Codes & Cyphers

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0 Cypher

Etymologically “0” is a cypher, implying a some-thing that stands in for no-thing.


One almost cannot help but respond to various magical alphabets as “of terrible aspect.” That would be a mistake.

Agrippa von Nettesheim, Heinrich Cornelius. De occulta philosophia, with Pietro d’ Abano, Johannes Trithemius, Godefroy and Marcellin Beringen, Thomas Dotter and the Elder Pliny. Lugduni: Per Beringos fratres, 1550.


One of the ways the sense of touch is contiguous with the sense of vision.

Deberny & Peignot, Fonderies. Spécimen. Paris: J. J. Pauvert [?], 1955.


Falls in the category: “things I wish to know.”

Diringer, David. The Alphabet. New York: Philosophical Library, 1948.


Punch cards from an IBM printer (MDM 5203) we collected from a garment factory building being torn down to make way for the Sprint Center.  Presented below is the card for “Y” as well as a whole alphabet of cards—from which it is obvious that the way computers “read” is nearly impossible for human’s to decode in the absence of the machine.

IBM. MDM 5203 [Printer] Map Charts. [Armonk NY]: The Company, 1970 (Oct.).

Eternity Code

An exceedingly simple code enamored of children.

Colfer, Eoin. The Eternity Code .  New York: Viking Press, 2003.

Flag signal

Ship to ship communications, almost always rendered in color. Here colors have been coded using heraldic conventions. Short for “I am altering my course to starboard.”

ICS], and Great Britain. Board of Trade. International Code of Signals. American ed. Washington: Govt. Print. Off., 1937 (1917).

Gabelsberger Stenography

A stenography system widely taught in Germany, used notably by Kurt Gödel.


Vaguely misleading as hieroglyphics are not intrinsically alphabetic but generally useful in the spirit of the game.

Wilson, Penelope. Sacred Signs. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.


International Phonetic Alphabet

We are not certain about this. Anyone having more complete information please share.

Pullum, Geoffrey K., and William A. Laousaw. Phonetic Symbol Guide. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.


What is the holiday without a little knottinesss?

Tait, Peter Guthrie. “On knots.” Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. 28 (1876-7): 145-190.

Linear B

Deciphering of Linear-B was completed in the early 20th C. by Michael Ventris, an architect and polymath.

Chadwick, John. The Decipherment of Linear B. Cambridge [UK]; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1960.

Robinson, Andrew. The Man who Deciphered Linear B: The Story of Michael Ventris. New York, NY: Thames & Hudson, 2002.

Magic Alphabet

Another magic alphabet, this one from Pitois Christian, a pseudonym.

Christian, P. Histoire de la magie. Paris: Jouvet, 1870.


Code Talkers


Department of the Navy, Naval Historical Center, 1999. Navajo Code Talkers’ Dictionary: Revised 15 June 1945, Declassified Under Department of Defense Directive 5200.9.

Ogham (Scandinavian)

Writing from scratch, so to speak. We follow Drucker, who shows a different mark than unicode.


Drucker, Johanna. The Alphabetic Labyrinth. New York NY: Thames and Hudson, 1995.

Porta (1563)

A Renaissance scholar of extraordinary graphic intelligence. Also, the literary source for the accompanying volvelle, an early analog computer and code generator.

Porta, Giambattista della. De furtivis literarum. Naples: Ioa. M. Scotus, 1563.

QR Code

Download a QR Code reader to find the letter.

Apple or Android


See Koch’s extraordinary Book of Signs, a typographic masterpiece from a giant of 20th C. design.


Koch, Rudolf. The Book of Signs. New York: Dover, 1950.

Sherlock Holmes Dancing Man


Doyle, Arthur Conan Doyle. The Adventure of the Dancing Men. 

Teeline (Palm Writing)

A tactile alphabet, often used to develop dual pathways to orthographic language.
Hill, James. Teeline: a method of fast writing. London: Heinemann Educational, 1968.


Unicode Consortium. Unicode Symbols Sets. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 2000.



Love Glyphs


You should live! And be well!  A leben ahf dir!


Goldin, Hyman E. First Grade in Hebrew. New York: Hebrew Pub. Co., 1926.

Zografskiy Codex

Glagolitic alphabet for Zograhensis Codex