4d5ϑ3✕5\d7d5ϑ3✓3∪24ρ3ρ=3w✕✓6=(3d5ϑ3o(7✓3–4\~6ρ\–7Ҩ32ρ~ρ3ϑ5d~=∪ρ5–2\75✓3ρd5ϑ3✓2\✓34ρ=
Anne Lister Diary Decoder  ─  decrypt Anne's code or encrypt your own text

Decrypting Anne Lister's diary code

This tool is an aid to decode Anne Lister's crypt hand diary code, and is designed to meet the guidelines of the West Yorkshire Archive Service Transcription Project (see https://wyascatablogue.wordpress.com/exhibitions/anne-lister/anne-lister-diary-transcription-project).
Please note that the West Yorkshire Archive Service does not maintain this site and is unable to answer any questions regarding its use.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact me via this form at Listeria.uk.

How to use the decryption tool

The form has two windows:

1. Transcribed encrypted text:
Coded text from the diary is transcribed/displayed here
Click the 'Decrypt' button and the coded text is decoded & the result displayed below
Click the 'Encrypt' button and the plain text is encoded & the result displayed here
2. Decoded, unedited text:
Plain text is entered/displayed here
Click the 'Clip' button to copy the decoded 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 browser or picture viewer/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.
Using the "Optimise for Transcription Project" option:
Tick the box if you want to use your output for the Transcription Project. This will enable the transcription of the Greek letters than Anne used for "Mariana" ("π" or "PI") & "Charles" ("δ" or "DELTA") to be transcribed as "[Pi - Mariana]" and "[Delta - Charles]" as per the guidelines.
Any automatic corrections that the tool applies (such as reverting triple letters to double letters) are also skipped.

How to convert plain text to Anne's code

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

The Code

Anne Lister used a simple character-substitution cypher: 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 some names ('Mariana', 'Charles' and, very rarely, 'Miss Brown'/'Kallista') 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. A repeated letter or group of letters may also have a dot underneath or be underlined.

These are all the symbols in Anne's code that are missing on standard keyboards, along with their keyboard-friendly replacements:
PlainCryptKeyboard
HҨ'q' or 'Q'
Q||'||' or '<' or '>'
ch'v' or 'V'
th'y' or 'Y'
bb'((' or 'cc'
cc'))' or '00' (zeroes)
ddΦ'oo' or 'OO'
ffΨ or 'uu' or 'UU'
mm'--' or '__'
nn'\\'
pp'++'
rr'pp' or 'PP'
tt'~~' or '##'
Mrsӿ'{'
Miss'}'
Marianaπ'm' or 'M'
Charlesδ'C'
Kallistaθ'k' or 'K'
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') so the Shift key can be avoided.

Sometimes Anne encloses coded text within large brackets - these (both opening & closing) brackets can be entered as '%'.

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. The coded text can also include question marks, written as '?' with an extra dot below - use '*' to transcribe.

Keyboard-friendly* version of Anne's code used by this tool:
PlainCryptKeyboardAlt. Key(s)
A22z,Z
B((c (lower)
C))0 (zero)
DooO
E33
FuU
GnN
HҨqQ
I44
J44
K||1,i,I,l,L
LddD
M-_
N\\
O55s,S
P++
Q||||<,>
RρpP
S==
T~~#
U66b,B
VϑgG
W88
XwwW
Y77
Z99
PlainCryptKeyboardAlt. Key(s)
chvV
sh˄^
thyY
bb((cc (lower)
cc))00 (zeroes)
ddꝋ,ΦooOO
ee;;j,J
ffΨ,uuUU
ll::
nn\\
oo!!`
pp++
rrϼppPP
ss??/
tt~~##
Mrxx (lower)
MrsӾ{
Miss}
andX (upper)&
MarianaπmM
CharlesδC (upper)
KallistaθkK
etc.&c.&c.+c.
??*
--@
WYAS Transcription Project
[Pi - Mariana]πPI
[Delta - Charles]δDELTA
[Theta - Miss Brown]θTHETA

Example

This is an actual excerpt from a diary page:

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


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)
* With thanks to the very elegant Wuluwuh encoder/decoder (wuluwuh.com/anne-lister-code) for identifying several appropriate unicode symbols.
Click here to decrypt Anne's code or encrypt your own text