Gustave Bergenroth (Wikipedia) was a German-born historian. While studying Tudor history in London, he decided (memorial p.51) to examine papers in the Archivo General de Simancas in Spain, which led to compilation of Calendar of State Papers (the first volume (1862) covering 1485-1509, the second volume (1868) covering 1509-1525).
The work required him to decipher many letters in cipher. For the first volume, he identified twenty keys, though he says some resemble one another and it is difficult to tell whether they are the same keys with some alterations or different ones (Bergenroth p.xiii).
Transcripts he made are preserved in PRO 31/11 in the UK National Archives, of which the present article describes Bergenroth's papers related to cipher in PRO 31/11/11.
For more on the specific ciphers mentioned herein, see another article.
Table of Contents:
Progress of Bergenroth's Deciphering Work
Cipher Keys in the Series
Bergenroth's Report of 4 January 1861
He arrived in Simancas in August 1860 (memorial p.52). Early stages of his work in Simancas can be known from his letters to the journal The Athenaeum of 20 September 1860 (p.54), October 1860 (p.61), December 1860 (p.69), and December 1860 (p.78).
One December letter included a transcription of a short paragraph of a despatch from Don Pedro de Ayala in London to the Catholic Monarchs, which had taken a whole week for Bergenroth to decipher (memorial p.76). He had to decipher by himself because he was told by the Archivero [Keeper of the Archives] that cipher keys listed in the catalogue were not extant.
Another December letter included a brief review of Spanish ciphers used at the time (memorial p.79). He wrote of his cryptologic achievement at this stage as follows:
Bergenroth's report of 4 January 1861 in PRO 31/11/11 (024.jpg-027jpg) transcribed below, was written shortly after this. Now that he began to succeed in his deciphering work, which was considered impossible before, the Archivero admitted presence of the keys. Feeling that the Archivero was scheming to steal his thunder, Bergenroth tried to secure his priority by sending home the cipher keys he found and asking the recipient to write on it the date he received it. The enclosed keys were received on 12 January 1861 and signed by Thomas Duffus Hardy (PRO31/11/11 028.jpg).
The letters published in The Athenaeum were noted by Sir John Romilly, Master of the Rolls, who thought of entrusting Bergenroth with the task of compiling a calendar of state papers in Simancas relating to English history. Such an offer was nothing other than welcome for Bergenroth and Mr. Brewer [John Sherren Brewer?] was sent to Simancas (memorial p.89).
Bergenroth's letter of 31 March 1861 to the Master of the Rolls describes his progress as follows (memorial p.90):
The above passage is followed by an explanation of his breakthrough in codebreaking.
This is followed by what remains to be discovered.
Bergenroth no longer needed to rely on cipher keys in the archives, but obviously there were reasons that inspection of the original keys was desirable. Although the Archivero had admitted their presence, he still withheld them from him. As yet, Bergenroth considered he should not make it an issue until he completed the task of copying the despatches in cipher. He was afraid that he might be prevented from copying further despatches (memorial p.92).
Bergenroth's concern became a reality. His letter of 5 April 1861 to the Master of the Rolls (memorial p.95) reported that he was no longer permitted to copy despatches in cipher. He now feared he might be required to give up his copies of cipher to the archives, a thing which he was determined never to accept. He suspected that the Spaniards did not like to see a foreigner succeeding in "deciphering the despatches in cipher without the keys, which he [the Archivero] and they all are unable to read with the keys."
Bergenroth's letter of 30 April 1861 (memorial p.96) reported further obstructions by the Archivero, who ordered Bergenroth's copyist (who was an officer of the Archives) to suppress such portions as he should not think calculated for publication.
Bergenroth appealed to the authority in Madrid and obtained permission to be shown all the documents including those hitherto kept secret. In return, Bergenroth was to leave copies of his deciphered despatches in the Archives, which the Spanish government promised not to disclose to any person before the English government made use of it. Bergenroth told further details in his letter of 31 May 1861 (memorial p.98-101) and continued to tell that the Archivero first did not accept the order, but soon changed his attitude and they became friends again (memorial p.102).
Now, he had access to not only the despatches in cipher but also the keys preserved in the archives. He felt the difficulties had been more because of the personal jealousy of the Archivero (Don Manuel Garcia) than because of Spanish pride.
In the published Calendar, Bergenroth (out of politeness?) attributed the difficulties to "a misunderstanding". (Bergenroth p.xiii)
Bergenroth's letter of 20 June 1861 (memorial p.104) reported that his translations of the ciphered despatches were being copied for the Spanish government (memorial p.105).
Bergenroth's letter of 23 June 1861 reported the status as follows.
Bergenroth went to Barcelona in September to examine papers in the archives there (memorial p.108). After he returned to England, he visited Paris in the winter of 1861-1862. It appeared that the more he worked, the more need he felt for further search (memorial p.117-118).
In the first volume of the Calendar, Bergenroth summarized his cryptologic achievements as follows:
After the first volume of the Calendar of State Papers was published, he went to Simancas again. The sensation created by the first volume invoked further obstacles posed by jealous Spanish officials, which Bergenroth overcame as reported in his letters to the Master of the Rolls and Sir Thomas Duffus (memorial p.119 ff.).
While part of the difficulty was due to official regulations (memorial p.163-164) rather than personal jealousy of the Archivero (e.g., memorial p.122, 128), things were made easier for Bergenroth after the Archivero Don Manuel Garcia was replaced, which Bergenroth reported in February 1867 (memorial p.165-166).
Bergenroth had to reexamine the papers because they were incomplete when he had examined them. On the other hand, he found some materials which he had seen before were missing (e.g., memorial p.167). (This may be part of the reason that I could not find online some of the documents calendared by Bergenroth.)
Bergenroth continued to work on unidentified ciphers (April 1864; memorial p.136). As late as November 1867, officers of the Archives were copying his cipher keys and decipherings (memorial p.180).
This section lists cipher-related materials in PRO 31/11/11. (Since the folios are not numbered, the numbering below is merely my file names.)
"Alphabets, Keys to Cyphers, &c."
"Given to Mr. Hardy by Mr Bergenroth"
Below to the left:
"Recd. from Mr. Hardy, 20 May 1868"
"Borrowed from the Record Office
redd. 1 Jan 1877"
"Alfabets, claves, registros, etc."
Some code elements.
This corresponds to Puebla's Letter Code.
"Doctor de Puebla"
"hep=Rey de Francia"
"hop=Rey de Inglaterra"
Cipher alphabet and some code elements (e.g., mul=nuestro).
This corresponds to Estrada's Cipher.
Some code elements (e.g., 888=R de Inglaterra).
This corresponds to Puebla's Roman Numeral Code (1495) (Bergenroth/Puebla-4). (Bergenroth occasionally uses Arabic figures for Roman numeral code symbols in his memorandum.)
"furadas de las instructiones para de Puebla del 21 Junio y 6 Julio 1496 y de los despachos de Dr Puebla del 13 Junio 1496"
Some code elements.
This corresponds to Puebla's Roman Numeral Code (1495) (Bergenroth/Puebla-4)
The title page has "Henry 7 / Simancas / Tratados con Ynglaterra [T.c.Y.] / Legajo 2[?]"
"El Rey y la Reyna"
"Sus altesas recibieron vuestras cartas de ei xx"[?]
(Probably the verso of 012.jpg)
Two blocks of text, with a header "Henry 7."
The following is my provisional transcription.
"E quanto al capitesto del ayuda qui li pedimos qui haga a el papa maruvilladas stan sus altesas como fasta aqui el papa no a escripte cosa alguna cara desto al Rey de Ynglaterra"
"para lo que complis a en bien qui como aqui etiren[?] sus altesas lo de aquies du Yolande tiun por burlis"
Cipher alphabet, corresponding to Puebla's Second Cipher.
Cipher alphabet, corresponding to Puebla's First Cipher.
"1498 / sacadas de la carta de Puebla / 15 Junio 1498"
Cipher alphabet and some code elements (e.g., "batz"=archiduque?, "gav"=R. de Rom, "giv"=Rey Ferd, "gev"=Rey de Franc, "gey"=Rey y, "gay"=la Reyna de Inglat.).
"Londoño y Subprior de Santa Cruz 1498"
Some symbols of the cipher alphabet is similar to those of Puebla's Second Cipher.
Some code elements, corresponding to Puebla's Roman Numeral Code.
"1496-1498 Cifras sacadas de los despachos para el Doctor de la Puebla del 21 Jun y 6 Julio 1496 y de las cartas del Doctor del 15 Julio y 19 Julio 1498"
Bergenroth's letter of 4 January 1861. See below.
Bergenroth's summary of Puebla's codes and ciphers titled "Correspondence with Doctor Puebla".
In the margin:
"I Received this paper writing[?] on the 12 Janr 1861, enclosed in a letter from Mr G Bergenroth dated Simancas 4 Jan 1861"
"T[homas] Duffus Hardy"
"[two words illegible to me]"
The following seven ciphers nos.1-8 (there is no "7") are described.
This is accompanied by a substitution cipher alphabet with homophones for a, s, u.
Also in PRO31/11/11 043.jpg-044.jpg
"Two thousand four hundred Roman numbers, as for inst...."
"at the same time with the following alphabets [=Puebla's First Cipher, numbered "6" by Bergenroth]"
See Bergenroth/Puebla-5 above.
(There is no "7.")
Cipher alphabet. Somewhat similar to Puebla's Second Cipher.
Also in PRO31/11/11 033.jpg
"Correspondence with Pedro de Ayala (Wikipedia) (1498) and Don Martin"
Also in PRO31/11/11 032.jpg and PRO31/11/11 069-072.jpg.
Word "etiam" represented "ll" and "malus" represented "rr" (032.jpg).
"To this alphabet belong small words as: nib=Rey de Escocia, pug=yo pu=Vuestras Altezas".
Cipher alphabet and some code elements such as:
gav=Rey de Romanos
gey=Rey de Inglat[erra]
gay=Regna de Inglat[erra]
"By means of all the above mentioned ciphers, I have already translated dispatches, as for instance: ..."
Subscribed "Simancas 1st of January 1861 G. Bergenroth".
Cipher alphabet and some code elements, corresponding to Estrada's Cipher.
The fair copy of 031.jpg is marked "Archivo general de Simancas / Estato. Tratad. con Inglaterra / Leg.2.f.5".
Similar to 006.jpg (somewhat different in u and z).
Code elements include:
rod=Rey de Inglat[erra]
red=Rey de Francia
Ayala's cipher (see 029.jpg).
See Bergenroth/Puebla-8 (1498).
"Archivo general de Simancas / Estado. Tratados con Inglaterra / Leg.2.n.6".
"Archivo general de Simancas / Estado. Tratados con Inglat. / Leg.2.n.4".
car=Rey de Inglat
cer=Rey de Romanos
far=Rey de Portugal
fer=Reyna de Portugal
cax=gonzalo Hernandez (?either Bishop Gonzalo Fernández de Heredia, ambassador in Rome (Wikipedia) or Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, the Great Captain)
cex=Don Pedro de Ayala
cix=Doctor de la Puebla
"Cifra del Prothonotario Don Pedro de Ayala, annos 1498 a 1500"
Template letter code with entries "aa", "ae", "ai", ..., "bac", "bec", "bic", ..., "niz", "noz", "nuz", of which some are filled with plaintext equivalents:
na=Rey de Francia
no=Rey de Inglaterra
nib=Rey de Escocia (this matches the element of Ayala's cipher of 028.jpg)
"De Puebla 1491"
Template figure code with entries "1", "2", ..., "200", of which some are filled with plaintext equivalents.
See Bergenroth/Puebla-2 (1491) = Arabic Numeral Cipher (1491) above.
"Clave para la cifra de Fernan Duque de Estrada annos 1501 a 1504"
Estrada's letter code.
Template letter code with entries "bac", "bec", "bic", ..., "riz", "roz", "ruz", of which many are filled with plaintext equivalents:
cov coviene, conveniente
"Cifra del Doctor de la Puebla"
Probably Puebla's Letter Code.
Template letter code with entries "aa", "ae", "ai", ..., "bac", "bec", "bic", ..., "liz", "loz", "luz", of which some are filled with plaintext equivalents:
"Archivo general de Simancas Estado Tratados con Ynglaterra Legajo 5.n.18"
A fragmentary ciphertext with partial decipherment "most excell ..."
Cipher alphabet "Cifra de Paris"
A copy of a treatise in Spanish?
"Archivo general de Simancas
Estado Tratados con Inglaterra
Legajo 2. n.9"
This corresponds to Puebla's Letter Code (as with 003-005.jpg).
hop=Rey de Inglat
Some calculation (multiplication)
Cipher alphabet with a few code elements (generally the same as 029.jpg)
"1498 Pedro de Ayala"
Seem to be working sheets of Ayala's cipher. (The undeciphered text of 072.jpg appears to read something like "ha fecho a r??ra para / descubri?cier?as??sula?o?ielra".)
(Italics are mine. It appears Bergenroth used cipher and transposition to fend off the Archivero's attempts to steal his achievements, but details are not known.)
Bergenroth, G.A. (ed.) (1862), Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Google: Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Supplement, Further Supplement; British History Online), in particular, "Remarks on the Ciphered Despatches in the Archives at Simancas", Vol. 1, p.cxxxvii *The copy at Google lacks pages after p.464 (7 August 1508). (Vol. 1 is simply referred to as "Bergenroth" hereinabove.)
Cartwright, William Cornwallis (1870), Gustave Bergenroth: a memorial sketch (Internet Archive, Google) This reprints "Remarks on the Ciphered Despatches in the Archives at Simancas" in the appendix. (Simply "memorial" hereinabove.)
S. Tomokiyo, Spanish Ciphers during the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella