©05 The Media Desk
The Voynich Manuscript.
What we KNOW for Sure about it.
So far, the volume called the Voynich Manuscript is one of a kind. No other examples of the language are known to exist.
It is known to be about four hundred years old through a fairly well documented chain of possession. It is thought to be somewhat older than that but the exact age is unknown.
Everybody from Vatican researchers to ATT/Bell Labs as well as investigators at MIT and Yale University worked on translating the text. It was even gone over by a top team of British and American code breakers from World War 2. And all of them, so far, have failed.
Botanists and biologists have tried to identify the plants in it and have been disappointed.
The book is currently in the Rare Books Collections in the library at Yale. Its catalog number is MS408.
A description of the object.
The manuscript itself is some two hundred and thirty pages long, but it was a little longer as some pages have been lost.
The overall size as presented is approximately six inches by nine inches, but many pages are larger and have been folded to fit the rest of the sheets.
A vellum cover and leather bindings were added some time after its production.
It was written and drawn by hand on parchment in several different colors of ink with the curving script of the text printed in black. The majority of the illustrations of plants and people and astrological signs have been hand colored with these basic colors.
There are several different 'dialects' of basically the same 'language' in its pages which appear to have been written by five or six different scribes. More on the words and letters of the text later.
The drawings of plants are carefully made as if they were done by a botanist, many showing root structure and veins in the leaves. The representations of people are almost crude by comparison, all appear to be female and the majority of which are nude. The astrological section includes what appear to be star maps and zodiacs with figures surrounding a central point. Another section shows containers with labels and ingredients and has been labeled the 'recipe section'.
Who did it, when and why?
The theories about its authorship abound.
It is a straight up hoax, a fraud, a practical joke perpetrated on a sixteenth century collector.
Somebody tried to translate Mongolian or Vietnamese into Latin, or vice versa.
Aliens did it.
It's from the Ancient Past or Distant Future.
It's from The Central Library of Atlantis, and you can't imagine how much the overdue charge is going to be when it's returned.
And there are even more theories about its contents.
Some claim it is an Alchemists manual and contains the secret to the Elixir of Life.
The Jesuits were interested in it because they thought it might be religious in nature.
There are several theories involving early, perhaps even prehistoric voyages to the Far East during which the authors tried to convey the local's culture and flora and fauna into Arabic.
A letter that was found in the 'book' some time later that indicated the Emperor who had bought it from the dealer in the 1660's thought it had been written by Roger Bacon, an English monk and mystic who died around 1300 AD. There is no known evidence either in the manuscript or elsewhere as to the actual author or year of production.
What it Isn't
It does not appear to be supernatural in either form or content. That it was done by people over a significant period of time is evident by the variations in the 'hand' and even the forms of the letters themselves.
It is not from another world. The content of the parchment and the inks used are fairly common and can be reproduced today by period supplies from the Middle Ages and later.
It is not magical. No reports of mysterious or miraculous events have been credibly associated with it.
It is not demonically or angelically possessed. Nobody has reported visions of satanic beings or guardian angels when reading or handling the manuscript.
Through linguistic analysis and comparisons to natural languages as discussed later in this article, the idea that it is a very old and very intricate hoax can all but be dismissed.
All in all. Along these lines it is what it appears to be at first glance. An old book, written in an odd language.
The Desk's take on it
One thing is certain.
Compared to the Voynich Manuscript, Morris Dancing has well documented beginnings and is well understood by the general public.
Sidenote to explain obscure reference.
Morris Dancing is a peculiar British custom in which several men in white costumes with very colorful accessories and trimmings (the Morris Kit), sometimes accompanied by a 'fool' and a 'beast', dance rather energetic steps while waving handkerchiefs and sometimes sticks to the music of similarly dressed musicians. The object of the exercise appears to be to ward off evil spirits.
The history of the custom is lost in time, possibly going back before the Roman era. Today the tradition is maintained by Morris Men Teams in the UK and even in the US, particularly in New England.
You have to admit when you look through the hundreds of pages of the manuscript, the text flows like an actual language. The drawings are an attempt to record a real object or concept. There is a message, or rather several messages, here.
The manuscript is a complete work. References are made on various pages to images or figures in other parts of the work. For example, in the center of the 'Rosettes' fold out page are several 'vases' that are reproduced on other pages, with nearby text evidently explaining or describing them.
The plants in the Herbal Section, while many are fantastic in appearance, do not appear fanciful. They may have been imaginary, but they were imagined as actual plants that may not grow here, but Could grow Somewhere. They are not nightmarish creations with eyes and tentacles of suckers to attack the unwary.
The Astronomical Section contains well recognizable Zodiacs and representations of the Seasons. They are clearly based on the progression of the Planets and Stars through the heavens whether through first hand observation or descriptions of the events. The only thing not evident is the text explaining the diagrams. It too is in the un-translated language from the rest of the book.
Which brings us to the text itself.
Many studies of the sentences and paragraphs and even the words and letters themselves have been done. Computer algorithms have been used to analyze the text and compare it to actual known languages. All that it has proved is that it IS a language. The rhythm of the occurrences of the words and letters is characteristic of a human language.
There are certain patterns that can be clearly defined in natural languages which when written are represented by alphanumeric characters instead of pictograms (English and Italian versus Korean and Chinese). These patterns can be explained and diagramed mathematically. These mathematical representations can be applied to the Voynich Manuscript.
For comparison the researchers tried to apply the same equations to artificial and 'made up' languages. The equations didn't work on them as neatly as they did to the Voynich language.
The language is also elegant.
The first letters of words that begin sentences and paragraphs are capitalized. Certain words never begin a section. Certain letters only appear in combination with other letters.
The 'bullet points' are set apart from each other and look for all the world like any outline you would see today in a technical manual.
Even the captions under pictures and next to figures appear natural and intended to convey certain information. Just as when someone writes a name next to an individual in a photograph to identify them.
The representations of the women, while simplified and stylized, represent individuals. These individuals can be identified elsewhere in the manuscript in different illustrations and seem to relate directly to the words that accompany them.
But what those words mean is still an open question.
Three sample pages as .JPG images:
Folio 29v, Folio 67v, Folio 84r.
Pictures will open in new window.
On attempt to translate it involved variations on ancient Mongolian.
The translation came close to coming up with something that was almost meaningful. But the linguistic calisthenics the researcher went through and the liberties they took with the translation make it a bit much to believe.
Others have worked through variations on Latin, various Middle Eastern languages, as well as various codes based on replacement of letters with symbols in other languages.
One of the more fanciful attempts involved mirror imaging Chinese characters upside down.
None have gotten very far.
COULD it be an extra terrestrial language? Or a human representation of an off world language?
Could it be from the far flung past? Or something that is either here from the future, or again, a contemporary attempt to record a glimpse of the future?
Was it some priest's doodling what he saw while in the midst of religious ecstasy? Or the mad scribbling of somebody suffering demonic possession?
Well. Yeah, anything is possible.
As in the case of an Extra Terrestrial Civilization... "The universe is Huge, and Incredibly Old, so Somebody could be Out There, Somewhere."
But the chances that They have been Here are rather remote.
Believe it or not there are ancient legends that Could have just an inkling of truth inside them that might help explain it.
Sumerian culture essentially appeared out of the desert sand in what is now Iraq.
According to their myths, the gods and other superior beings appeared and disappeared at will through their temple.
The 'Nephilim' were superior in every way, except perhaps morality, and had great power.
Is it coincidence that civilization on Earth began about the same time these beings reportedly appeared? If they weren't supernatural in any respect, just possessed of greater technology, the simple camel herders and dirt farmers of the area wouldn't have made the distinction, to them, they would have been gods.
Many of the diagrams and representations in the manuscript appear to have stellar references that could very well have been beyond the ken of anybody living prior to the current space age. Graphics seem to represent the spiral of our galaxy as seen from above. Star charts that mimic some of the best observations of those with large telescopes and even the Hubble.
Could this knowledge have been gleaned from a source 'not of this world' and written into the manuscript either in the language used by those from out of town or in mimic of it?
It would explain why it is still a mystery some half a millennium later.
Multiple links to various sites dealing with the manuscript can be found through any search engine search for the words: Voynich Manuscript
Sites the Desk found interesting. All will open in a new page.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voynich_manuscript Wikipedia's excellent page on the manuscript.
An extensive site dealing with the manuscript: http://www.voynich.nu/
Mystic teacher Ellie Crystal's page on the document. www.crystalinks.com
A links page http://www.dcc.unicamp.br/~stolfi/voynich/. Some of them don't work, most do.
Just one of a host of theories of authorship and origin. www.edithsherwood.com. In this case, Leonardo da Vinci is looked at.
The Desk's look at: the Philadelphia Experiment. Another mystery that remains unsolved. With a look at the Hutchison Effect.
The Desk article about The Count of Saint Germain. A "man who never dies and knows everything".
The Desk's Non-Fiction Articles