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.

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