Mystery surrounds coding

Code book
Code book

A set of notebooks which date back centuries are shrouded in mystery after a strange style of writing was discovered inside.

And Thropton resident Michael Christopher, who purchased the items, is appealing to anyone who can help him crack the code.

Michael Christopher.

Michael Christopher.

The 70-year-old bought the historic collection, along with a series of legal documents, at a boot sale in Hexham.

But it wasn’t until he had a closer look at the books, many of which date back to the 1780s, that he noticed there was something different about them.

One of the notepads in particular contains passages of text which looks to be written in some sort of code, consisting of symbols such as squiggles and lines.

Michael, a book consultant, is intrigued and is desperate to decipher what has been written.

He told the Gazette: “All of the books contain this style of writing in one way or another, but one in particular has three-and-a-half pages of this type of writing.

“It must be some form of story or something like that, or perhaps the author was trying to keep something secret.

“I have spoken to auctioneers and a number of suggestions have been put forward.

“It was thought that it may be Greek or Latin or even some form of code by the Freemasons.

“It has even been suggested that it could be shorthand.

“At first I thought it could be Pitman, but that was first presented in 1837, ie, after these books were written in.

“So I began to think that it was some form of shorthand that nobody else knew about, but according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, there are versions before Pitman.”

Among the coding is a number of prices.

The legal documents, which also date back centuries, belonged to a shipbuilder called James Storey, who owned land at Elsdon and Otterburn.

A leading solicitor of the day, Wren, is referenced and Michael wonders if the documents and notebooks are linked.