If someone finds your leather journal, will they be able to immediately read it? Or could it be in code? Would they have to dust off their cryptographer’s skills to make sense of it?
Ever since language and communication were invented, we’ve been fascinated with obscuring it. Languages are codes. Millions of people know and understand English. To someone who doesn’t, it can be as foreign as the text that begins this post.
Here are some codes and ciphers you can use for your secret leather journal.
The Caesar Cipher
Codes and ciphers were developed to hide messages. Julius Caesar, for example, recognized the need for communication with his generals, but he did not want to let his opponents know his plans. Everyone wrote the same language, so he developed a cipher that all of his generals used.
The Caesar Cipher is a letter substitution cipher with a very simple algorithm. Replace each letter with a different one a fixed number of places in the alphabet. For example, a right shift (or rotation) of 1 turns all of the A’s into B’s, B’s into C’s, and so forth. The Z turns into an A. If you wish to easily use the Caesar cipher, take a look at http://www.rot13.com (the ‘rot’ stands for rotation).
The Masonic Cipher
Another cipher is known as the Masonic Cipher. This uses two tic-tac-toe boards and two X’s to outline the letters which are used. It is a simple 1 to 1 cipher, but instead of letters, symbols are used.
Here is an example of a Masonic Cipher code
Here is the key to deciphering the Masonic Cipher Code
For determined codebreakers, these two ciphers would be only a small speedbump to understanding your most private thoughts. But the more difficult the encryption, the harder it is to read again later. You can make ciphers and codes as simple or as complex as you like. One of the best codes is to make your own language. Jailed underworld bosses, for instance, sometimes develop entirely new languages to obscure their thoughts from the outside.
What is the difference between a code and a cipher?
Ciphers substitute letters, while codes substitute words and concepts. Because there are more possible combinations available, codes are usually much harder to crack than ciphers. You can even use codes and ciphers simultaneously, but this would take a lot of time and effort to read later.
What about book codes?
We love these because of all the variations. Everyone who will be in on the secret needs to have the same codebook. Messages are then coded to words, page numbers, or other aspects of the codebook so everyone can understand the encrypted message. For instance, you may want to use the word ‘the’. In the book key, that may be the third word on the fifth page. So, the word ‘the’ might be represented by the number 35 in your code.
The weakness in book ciphers is that both parties must have a copy of the same book. And if someone had enough material from you and your secret pen pal, the code could be deduced using other cryptanalysis methods. Of course, if you have the only copy of the codebook, your message will be very secure!
The strength of the book cipher rests in the book chosen. Want a very tricky form of a codebook? If you reread your journals, you could use prior leather journals as the key to your future ones.
Making Up Your Own Code
We’ve used musical notes to create ciphers, Braille, semaphore, and word searches to create codes to work with. Making up your own writing code is not only fun, but it keeps prying eyes away from your most secret thoughts. As long as you can translate messages back and forth, your options are endless.
A wise man is he who keeps his own secrets.
Credit: Featured image artwork by Mariya Olshevska. Click here for her full profile and other works.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Jake & Bella are both young professionals who reside in sunny Queensland, Australia. Jake is an executive within the medical tourism industry and Bella is a young PR & Journalism graduate. Both use journals and notebooks as part of their daily life, whether it's taking notes, creating concepts, planning projects or showing some gratitude. Both have a keen eye for what makes a high quality journal that's a pleasure to own and use. Visit the Our Team page for more info on this bother and sister duo.