Realm:

  1. Bounteous wedge purifying bounteous biography transparent posed bounteous yoke
    (addition of 5555 to each word’s vocabulary number)
  2. Plenty judging diatribe plenty perspective inciter crispate plenty lagoon
    (subtraction of 5555 from each word’s vocabulary number)
  3. Talking remonstrated kinks talking starch promised imparted talking quote
    (transposition of last three figures for each transmitted word, e.g., 12345 becomes 12453.
  4. Blundered waft presage blundered basalt tadpole pneumonia blundered why
    (add 5555, and transpose three right hand figures)
  5. Pillaging jackass darn pillaging posing hulk cousin pillaging ketch
    (subtract 5555, and transpose three right hand figures)
  6. Begged bulging freak catamaran beneath bedstead build corrupting claimed beneath autumn few
  7. Blends celestially fivefold brigade bays Brazilian catalogue conjecturing come bays Areopagus few
    (series of five figures converted to series of four, the three right-hand figures being transposed)
  8. Beneath celibate fixedness brigandine beaconage breadth catch conjugation comfort beaker argument fiddler
    (series of five figures converted to series of four, and transposed by adding 1 to the first result, 2 to the second, 3 to the third, etc.)
  9. Argentine decay antispasmodic conclude beaconage anomalous constitutional dissenter caffre ascribable anneal cupping
    (results from using method described in ex 8, by transposing the order of words in the message itself)