At last! Jordan Himelfarb of the Toronto Star has managed to crack the mystery of the Weldon Ciphers, with nothing more than a well-judged bit of social probing.

Online forum member “+Myst0wn” had cleverly unearthed the owner’s page for the mysterious blog “” referenced on the back of each envelope. Jordan thought about the owner’s name (“Sculpture 2.0”), and decided it must be something to do with “social sculpture”, a kind of art that is defined by people’s reactions to encountering something unusual.

But how was he/she connected to Western University? Jordan found an art instructor there called Kelly Jazvac whose art interests seemed fairly similar: and it turned out, after some to-ing and fro-ing, that Jazvac had taught the (still unnamed) “Sculpture 2.0”.

She explained that the Weldon code was an art project that came out of a second-year sculpture and installation class she taught in 2012. The artist, then an undergraduate student, placed 121 letters in the Weldon stacks and moved on with her or his (but probably her) life. Jazvac told me the artist was shocked by the project’s recent fame and wished to remain anonymous lest she be treated unkindly in the media. (The artist later declined my offer, via Jazvac, for an interview under the condition of anonymity.)

So it was, after all, simply a puzzle-like thing composed of 26 upper case and 26 lower case letters in a hand-built font (one that the artist christened “Sculpture 2.0”), but with a meaningless plaintext, and left abandoned in the stacks at Weldon. A thing of oddness and careful beauty, defined more by people’s collective reactions to it than its actual internal content.

Weldon cipher key

I had an interesting note from long-time Voynich Manuscript researcher Dana Scott about the Weldon Ciphers (thanks!). He noticed that (what Chris Demwell idiosyncratically called) the “fish” and “dog” glyphs in fact appear to be a linked pair:-


So “fish” actually = “fish head”, while “dog” actually = “fish tail”. But what that means is still anybody’s guess.

Another interesting angle is, as the Pressing Refresh blogger points out, the moderate similarity with a game played in the same D. B. Weldon library in 2011. This was based around a fictional “Captain Smith” and included all manner of harmonic-themed cookie crumbs for the players to find. There’s much more on the Intangible Harmonics website, according to which it all ended up like this:

Our players determined that Smith’s words were from an obscure poem called Tecumseh, Or The Warrior of the West by John Richardson. The players then somehow figured out that the words on the scrap of paper were in the Shawnee language, the same language spoken by the great Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa. The words were actually a library location code.

So, that’s one set of people who might possibly be involved, perhaps as a kind of karmic payback for (or follow-on to) Captain Smith’s historic adventures. Who can tell?

The Pressing Refresh blogger also suspects it might be a certain cryptographically-focussed assistant professor at Western University, which would also make a lot of sense.

My own best guess is that it is a cryptic literary cipher (for I’d be a bit surprised if a crypto professor would allow letters to scroll off the bottom of the page when inserting different-sized pictures: and pink feathers too?) by a writer who previously had his/her own blog hosted on the domain. I managed to find a “Pale Writer” blog active there from 2006-ish, so – in the absence of anything better – that’s today’s best guess. Whoever that is (and perhaps you know who that is, because I certainly don’t).

Just so you know!

Having today had a closer look at the eighteen Weldon ciphers found so far, I have to say that there’s not quite as much cryptographic meat to chew as it initially seemed. In fact, there are exactly three different cryptograms, with only minor variations from those in the others.

So, here’s Chris Demwell’s original transcription for Note 01, along with my transcriptions for Notes 02 and 03, and descriptions of the differences between these and the fifteen other notes:-

* Note 01

threecircle leaf bubble dog apple dotsquare yinyang target square clover key bird hatch arrow
circle dotblob triangle clover threecircle fire cube bidirection sunfish pacman target three ra flux
arrow sun earth dotblob floyd diamond grass key apple bubble dotcircle ra target pacman star
apple hook yinyang clover triangle bird ra square brush dotsquare three bigstar bubble waves
target ra triangle dotcircle phi star grass leaf threecircle star diamond threecircle circle desktop
bidirection dotblob tack sun dotcircle threecircle circle ra fire dotsquare bigstar cube key leaf
dotsquare phi bubble splitcircle leaf feather floyd brush circle triangle star remote pacman remote
dotcircle threecircle gem frame triangle square trefoil
puzzlepiece bird apple arrow yinyang feather dotblob
bigstar tack apple star ra brush square
leaf hand threecircle bubble dotcircle phi sun

* Note 02

gem cube tree bird feather leaf key desktop ra dotsquare bubble square arrow grass star
hand sun desktop feather cube atomic ra star earth hand bigstar brush diamond apple key
tree feather cube phi flux dotsquare puzzlepiece frame arrow hatch dotblob ra cube key hook
square triangle waves dotcircle gem leaf gem waves threecircle earth clover phi bubble dotcircle
hook bird cube feather bidirection hook knot bigstar atomix bubble three square trefoil dotsquare bigstar
bird arrow dog dotblob hand triangle three yinyang hand waves atomic bigstar threecircle circle
dotsquare bigstar bubble sunfish leaf key hook gem gem
feather earth phi dotcircle desktop fire waves splitcircle
triangle leaf square remote hand arrow apple grass
threecircle dotblob feather target gem pacman threecircle dotcircle
gem phi triangle dotcircle bubble apple bird puzzlepiece

* Note 03

circle desktop bird leaf dotblob frame cube gem fire floyd tree feather tack knot foam
dagger key cube waves atomic three square bigstar bubble grass knot foam puzzlepiece dog pacman
threecircle dotcircle ra yinyang gem hatch cube floyd tack bird brush clover earth dotsquare
circle square flux hand dotblob dotcircle triangle waves dotcircle triangle trefoil dotsquare hand yinyang
square target remote circle yinyang star trefoil flux frame tree foam frame floyd feather fire
cube hook dotblob desktop feather circle brush three atomic feather desktop gem bubble brush square
target sunfish dotblob dotsquare grass bird pacman threecircle game dotsquare ra puzzlepiece waves atomic
star square yinyang waves square target dotcircle
bigstar three cube feather arrow apple sun leaf
bird desktop splitcircle puzzlepiece threecircle tree bigstar dotsquare
feather threecircle square arrow target three earth

* Note 04 = Note 03, but “square arrow target three earth” at the end replaced with “frame puzzlepiece”.
* Note 05 = Note 02
* Note 06 = Note 02, but with two extra symbols (“triangle waves”)
* Note 07 = Note 03
* Note 08 = Note 03, but “square arrow target three earth” at the end replaced with “frame puzzlepiece”.
* Note 09 = Note 02, but missing the final two symbols
* Note 10 = Note 02
* Note 11 = Note 03, but “square arrow target three earth” at the end replaced with “frame puzzlepiece”.
* Note 12 = Note 03
* Note 13 = Note 02, but missing the final six symbols
* Note 14 = Note 02, but with two extra symbols (“triangle waves”)
* Note 15 = Note 02
* Note 16 = Note 03
* Note 17 = Note 03, but missing the final five symbols
* Note 18 = Note 01

From the way that the text flows around the slightly different-shaped pictures, it seems likely to me that this was done in a straightforward word processor (say, Microsoft Word) with a custom font, text flowing left-to-right and top-to-bottom (as per normal). Also, even though I haven’t counted, my guess is that there are no more than 52 different shapes used in the three core cryptograms, which would seem to point to A-Z and a-z having been used.

Anybody want to have a go at cracking these? 🙂