Deciphering the Past
On exhibit April 15, 2003 - July 13, 2003
A few years ago, while reviewing cataloging records for books in the Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript Library, I noticed that an inordinately large number of these records were for codebreaking books. They were all from the library of a World War I codebreaker, Charles J. Mendelsohn, about whom I knew nothing. This piqued my interest, both in cryptology—the study of codes and ciphers—and in the man who assembled this amazing collection. A conversation with David Kahn, who remembered the collection from when he was writing his monumental history of cryptology, The Codebreakers, led to the idea for this exhibition. The timing could not have been better, since Princeton professor Anthony Grafton will be delivering the Rosenbach Lecture next week on the subject of Trithemius, whose cryptologic works are among the most interesting of the older printed books in this show.