4d5g3X5\d7d5g3√3v24p3p=3wX√6=(3d5g3o(7√3-4\~6p\-7Q32p~p3g5d~=vp5-2\75√3pd5g3√2\√34p=
Click here to decrypt Anne's code or encrypt your own text

Decrypting Anne Lister's diary code

This tool was intially developed to decode Anne Lister's Crypt Hand to help with my own reading of the diaries. I then came across the transcription project initiated by the West Yorkshire Archive Service (see  https://wyascatablogue.wordpress.com/exhibitions/anne-lister/anne-lister-diary-transcription-project)  and modified the tool to meet some of the project's transcription requirements. It is now available for anyone to use.

Please note that the West Yorkshire Archive Service does not maintain this site and is unable to answer any questions regarding its use.

How to use the decryption tool

The form has three windows (from top):

1. Transcribed encrypted text:
Coded text from the diary is transcribed here. See below for an explanation of how symbols that have no keyboard equivalent are handled
2. Decoded, unedited text:
Click the 'Decrypt' button and the coded text is decoded & the result displayed here
3. Edited text:
Click the 'Copy' button and the decoded text is copied here for editing
Click the 'Clip' button to copy the edited text to the clipboard (for pasting into Microsoft Word, etc.)
Using the tool in practice:
Open the image of the diary page you're working on with any picture viewer or editor that allows zooming, then resize the tool's window so it will fit either above or below the line you're working on. Here's a screenshot of the tool in action.
The bigger the screen the better.

How to convert plain text to Anne's code

Simply enter your text into the form's middle window and click the 'Encrypt' button; the coded version is displayed in the top window.

The Code

Anne Lister used a simple character-substitution code: each letter of the alphabet is replaced with a different, arbitrary character. Only the 26 letters of the alphabet are substituted; there are no symbols for numbers or punctuation marks, and no distinction is made between upper & lower case. So, once the substitutions are known, it is a very easy process to unlock Anne's Crypt Hand.

Some common letter combinations (e.g. 'th', 'ch', etc.) have their own symbol, and two common names ('Mariana' & 'Charles') are assigned Greek letters.

When letters are repeated, Anne often adds a horizontal or vertical stroke to the code character used. When these symbols don't exist on a keyboard, the original character is repeated.

These are all the symbols in Anne's code that are missing on standard keyboards, along with their keyboard-friendly replacements:
PlainCryptKeyboard
H'q'
Q||'<' or '>' or '||'
ch'V'
th'y' or 'Y'
bb'((' or 'cc'
cc'))' or '00'
ff or 'vv' or 'uu' or 'UU'
nn'\\'
pp'#' or '++'
rr'pp' or 'PP'
tt'~~'
Mrsӿ'{'
Miss'}'
Marianaπ'M' or 'm'
Charlesδ'C'
These subtitutions have to be remembered, but after using the tool for a little while, their use soon becomes second nature.

In order to speed up the input of the code, variations on the actual code can be used when the keyboard characters are similar in appearance (e.g. '(' and 'c') or the Shift key can be avoided.

Any text enclosed by square brackets will not be decoded, and is transcribed as-is. Spaces are also carried across; they can be useful to break up the code into more manageable chunks.

Illegible characters can be entered with '*', which is transcribed as '?'. Once transcribed in context, the unreadable character often becomes obvious.

Occasionally Anne uses (usually extra-large) punctuation marks within the coded text. These can be entered as-is, except for '?' which is entered as '*'.

Keyboard-friendly version of Anne's code used by this tool:
PlainCryptKeyboardAlt. Key(s)
A22z,Z
B((c (lower)
C))0 (zero)
DooO
E33
FuuU
GnnN
HqQ
I44
J44
K||1,l,L,i,I
LddD
M--_
N\\
O55s,S
P++
Q||<>,||
RppP
S==
T~~#
U66b,B
VggG
W88
XwwW
Y77
Z99
PlainCryptKeyboardAlt. Key(s)
chvV
sh˄^
thyY
bb((cc (lower)
cc))00 (zeroes)
ee;;j,J
ff,vv (lower)uu,UU
ll::
nn\\
oo!!`
pp++
rrppPP
ss??/
tt~~
Mrxx (lower)
Mrsӿ{
Miss}
andXX (upper)
MarianaπMm
CharlesδC (upper)
[Pi - Mariana]πPI
[Delta - Charles]δDELTA
??*
--@

Example

This is an actual excerpt from one of Anne's diaries:

The tool would show the following:
Keyboard-friendly coded text:    }p ^5)14\nd7 g3p7nd2o~5=;-3 2=13o8Q2~83p3Q3p
Automatically decoded text: Miss r shockingly verygladtoseeme askedwhatwereher
Manually edited text: Miss R shockingly very glad to see me. Asked what were her


An image of Anne’s code can be found here: https://wyascatablogue.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/anne-lister-code-calderdale.jpg?w=778 (West Yorkshire Archive Service)

Notes on Anne’s marginal notes can be found here: https://wyascatablogue.files.wordpress.com/2019/09/marginal-notes-in-the-diaries-of-anne-lister-3.pdf (West Yorkshire Archive Service)
Click here to decrypt Anne's code or encrypt your own text