The Full Wiki

More info on cryptex

cryptex: Wikis

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


]] The word cryptex is a neologism coined by the author Dan Brown for his 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code, denoting a portable vault used to hide secret messages. It is a combination of the words cryptology and codex; "an apt title for this device" since it uses "the science of cryptology to protect information written on the contained scroll or codex" (p. 199 of the novel). Brown implies that a scroll and a codex are the same thing; however a scroll is a book that is unrolled a page at a time; and a codex is a book that can be opened to any page at will, two very different things. It is claimed in the novel that the original design came from the secret diaries of Leonardo da Vinci. In reality, though there is little doubt he possessed the mechanical skill to design such a device,Template:Fact there is no record of him actually doing so.

But in reality John Nevins was designing,manfacturing and selling collectable cryptexes before Dan Brown invented the cryptex.

Following the model of "codex", which pluralises as "codices", "cryptex" might be thought to pluralise as "cryptices". However, Brown uses the plural form "cryptexes" in his novel.

In the main part of Brown's novel, the characters (while pursued by various sinister agencies) are trying to access the secret to the Holy Grail by figuring out the passwords that will open two different cryptexes, one hidden within the other to provide extra security. In the 2006 movie based on the novel, only one cryptex is vital to the plot (though another cryptex is briefly seen in a flashback scene with Sophie as a child). Its password is the Black Cryptex's password.


Design and function

The (first) cryptex featured in the novel is described as a stone cylinder comprising "five doughnut-sized disks of marble [that] had been stacked and affixed to one another within a delicate brass framework"; end caps make it impossible to see inside the hollow cylinder. Each of the disks is carved with the entire alphabet and, since they can be rotated individually, the disks can be aligned to spell different five-letter words.

The cryptex works "much like a bicycle's combination lock", and if one arranges the disks to spell out the correct password, "the tumblers inside align, and the entire cylinder slides apart" (p. 200). In the inner compartment of the cryptex, secret information can be hidden, written on a scroll of thin papyrus wrapped around a fragile vial of vinegar as a security measure: if one does not know the password but tries to pry the cryptex open by force, the vial will break and the vinegar will dissolve the papyrus before it can be read.


While liquids certainly damage ancient documents, they would not dissolve papyrus, even if papyrus were left to soak in it for an entire month. Papyrus is a very sturdy material, and could even hold up for hours if soaked in hydrochloric acid.

However, even if the "self-destruct" mechanism could be made to work, a cryptex would provide poor security in the modern-day world. Modern scanning methods (e.g., ultrasound or X-rays) could be used to display the inner mechanisms of the cryptex, revealing how it must be aligned to open it. Another possibility, which never occurs to the characters of Brown's novel, would be simply to place the cryptex in a freezer so that the vinegar freezes solid. (The freezing point of vinegar depends on the strength of the solution, but it is certainly not lower than –2°C.) Thereafter one could smash open the cryptex without any risk that the vinegar would dissolve the papyrus hidden within.

A number of readers of the best-selling novel, wishing to construct a real cryptex, have tried to come up with the blueprints for one. According to the Tacoma News Tribune, Justin Kirk Nevins, an inventor from Tacoma, Washington, has designed a functional cryptex and, as of January 2005, had sold 65 of them, including five to Dan Brown. However, he dropped the "self-destruct" mechanism involving the vial of vinegar, since he "felt that the practicality of this feature is questionable". Since then, several other commercial manufacturers have emerged.

On the NBC reality series Treasure Hunters, cryptexes were among the puzzles that challenged contestants.


The information in this section refer to the cryptexes in The Da Vinci Code.

Riddle #1 (White Cryptex)

  • Clue:
an ancient word of wisdom frees this scroll
and help us keep her scatter'd family whole
a headstone praised by templars is the key
and Atbash will reveal the truth to thee.
  • Answer: S-O-F-I-A
    A headstone by templars is the key: Baphomet. BPVMT in Atbash. Changing the letters in the code, ShVPYA; Sophia. Previously, "Sofia" (Wisdom).

Riddle #2 (Black Cryptex)

This is the only riddle in the film.

  • Clue:
In London lies a knight a Pope interred.
His labor's fruit a Holy wrath incurred.
You seek the orb that ought be on his tomb.
It speaks of Rosy flesh and seeded womb.
  • Answer: A-P-P-L-E
    An apple fell on Sir Isaac Newton (knight that :Alexander Pope interred). An apple has red (rosy) flesh and seeds in its core (seeded womb), and is also a member of the rose family. When cut in half, the seeds resemble a five pointed star. The pentagram is a symbol of Venus, tying the apple to the story's goddess plot.

Cryptex trivia


  • The Da Vinci Code
  • Da Vinci Declassified, 2006 TLC video documentary, written, directed and produced by David Carr, David Comtois, and Frankie Glass. Narrated by Jeff Fischer.

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




Blend of cryptology and codex; coined in 2003 by Dan Brown in his novel The Da Vinci Code




cryptex (plural cryptexes)

  1. A portable vault used to hide secret messages, consisting of a cylinder divided into rings that must be lined up correctly in order to open the cylinder and reveal the message contained within; supposed to have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci.

See also

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address