After Centuries Of Mystery, The Tale Of The Voynich Manuscript Has Been Solved

Image: Supplied

The solving of a long-standing mystery always sparks ambivalence; a sense of excitement and satisfaction at what it is, coupled with sadness about everything it isn't. As of last week, the cryptic Voynich manuscript, filled with strange glyphs and diagrams, has left the halls of head-scratchers. Yes folks, thanks to historian Nicholas Gibbs, we have a pretty definitive explanation of the purpose of the former literary enigma.

Although many interpretations of the manuscript have been proffered, Gibbs' explanation is the first to explain nearly all aspects. In some ways, it was written in an ancient code -- if you consider abbreviations and shorthand a form of encryption.

Here's how Gibbs breaks it down on The Times Literary Supplement:

...in the Voynich script tell-tale signs of an abbreviated Latin format. But interpretation of such abbreviations depends largely on the context in which they are used ... I recognized at least two of the characters in the Voynich manuscript text as Latin ligatures, Eius and Etiam. Ligatures were developed as scriptorial short-cuts. They are composed of selected letters of a word, which together represent the whole word, not unlike like a monogram.

As Gibbs made further comparisons, it became clear what the "code" actually was:

Systematic study of every single character in the Lexicon identified further ligatures and abbreviations in the Voynich manuscript and set a precedent. It became obvious that each character in the Voynich manuscript represented an abbreviated word and not a letter.

Turns out the Voynich manuscript isn't a reference for magic spells, alien communication or an ancient tabletop role-playing game. In fact, it's mostly plagiarised medical knowledge, much of it related to herbs:

...it was more or less clear what the Voynich manuscript is: a reference book of selected remedies lifted from the standard treatises of the medieval period, an instruction manual for the health and wellbeing of the more well to do women in society, which was quite possibly tailored to a single individual.

And another mystery solved! If you're keen for more information, Gibbs goes into extensive detail about how he arrived at his conclusion over at TLS.

[The Times Literary Supplement, via Ars Technica]

WATCH MORE: Tech News & Life Hacks

Comments

    Not really.

    As someone who has studied the manuscript since the 1990s, far longer than this gentleman, he just repeats what many have said about medicine, and although his theory about ligatures is interesting, he still doesn't provide a translation outside of a few words.

    That has been done before, many times over the last 100 or so years.

    When the text is actually translated into a readable form in a majority, then it's solved.

    If this gentleman releases all of his translation, then we can say it.

    There is a key to cipher the Voynich manuscript.
    The key to the cipher manuscript placed in the manuscript. It is placed throughout the text. Part of the key hints is placed on the sheet 14. With her help was able to translate a few dozen words that are completely relevant to the theme sections.
    The Voynich manuscript is not written with letters. It is written in signs. Characters replace the letters of the alphabet one of the ancient language. Moreover, in the text there are 2 levels of encryption. I figured out the key by which the first section could read the following words: hemp, wearing hemp; food, food (sheet 20 at the numbering on the Internet); to clean (gut), knowledge, perhaps the desire, to drink, sweet beverage (nectar), maturation (maturity), to consider, to believe (sheet 107); to drink; six; flourishing; increasing; intense; peas; sweet drink, nectar, etc. Is just the short words, 2-3 sign. To translate words with more than 2-3 characters requires knowledge of this ancient language. The fact that some symbols represent two letters. In the end, the word consisting of three characters can fit up to six letters. Three letters are superfluous. In the end, you need six characters to define the semantic word of three letters. Of course, without knowledge of this language make it very difficult even with a dictionary.
    If you are interested, I am ready to send more detailed information, including scans of pages showing the translated words.
    Nikolai.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now