Given that there has been so much recent noise / banter online surrounding the origins of the Rubaiyat ciphertext photograph, perhaps it might be a good idea to look at Gerry Feltus’ definitive opinion (that I received recently by email):-

“I am led to believe that the original photograph of the ‘code’ was taken by a police photographer and countless copies were developed and sent to numerous locations, including The Advertiser where I obtained my copy. I did not find a copy of the photograph in police files or a negative thereof of same. Unless I receive evidence to the contrary I believe that the code was written on the top left side of the rear (plain white dust type cover) of a Whitcombe & Tombs pocket edition of the Rubaiyat.”

The SAPOL Historical Society does now have a copy of this photo, but it turns out that this was one of several sent to them not long ago by Gerry Feltus, who also sent them to Kerry Greenwood for her book. She had (very sensibly) contacted the SAPOL H/S, who had then asked Gerry Feltus because they didn’t have any.

As for what means was used to take the photograph, I think we can probably rely on the Adelaide News, Tuesday July 26th 1949 (as per Gerry Feltus’ “The Unknown Man”, p.108), whose journalistic ear seems to have been close to a policehorse’s mouth:-

“Acting on the possibility that the ‘Rubaiyat’ in their possession did belong to the lieutenant [Alfred Boxall], police set out to decipher a number of block letters pencilled on the back of the book.

Although the lettering was faint, police managed to read it by using ultra-violet light.

In the belief that the lettering might be a code, a copy has been sent to decoding experts at Army Headquarters, Melbourne.”

Finally, we might also in future have to be a little more careful about timing. The Adelaide Advertiser, Monday July 25th 1949 also notes that the man who found the Rubaiyat in his car in Jetty Road, Glenelg, also claimed that he had found it about the time of the RAAF air pageant in November 1948 – in fact, this was held at Parafield on 20th November 1948, a date I don’t recall having previously seen in anybody’s Somerton Man timeline…

24 thoughts on “The Rubaiyat ciphertext photograph (again)…

  1. Aide memoir .. everybody has had a think about this, but how many have thought that it might have been constructed from the rubaiyat it was written on? Each (code) letter being the first of one particular word from the verses, then all the words making up a message. A suicide note. He may have been a romantic.

  2. Jessie on August 18, 2014 at 10:04 am said:

    Queenie Thomson knew who SM was too. She recognised him as one of PT’s acquaintances. He was dumped on the beach as a warning to PT.

  3. Jessie: *sigh*

  4. Pete: people have tried to reconcile the Rubaiyat with the note in numerous ways. Certainly the internal structure of the note (if it is an English acrostic) ~seems~ to be not entirely dissimilar to the internal structure of a Rubaiyat verse. But as for the rest… I don’t really see it.

  5. Yeah to that Nick, but howabout we forget the rest and follow that line, ie; – is it a cryptological challenge of that nature?
    Has anybody dived into the book and tried to construct a suicide note from the letters .. ? ever?
    Of course they would have to have the same edition, tricky little buggers those rubaiyats.

  6. Pete: people have reconstructed all manner of odd plaintexts from the Rubaiyat note. But it’s more imaginative than cryptological, strictly speaking.

    But perhaps someone somewhere has collected a corpus of suicide notes that might help. GCW = Goodbye cruel world, ICSWKKAM = I can’t stand watching Kim Kardashian any more, etc. 🙂

  7. WAPSU – why are people so unkind?

  8. WWNTMVTS = Why Will Nobody Take My Voynich Theory Seriously? 🙂

  9. TALBEGO – theories are like backsides, everyone’s got one

  10. ITYIWD = I told you I was depressed
    TMITS = The money’s in the socks

  11. Gordon on August 18, 2014 at 8:58 pm said:

    The 1948 Parafield Airshow was a major event with estimates ranging from 10000 to 35000 people attending. It had the first public showing of the DH Vampire in Australia, flown by Squadron Leader Gel Cuming, which at that time was the fastest jet aircraft in the world.

    In 1946 the UK had set up an agreement with Australia to build the Vampire in Sydney, the one on display would have been amongst the first built with aircraft coming off the line in June 1948.

    The RR Nene engines were made at Fishermens Bend in Victoria. The Vampire was the predecessor of the Venom aircraft.

    You’ll find that there was a large gathering of UK, Canadian and Australian senior military chiefs in Adelaide at around the same time as the Air Display with visits to Woomera on their schedule.

    It’s interesting that the Vampire roll out timing ties in with the comings and goings of Percy Silletoe and Roger Hollis of MI5 to Australia as they set about beefing up Australian Intelligence services and in fact setting up an MI5 office in Sydney.

  12. Gordon on August 18, 2014 at 9:25 pm said:

    An addendum. The Parafield Air Display was extensively covered by Prof Abbott’s Facebook group about 3 years ago.

  13. Jessie on August 19, 2014 at 6:18 am said:

    The answers to this will never ever be found in wild conjecture. Reduce it to the basics – love triangle and sordid murder. Car dealers, thieves, unions and stand over men. It’s still happening today!

  14. Gordon on August 19, 2014 at 8:23 am said:

    RSHATP = Really shouldn’t have ate that Pasty..

  15. I’m with Jessie, some of the way ..

  16. Jessie: so “love triangle and sordid murder” isn’t “wild conjecture” because…?

  17. IOKWDMI = It’s Omar Khayyam What Done Me In

  18. Gordon Cramer on August 20, 2014 at 7:40 am said:

    On a separate but related topic, has anyone given any thought to Jimmy Durham’s evidence at the inquest:

    ‘I also have copies of the writing found on the deceased’ (Exhibits C.7 and C.8 returned to Mr. Durham)

    Any ideas on what was written and what on?

  19. Gordon: it’s a good question, one that has had me scratching my head in the past as well…

  20. Gordon on August 20, 2014 at 10:06 am said:

    It almost reads like it’s a continuation from the one sentence to the next sentence but not quite, as follows:

    ‘I also have copies of the writing found on the deceased’ (Exhibits C.7 and C.8 returned to Mr. Durham)

    ‘I took a photograph of the paper found on the deceased and I produce copies of that.’

    They appear to be 2 distinct and unrelated sentences.

    ‘Writing’ and ‘paper found’ are quite different. As Gerry says, no photographs and no negatives in the file so we are not able to go much further than to place a double question mark after it.

    I did note, as so no doubt did you, that the original inquest file had to be returned to SA State Library Archives. A slim chance that there will be more there.

  21. I always assumed that he was referring to a picture he took of the “Tamam Shud” scrap found in SM’s fob pocket. What’s interesting is that he went on to say “I understand that Mr.”…but that was x’d out and he was cut short. He really wasn’t asked much which is odd as he had a first hand view of the body.

    I’ve also wondered why no one ever approached him over the years regarding his thoughts and whether or not he took other pictures/kept the negatives.

  22. Gordon Cramer on August 20, 2014 at 6:44 pm said:

    There was an issue regarding the shape of the torn out piece. Apparently JD took a photograph and copied it on to paper producing a number of copies then folded them at the edges so they appeared oblong in shape. The idea was to ensure that when someone came forward with a copy of the Rubaiyat, the Police could check and see whether it was the correct shape and size. In other words it was to prevent false leads.

    When you read through the information available the Police had the torn piece and the book examined by an expert who stated that the paper type was the same. There is no mention of the shape and size matching anywhere that I can find.

    This was not mentioned at the inquest unless it was these copies he was referring to in the line:

    ‘I also have copies of the writing found on the deceased’ but then did not say ‘I produce copies”

    What doesn’t gel is the use of the word ‘writing’ and not ‘printed paper’ followed by the next sentence:

    ‘I took a photograph of the paper found on the deceased and I produce copies of that.’

    Detective Brown has always maintained that the paper was an exact fit and that the code on the page was upper left quarter of the back of the book.

  23. Pingback: Tamam Shud loose end roundup... -Cipher Mysteries

  24. WWSMD? =What Would Somerton Man Do?

    Has anyone been through the ‘code’ letters and made a list matching every word in the Rubiyat to a letter given?
    As I have a copy, I could always do this if it hasn’t been done?

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