Cryptography had a great fascination for Wheatstone; he studied it deeply at one time, and deciphered many of the MSS.
This non-Semitic system, which is found, in many instances, on alternate lines with a regular Semitic translation, in other cases in opposite columns to a Semitic rendering, and again without any Semitic equivalent at all, has been held by one school, founded and still vigorously defended by the distinguished French Assyriologist, Joseph Halevy, to be nothing more than a priestly system of cryptography based, of course, on the then current Semitic speech.
This cryptography, according to some of the Halevyans, was read aloud in Semitic, but, according to other expositors, the system was read as an " ideophonic," secret, and purely artificial language.
Facts of this character taken by themselves would perhaps be sufficient to convince most philologists that in Sumerian we have an arbitrarily compounded cryptography just as Halevy believes, but these facts cannot be taken by themselves, as the evidences of the purely linguistic basis of Sumerian are stronger than these apparent proofs of its artificial character.
Certainly no cryptography based exclusively on Semitic could exhibit this sort of interchange.
Asiatic Soc. (1884), pp. 301 sqq.; " Sumerian or Cryptography," ibid.
To regard these letters as ciphers is a precarious hypothesis, for the simple reason that cryptography is not to be looked for in the very infancy of Arabic writing.
600 (see Plate), the signs are divided up into three series of eight (the twenty 'fourth, p4, being omitted for want of room), Upon the basis of this division a system of cryptography (in the sense that the symbols are unintelligible without knowledge of the runic alphabet) was developed, wherein the series and the position within the series of the letter indicated, were each represented by straight strokes, the strokes for the series being shorter than those for the runes, or the series being represented by strokes to the left, the runes by strokes to the right, of a medial line.'
The only question which concerns us here is which of the two alphabets was the earlier in use, and after 1 A species of cryptography exactly like this, based upon the " abjad order of the Arabic letters, is still in use among the Eastern Persians (E.