Masked Letters and other concealments

The Masked Letter of 1777 is puzzle, wordplay and code all in one. Hand-written with careful precision, the letter had to be combined with a specially cut mask to reveal a very different meaning. Other steganographic ploys have been used throughout history to conceal meaning within text. Under conditions of war, traditional methods like invisible ink were once considered the height of espionage technology (you can browse a gallery of letters taken from the exhibition Spy Letters of the American Revolution). Given the endless opportunities presented by modern technology, the art of concealed meaning has become just that – an art – best illustrated by projects like Tom Phillips’ A Humument. Hiding becomes discovering, and the searcher is free to take whatever message they want from a text. The ancient art of hidden writing has been obliterated by techniques like concealing messages within image files and manipulating pixels. Sometimes, however, people just can’t resist ‘hiding’ things that are actually in plain sight – whether for romance, mischief or malice – with inevitable consequences.

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