Article | Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Historical Cryptology HistoCrypt 2020 | “Encoded“ Communication with Ladies in a Turkish Harem, 17th-Century Style Linköping University Electronic Press Conference Proceedings
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Title:
“Encoded“ Communication with Ladies in a Turkish Harem, 17th-Century Style
Author:
Gerhard F. Strasser: Depts. of German and Comparative Literature, Penn State University
DOI:
https://doi.org/10.3384/ecp2020171002
Download:
Full text (pdf)
Year:
2020
Conference:
Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Historical Cryptology HistoCrypt 2020
Issue:
171
Article no.:
002
Pages:
1-17
No. of pages:
17
Publication type:
Abstract and Fulltext
Published:
2020-05-19
ISBN:
978-91-7929-827-2
Series:
Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings
ISSN (print):
1650-3686
ISSN (online):
1650-3740
Publisher:
Linköping University Electronic Press, Linköpings universitet


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The Duke August Library in Wolfenbüttel, Germany, preserves a treasured French-Turkish manuscript with an intriguing (translated) title: “Silent Letters, or a Method of Making Love in Turkey without Knowing How to Read or Write.“ This unusual piece was prepared in 1679 for Jacobus Colyer, the enterprising 22-year-old son of the Dutch representative to the Sublime Porte in Istanbul. The first and longest of 3 parts consists of an extensive explanatory section in French in which the author details the Turkish system of sending messages (not only to ladies in the Sultan’s Harem), so-called Selams, “welcome greetings” or “peace wishes” that are remotely similar to the Oriental “language of flowers.” These messages are encoded according to a well-defined system. Without any extant “code books” beyond what the 1679 Wolfenbüttel and scarce later sources yield it becomes clear that the meaning of such encoded Selam messages was common knowledge among interested parties - in particular in the Sultan’s Harem. The following analysis will detail this system and also branch out to show how in 1688 this manuscript was adapted in two initially identical publications with totally different endings. Both of them include a reference to the “Langage müet”, an early sign language used at the Sultan’s court - de facto a second cryptological example associated with the Wolfenbüttel manuscript and an ingenious re-use of the same material for different audiences.

Keywords: historical cryptology; French-Turkish encoded messages; Sultan’s Harem

Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Historical Cryptology HistoCrypt 2020

Author:
Gerhard F. Strasser
Title:
“Encoded“ Communication with Ladies in a Turkish Harem, 17th-Century Style
DOI:
10.3384/ecp2020171002
References:
No references available

Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Historical Cryptology HistoCrypt 2020

Author:
Gerhard F. Strasser
Title:
“Encoded“ Communication with Ladies in a Turkish Harem, 17th-Century Style
DOI:
https://doi.org10.3384/ecp2020171002
Note: the following are taken directly from CrossRef
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Last updated: 2019-11-06