Baconian Cipher

Lord Francis Bacon, sixteenth century English philosopher believed that the only true secret system of encipherment was one that concealed the very existence of a secret; one where no one ever knew a cipher existed. Lord Bacon developed a cipher, easily imitated with many subtle variations. Ciphertext (CT) is made to appear as plaintext (pt). Two distinct features hold the key to plaintext conversion.

Sixteenth Century, elite, active English political statesman, he used slightly different font types in the printing of written correspondence to conceal communication he wrote to his peers for exclusive interpretation by a selected few. Readable text use to conceal the fact that there was a concealment process present was a tandem step code device, with one step a text so obvious, no one would be ever looking for the second step.

The system’s fundamental principle to compose an alphabet thru combinations that two unique symbols provide was in use long ahead of Bacon’s time by the ancient Greeks, whose armies’ use of fire torches swung to the opposite directions signified signs into two varying “fonts”. The Indians smoke signal communications from mountain tops across the North American Plains also is an example of communication transmission thru symbolic variations.

Lord Bacon developed a Biliteral Alphabet which assigned “a’s” and” b’s” to represent letters of the alphabet. Each group of five “a’s and b’s” was assigned to a letter of the alphabet. The Baconian Biliteral Alphabet follows.

Baconian Biliteral Alphabet

A= AAAAA   E= AABAA   I/J= ABAAA   N= ABBAA   R= BAAAA   W= BABAA
B= AAAAB   F= AABAB   K= ABAAB   O= ABBAB   S= BAAAB   X= BABAB
C= AAABA   G= AABBA   L= ABABA   P= ABBBA   T= BAABA   Y= BABBA
D= AAABB   H= AABBB   M= ABABB   Q= ABBBB   U/V= BAABB   Z= BABBB

NOTE: THERE IS NO “bb” START IN THE BI-LITERAL ALPHABET

“Bacon” in Baconian Alphabet becomes:

aaaab aaaaa aaaba abbab abbaa
B A C O N

The “a” and “b” units are concealed by assigning ciphertext letters to each equivalent. Once a ciphertext letter has been assigned an “a” or “b” it must always be assigned to that same equivalent.

Let’s work our way through a Baconian Cipher by dragging a crib through its ciphertext. The crib in the following construction has three letters (but). five Baconian biliteral letters are assigned to each plaintext letter. We drag the crib through the ciphertext by comparing each ciphertext letter’s Baconian biliteral letter to the crib’s biliteral letters. A crib cannot fit the construction ciphertext unless all of its biliteral letters are in agreement with the ciphertext’s biliteral letters. See the crib placement conflict process below.

JA 2002 Cm. E-7. Baconian. Enduring benefit.      (but)        APEX DX
QUOTA  SLANT  GAVEL  ICING  GROAT  TWINS  KNOLL  KNAVE
COMET GNOME EIDER CREAM YEAST JOKER ZONED VOCAL
ANKLE
DOUBT CLOCK POWER TOTAL ERROR NIZAM NIGHT
YAWNS SPICE OGIVE NOISY XENON FEWER.

ZONED VOCAL ANKLE – These are the only ciphertext letters not generating a conflict with the Baconian letters for the crib “but.” This signals the correct ciphertext placement for the crib. See the worksheet on the following page..

The ciphertext is examined in three word segments to see what letters will permit the placement of the Baconian letters for the crib word “but.”

QUOTA SLANT GAVEL will not permit the placement of ciphertext “but” because the “T” in QUOTA would be a Baconian letter “b” while the “T” in SLANT would be a Baconian letter “a.”

The crib is dragged through the ciphertext until no conflict appears.

*Ciphertext TWINS KNOLL KNAVE seems to present no conflict between its letters but such a placement would result in ciphertext SLANT being represented by Baconian letters bbaab – Recall our note above that there are no “bb” beginnings in the Baconian alphabet.

Ciphertext ZONED VOCAL ANKLE reflects no ciphertext letters in conflict with Baconian equivalents representation – Both “O’s” = a, “N’s” = a, “E’s” = a, “A’s” = b and “L’s” =b. This is an indication of the possible placement of the crib.

 

CRIB PLACEMENT CONFLICT PROCESS

  a a a a b          b a a b b          b a a b a   Conflict          
      b                  u                  t           
  Q U O T A          S L A N T          G A V E L       T
   S L A N T          G A V E L          I C I N G       L                   
   G A V E L          I C I N G          G R O A T       G                  
   I C I N G          G R O A T          T W I N S       N                   
   G R O A T          T W I N S          K N O L L       N                 
   T W I N S          K N O L L          K N A V E     SLANT*              
   K N O L L          K N A V E          C O M E T       K                  
   K N A V E          C O M E T          G N O M E       E
   C O M E T          G N O M E          E I D E R       M
   G N O M E          E I D E R          C R E A M       E
   E I D E R          C R E A M          Y E A S T       R
   C R E A M          Y E A S T          J O K E R       E
   Y E A S T          J O K E R          Z O N E D       E
   J O K E R          Z O N E D          V O C A L       E
   Z O N E D          V O C A L          A N K L E     NONE                     
   a a a a b          b a a b b          b a a b a

BI-LITERAL ALPHABET KEY

Post the Baconian equivalents above to a ciphertext alphabet.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
b   a b a   a       a b   a a       a     b     a a

Post the identified Baconian equivalents (BE) to the ciphertext letters. Indicate plaintext letters where sufficient BE letters appear (5).

QUOTA  SLANT  GAVEL  ICING  GROAT  TWINS KNOLL KNAVE
   ab  abba   abbab   a aa  a ab      aa aaabb aabba
                 O                         D     G
COMET  GNOME  EIDER CREAM YEAST JOKER ZONED VOCAL
aa a   aaa a  a ba  a ab  aaba   aaa  aaaab baabb
                                        B     U
ANKLE  DOUBT  CLOCK POWER TOTAL ERROR NIZAM NIGHT
baaba  ba     abaaa  a a   a bb a  a  a ab  a a
  T             I
YAWNS  SPICE  OGIVE  NOISY  XENON  FEWER.
ab aa  a  aa  aa ba  aa aa   aaaa   a a

EDUCATED SUPPOSITIONS

  1. I = b since SLANT must = N or O
  2. T=a, anticipate N for “now”
  3. Q=a, U=b, anticipate K for “know”
  4. R=b, anticipate “L” for “Knowledge”
  5. W=a, anticipate “E” for “knowledge”
  6. M=b, to complete “E” for “knowledge”
  7. J=b, to complete “S” for “comes”

BI-LITERAL ALPHABET KEY

(Numbered suppositions in black.)

                        1  7        6              3  4     2  3     5
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z
b     a  b  a      a    b  b  a  b  b  a  a     a  b  a  a  b  b  a     a  a

33 2       2         1 1     4  2  251
QUOTA  SLANT  GAVEL  ICING  GROAT  TWINS KNOLL KNAVE
abaab  abbaa  abbab  babaa  ababa  aabaa aaabb aabba
  K      N      O      W      L      E     D     G
    6 2     6    1  4  4  6     2 7   4                
COMET  GNOME  EIDER CREAM YEAST JOKER ZONED VOCAL
aabaa  aaaba  abbab ababb aabaa baaab aaaab baaab
  E      C      O     M     E     S     B     U
         3 2          5 4 2 2    44 4  1  6  1  2
ANKLE  DOUBT  CLOCK POWER TOTAL ERROR NIZAM NIGHT
baaba  bab a  abaaa  aaab aaabb abbab ababb aba a
  T             I           D     O     M
  5      1      1      1             5 4
YAWNS  SPICE  OGIVE  NOISY  XENON  FEWER.
abaaa  a baa  aabba  aabaa   aaaa   aaab
  I             G      E

Although not present in the above construction, examination of many Baconian constructions have revealed often used approaches of patterning the Baconian equivalents to the ciphertext, no doubt caused by the constructor’s desire to easily track all of the used a’s and b’s in an effort to properly apply values to the ciphertext. Awareness of the existence of such a pattern would greatly enhance plaintext recovery. Simultaneous posting of the Baconian equivalent letters (a & b) to the ciphertext alphabet by the solver will create an awareness of possible pattern arrangements.

Some Observed Pattern Uses.

Cm MJ ’96 E-10

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
aaaaaaaaaaaabbbbbbbbbbbbbb

Cm JF ’95 E-4

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
ababababababababababababab

Cm SO ’94 E-9

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
bbbbbbbbbbbbbaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Cm MJ ’88 E-5

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
aabbaabbaabbaabbaabbaabbaa

Baconian Concealment Cipher Example

The Baconian Cipher construction above would hardly accomplish Lord Bacon’s interest in concealing the very existence of a cipher’s presence but consider the following text’s merit in using two distinct features to generate a concealment device:

BC-1

The “father” of the Baconian biliteral alphabet type message code as we know it, was one, Lord Francis Bacon, a noted scribe, philosopher, one time avid cryptologist, who strongly believed the only secret codes were those that effectively concealed the fact that any secret existed. Sixteenth Century, elite, active, English political statesman, he used slightly…

It seems an innocent and harmless enough looking piece of text but look at what happens to it when the author instructs the recipient of it to assign “a” to words ending in a consonant and “b” to words ending in a vowel. Convert five letter Baconian Biliteral Alphabet “a’s” and “b’s” to plaintext for the concealed message.

See Appendix III for full message.

Baconian Crib Placement

Let’s take the time to recap the Baconian crib placement procedure where no construction attempt has been made to conceal a cipher’s existence.

BC-2. Baconian. Look for a conflict. (for) LIONEL

ENCRO SVFKP ERPER KREIF IWPEP EPRGB

TCMQU EGCQG CMETE YVZEL ETJCO YELAV

CREHS GXCEM SOCPE XMCFE.

The task before us is the assignment of letters from the Baconian Biliteral Alphabet to the ciphertext to convert to a meaningful plaintext. Our first step is to find the proper placement of our crib in the ciphertext. Find the values from the Baconian Alphabet for the crib and check all ciphertext letters against these values, looking for a proper fit.

(See below.)

Baconian Biliteral Alphabet

A= AAAAA   E= AABAA   I/J= ABAAA   N= ABBAA   R= BAAAA   W= BABAA
B= AAAAB   F= AABAB   K= ABAAB   O= ABBAB   S= BAAAB   X= BABAB
C= AAABA   G= AABBA   L= ABABA   P= ABBBA   T= BAABA   Y= BABBA
D= AAABB   H= AABBB   M= ABABB   Q= ABBBB   U/V= BAABB   Z= BABBB

Ciphertext groups having letters with “a” and “b” conflicts will be excluded as a possible crib placement location. We assign Baconian biliteral letters to the crib letters “for” and then assign biliteral letters to the ciphertext construction in three “word” groupings, looking for those letters with conflicting letter representations under the Baconian alphabet crib letters.

  f     o     r
aabab abbab baaaa  CONFLICTS
 
ENCRO SVFKP ERPER    E
SVFKP ERPER KREIF    FR
ERPER KREIF IWPEP    EPI
KREIF IWPEP EPRGB    E
IWPEP EPRGB TCMQU    none

The fifth ciphertext grouping gives us hope of proper crib placement. Posted Baconian values with generated plaintext will shed more light. Baconian letters are posted under the ciphertext letters:

CT letters  ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Baconian     ba a a a   a  bab ba a

BC-2. Baconian. Look for a conflict. (for) LIONEL

ENCRO SVFKP ERPER KREIF IWPEP EPRGB
a ab      b abbab  baa  aabab abbab
  L?          O     K?    F     O
TCMQU EGCQG CMETE YVZEL ETJCO YELAV
baaaa aaaaa aaaba    a   ab a   a
R       A     C
CREHS GXCEM SOCPE XMCFE.
aba   a aaa   aba  aa a

No concealment factor is present in the above cipher and the appetite of solvers of any experience length lends its interest in continuing to explore the concealment principle. Let’s take a look at a Baconian Cipher which appeared in one of our Cm year end issues to see if we can make such a reality. It was submitted with all due apologies to the author of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” Clement Clarke Moore or Major Henry Livingston. It conceals a hidden message.

Determine the feature that is common to each of the ciphertext words in the following two Baconian ciphers which qualify them for a Baconian biliteral “a” or “b” assignment and allows the translation into plaintext.(Hint – check out the last letters of each word.)

BC-3. ‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CADENUS! LIONEL

It was the eve before Crypts,
When all through my flat,
No creature be stirring,
Not one to force chat.
The crypts were so carefully hung,
In hope the solve,
Would be so soon
To our tongue.

Constructors were all nestled,
Secure in their bed,
Certain their crypts
Were no manner read.

Out on our Side lawn
Arose a loud noise and clatter,
All rose to view
What’s the matter.

Away to the window we flew,
Quick as Olympian’s racin’,
Hopeful to behold,
Kasiski Determination.

Downstairs a cryptanalyst wore
His Brain most apart,
In trust that a solve
Would soon rear its start.

The fireplace mantle began
Emitting a reverberation,
Down came Santa
With no hesitation.

Toys flung on his back,
He toweled the perspiration,
Attending the backpack’s
Exhaustive accumulation.

Held tight in his teeth,
Stem of a pipe glistened,
As a whine across the room
Gave cause for Santa good listen.

Across the space
He sped in good haste,
Toward the area of the dismay,
Quite quickly he raced.

(Massive heap cipher message store.)

Cipher messages lie all around
A confused cryptic’s confounded daze.
Santa recognized at once
A baffling crypt, an unending maze.

An eye with a twinkle
Of a merry dimpled child,
Were all that gave hint
Of Santa’s crypto cunning guile.

Quick to recognize cipher type,
Santa identified plaintext in French,
While “caracteres” lined up
To reveal a missive of railfence.

Sadness to joyfulness transference
In a moment, As ciphertext became
Plaintext, when under guidance of
The jolly eyes of Saint Nick.

Now Amsco, now Beaufort,
Now Gromark, now you Myszkowski,
Now Foursquare, now dash away,
Solve away, solutions to all.

BC-4. Baconian. Crypto Christmas Wish. LIONEL

I’m dreaming of a tough Quagmire,
Just as ones that made us perceive woe.
When our idea made sense
And we tensed,
For those thoughts of psyche
Now very slow.
I’m dreaming of a tough Quagmire,
With the constructions I thus write.
May you solve in sunny day light
And have all solutions just rite.

Baconian Construction

Let’s review the application of Baconian Equivalent letters (a and b) to each letter of a plaintext message. Notice the suggestion of a plaintext message with the construction ciphertext concealment ploy. The word, bacon, in Baconian equivalent letters is written as:

plaintext              b      a      c      o      n
Baconian Equivalent  aaaab  aaaaa  aaaba  abbab  abbaa
CIPHERTEXT           EARLY  LIGHT  SENDS  ADDED  HOURS

The “a” and “b” units are disguised by the assigning of ciphertext letters to each, logically looking plaintext or cleartext words in their own. The more sensible a message that these ciphertext letters and words can generate, the better the concealment of the actual plaintext message. Notice the suggestion of a plaintext message with the construction ciphertext EARLY LIGHT SENDS ADDED HOURS.

Ciphertext/Baconian Equivalents

Once a ciphertext (CT) letter has been assigned an “a” or “b” it must always be assigned to the same equivalent. (a or b).

CIPHERTEXT LETTERS  ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Baconian Equivalent a  ba aaa  a ab  aaab   b

Become comfortable with the encipherment and decipherment process of the word “bacon,” its assignment of Baconian Equivalent letters to the ciphertext and complete the BC-5 cipher below. Begin by applying all Baconian Equivalent letters identified to the remainder of the ciphertext.

Solving Process Steps

  1. Post Baconian equivalents to the ciphertext.
  2. Recover plaintext for all five letter entities.
  3. Sight read plaintext for uncompleted five letter entities.
  4. Continue posting of Ciphertext/Baconian Equivalent alphabet.
  5. Complete the plaintext.
CIPHERTEXT LETTERS  ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Baconian Equivalent a  ba aaa  a ab  aaab   b

BC-5. Baconians are fun. (Bacon—) LIONEL

EARLY LIGHT SENDS ADDED HOURS
aaaab aaaaa aaaba abbab abbaa
B     a     c     o     n
TWIXT LANES ABOVE BLACK CAVES
a a a aaaaa a b a  aa    a aa
 a
WHERE FROGS CROAK WACKY MODAL
aaaa abaa aba a b bbaa
 
GEEKS AWARE LOOKS CLOUD EQUAL
aaa a a aaa  bb a  abbb a baa
 
PARTS JAZZY.
aaaa a b

BC-6. Navigator. (with) LIONEL

STORM NASTY RAILS WRECK BEACH
 
LINED EARTH PAILS EXTRA BOOZE
 
PACTS DROWN WHIMS DRIES STOOP
 
WIELD SPRAY GRIME TOPIC PACTS
 
MEETS MEDIC FIRST JAUNT CRAMP.