The Encrypted Communication in Napoleon’s Telegraph: Chappe’s Vocabulary from Morphemes to Graphemes

  • Anna MarottEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC, volume 1140)


The term/telegraph/is normally interpreted as a distance communication system, projected for the transmission of data (letters, numbers, punctuation marks, words or entire sentences) using certain codes and specific conventional protocols.

The term (concept) “telegraph” arised, in its contemporary meaning in use, from a project by Abbot Claude Chappe, from its debut during the French Revolution to the Empire of Napoleon (who sensed its strategic value).

The encrypted signified “images” transmitted, real iconémi (“icons” forse, ma significa icone), provided the basis for a very precise communication code, configured as morphemes (when generated by the “machine”) or graphemes (when transcribed in pen in the dépeches - dispatches - on paper). Systematically, the contribution takes for a comparative review the fundamental aspects of the system: machines and models, transmission systems and procedures; but also vocabularies, codes and signals, in their transformations over time, to better understand the geometric-formal and cultural matrix of the sememes. Programmatically, this survey has been framed within the intense scientific-cultural debate animating (between ‘700 and 800’), the development of Science and Technology, keeping in mind aspects of the culture of vision (in particular semiotic and perceptive aspects) towards contemporaneity.


Telegraph Chappe Semiotic of vision Communication Signals Encrypted codes 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Architecture and Design (DAD)Politecnico di TorinoTurinItaly

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