The Book of Codes: Understanding the World of Hidden Messages: An Illustrated Guide to Signs, Symbols, Ciphers, and Secret Languages 0th Edition

16 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520260139
ISBN-10: 0520260139
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Has value even for those with only casual interest. . . . Illustrated with an abundance of vintage and new imagery.”
(New York Times Book Review 2009-12-06)

“A marvelously enlightening book, impressively organized and highly recommended for all curious readers.”
(Library Journal 2009-11-15)

“Codes takes us from petroglyphs to genes-with hundreds of truly fascinating, sometimes disturbing, excursions en route.”
(Foreword 2010-01-01)

“Densely researched, beautifully illustrated.”
(St. Louis Post – Dispatch 2009-12-13)

“This is a fine book to bring reflection on just how secret or hidden or taken-for-granted codes run our lives.”
(Rob Hardy Commercial Dispatch 2009-12-30)

“A really fascinating read, accompanied by detailed and labeled illustrations and photographs.”
(KALX Radio / Calliope 2010-07-20)

About the Author

Paul Lunde is the author of Islam: Faith, Culture, History and Organized Crime: An Inside Guide to the World's Most Successful Industry and the coauthor of A Land Transformed, a history of Saudi Arabia.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520260139
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520260139
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 8.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #590,492 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 46 people found the following review helpful By E. Schell on November 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an absolutely stunning book, not only lavishly illustrated but superbly designed with an engaging layout, thousands of photos, drawings, and illustrations, and a crisp, readable, entertaining (yet scholarly) text that ranges from introductory paragraphs and pithy labels to informed and informative sidebars.

I have to say right up front that at the Amazon price of $16.17, this book is an outrageous steal! It has coffee-table heft, is printed on heavy matte stock with rich inks, and sports a sewn-signature binding with cloth header strips with red and black stripes that match the book's cover colors. The hardbound cover matches the dust jacket, and the endpapers are an intriqsing amalgam of many of the symbols in the book.

This book is about so much more than "codes" or cryptography, although these subjects, of course, are very amply addressed. The book's thirteen chapters cover:

The First Codes
Sects, Symbols, and Secret Societies
Codes for Secrecy
Communicating at a Distance
Codes of War
Codes of the Underworld
Encoding the World
Codes of Civilization
Codes of Commerce
Codes of Human Behavior
Visual Codes
Imaginary Codes
The Digital Age

Each chapter is divided into six to twelve two-page spreads, each covering a separate sub-topic. Let's look deeper at a few of these.

Encoding the World includes Describing Time; Describing Form, Force and Motion; Mathematics: The Indescribable; The Periodic Table; Defining the World; Encoding the Landscape; Navigation; Taxonomy; The Genetic Code; Genetic Ancestry; and Using the Genetic Code.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
When I picked up _The Book of Codes: Understanding the World of Hidden Messages_ (University of California Press), edited by Paul Lunde, I thought I would be getting an explanation of different forms of cryptography, and perhaps the importance of secret messages in warfare, commerce, and diplomacy. I got all that, but the book takes off on the many meanings of the word "code." I hadn't thought about this before, but in his introduction, Lunde points out that "code" certainly can mean secret means of communication. It can also, in an almost opposite meaning, refer to an open and widely accepted means of communication, like a code of conduct or a dress code. There are other codes that used to be hidden to us until we used science to understand them, like the genetic code. Languages and writing systems meant for open communication are codes, but dead languages are particular cryptographic problems. Maps and signs are pictorial codes. There are plenty of other types of codes, and the person who is interested just in cryptography might suspect that the definition of "code" is being expanded into meaninglessness. However, this is a fine book to bring reflection on just how secret or hidden or taken-for-granted codes run our lives. With so many codes, each topic (like "Tracking Animals," "Currency and Counterfeits," or "Stained Glass Windows") only gets a couple of pages, but the book is large format (suitable for anyone's coffee table) and is laid out with bright pictures and pithy text on every page.

Start with codes deliberately made to keep prying eyes from understanding a message. The Caesar Shift Cipher was easy to use; if you want to encode letter A, shift it, for instance, four letters ahead to E, and shift all other letters similarly four steps.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Charles Bradley on July 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"The Book of Codes" is a well made book, but the content is not worth the
effort that went into presenting it. The problems start on the cover. What
appears to be the subtitle is "Understanding the World of Hidden Messages".
Most of the material in the book is about symbols, and most of that is about
symbols that are intended to be seen and to be understood. The sub-subtitle
is "An Illustrated Guide to Signs, Symbols, Ciphers, and Secret Languages".
We have page after page of topics such as cave paintings, the stone age version
of "Kilroy was here.", stop signs from different countries, crop circles, and
the history of computer memory technology. Much of the material applies to
codes as symbolism, so we get examples from painting, literature, any many
religions. Much of the material applies to codes as organized bodies of rules
so we get informed about the Napoleonic Code, and building codes. Even mathematics
is a code. The cryptography component is not ignored. There is enough for a
short book, mostly historical but with enough details about methods for a good
magazine article. One might learn something about many fields from these
random topics. Or maybe not. There are very obvious errors. "...mass equaling
weight divided by volume." "a mole is a number" A Newton and a Joule are
defined only at the surface of the earth. An IBM card has 10 rows for data and
a control row above that, right next to a picture clearly showing all 12 rows.
Readers who are also consumers will miss some codes we wish we understood. How
can we translate the gibberish on the package into an expiration date? Lunde
can't tell us; there are a great many different codes. But he could have told
us about some of the common techniques.
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