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They also used announcements in newspapers, for a cipher in the newspaper advertisements is an ideal way of communication between secret lovers who want to make an appointment, or between businessmen or politicians who want to make secret deals: the message, the sender and the receiver(s) remain unknown, except to themselves.Secrets and mysteries always appealed to Poe, and his interest in cryptography was probably further enhanced during his years in the US army, where cryptography and ciphers are part of military routine.Poe gave the Latin sentence ‘Suaviter in modo, fortiter in re’ (‘Gentle in manner, firm in deed’) as an example, which gives the following scheme for substitution: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z s u a v i t e r i n m o d o f o r t i t e r i n r e In this scheme, ‘Edgar Allan Poe‘ becomes ‘ivest sooso ofi’.Edgar Allan Poe had a fascination for cryptography.And he was certainly not the only one, because in his time cryptography played an important role in society.So it is no surprise that he used that knowledge and inclination when he became a writer and a magazine editor.His most famous accomplishment is the story ‘The Gold Bug’ (1843), in which the plot revolves around a cipher that contains information about a buried treasure.Even modern universities still use this story as instruction material for their classes on cryptography. He asked his readers to submit ciphers which he would then publish as challenge to other readers and to himself.
Poe’s favorite system of cryptography was the use of a ‘key-phrase’.This is a sentence of 26 letters, which match the letters of the normal alphabet.There was no internet or telephone, and plain letters could be dangerous and incriminating if they were found and read by others (‘The Purloined Letter’!), so many people used cryptography or ‘secret writing’ to convey messages to others.One that he could not solve was finally solved in 2000 (!
) by the Canadian software expert Gil Broza (for more information click here.) In 1841 Poe published several articles on cryptography, under the title ‘A Few Words on Secret Writing’.