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The Somerton Man Case. The body of a man found on an Australian beach close to a major Atomic Testing ground, he was probably poisoned, a copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and an unbroken Code page found and associated to him. Set against a Cold War background in 1948, was this man a spy? We think so and this blog focuses on the evidence that was left behind and in some cases missed, the Code page, Dry Cleaning numbers, A Poem and a small, torn piece of paper bearing the words TAMAM SHUD.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

SOMERTON MAN: Where Did Micro Writing Come From? A Short History

The existence of micro writing and whether or not it could be written small enough to be 'concealed' within larger letters has been a question often asked by readers of this blog. In this post you'll find a number of examples of Micro Writing going back more than 2500 years.

Cuneiform Writing on Clay Tablets

Possibly the first known example of micro or miniature writing used in Mesopotamia and as you can see it is quite small even by todays standards. It was used mainly for letter writing and contracts. The British Museum has many examples and to date more than 2 million of these Cuneiform tablets have been discovered with a relative handfull having been translated. You can read more about these tablets and their various uses here

Hebrew Micrography

There are thosuands of examples of Micrography to be found in Jewish culture. Extraordinarily finely done and presenting as amazingly detailed works of art. Every aspect of the images above has been done using the written word, every flower, crown, facial detail, hair on the head of a subject, clothing everything created using micro or miniature writing. Other religions also used a simlar approach to the creation of works of art. There are some fine examples here

Chinese Examples of Miniature Writing

Created by Chinese artist Zhou Changxing and his daughter Zhou Liju, these incredibly detailed mico words were hand carved into the surface of the stones that you see in the image above are housed in their museum of miniatures which you can find in Qibao Old Street in Shanghai, no website that I can find at this time but you can Google the museum and artist and you'l find hundreds of examples of fine miniature works.

Japanese Miniature Writing on Pottery

Astounding skill would be required to not only write in miniature on porcelain but to do within a cup or a bowl. This art form is known by a few names but perhaps GUIYO is the better known. The images above show a number of very fine examples, bear in mind that many of these characters were done with brush and not always pen.

Rice Writing

A well known type of miniature writing, believed to have originated in Ancient Turkey and India. Whilst it is indeed small, about .5mm in height, it is not the smallest handwritten example as this video might suggest. It is quite common to see this kind of writing being sold in markets but there are also some very skilled proponents an example of which is shown here and is to be found in TopKapi Palace in Istanbul.

Miniature Writing Machine

Peters Miniature writing machine as the first known attempt to automate or greatly reduce in size normal handwriting. The machine was quite a complex affair that had the ability to reproduce handwriting at a scale of 1:6250. Mr.Peters, the inventor, was in fact a banker, absolute proof of bankers having invented a way to create even smaller print. You can find more on this form of writing here:

For interest, there is a modern day example, an electronic pantagraph machine also pictured.

18th Century English Miniature Writing

In these images you can see the works of a person who it is believed was one of three illustrators for Oliver Goldmsiths Novels. Three of the works show excerpts from one of Goldsmiths works, The Bishop of Wakefield, written into and shaped into rural scenes. These examples were found by Don Shelton of New Zealand, you'll find his blog here with many fine examples of miniature portraits

Prison Gangs and Micro Writing

Above you can see an example of Prison Gang use of micro writing, in many cases it is used to set out rules by which new inmates must abide. New gang members are taught how to write and then conceal these messages and documents some of which contained instructions for a prison 'hit'. This particular example is from Phoenix, Arizona.

Modern Day Examples

Whilst not that many people still practice the art of micro writing there are some very calligraphers that have superb skills as shown in the image above, whilst not the smallest writing it is still fine work and some of the letters in lower case are of the .6 mm range, similar to those found on the SM code page.

CIA Manual on Secret Writing

No image at this time but you can read about ways in which Microwriting was used by CIA operatives in a recently released CIA manual which you will find here on this blog.

Amongst other things it discusses how micro wrting can be used across the face of a postage stamp and concealed by virtue of the colour of ink used, in the case quoted it was an orange postage stamp and red ink writing which could only be seen using a rose tinted lens. Other examples include writing within a column divider on a printed page or even in an advert as well as other secret writing methods. View here..

Still to come, images and information about:

Carrier Pigeon Messages/Miniature Writing

Ksivy From Concentration Camps

Nelson Mandella and Micro Writing

James W Zaharee

Public Miniature Writing Competitions

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