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on April 19, 2000
I bought this book after becoming interested in cryptanalysis from reading The Code Book By Simon Singh. Wow! This book is chock full of information considering its age. Not only does it give great analyses of classical ciphers, it has loads of useful information about various languages in the appendix. This data is indispensable when trying to crack a cipher. Loads of solved exercises complete a very enjoyable book that will suck many hours of your time if you're interested in cryptography at all.
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on October 29, 2003
As a former codebreaker with the ASA/NSA during the VN war, I often found it helpful to have a copy of Helen's book handy, and spent many enjoyable hours solving the sample ciphers provided. This valuable book not only describes many historically significant encipherment methods, but also goes into detail about how to break them. Afficianados of manual ciphers might also wish to contact others with similar interests and can do so through the American Cryptogram Association at [...]
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on November 15, 1997
Simply the best manual for learning basic cryptanalysis of classical ciphers. Very easy on required math knowledge (unlike many of more recent books!) If you really want to learn a working knowledge of ciphers and cryptanalysis this is the book!
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on December 23, 2000
When Helen Gaines wrote this book in 1939 (and, by the way, she titled it "Elementary Cryptanalysis", not just "Cryptanalysis", it was by far the best unclassified introduction to cryptology written in English (perhaps even in any language). It is still an admirable book for anyone who wants to start learning cryptology without help; the large number of carefully worked examples and exercises make it excellent for "do it yourself." And for those who intend to make a serious study of modern cryptology, this book is still a useful assist, in the same sense that a vivid and comprehensive memory of high school algebra helps a lot when one tries to learn calculus and differential equations.
However, crytology in 2001 is as different from cryptology in 1939 as a Virginia-class submarine is from a pre-WW II sub. So, if it were me, I would start learning from Alan Konheim's book, using Gaines' book as a supplementary text for clarification and examples. Konheim's book requires one to know or learn a certain amount of math that Gaines doesn't require, but since about 1960 it has become very hard to grasp (let alone use) modern crytographic methods without at least as much math as Konheim uses, so one might just as well bite the bullet and learn it.
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on August 4, 2003
I bought this book over 40 years ago... It is, by far, the best book for pen-and-pencil cryptogram solving that I have found. It gives sufficient information to allow attacking any pen-and-pencil cryptogram. If it is followed by Bauer's "Decrypted Secrets," one would have a very thorough introduction to methods of solutions (Bauer is quite mathematical, but also recommended to the mathematically inclined). An excellent introduction with a great deal of useful information that is probably the best available source for pre-computer techniques.
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on June 13, 2003
The author of this book was party to a cryptological society, still around, founded in the early 1920's which made, and solved, cryptograms as a hobby just as people `do' crossword puzzles.
All crypto can, loosely, be divided into the sort used by governments, banks, international drug traffickers, and those using digital communications and that type of crypto used by people who just don't want secretaries, nosey people or their teacher peeking into their lives.
This book will most likely cover all the later groups crypto needs. I have used it, almost exclusively, for 30 years, where fast and short communication was needed to a known recipient with a decryption `key'.
This book uses complex English and print which is uncomfortably small. There are some `gems' of obscure information in this book as, by example, a frequency list which identifies the final letter of 10,000 typical words in Portuguese ... O.K. ... nothing I suspect that one could not `figure out' but nothing I suspect that one ever would.
While a trained crypto analyst might unravel these in short order they are impenetrable to most secretaries, nosey folks and schoolteachers.
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on August 13, 2004
This appears to be a reprint of the little book by the same title that utterly consumed me, probably for hundreds of hours, in the 1970's. It was old then, and looks even older now. And yet, pushing letters around on a page is timeless. It's laughably low-tech and yet, utterly modern, all at the same time. Some of the tricks and techniques described are so profound and clever, they are reminiscent of calculus in how they demonstrate the power of the well-applied human mind. This book can be an absorbing hobby all by itself. Plus when I found a coded note written by some girls in my junior high school, I was able to read it...
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on July 27, 2001
A great way to get started in classical cryptology. If you want to go further and learn something about cryptology today, I'd suggest Applied Cryptology by Bruce Schneier, rather than the Konheim book, which is really heavy duty mathematics.
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on January 11, 2014
That title was not meant to be patronizing in any way: simply that this book was written around the time of Second World War, and the ability to break ciphers and codes has advanced with the use of computers. Ciphers/codes that were once unsolvable are now easily broken. That being said, this book shows how ciphers can be broken if you are prepared to work at it. Charts at the back of the book show the most common English words, double letters and triple letters. It also shows that nothing really replaces human intelligence and insight when it comes to code breaking. Very good book for the student of cryptography, as it shows how the experts then did it. And let's not slight them. They helped win the war.
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on December 18, 2012
I came to this book after reading Simon Singh's Code Book and feeling that I wanted a book with more detail about the ciphers themselves and methods of analysing them, and it's obvious from reading other reviews that some of the other reviewers followed the same route. As long as The Code Book remains popular Cryptanalysis will have a market.

Unlike Simon Singh's book this is not bedtime reading, and it needs serious study if one is to get the most from it. However, as long as that is understood, it delivers exactly what it promises, with detailed descriptions, examples and related problems for all of the major ciphers used from ancient times until the outbreak of the Second World War -- not later, because it was published in 1939, and its author died in 1940. It doesn't, therefore, deal with the Enigma machine used by the Germans during the war, or any of the other techniques developed since then.

One of the most useful features of the book is the set of frequency tables in the Appendix. Anyone interested in the subject knows already that e, t and a are the three commonest letters in English, but the Appendix goes far beyond that, with corresponding tables for several languages, and tables showing word frequencies and context-related letter frequencies -- we all know that a q is English is always followed by a u, but there is much more to it than that: for example, an n is more likely preceded by e than by another letter, and more likely to be followed by d than by another letter. This sort of information allows ciphers more sophisticated than simple substitution ciphers to be deciphered.
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