The Secrets Of Enigma: Code-breaker Alan Turing’s WWII Notebook At Auction For £650k

His work inspired the critically acclaimed film The Imitation Game and now, you can get your hands on Alan Turing’s private notebook, which he kept while working at Bletchley Park during World War II. The notebook kept by the code-breaker as he worked tirelessly to break the German’s Enigma code is to go up for auction in New York and is expected to reach up to £560,000.

The 56 page manuscript contains mathematical calculations and notes on computer science made by the extraordinary Turing and dates from 1942, when he would’ve been working at Bletchley Park to crack the ‘unsolvable’ code. Giving an insight into the mind of the genius, it contains calculations as well as hand-written notes by Turing about his own thoughts and frustrations regarding his work, including a section where he writes about struggling to understand the Lebniz Notion.

Turing died in 1954 of reported suicide but had given the notebook to his friend and fellow mathematician Robin Gandy before his death. Gandy donated most of Turing’s private papers to King’s College, Cambridge after his death but kept the notebook, where he added his own notes to the end of the book, though these are more of a personal nature.

Alan Turing British Code Breaker During World War II

Turing was one of the most important mathematicians of the 20th century (SplashNews)

The notebook will go up for auction on April 13 at Bonhams’ Fine Books and Manuscripts sale in New York by a private vendor and is expected to go for at least half a million, Reuters reported this week. No doubt helped by The Imitation Game, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the extraordinary, yet troubled figure.

“This manuscript dates from the time when Turing was engaged in the crucial task of breaking the Enigma Code,” Cassandra Hatton, senior specialist in fine books and manuscripts at Bonhams said in a statement.

“Its mathematical content gives an extraordinary insight into the working mind of one of the greatest luminaries of the 20th Century,”

While Cumberbatch might have scored critical acclaim and an Oscar nomination for his portrayal as the code-breaker, whose tireless work to crack the enigma code is estimated to have helped end World War II by at least two years, Turing’s achievements were never recognised in his own lifetime due to the secrecy necessary around the essential work he carried out. The real story of Bletchley Park and what went on there has really only been made public over the last two decades, as classified information is released into the public domain.

Extract from Alan Turing's notebook

Turing muses over the difficulty of the Lebniz Notion (SplashNews)

He was convicted of homosexual acts in 1952 and to avoid jail-time he underwent debilitating and dangerous hormonal treatment, it also meant he lost his security clearance and was barred from continuing his cryptographic consultancy work with the British security authorities. In 1954 he died due to cyanide ingestion. While it was ruled to be suicide there has been debate as to whether it was intentional. In 2013 his conviction was pardoned by the Queen, only the fourth royal pardon to have been issued since the end of World War II.

His tragic story has, 60 years later, sparked huge interest about the man behind the code-breaker, making this previously unseen document of huge value to those who are keen to uncover the mysteries of one of the most important and gifted mathematicians of the 20th century.

Speaking to the NPR last November, Cumberbatch admitted that the real purpose of the film was to give Turing some recogintion for his tireless work.

“In comparison to his achievements and his greatness — both as a scientific mind [and] philosopher … somebody who … basically was the father of computer science, somebody who was part of an effort that saved, some estimate, 14 million lives by breaking a code that brought about a two-years-early end to World War II,” he said, “That that man wasn’t better-known — I mean, why isn’t he on bank notes with Darwin and Newton? Why isn’t he on the cover of history books as well as science books? That really was a driving motivation for me to tell this story and bring his legacy to a wider audience.”