Book cover. Click to enlarge.

"The Gold Bug" Rimington & Hooper edition, 1928.

In 1839, while working as an editor for Alexander's Weekly Messenger, Poe encouraged his readers to send in cryptographs, or short encrypted texts, that he would then attempt to solve. He explained that the "ciphers" should be simple substitution ciphers, that is, readers should substitute a particular symbol for a particular alphabet letter every time it appeared in a statement. The readers responded, sending, by Poe's estimate, "nearly one hundred ciphers." He claimed to have solved all but one, and that one, he argued, was not a true cipher.

Poe was so captivated by cryptography that he incorporated it into his story "The Gold-Bug" in 1843. In this story, the character William LeGrand must solve a puzzle to find a buried treasure.

Click to enlarge images

Page from book. Click to enlarge. Page from book. Click to enlarge. Illustration from book. Click to enlarge.


Solve cryptographs using tips from Poe's "The Gold-Bug."


Do you think you could have stumped Poe? Create your own simple substitution cryptograph of lines from a Poe story or poem.