Historical Precedents for the Voynich Manuscript

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The Unsolvable Mysteries of the Voynich Manuscript

It was clear that the productions of these two men were much too systematic, and anything of the kind would have been almost instantly recognisable.

My analysis seemed to me to reveal a cumbersome mixture of different kinds of substitution. The concept of a constructed language is quite old, as attested by John Wilkins 's Philosophical Language , but still postdates the generally accepted origin of the Voynich manuscript by two centuries.

In most known examples, categories are subdivided by adding suffixes ; as a consequence, a text in a particular subject would have many words with similar prefixes—for example, all plant names would begin with similar letters, and likewise for all diseases, etc. This feature could then explain the repetitious nature of the Voynich text. However, no one has been able yet to assign a plausible meaning to any prefix or suffix in the Voynich manuscript. The unusual features of the Voynich manuscript text, such as the doubled and tripled words, and the suspicious contents of its illustrations support the idea that the manuscript is a hoax.

In other words, if no one is able to extract meaning from the book, then perhaps this is because the document contains no meaningful content in the first place.

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Various hoax theories have been proposed over time. In , computer scientist Gordon Rugg showed that text with characteristics similar to the Voynich manuscript could have been produced using a table of word prefixes, stems, and suffixes, which would have been selected and combined by means of a perforated paper overlay. Some maintain that the similarity between the pseudo-texts generated in Gordon Rugg's experiments and the Voynich manuscript is superficial, and the grille method could be used to emulate any language to a certain degree.


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In April , a study by Austrian researcher Andreas Schinner published in Cryptologia supported the hoax hypothesis. Some scholars have claimed that the manuscript's text appears too sophisticated to be a hoax. In Marcelo Montemurro, a theoretical physicist from the University of Manchester , published findings claiming that semantic networks exist in the text of the manuscript, such as content-bearing words occurring in a clustered pattern, or new words being used when there was a shift in topic.

In September , Gordon Rugg and Gavin Taylor addressed these objections in another article in Cryptologia , and illustrated a simple hoax method that they claim could have caused the mathematical properties of the text. In their book, Gerry Kennedy and Rob Churchill suggest the possibility that the Voynich manuscript may be a case of glossolalia speaking-in-tongues , channeling , or outsider art. This often takes place in an invented language in glossolalia, usually made up of fragments of the author's own language, although invented scripts for this purpose are rare. Kennedy and Churchill use Hildegard von Bingen 's works to point out similarities between the Voynich manuscript and the illustrations that she drew when she was suffering from severe bouts of migraine , which can induce a trance-like state prone to glossolalia.

Prominent features found in both are abundant "streams of stars", and the repetitive nature of the " nymphs " in the biological section. The theory is virtually impossible to prove or disprove, short of deciphering the text. Kennedy and Churchill are themselves not convinced of the hypothesis, but consider it plausible. In the culminating chapter of their work, Kennedy states his belief that it is a hoax or forgery.

Churchill acknowledges the possibility that the manuscript is either a synthetic forgotten language as advanced by Friedman , or else a forgery, as the preeminent theory. However, he concludes that, if the manuscript is a genuine creation, mental illness or delusion seems to have affected the author. Since the manuscript's modern rediscovery in , there have been a number of claimed decipherings. One of the earliest efforts to unlock the book's secrets and the first of many premature claims of decipherment was made in by William Romaine Newbold of the University of Pennsylvania.

His singular hypothesis held that the visible text is meaningless itself, but that each apparent "letter" is in fact constructed of a series of tiny markings discernible only under magnification. These markings were supposed to be based on ancient Greek shorthand , forming a second level of script that held the real content of the writing. Newbold claimed to have used this knowledge to work out entire paragraphs proving the authorship of Bacon and recording his use of a compound microscope four hundred years before van Leeuwenhoek.

A circular drawing in the astronomical section depicts an irregularly shaped object with four curved arms, which Newbold interpreted as a picture of a galaxy, which could be obtained only with a telescope. However, Newbold's analysis has since been dismissed as overly speculative [82] after John Matthews Manly of the University of Chicago pointed out serious flaws in his theory. Each shorthand character was assumed to have multiple interpretations, with no reliable way to determine which was intended for any given case.

Newbold's method also required rearranging letters at will until intelligible Latin was produced. These factors alone ensure the system enough flexibility that nearly anything at all could be discerned from the microscopic markings. Although evidence of micrography using the Hebrew language can be traced as far back as the ninth century, it is nowhere near as compact or complex as the shapes Newbold made out. Close study of the manuscript revealed the markings to be artefacts caused by the way ink cracks as it dries on rough vellum. Perceiving significance in these artefacts can be attributed to pareidolia.

Thanks to Manly's thorough refutation, the micrography theory is now generally disregarded. Feely's method posited that the text was a highly abbreviated medieval Latin written in a simple substitution cipher.

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Leonell C. Strong , a cancer research scientist and amateur cryptographer, believed that the solution to the Voynich manuscript was a "peculiar double system of arithmetical progressions of a multiple alphabet".

Voynich Manuscript

Strong claimed that the plaintext revealed the Voynich manuscript to be written by the 16th-century English author Anthony Ascham , whose works include A Little Herbal , published in Notes released after his death reveal that the last stages of his analysis, in which he selected words to combine into phrases, were questionably subjective. In , Robert Brumbaugh, a professor of medieval philosophy at Yale University, claimed that the manuscript was a forgery intended to fool Emperor Rudolf II into purchasing it, and that the text is Latin enciphered with a complex, two-step method.

In , John Stojko published Letters to God's Eye , [85] in which he claimed that the Voynich Manuscript was a series of letters written in vowelless Ukrainian. He further claimed that Catharism was descended from the cult of Isis. However, Levitov's decipherment has been refuted on several grounds, not least of which is its being unhistorical. Levitov had a poor grasp of the history of the Cathars, and his depiction of Endura as an elaborate suicide ritual is at odds with surviving documents describing it as a fast.

King, [89] in which they claimed to have translated ten words from the manuscript using techniques similar to those used to successfully translate Egyptian hieroglyphs.

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They claimed the manuscript to be a treatise on nature, in a Near Eastern or Asian language, but no full translation was made before Bax's death in In September , television writer Nicholas Gibbs claimed to have decoded the manuscript as idiosyncratically abbreviated Latin. Medieval scholars judged Gibbs' hypothesis to be trite. Professor Greg Kondrak, a natural language processing expert at the University of Alberta , together with his graduate student Bradley Hauer, used computational linguistics in an attempt to decode the manuscript.

However, the team admitted that experts in medieval manuscripts who reviewed the work were not convinced. As with most would-be Voynich interpreters, the logic of this proposal is circular and aspirational: he starts with a theory about what a particular series of glyphs might mean, usually because of the word's proximity to an image that he believes he can interpret. He then investigates any number of medieval Romance-language dictionaries until he finds a word that seems to suit his theory.

Then he argues that because he has found a Romance-language word that fits his hypothesis, his hypothesis must be right. His "translations" from what is essentially gibberish, an amalgam of multiple languages, are themselves aspirational rather than being actual translations. The University of Bristol subsequently removed a reference to Cheshire's claims from its website, [] referring in a statement to concerns about the validity of the research, and stating: "This research was entirely the author's own work and is not affiliated with the University of Bristol, the School of Arts nor the Centre for Medieval Studies".

Many books and articles have been written about the manuscript. Copies of the manuscript pages were made by alchemist Georgius Barschius in and sent to Athanasius Kircher, and later by Wilfrid Voynich. In , the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library made high-resolution digital scans publicly available online, and several printed facsimiles appeared.

Between and , [] Italian artist Luigi Serafini created the Codex Seraphinianus containing false writing and pictures of imaginary plants in a style reminiscent of the Voynich manuscript. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Illustrated codex hand-written in an unknown writing system. This section possibly contains original research. Please improve it by verifying the claims made and adding inline citations. Statements consisting only of original research should be removed. January Learn how and when to remove this template message.

See also: Philosophical language. Archived from the original video on March 9, Retrieved June 8, Voynich Central. Archived from the original on October 7, Retrieved 8 June Archived from the original on 26 January Retrieved June 9, Skeptical Inquirer. BBC News. Yale Library. Beinecke Library. The New York Review of Books. Retrieved March 31, The Telegraph. Washington D. Retrieved June 11, Archived from the original on January 5, University of Arizona.

February 27, Archived from the original on June 2, Archived from the original on March 15, University of Toronto Press. JHU Press. May 15, Retrieved 11 June Raphael Mnishowsky". Retrieved June 29, Archived from the original PDF on June 16, University of Bedfordshire. February 14, Stephen Bax. BBC News Online. February 18, The Independent.

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February 20, Cipher Mysteries. UK: Keele. The Observer. University of Pennsylvania.

Trying to Make Sense of the Voynich Manuscript: A Brief History | Owlcation

September 6, Retrieved 21 December Retrieved 4 January The Times Literary Supplement. Retrieved September 10, Ars Technica. Retrieved September 12, The Atlantic. Smithsonian Mag.

Dr Kat and the Voynich Manuscript

Retrieved Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics. The National Post. Romance Studies.

Historical Precedents for the Voynich Manuscript Historical Precedents for the Voynich Manuscript
Historical Precedents for the Voynich Manuscript Historical Precedents for the Voynich Manuscript
Historical Precedents for the Voynich Manuscript Historical Precedents for the Voynich Manuscript
Historical Precedents for the Voynich Manuscript Historical Precedents for the Voynich Manuscript
Historical Precedents for the Voynich Manuscript Historical Precedents for the Voynich Manuscript
Historical Precedents for the Voynich Manuscript Historical Precedents for the Voynich Manuscript
Historical Precedents for the Voynich Manuscript Historical Precedents for the Voynich Manuscript

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