Letter to Dr. R. A. Sayce

Custodian of the Clarke Diaries (Worcester College Library, Oxford)

9 October 1976


Dear Dr. Sayce,

   I am writing to ask whether I may have your permission to reproduce, in the Times Literary Supplement, (of course with an appropriate acknowledgement) a facsimile of the first four lines of the William Clarke diary entry for 25 February 1651. I enclose a xeroxed copy annotated to show the precise passage I have in mind, and also its meaning.

   The background to my request is as follows. In 1973 some of my decryptments of Civil War ciphers a (now filed in the Bodleian) came to the notice of Professor Aylmer, who was kind enough to express an interest and to suggest that I should try my luck with the William Clarke shorthand, of which he sent me some photocopies. As it turned out, I was able to read this system, and my findings and equivalents were deposited in your library, for the use of future researchers (if any). This year I was asked by another Civil War historian, Dr. Ian Roy of King's College London, to see whether I could solve three further letters in unknown cipher, from Henrietta Maria and Baron Jermyn to Charles I, and from Prince Rupert to Will Legge. I was successful with the first two, and gave the third to a young colleague who has now deciphered it.

   We have been asked by the Times Literary Supplement to submit by mid-October the text of an article for historians about this work and the methods employed, so that researchers will be better equipped to solve their own cipher texts. The TLS editor has suggested that some holograph illustration would helpful. The enclosed extract seemed to me quite interesting in itself and also useful in showing how the system works. But of course before proceeding any further in this matter I should seek specific sanction from you, as custodian of the Clarke archives, for the proposed publication.

   I am writing in similar terms to the authorities of the Public Record Office asking for their permission in respect of the other material (Charles I and Prince Rupert) with which the article will deal.

   Yours sincerely

   Dr. Eric Sams