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The Works of Edgar Allan Poe Raven Edition Volume 1
-. " 1.
"Now, in English, the letter which most frequently occurs is e. Afterwards, succession runs thus: _a o i d h n r s t u y c f g l m w b k p q x z_. _E_ predominates so remarkably that an individual sentence of any length is rarely seen, in which it is not the prevailing character.
"Here, then, we leave, in the very beginning, the groundwork for something more than a mere guess. The general use which may be made of the table is obvious - but, in this particular cipher, we shall only very partially require its aid. As our predominant character is 8, we will commence by assuming it as the _e_ of the natural alphabet. To verify the supposition, let us observe if the 8 be seen often in couples - for _e_ is doubled with great frequency in English - in such words, for example, as 'meet,' '.fleet,' 'speed,' 'seen,' been,' 'agree,' &c. In the present instance we see it doubled no less than five times, although the cryptograph is brief.
"Let us assume 8, then, as _e_. Now, of all _words_ in the language, 'the' is most usual; let us see, therefore, whether there are not repetitions of any three characters, in the same order of collocation, the last of them being 8. If we discover repetitions of such letters, so arranged, they will most probably represent the word 'the.' Upon inspection, we find no less than seven such arrangements, the characters being ;48. We may, therefore, assume that ; represents _t_, 4 represents _h_, and 8 represents _e_ - the last being now well confirmed. Thus a great step has been taken.
"But, having established a single word, we are enabled to establish a vastly important point; that is to say, several commencements and terminations of other words. Let us refer, for example, to the last instance but one, in which the combination ;48 occurs - not far from the end of the cipher. We know that the ; immediately ensuing is the commencement of a word, and, of the six characters succeeding this 'the,' we are cognizant of no less than five. Let us set these characters down, thus, by the letters we know them to represent, leaving a space for the unknown -
"Here we are enabled, at once, to discard the 'th,' as forming no portion of the word commencing with the first t; since, by experiment of the entire alphabet for a letter adapted to the vacancy, we perceive that no word can be formed of which this _th_ can be a part. We are thus narrowed into
and, going through the alphabet, if necessary, as before, we arrive at the word 'tree,' as the sole possible reading. We thus gain another letter, _r_, represented by (, with the words 'the tree' in juxtaposition.
"Looking beyond these words, for a short distance, we again see the combination ;48, and employ it by way of _termination_ to what immediately precedes. We have thus this arrangement:
the tree ;4(‡?34 the,
or, substituting the natural letters, where known, it reads thus:
the tree thr‡?3h the.
"Now, if, in place of the unknown characters, we leave blank spaces, or substitute dots, we read thus: