Elgar’s scribble was actually a cipher. It consisted of 87 glyphs unevenly spread over three lines. It contained 24 different symbols that featured one, two, or three cusps or curves. The glyphs were tilted in what appeared to be eight various angles. In a glance it gave the sense of seagulls, or sheep, or bits of stubble. Dora looked at it, couldn’t figure it out, put it in a drawer, and didn’t draw it out again for 40 years.
The scribble, known as the Dorabella Cipher, has never been decrypted and stands with such other famous unsolved puzzles as the Voynich Manuscript, a 240-page codex dating from the 15th century; the Phaistos Disk, an apparently Bronze-age piece of clay found in Crete in 1908; and the Zodiac Killer ciphers of the 1960s and ’70s.
Countless cryptographers have ardently attempted to crack the Dorabella Cipher, employing deft math and analysis. A few quite accomplished cryptanalysts insist they have solved it. But the Elgar Society begs to differ. More.