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In a surprise revelation (which no doubt will raise a chuckle from Dan Brown), it has emerged that the judge presiding over the "Da Vinci Court Case" in London inserted a code in the text of his judgement. Justice Peter Smith used steganography - in this case using italicised letters to stand out from the rest of the judgement - to hide a number of letters. You can download a PDF of his verdict, with the cipher clearly visible, from the UK courts website. I'm going to keep a record here of what I've found, as well as updates on others who might break the code, and of course you're welcome to comment and add your two cents at any time.
Update: The Smithy Code has been broken (28/04/06). See the bottom of this page for the solution.
The encoded message (using italics) appears to begin with a plain, unciphered two word phrase. On Page 5 of the judgement, the first ten letters are s, m, i, t, h, y, c, o, d, e. That is, "Smithy Code". Smithy is the nickname of Justice Peter Smith, so it looks like the first two words are a title of sorts. Alternatively, it should be considered that this might be a keyword, for use in a Vigenère cipher or similar.
Following these two words, I've so far found another
25 letters (Update: now 31 letters). I've listed them below, beside the page they were found on (in case that is of some note):
Page 5: j
Page 6: a, e, i, e, x
Page 7: t, o, s, t
Page 8: g, p, s, a
Page 9: c, g, r, e, a
Page 10: m, q, w, f
Page 11: k, a
Page 12: d, p, m, q
Page 13: z, v
What to make of it? As mentioned earlier, perhaps a Vigenère cipher could be used with 'smithycode' as the keyword - however, again this doesn't offer up a simple solution. In news stories about this, the lawyer discussing the enigmatic cipher passes on a hint from Smithy:
Mr Tench said the judge had teasingly told him that the code was a mixture of the italicised font code found in the book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail - whose authors sued Dan Brown's publisher for copyright infringement - and the code in The Da Vinci Code.
Further news stories have supported this, with Justice Smith apparently saying that the key to solving the cipher is in paragraph 52 of his judgement. This paragraph (found on page 14) reads:
I have set out at some length what in my opinion is an overall analysis of HBHG. I have done that (and will do the same further in this judgment in respect of DVC) because that is essential in my view to deciding this case. The key to solving the conundrum posed by this judgment is in reading HBHG and DVC.
Lastly, we also are given this clue:
First he said that the different ways codes are broken in "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" and "The Da Vinci Code" should be considered. The idea for the italicized letters, he suggested, came from "Holy Blood, Holy Grail."
He then suggested moving on to "The Da Vinci Code" and applying one of the code-breaking methods used by its protagonists to solve the mystery of the jumbled letters. "Think mathematics," he wrote at one point. He drew attention to his own entry in Who's Who — in which he lists an interest in the history of Jackie Fisher, an admiral who modernized the British Navy, a possible reason that his e-mail address contains the word "pescator," implying fisherman — and said that the date 2006 was significant.
Is the italicised font code the first part - which we have already used to find the cipher message? If so, what is the 'code' in The Da Vinci Code - there are a few after all? Perhaps the Atbash Cipher? Doing a reverse alphabetic substitution again doesn't give a simple solution. Could it be just a simple alphabetic transposition? Once again, the Vigenère cipher should be mentioned, as it was a component of the 'parchments' discussed in Holy Blood, Holy Grail.
Solution: As of 28/04/2006, the Smithy Code has been cracked (with a little help from Justice Peter Smith himself). I was right to suggest the Vigenère cipher, however the keyword was not "smithycode", but was in fact based on the Fibonacci sequence (as per Smithy's instructions to look in The Da Vinci Code, and also his tip to "think mathematics").
The keyword uses the numbers in the Fibonacci sequence which apply numerically to the alphabet (that is, less than 26): 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21. Transposing these to their alphabetic equivalents, we get "aabcehmu". However, here is the first problem: the actual keyword has a "y" instead of the "b" (I don't know whether it was intentional or not). Thus the actual keyword used to encrypt the text is "aaycehmu".
More problems arise from the fact that the encoded italic text is also incorrect. The second "t" on page 7 should have been an "h", and there should also have been another "z" at the end. Therefore, the text recovered by finding the italicised letters should have been: " jaeiextoshgpsacgreamqwfkadpmqzvz".
Transposing this ciphered message using the Fibonacci keyword translates to "jackiefisherwhoareyoudreadnought". That is (with spaces): "Jackie Fisher. Who are you? Dreadnought." This is a personal message which is not related to the copyright trial (contrary to everyone's hopes I think) - Justice Peter Smith is deeply interested in naval history, particularly the life of the British Admiral Jackie Fisher, who was influential in the creation of the first modern battleship, "Dreadnought".
If you want to check it out (and don't want to transpose each letter by hand), plug the values into this online Vigenère cipher decrypter.