Sale 17BP02

THREE-ROTOR SERVICE ENIGMA MACHINE (ENIGMA I). [Heismoeth & Rinke]: circa 1940.

Catalogue: Rare Books, Autographs & Maps

Lot Details

THREE-ROTOR SERVICE ENIGMA MACHINE (ENIGMA I). [Heismoeth & Rinke]: circa 1940.

Three aluminum rotors with Bakelite thumbwheels, each rotor engraved with 26 numerical settings representing letters (these three from the set of five likely to have been issued) numbered II, II, V, each with the serial number A19348; the "B" reflector with the same serial number. Housed in the original oak case, a plaque with the number 14401 mounted by the handle; this number is also found incised on the metal floor of the machine under the rotors. The machine with a raised "QWERTZ" keyboard and lampboard with crackle black painted case, plugboard with thirteen patch cables (the fullest possible complement) battery compartment, power selector switch, latches, locking bolts etc. all apparently original. The machine is housed in its wooden carrying case, 13 1/2 x 11 x 6 inches (34.5 x 28 x 16 cm) with leather handle, the machine is attached to the box with three (out of four) carriage bolts in the base. The wooden case lid has the WaA (Waffenamt) stamp, and is fitted with spare bulbs and latches and one (of two) mounts for spare patch cables. The case has two cracks in the lid and a repaired crack (with slight loss) at the rear, and is lacking one of the four carriage bolts that lock the machine in place; the upper catch is detached from the case lid (with loss to the wood where the catch was mounted), though the catch itself is present. The lid lacks the two spare patch cables (and is missing one of the two patch cable mounts). Some of the spare lamps are not of the original type. The machine itself is in good mechanical condition, but lacks the serial number plaque often found mounted below the keyboard. It retains the complete electrical wiring. The detachable hinged rotor cover is not present.

Originally developed as a commercial cipher machine by the firm of Chiffriermaschinen AG under Arthur Scherbius, the firm's patents were purchased in 1933 by the German military, and the company was renamed Heismoeth & Rinke. The history of the military use of the machines begins with the 1926 Enigma D, the first of the Enigma series of cypher machines to have removable, interchangeable rotors. The first purely military unit, the Reichswehr D, utilized this chassis with the addition of a plugboard (the Steckerbrett), which in this version used single-ended plugs. It was this machine that led directly to the Enigma I (often refered to as the Ch.[iffriermaschinen] 11f, its factory designation), which adopted a double-ended plug. The present series 1 three-rotor Enigma cipher machine was used by the Reichswehr, later the Wehrmacht, and the Luftwaffe. It remained in use throughout the war in these branches of the German services throughout WWII. The German Navy introduced a further series of improvements, including the M4, a four-rotor machine.

The cipher produced by the machine was formidably difficult to decipher without knowledge of the precise machine settings. Polish cryptographers did achieve some considerable preliminary success, but when two additional wheels were added in 1938 (so the machine operator would select three out of five), the additional combinatorial complications exceeded their resources, and in 1939, just before the German invasion, they handed over their research to the French and British. These resources were a considerable assistance to cryptographers at Bletchley Park, and Alan Turing's electo-mechanical Bombe drew in part on the Polish Bomba engine, although it hugely exceeded it in complexity and sophistication.


Estimate: $80,000 - $120,000

Additional Notes & Condition Report


Any condition statement is given as a courtesy to a client, is only an opinion and should not be treated as a statement of fact. Doyle New York shall have no responsibility for any error or omission. The absence of a condition statement does not imply that the lot is in perfect condition or completely free from wear and tear, imperfections or the effects of aging.

No condition report? Click here to request one.

Estimate: $80,000 - $120,000

Learn about buying at Doyle

Catalogue Info

Rare Books, Autographs & Maps

Tue, Nov 07, 2017 at 10am EST