00 What is the Ave Maria Cipher

Polygraphia (book) – Wikipedia

Johannes Trithemius was born in Trittenheim on February 2, 1462. At the age of 17, he studied at the University of Heidelberg. In 1499 he wrote his 8-volume work “Steganographia”, followed in 1518 by his book Polygraphia.

It is composed of six books and a clavis (key):

  • Book I contains no fewer than 384 alphabets (called “minutiae” by the author) of 24 letters (or “degrees”): each letter corresponds to a Latin word (noun, verb, adjective, etc.) in reference to Christian prayers and religious texts, being in total 9,216 different words. This is nowadays known as the Ave Maria cipher, which mostly uses only a few of the first alphabets.
  • Book II contains 308 more Latin alphabets with 7,392 words, again using Latin words with mostly religious context.
  • Book III presents 132 alphabets in three columns which are 3,168 dictions of a “universal language” where each letter is equivalent to an invented word (for example “a” could be Abra, mada, badar, cadalan, pasa etc.) but capable of expressing numbers (from 1 to 10 would be Abra, Abre, Abri, Abro, Abru, Abras, Abres, Abris, Abros and Abrus).
  • Book IV shows 2,880 invented alphabet dictions in 120 alphabets. To decode, one must simply extract the second letter of each word.
  • Book V reproduces two canonical hash tables, one direct with 80 alphabets and the other inverted with 98 alphabets, allowing infinite permutations, to which twelve “planispheric wheels” each comprising six categories of 24 numbers combined with the 24 letters and thus allowing elaborate a big amount of ciphered messages.
  • Book VI is a collection of (partly alleged) ancient alphabets, including Germanic-Franconian, Ethiopian, Norman, Magical and Alchemical.

The work ends with alphabets of his invention as the “tetragramaticus” formed by 4 characters that are diversified in 24 letters and the “enagramaticus” of 9 characters and 28 letters, from which he gives examples of writings that belongs to something it resembles a natural language.