Decoding the Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript has been partially decoded. This seems not to be a hoax. And the manuscript seems not to be a hoax, either.

Here's the paper.

Posted on February 28, 2014 at 6:25 AM • 26 Comments

Comments

Richard HFebruary 28, 2014 7:27 AM

Nick "Cipher Mysteries" Pelling is less than convinced:
"In fact, even though he is trying to use a sensible sounding methodology to elicit his results, I can’t think of a single piece of Voynich Manuscript evidence or secondary historical evidence he uses that I’d agree is a sound starting point: and I’m not convinced that any of his conclusions could be right either."

See here for more.

monsterzeroFebruary 28, 2014 8:39 AM

The moral here is that if you want your ciphertext to be preserved for centuries even when no one has the key, you need to include lots of plaintext pictures of naked ladies.

MeFebruary 28, 2014 9:01 AM

So, the theory is that it isn't a 'cypher' but simply a dead language.

I guess that makes sense, but I thought the leading theory was that it was a cypher text written by an alchemist (they tended to keep discoveries to themselves).

CzernoFebruary 28, 2014 11:55 AM

It's convincing, sorta, or at least intriguing, when listening to his presentation. If one were to begin taking the V.Ms seriously though,
namely that this is real text in some real language written using some real alphabet, then ISTM one thing one must account for is this question : why do we have exactly ONE manuscript in this or a related language/script, and in an improbably superb state, so superb in fact that it was proposed to and bought by a wealthy Prince -- and NONE other albeit tiny fragments, inscriptions, using the same or comparable script ? It's not like nobody has been looking for such, methinks...


AnuraFebruary 28, 2014 11:59 AM

I hope it isn't true; I want people to try to decode it, but fail in the end. Life is more enjoyable with mysteries.

Random ObserverFebruary 28, 2014 4:41 PM

@ Czerno

Best, simplest, argument I've read that the thing is simply the product of someone's imagination.

Someone on midevalist.net commented that alchemists liked to keep their stuff secret. Small wonder: "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance; baffle them with bull#%1t" (Americanism - ante 1978).

(Doesn't mean Bruce doesn't get the joke - as above)

Nick PellingFebruary 28, 2014 4:57 PM

If you think that you can decrypt the Voynich Manuscript by ignoring pretty much every statistical and cryptological study ever made, and instead latching onto nine wobbly words scattered through 200+ pages, then knock yourself out, Stephen Bax's presentation has everything you're looking for.

Bruce surely knows better than to inhale the vapors off this one.

HeteromelesFebruary 28, 2014 6:58 PM

Personally, I'd love to see someone analyze the Voynich Manuscript, the Codex Seraphinianus, and the Bible using the same decoding techniques. The basic point is that we've got an unknown, a known pseudo-language, and a document composed by multiple authors. It doesn't have to be the Bible, either. An academic text or even a Medieval herbal or alchemical text of age equivalent to the Voynich manuscript could be used as the known text.

The basic point is that the Voynich too often seems to be analyzed in isolation, and it would be nice to study it in comparison to other documents. For example, how much of the text appears to cluster around the images?

ObserverMarch 1, 2014 11:54 AM

My bet is that Dr. Bax, as an Applied Linguistics expert, has got it right, for the first time in the history of the Voynich. The fact that it gives Nick Pelling hissy-fits of jealousy is nice confirming evidence!

GomezMarch 1, 2014 4:36 PM

"I hit on the idea of identifying proper names in the text, following historic approaches which successfully deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs..."

Actually, until the Rosetta Stone, the use of proper names to create translations was woefully unsuccessful. It was too easy for the cryptotranslators to fudge the interpretation.

Nick PellingMarch 2, 2014 3:55 AM

Observer: "hissy-fits of jealousy" LOL. :-)

Look, a long sequence of Voynich linguists have followed this same 'methodology' of plucking out hopeful word lists (though hardly ever with more than 10 words in) since the 1940s. The fact that this is also exactly as far as Bax has got suggests to me that he hasn't exactly progressed the science of Voynichology past the sticking-pins-in-a-map stage.

http://www.ciphermysteries.com/the-voynich-manuscript/voynich-theories

Ben FirtMarch 2, 2014 6:48 PM

Bax 1, Pelling -1 . I give Pelling -1 instead of 0 for not showing any grace.

Dan H.March 3, 2014 5:46 AM

I still think that the Voynich manuscript is an ancient fake. Seeding the ciphertext with words which sound rather like known plant names in a little-known language would be a very good ploy to convince very good decryption experts that they were indeed on to something, and that the manuscript contained hidden knowledge that with work could and indeed would be decrypted.

The likely scenario is thus that the faker manufactures part of the document (complete with easily-broken interesting names) then shows this to a royal cryptographer, with the tag-line of "I've just bought this, but I cannot decode it. Can you? If so, would you like to buy the rest (though you'll need to front me some money so I can get it first)?

Royal flunky looks at the first fragment, finds "likely" words, and fronts up a bribe. Faker then manufactures the rest of the document complete with more decode-able words in a sea of gibberish, and flogs the rest of the fake to the Royals. After a fair amount of decoding attempts, the manuscript is put to one side and forgotten about as being not amenable to decryption. Actually, if we assume that one-time pads were known of (or even just deliberate fakes manufactured to mislead) this may have happened quite a bit, so there may be quite a few promising but unreadable fakes knocking about.

To make a con like this work, the manuscript has to look old. Ancient wisdom, got to be good stuff, yes? To do this, a faker starts out with actual old parchment, removes the previous writing from it, and uses it for his own new scribblings. Doing this used to be common practice, as parchment was valuable, so some faint presence of previous writing on parchment would not be suspicious.

The Voynich parchment has been C-14 tested as being medieval in date. I wonder if anyone has tried to C-14 test the pigments in the writing instead, or has looked for previous writing incompletely erased by the faker?

Richard HMarch 3, 2014 6:32 AM

Nick Pelling: "plucking out hopeful word lists". That sounds like what early philologists used to do before comparative linguistics recognised that systematic correspondences are evidence for relatedness, whereas chance resemblances are not. Is that why Bax has that appendix listing words for "black" that start with the same sounds in 33 different languages? Given how closely related some of those languages are (he even includes both Hindi and Urdu!), that should surprise nobody, least of all a linguist.

If the opinions of "linguistics experts" arewhat matter, I'd be more interested in Jacques Guy's, but it's probably unprintable.

[name withheld for security reasons]March 3, 2014 8:39 PM

"Heteromeles • February 28, 2014 6:58 PM

Personally, I'd love to see someone analyze the Voynich Manuscript, the Codex Seraphinianus, and the Bible using the same decoding techniques. "

Actually, someone did.

There is an atheist variety show in London every year (forgot name), and one time a performer did copycat an Israeli "scientist" who "decoded" Bible using crosswords. Performer "decoded" Moby Dick using same technique.

Lots of fun!

Nick PellingMarch 7, 2014 1:57 PM

Ben Firt: actually, I'm acting remarkably gracefully, considering I've spent the last few weeks being repeatedly attacked online by people who think I'm being mean-spirited to poor old Stephen Bax by pointing out that nine wonky (and very questionable) words out of 200+ pages is arguably a worse hit rate than a null hypothesis.

Richard H: I suspect that a sentence by Jacques Guy would be more genuinely informative than 62 pages of Stephen Bax's Voynich theory. And if Guy swears profusely in that sentence, so much the better. ;-)

cassandra christensonMarch 24, 2014 8:16 AM

Re Voynich manuscripts: My ideas on first quick scan. This is the "bible" of the feminine (vs the masculine Bible, accepted doctor/medical wisdom of the time, etc).
This Knowledge of women, known as witchcraft in Europe, needed to be imparted to all without worry of prosecution so under the guise of herbology, a secrete language developed, both writing and symbols/drawings, speaks of the cosmos, higher realms of consciousness, ground of being, how to connect with each other when there may have been great isolation of each individual, etc. The manuscript possibly having multiple layers of meaning to teach, guide, heal, impart knowledge, hope, a sense of community without being burned at the stake.
This could also be the Noah's ark of herbs/plants. It could have been a copy of what was actually taken on the ark (the metaphor of the ark). Or really far out, how to recreate individual plants after flood or other world devastation.
With respect and humbly, I suggest to begin to understand these manuscripts is to approach from the feminine, meditation, art, dreams, automatic writing, channeling.
Perhaps difficult from the scientific perspective but might give an easy inroad that could be followed up with scientific discourse and study.
Let us remember this could have been written to escape prosecution by the rational mind.

Sukhwant SinghMay 1, 2014 3:07 PM

Subject : MS-408 Voynich Manuscript is in Landa khojki Scripts
My name is Sukhwant Singh and for the past 2 months I have extensively researched in depth on MS-408 better known as the Voynich manuscript.
I hope, my explanation will lead to resolving the Voynich manuscript once and for all.
The origins of the VM ( Voynich Manuscript ) lies in 6000 miles east from its current location. The place is in North Eastern Sindh region which is a part of Pakistan right now. The explanation in the VM is copied from an even older original book written in “Brahmi” language about ( 300-400 B.C ). The knowledge and editions of the books were passed through generations of merchants( Known as Mahajan’s with Vedic knowledge ) in ancient Indus valley civilization which also gave the name “Sindhustan”, the Sindh region in particular which was divided into India and Pakistan in 1947.
The book is divided into 4 parts as mentioned by the author( details below ) written in early 15th century as that’s the time period when Khojki was more prominent.
The book was taken by the “Holy” man from town to town and based on the knowledge he had( He was the go to guy and first person to approach in case of issues, either injury or some depression, bad dreams, marriage and business, Hex etc. ) , and the facts he collected from the inhabitants/customer. This man would then recommend to-do things. The book also deals with what kind of women she is based on the type of hair she has, what type of clothes she wears, what to expect from the second wife of the husband etc. What to do if someone has Hex on you and how to figure it out and recommendations for getting rid of the Hex.
The book is not written for others to read and is usually passed within the family from Father to Son or someone more capable whom the Mahajan has taught and guided himself.
Some background…..
When the Arab conquered the Sindh region in about early 700 ADs and moved more towards the east they started eliminating learned Sindhi scholars and Holy men, who enjoyed rich merchant heritage and were established in the region. With passage of time, “Urdu” language was forced in the region and subsequently became an official language and in current times known as Sindhi language (Descendent language of Landa script) which is currently written in Urdu script.
In early 15th century Khojki language was used by many to write prayer hyms and guidance songs. The extended use of this script and the underlining Landa script also indicate that the author didn’t revise his book into the periods urdu language but made it’s knowledge more hidden by superimposing Khwaja Khoji Vowel marks on top of Brahmi languages ( K, Ki, Ku, Kuu, Kay, Kaay, Ku, Kho, KHU, KHUU Gutturals ( Guttural).
Brahmi language is considered as the main language based on which current northern India languages are based on. It itself is part of Indo-European set of language whose base is Sanskrit in general. This timeline spans 1000’s of years from the period of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro.
This VM manuscript is a very important book and will be another key to bind “Roma” people in Europe with their Sindh region ancestry. Most likely this book was taken along with the movement of Sindh’s migrant population 100’s of years ago( as slaves by Arab rulers ) and was preserved in good condition because the knowledge it would provide and likely the person owning it wanted to one day use it to establish the same respect the merchants of the Sindh region held. “Roma” migration from Sindh region resulted in scores of people being moved as slaves into Turkey and then current Europe.
There has been plenty of scientific tests conducted on the origins of Roma people. The book landed from a Roma person into the hands of Italian rulers as the poor Roma people faced many atrocities in Europe and many times were eliminated by the countries in which they tried to make their settlements.
I am attaching studies conducted in Sindh as latest as in 2010 to get the local knowhow about the herbs, roots etc. and their usage. This study was conducted to preserve whatever knowledge is left in the Nara desert region of Sindh.
The main issue to decipher the VM had to do with the place where it ended first and then later in America. Considering the “Nasal” phonetic words particular to “Landa” language (Ancestor language of Khudabadi, Mahajani, Gurmukhi, Khojki, Sindhi languages) are not spoken in Europe and for that matter in America.
English does not have these sounds at all. So for that matter it becomes next to impossible to decipher it and all the false theories it has generated, including its origins.
In America, it being predominantly English speaking world it adds to the problem where from ages researchers started emphasizing that the VM is some sort of miniscule Roman language or some false code system( It is not ).
That miscategorization has hindered the deciphering of the language for such a long time.
I am going to decipher few paragraphs to best of my ability and because I don’t have Sindhi as my mother tongue, it won’t be fair for me to translate the whole book( I would need help from a Sindhi native speaker, currently I am in process of translating in parts as much as I can ).
I have deciphered the alphabet to what I think it is( As I originally belong to Punjab region and I am aware of the cursive writings from the region as well as phonetics ).
The alphabet contains 4 different character set from languages spoken in same way but written in different form. There was no consistency of a set language in the region.
The merchants/judicial holy Sindhu men started using 3,4 languages mix in order to hide the contents( depending on the knowledge of the person and area he travelled ). This was done to protect business knowhow and maintain superiority at that time. The languages used by the merchants of North western Multan and Sindh were “Multani” and “Landa/Khudabadi/Mahajani” apart from other regional dialects and written words. It was what the Sindhu Mahajan’s( Merchants ) used to do. This kind of book and knowledge was in demand as people relied on auspicious moon cycles and it was part of daily life and it is still in many parts of the world.
Day and night are divided into 15 “Mahurats” or auspicious times, Year is divided in 12 months based on astrological signs ( Not January February etc.. ) The day and night each were divided into 8 parts each based on Sanskrit astrology ( pages 67v and 69v clearly depicts the division of 8 parts segments around the sun and moon )
Day 05:48
07:17 07:18
08:47 08:48
10:17 10:18
11:47 11:48
13:17 13:18
14:47 14:48
16:17 16:18
17:47
Subh Rog Udwegh Chanchal Labh Amrit Kal Subh

Night 17:48
19:17 19:18
20:47 20:48
22:17 22:18
23:47 23:48
01:17 01:18
02:47 02:48
04:17 04:18
05:47
Amrit Chanchal Rog Kal Labh Udwegh Subh Amrit

The times, days, years were not depicted as in Roman date forms, nor did they had the same timeline of 24 hours. This book is thus written with calculating moon cycles and the positions of 9 planets and the Vedic astrological knowledge is gathered from the original Brahmi book ( 300-400 BC or even earlier ).
Some details of which are recorded in India’s archeological preservations.
The characters are also intermingled from dialects in the region but they sound and mean the same example
CH, TA, JJH, K, KH are written in mixed scripts, which makes it difficult.
The Brahmi scipts usage from which the MS 408 book was copied adds to more complexity, but the words used are common short 2-3 characters found in recent Devanagari language. This book probably had 1-2 readers( at that time, Mahajan himself and probably his son or someone else he took along on his business in various towns There were other people who had similar books but probably not as detailed as this one. Holy men were killed by Arab rulers and their books were burned so that Arab rule could be established in force and almost everyone follow one language, which was Urdu ( like Persian script ). This book most likely was hidden by the author and usually people like him belonged to higher castes who had good people connections as they were respected for their knowledge and guidance. The so called lower caste people were made slave labor and soldiers to fight in wars. It is likely that this book’s author was killed and as this book was hidden was later picked by someone else and taken along as an important document to be used later. The problem occurred to decipher it at that time too, so the Roma person kept for generations hidden in the belongings until it ended in front of some Italian king’s subject.

The languages used in MS 408 are ( Yes, there are multiple languages, but their pronunciations are almost same ).
Landa, Khojki and Brahmi are used throughout the book.
1. Landa ( Which later became Sindhi, Khudabadi, Khojki )
2. Brahmi ( 300- 400 B.C ) Which gives a reason to believe that MS-408 is copied from an original book
3. Multani
4. Mahajani
5. Khojki
6. Gurmukhi which is also a descendent of Landa script ( Words which cuts at the end and sounds individual standing separately ). Gurmukhi usage is very minimal, which tells that the book was written prior to the era in which the Gurmukhi was main stream in Punjab region around 1430 AD.

The last page 116V is written by someone else other than the original writer as it contains characters from Sarada and JaunSari scripts from mountainous region of Southwestern Kashmir as those few lines are similar to later on what became Kashmiri Dialect and scripted language.

First paragraph from 1r goes like this.

“Many 100's of years desire tradition and as requested by the cultivator from his pouring knowledge in under increasing guidance
To accomplish it this promise of the interrogation of field subjects and about those manner for eating about their power learning from oneself condition about
under ongoing sufferings about stuck in those conditions which has already affected them learning from them in self-help either called for taking care during taking care or
When called by the messenger one about trees provided information in parts and about desire….”

Sukhwant SinghMay 8, 2014 4:30 PM

Prof. Stephen Bax's word on page 2r
means this\
E  means “This”
J.A CH  means “Tested”
SABHAY  means “Refined”
T.A  “About It”


Not what Prof. is describing( Respectfully! )

Thanks,
Sukhwant
( I have already sent the information to Stephen Bax ).

Please read my explanation on this website
www.voynich-manuscript-landa-khojki-scripts-sindhi-mahajans-book.net

Claudette CohenJune 28, 2014 9:47 PM

cassandra christenson: It never pays, dear, to speak Venusian to a bunch of Martians. You get so ignored that from "higher realms of consciousness" onward your notions are dead in the water, as you can see from the lacuna of silence that followed and on its heels, flatulent static.

D.O'DonovanFebruary 11, 2015 9:49 AM

It has been a problem all along that those whose main interest is "cracking the cipher" hardly ever get anywhere much.

I have an hypothesis, as yet untested, about this phenomenon.

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