Emmanuel Gustin's Reviews > The Shakespearean Ciphers Examined: An Analysis of Cryptographic Systems Used as Evidence That Some Author Other Than William Shakespeare Wrote the PL

The Shakespearean Ciphers Examined by William F. Friedman
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's review
Jul 24, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: science_and_technology, fiction_literature
Read in May, 2011

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, the best established code-breaking organization in the USA was located at Riverbank, where George Fabyan had established a research group to prove that Francis Bacon had written the works attributed to William Shakespeare. From this highly unlikely place, William Friedman emerged as one of the leading cryptanalysts of the century, and his wife Elizebeth gained professional success and fame as well. In their retirement, 39 years later, the Friedmans returned to the subject on which they had started their careers.

It is said that they disliked the title The Shakespearean Ciphers Examined because it suggests that there are such ciphers to be found in the texts of Shakespeare. The Friedmans take the many suggested secret messages and codes that were "discovered" by gullible enthusiasts, and demolish them one by one, using cold logic and dry humor. It is an amusing stroll through a bewildering landscape of enthusiastic invention, self-delusion and wild leaps of logic.

Of course, the book now betrays its age. The long refutation of the work of Mrs. Gallup, the original inspirator of George Fabyan's efforts, lacks relevance to the present-day reader, although it tells us something about the practices of 16-th century English printers. But it remains an entertaining work.

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