Update: May 5, 2014
Contest winner and results announced
The winner and contest results were announced on May 5.
Update: April 28, 2014
Contest to identify mystery script in rare edition of Homer’s Odyssey now closed
A researcher has identified the script used for annotations in the 1504 edition of Homer’s Odyssey held by University of Chicago Library. We will announce the results in a few days.
Thanks to all the linguists, classicists, and other amateur detectives who responded to our call for assistance. We hope you enjoyed working on the puzzle.
April 23, 2014
Calling all historians of cryptography and stenography, Sherlockians (see “The Dancing Men”), and other amateur detectives! The collection of Homer editions in the Special Collections Research Center – the Bibliotheca Homerica Langiana(BHL) – includes a copy of the rare 1504 edition of Homer’s Odyssey that contains, in Book 11 (narrating Odysseus’s journey into Hades) handwritten annotations in a strange and as-yet unidentified script. This marginalia appears only in the pages of Book 11 of the Odyssey; nowhere else in the volume. Although the donor of the BHL is suspicious that this odd script is a form of 19th-century shorthand (likely French), he acknowledges that this hypothesis remains unsupported by any evidence offered to date.
The donor of the BHL is offering a prize of $1,000 to the first person who identifies the script, provides evidence to support the conclusion, and executes a translation of selected portions of the mysterious marginalia. In addition to the photographs in this post, the volume is available to consult in person in the Special Collections reading room. Please visit the Special Collections website for information about requesting items to get started. The contest is open to all, regardless of University of Chicago affiliation. Please direct submissions to the contest, or questions, to Alice Schreyer, Assistant University Librarian, Humanities and Social Sciences and Rare Books Curator, or Catherine Uecker, Rare Books Librarian.
Homer. Odysseia. Venice: Aldus, 1504. PA4018.A2 1504 vol. 2
(Note that the unidentified script only appears on these two pages.)