The “FLO. Ciphers,” sent between September 1853 and January 1854, were a lovers’ correspondence that appeared in the Agony Column of “The Times”. Identifiable only by their addressee, the correspondence was the subject of much intrigue due to the unique numeric cipher in which it was written. The cipher was broken and later intercepted by Charles Babbage, a Victorian mathematician with a knack for code breaking. The ever-witty Babbage let the correspondents onto his discovery by correcting the grammar and spelling of one of their messages. Finding themselves exposed, the lovers ended their secret correspondence in haste.

“I fear our cypher is detected”: When agony ads go awry

By: Ronny Litvack-Katzman, Research Assistant, ROAAr At first glance, the Agony Column appears a perfect outlet for clandestine correspondences. Throughout the 19th-century, thousands of writers across the British Empire successfully sent and received cryptic messages through popular Victorian newspapers such …

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Sheila Goldbloom in a red coat smiling at the camera.

A Special Tribute to Our Friend, Sheila Goldbloom (1925-2022)

The Friends of the McGill Library wish to pay tribute to Sheila Goldbloom, a true changemaker, who had a deep and lasting impact on the Friends of the Library, McGill University, the community-at-large, and on all of those who were …

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John McCrae and his dog Bonneau

Enduringly Paw-pular

Trends in dog breed popularity come and go – but our love of dogs is here to stay. July weather brings us into the dog days of summer so we’ll take a moment to explore some canine curiosities and the …

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Caption This – June in Brazil

Our thanks go to Sharon Cohen, B.A. ’74 for the community caption for last month’s postcard. This card likely dates from the so-called Clipper era of Pan American operations. The airline offered flights to South America out of Florida beginning …

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The Story of Choryo 張良 and Kosekiko 黄石公

By Melody Hsu, McGill Visual Arts Collection Museum Database Assistant (2022), B.A Art History and International Development, Minor Communications, 2022 A smirking, elderly man atop a galloping horse gazes down at a young man kneeling on a dragon. The young …

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Mammoth Football! Caption This May 2022

By Labiba Faiza, ROAAr, McGill Library For the month of May, ROAAr’s monthly “Caption This” series put the spotlight on an intriguing photo of people playing a mysterious sport on campus, taken circa 1890.1 A crowd of spectators can be …

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A crowd of graduates in caps and gowns seen from behind at a ceremony.

10 McGill Library activities to do with visitors in town for convocation

It’s that time again! After more than two years of virtual ceremonies and convocation-themed Zoom backgrounds, happy graduates and their families are back on McGill’s beautiful campuses. To celebrate, we’ve compiled a list of ten fun Library-related things to do …

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Asian North American Art in McGill Visual Arts Collection

By Serene Mitchell, McGill Visual Arts Collection Museum Database Assistant (2022), B.A History, 2022 As a student of Asian North American history, I’ve always been drawn to the development of cultural identity and understanding migration history through sites of artistic …

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Staff BBQ on McGill campus seen from a distance with grass, trees, and red tents.

Celebrating winners of the 2022 McGill Library Excellence Awards

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2022 Library Excellence Awards. The awards honour the extraordinary service, important efforts, and achievements of librarian and administrative & support staff members at the McGill Library. The last two years have been an exceptional …

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Funeral notice featuring an illustration of a landscape with angels.

A Victorian-era funeral notice and the story behind it

By Eden Autmezguine, 2nd year student, Faculty of Arts and Science and Student Project Assistant in Rare Books and Special Collections. Eden’s position is made possible thanks to funding from the SSMU Library Improvement Fund. Pictured above from the holdings …

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