telegraphic codes and message practice
scanned code directory
about the scanned code directory

pending and recent changes

This page lists recent and contemplated changes/additions throughout this telegraphic codes project and, in the about section further below, provides background to the directory of scanned codes, and its relationship to other material here.


Addition of M. Belliard, Essai d'un dictionnaire sténo-télégraphique français (impr. de A. Lainé et J. Havard, Paris, 1868)
at Gallica
(18 March 2018)

Addition of H. Mamert Gallian, Dictionnaire télégraphique, économique et secret (E. Plon, Paris, 1874)
at Gallica
(18 March 2018)

recent changes (and news) —

Added Word Code for Foreign State Telegrams,
Compiled for the Government of India, by J. H. Lane, Indian Government Telegraph Department. Fourth Edition, prepared at the India Office, London, under the direction of J. J. Allen, Indian Government Telegraph Department, Retired. Part II.–Code Phrase. (London, 1903)
to scan directory.
This imperfect scan is of the Rajasthan University Library copy, available only via
Am currently (and belatedly) familiarizing myself with my own copy, and will create a new page devoted to government/administrative codes.
(25 September 2018)

Added Signal Code (Convict Department, Port Arthur)
"a dictionary or code book of semaphore codes used by signal stations between Hobart and Port Arthur" (pertaining to handling of convicts) (1868?)
to scan directory and to signal codes
(16 June 2018)

Added Private Mining and Metallurgical Telegraphic Cipher Code of the Canadian Pacific Railway (1900-1910) to scanned code directory and to page devoted to mining codes.
(16 June 2018)

Added a page for the three editions of the Mercuur Code and the two editions of the Kleine Mercuur-Code (1891-1913), and corrected/redirected links in the scanned code directory.
(18 March 2018)

Added W. S. Wetmore, his General Commercial Telegraphic Code (Shanghae, 1875), and a page devoted to Wetmore and his codes.
(5 July 2017)

Added A New System of Signals, By which Colours May be Wholly Dispensed With (1828, NYPL copy).
(22 July 2015)

Added The Universal Mining Code (1890, BL copy).
(16 July 2015)

Added International Police Telegraphic code (1930).
(2 August 2014)

Added the first (of what will hopefully be many) scans from BNF/Gallica — the (Russell) Hunting talking machine telegraphic code (1898).
(27 July 2014)

Japanese codes

The National Diet Library in Japan has digitized many (most?) of the telegraphic codes in its collection; these are described by Tomokiyo Satoshi in his page(s) covering Japanese telegraphic codes, at 日本の電信暗号 and Japanese Telegraph Codes (abridged version, in English).
(1 August 2014; these are new URLs for this content)

The NDL codes — in Japanese and (some) in English — are not downloadable, nor are the texts searchable. Some are scanned from microforms; others directly from the books. But bottom line: their Digital Collection is a great resource. NDL’s online catalog can be searched by guest login.

I examined a number of NDL’s codes over four or five days in July and August 2014, and will report on these in due course. Among my discoveries were (1) quite thorough textbooks for code clerks, and (2) treatises on coding, and on the compilation of new codes suiting users’ specific subject domains (1890s through the 1930s). These include —

  1. Kotaro Ueda (上田貢太郎). 外国為替と電信暗号 (Foreign currency exchange and telegraphic code). (Osaka, 1895), 87pp.
  2. Tomojiro Imai (今井, 友次郎). 電信暗号講義要領 (Lecture on essentials of telegraphic codes). (Tokyo: Waseda University, 1910), 98 pages
    chapters: Five Figure Codes, Six Figure Codes, Figure Code for Market Report, and Figure Code for Indents
  3. Kotaro Ueda (上田貢太郎). Practical examples for compiling a private code in conjunction with any 10 or 12 figure cypher code. (Kobe, 1912)
  4. Kenji Sakai. 外国貿易事務研究 : 附・暗号電信作例及説明 (Foreign trade office studies, Telegraphic codes, examples and explanations) (Kobe, 1920), 128 pages
  5. Shoji Endo. Foreign code telegram practice (外國暗號電報の作り方、解き方) : a text book for the use of commercial students. (1934), 29 pages
  6. Takeo Hara (1895 – ?). A text-book of telegraphic codes for use in schools : containing general five-letter code and self-checking two-letter code. (Kyoto, 1935), 104 pages
  7. Kashichi Sakai (酒井, 嘉七) (1903-1946). 外国電信係読本 : 附・実用二文字標準補助暗号書 / Cable Clerk Reader (Kobe, 1939)
    containing a two-letter supplementary code (and, from English title page): an all-consonant two-letter supplementary code, 10- and 14-figure codes, and condenser. (180pp)

The links to catalog entries for these titles are for my convenience only, and will be changed for unregistered users to access. (3 March 2015)

about the list of scanned codes

My directory of code scans and transcriptions links to more detailed information (bibliographic and otherwise) elsewhere in this website, where users will find links to external URLs of the scans themselves. The existence of digital/searchable scans does not mean that access is always direct : most of the google scans can be accessed only within the United States, alas.

I have separated the directory and these notes as a first step in overhauling what has become an increasingly unwieldy, and slow-loading, page. As time allows, I will create separate pages for notes on individual codes, successive editions of the same code, and groups of codes, e.g., cotton, police, and even compiler (e.g., Henry Harvey, Frederic George McCutcheon).

Those more specialized pages will not be restricted to codes that have been digitized/scanned. I will add other descriptions, discussions and specimen pages from other codes, either in my own collection or encountered elsewhere.

A first effort in this direction is a page devoted to the seven editions of the ABC Telegraphic Code that were published between 1873 and 1936; other pages are devoted to cotton codes, the produce codes of Edmund Peycke, and railroad codes. Most recently I have commenced a page devoted to catalogue codes — telegraphic codes that are integrated within manufacturers’ catalogues.

The scanned code directory is and will continue to be arranged chronologically. Many, even most, codes might fall under several categories (more than one topic, more than one system of arrangement, etc.). What may happen over time is that pages devoted to those respective topics/systems would list and treat all such codes under their heading, and that any single code might be treated on more than one page. Alternatively, I might simply do cross-referencing.

Initially, this page was undertaken mainly for personal convenience. What wasn’t much more than a list has evolved. The level of detail is uneven; inconsistencies in bibliographic information are legion. Mea culpa.

Here are listed 206 codes — 170 telegraphic and 36 signal codes. These are a very small proportion of all the codes that existed. What is missing? The biggest hole is specialized, private codes that are not ordinarily found in library stacks. These were issued in small, sometimes very small editions; sometimes they were typewritten and mimeographed; some were handwritten. Some were immense, some small. I emphasize that many of the missing codes were structured differently than the predominantly dictionary codes evidenced here. They were figure codes, whereby 10 or 12 figure groups would be assembled piece by piece, from a sequence of tables, that sequence being announced at the head of the message. The protocols of assembling messages could be complicated, but efficient for expert and frequent users.

Examples of those more complex figure codes include the C. W. S. Private Cable Code Book (Co-operative Wholesale Society, Manchester, 1907) and Code Telegraphique de M. M. Gerin, Rykebus & Cie. (1908). Specimen pages and discussions for these and other codes can be found via this directory of examples.

The separation of telegraphic and signal codes is arbitrary. These obviously differed in usage, domain, and in the nature of the signals, but there was overlap and mutual influence in the areas of phrase vocabulary and arrangement.

Comments, corrections and suggested additions are welcome.
John McVey

Related content can be found via the index to this material, at
telegraphic codes and message practice.