Fun with Baconian Ciphers
We now begin with those signature candidates that involve numbers. These have often been ridiculed but only by people who don’t understand them. We’ll look at what cryptology experts William and Elizabeth Friedman had to say about them and what they didn’t say or realize.This will take several pages so it will be a while before we get to the next cipher candidates.
First, to quote from the Friedman’s The Shakespeare Ciphers Examined, [p. 15] “In code systems, the units or symbols to be translated can be of different lengths: a letter, a syllable, a word, a sentence, or just a string of letters or numbers is agreed to stand for a particular word or a whole phrase in the message.”
The Friedmans deal with this topic in their chapter called “Odd Numbers”. Remember that the Elizabethan alphabet had 24 letters to it. In the Elizabethan alphabet the letters "u" and "v" represented the same letter as did the letters "i" and "j". Use the link below for more particulars.
Francis Bacon showed his familiarity with various cipher systems in his De Augmentia Scientiarum where he wrote (keeping original spelling intact):
“Wherefore let us come to Cyphars. Their kinds are many, as Cyphars simple; Cyphars intermixt with Nulloes, or non-significant Characters; Cyphers of double Letters under one Character; Wheele-Cyphars; Kay-Cyphars; Cyphars of Words; Others. But the virtues of them whereby they are to be preferr’d are Three; That they be ready, and not laborious to write; That they be sure, and lie not open to Deciphering; And lastly, if it be possible, that they be managed without suspition.”
I emphasized some key lines to keep in mind. As should be apparent, he would know that a normal rule-bound acrostic could easily be noticed and so would not be “without suspicion”. He wrote a little more on this topic and gave examples of his famous bi-literal cipher which many Baconians wrote about thinking that it was used in the Shakespeare works, as well as in works under Bacon’s own name, to hide his history. The Friedmans spent much of their book on that topic.
It’s also known that Bacon was in the company of cipher experts from his early years and then continued this interest the rest of his life. In the book Hostage to Fortune, Jardine and Stewart, 1998, pgs 55-56, the authors write “It was in France that Francis [at the age of 15 thru 17] had his first experience of ciphers and cryptography”. They wrote that “In this field, he was lucky to strike up an early relationship with the grand master of intelligence ciphers, Thomas Phelippes, a servant of Sir Francis Walsingham, who had been placed with the embassy to give it the benefit of his skills in languages and ciphering. Bacon and Phelippes also remained close over the following years: Francis was a friend of Thomas’ father, employed his younger brother as secretary and close companion during the early 1580s, and recommended Thomas himself to the attention of the Earl of Essex in 1591. He [Phelippes] was also credited with having the ability ‘to write any man’s hand if he had once seen it as the man himself that writ it’.” “As a decipherer, Phelippes specialized in breaking difficult codes. What Francis learned under Thomas Phelippes remained with him for the rest of his life.”