The Voynich Manuscript

The Fascinating Story of the Voynich Writing

"The world's most mysterious book."

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The Voynich Manuscript

What's intriguing about this 15th century book is that it's written in a language or code that nobody can decipher.  In consequence, some say it's a nonsense, a hoax designed to induce the Holy Roman Emperor to part with 600 gold coins.

The book does not have a translatable title!  The epithet 'Voynich' comes from the name of the rare book collector who bought it from Jesuits in 1912.  Carbon dating puts the vellum on which it was written at about 1430.

The first task in studying the Voynich manuscript is to separate fact from speculation or outright fiction.  If all else fails, you can study this old book at Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.  It was generously donated by Hans P. Kraus in 1969.  Furthermore, the library have made a copy of the Voynich Manuscript available online.

An Example from the Voynich Manuscript

Voynich Manuscript

Analysis of the Voynich Vellum

Manuscript is Gibberish

Dr Gordon Rugg of Keele University suggests that it was created using a Cardan grille.  The idea is that a hoaxer could use cards with 3 holes to manufacture 'words' by combining syllables.  If this was how the 15th century creator made the manuscript, then it explains why it does not translate into a meaningful body of work.

Cardan Grille

Detractors argue that absence of transposition mistakes points to a mechanical method for generating the writing. Other circumstantial evidence of a scam comes from other examples of medieval fakery, sorcery and secret codes designed to make money out of rich believers.

Voynich a Real Language

A Zipf analysis of the words in the Voynich shows that the most frequent word occurs approximately twice as often as the second most frequent word, and three times as often as the third most frequent word.  The significance is that all real languages follow this pattern. 

The world's most mysterious book is illustrated on some pages with plant-like drawings, see below.  Other pages have astronomical annotations.  The inference is that text matches the illustrations.

Voynich Manuscript

Attempts to Translate the Voynich Manuscript

Professor Montemurro has analysed the writing extensively, and he thinks that the Voynich manuscript is a genuine language rather than a hoax.  The evidence comes from study word patterns in known languages, and then seeing the same groupings in the Voynich tome. Unfortunately, the Professor still cannot decode its meaning.

On the other hand, Scientific American declared it "an elaborate hoax"  Dr Rugg in the Journal Cryptologia reports that he can reproduce the features using the Cardan grille (see above).

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