A very British mystery: The case of the D’Agapeyeff Cipher

By Gordon Rugg and Gavin Taylor

Once in a while, it’s good to get away from the stresses and hassles of everyday life, into a gentler place where things are calm and safe. That’s one reason that Attenborough nature documentaries are loved around the world. There are no massive explosions or people shooting things with big guns or speculating about ancient aliens. Instead, there’s a kindly, silver-haired old man telling you about something like how centipedes walk. It’s all very soothing and peaceful and understated, and at the same time fascinating, in a gentle, minimalist way.

The subject of this article could have come straight out of an Attenborough documentary. It’s a code, but apart from that, everything is very sensible, and utterly different from the story of the Voynich Manuscript. There are no antiquarian booksellers on the run from the Tsarist secret police; no Elizabethan confidence tricksters who escape from their castle prison window on a rope made of bedclothes; there’s no hint of the most perverted priest in sixteenth-century Europe having had any involvement whatsoever.

The code is known as the D’Agapeyeff Cipher. It doesn’t feature a script found in no other manuscript, or bizarre images that look as if they’ve come from a parallel universe. Instead, it looks like this. It’s at the end of D’Agepeyeff’s book Codes and Ciphers.

d'agapeyeff cropped

All in all, it would be less exciting than a telephone directory, except for the one thing that it does have in common with the Voynich Manuscript. Nobody’s every managed to decipher it, although some of the world’s best codebreakers have tried.

It’s a very understated, British kind of mystery.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be writing a series of articles about the D’Agapeyeff Cipher, and about our work on it with British researcher and writer Robert Matthews.There will be some mild excitement in about the fourth article, but apart from that, it will all be very gentle and soothing.

Stay tuned to this channel…

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5 thoughts on “A very British mystery: The case of the D’Agapeyeff Cipher

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