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Document Encryption

The Obfuscated Journals of Charles Wesley

I managed to chase down a copy of Prof Kenneth Newport's paper, 'Charles Wesley, 'Warts and All'" which talks about the "encrypted" portions of Charles Wesley's journal. This is part of my search for pre-computer examples of encrypted documents, which seem rare, as opposed to encrypted messages, which seem relatively common.

From a cryptographic and security standpoint, I'd say that Wesley's journals were obfuscated and not encrypted. Wesley used a form of shorthand that, though personalized to some degree, was taught to students of Oxford and Cambridge. It is also reported that his own brother used the same sort of shorthand. Thus, Wesley's diary entries may have been unreadable by most of the literate public, but  readable by the relative handful of university graduates who had learned that writing method.

Real-world 'document' encryption

I've been reviewing histories of cryptography recently and here's an interesting thing about pre-computer encryption: it's almost entirely used for communications security. People encrypted messages, but they rarely encrypted documents.

I've finally found a few real-world cases: encrypted diaries. BBC actually did a short segment on them last summer. But I'm still looking - there must be other cases where someone needed to keep some long-term data secret from prying eyes.

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