Whatever Happened With The Voynich Manuscript?
Back in 2010, I wrote a post called I Like A Good Ancient Mystery: The Voynich Manuscript. I figure it’s time to see what has happened since then. Has any of the mystery been dispelled?
In brief, from that old post, the Voynich Manuscript originated at least as far back as the 1400s, and was written in an indecipherable script by person or persons unknown. It was also decorated with unknown plants and star constellations, and with a variety of naked female figures cavorting in and around vaguely alchemical vessels.
Perhaps the most fascinating of the manuscript’s features are the proliferation of theories about it, ranging from that it’s a complete hoax to being authored by Leonardo da Vinci, or that it was written in the language of the Aztecs.
The 240-page document can be now seen in its full glory on The Internet Archive. It’s amusing that one of the reviews there claims the enigmatic writings explain how women think and their minds work. A true mystery explained, if we could only read it!
So what has happened since 2010?
In one blog devoted to the Voynich that I referenced in the old post, Thoughts About the Voynich Manuscript, there have been entries as recent as July, 2015. Apparently people are still doing statistical analyses of the characters and drawings, and dating inks and papers to still no definite conclusions. There are those who still think it is a hoax. Theories continue to be devised about it, so many and so harebrained that the proprietor of that blog had to stop in 2013 providing a form for people to give their ideas on the matter.
The other blog I referenced, Cipher Mysteries, is also still around and has more recent entries, up to February, 2016.
As the title of the blog indicates the author remains highly interested in the unknown alphabet and cryptology of the work. He even investigates other unusual medieval manuscripts also written with unknown scripts and alphabets.
I remember reading a couple of years ago that someone claimed to have deciphered 14 characters and 10 words of the Voynich. A professor of applied linguistics in England, Stephen Baxter, believed he’s picked out names like hellebore or coriander for some of the plant diagrams. He tried to identify proper names in the text, which is a strategy used in deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics.
He made his announcement with the hopes that others could follow up and decipher more. Baxter believed that the book is “probably a treatise on nature, perhaps in a Near Eastern or Asian language.”
Back to the Aztecs: also in 2014, according to Wikipedia, Arthur Tucker and Rexford Talbert claimed they had identified plants and animals in the Voynich with the same drawings in a 15th Century Aztec herbal. They claimed that this was Colonial Spanish in origin, and specifically the Nahuatl language.
This proposal has not been taken up by other Voynich researchers.
I kind of like this theory that I found on the site Mirrorspectrum: Your daily source of news — “Given the fact that the ancient manuscript depicts star charts that are unknown to us, the Voynich Manuscript could have been created by a being not from Earth, who during the 1400’s crash-landed on Earth and created the manuscript documenting life on Earth.”
The enigma has even stimulated the creation of a symphony by Hanna Lash, composer-in-residence of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra in Connecticut. Each movement in the symphony is based on the rough divisions of the manuscript. The first movement, “Herbal,” debuted last year and the second, “Astronomical” is due this spring.
The conundrum of the Voynich Manuscript is so complete that it becomes a screen upon which to project whatever rational, or obsessive, or delusional construct one may be predisposed to make. The most appropriate response, up to now, may well be the one the composer is making.
If you’re interested, you can download the Voynich Manuscript to take a look yourself, from the site HolyBooks.com.