Voynich manuscript deciphered?

According to various news stories, such as this one on the BBC news, the Voynich manuscript, a mysterious medieval manuscript, has been deciphered by an academic from Bristol.

The Voynich Manuscript is named after Wilfrid M. Voynich, a Polish antiquarian book dealer who acquired it in 1912. It is a lavishly illustrated manuscript codex of 234 pages, written in an unknown script. It is housed in the Beinecke Library at Yale University in the USA. The vellum on which it is written has been carbon dated to the early 15th century (1404-1438).

Here is an example of the script used:

Writing from the Voynich manuscript

Many attempts have been made to decipher the text but none have succeeded so far. One theory is that is was written sometime during the 13th century by a Franciscan friar, Roger Bacon (1214-1294). Some think the manuscript is gibberish, and was probably a practical joke played on Rudolph II.

According to the latest decipherer, Dr Gerard Cheshire of the University of Bristal, Voynich is a therapeutic reference book written in a lost language called Proto-Romance. He believes that the manuscript was compiled by Dominican nuns as a source of reference for Maria of Castile, Queen of Aragon, the great-aunt to Catherine of Aragon.

Proto-Romance, a previously unknown language, was commonplace in the Mediterranean during the medieval period, but was not used in written documents as Latin was the main written language, according to Dr Cheshire.

Apparently when you try to decipher any parts of the text using Dr Cheshire’s method, it comes out a incomprehensible nonsense, and only parts of it can be understood with reference to many different Romance languages, and a lot of fudging and wishful thinking. So the manuscript remains undiciphered.

Critism of this ‘decipherment’

More information about the Voynich Manuscript

2 thoughts on “Voynich manuscript deciphered?

  1. The problem with the “gibberish” and “practical joke” theories is that paper and (to a lesser extent) ink were not inexpensive in those days. It is one thing to write a little gibberish, but to commit 234 pages of paper and ink to a practical joke is, well, impractical. It doesn’t seem reasonable for someone to go to such lengths to waste all that paper and ink on nonsense. In the illustration, these letters seem very well formed, consistent and elegant, as though the writer were exceptionally practiced at forming these words. Why would some devote so much time to developing expertise in writing this script if it were meaningless? Surely they would have better things to do with their time.

  2. Robert: If this practical joke was played on a Holy Roman Emperor (Rudolph II) who – given his known inclinations – was perhaps ready to pay a considerable amount of money for a “rare and mysterious” manuscript, the theory of a joke, or rather deceit, becomes more plausible, in my opinion!

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