Every once in a while, I get accosted by something delightfully tangential to the while cipher mysteries arena. A nice example of this recently popped up as part of the University of Western Australia’s Second Life (a well-known online virtual world) presence, where a certain ‘Hypatia Pickens’ built herself a Voynich-themed area, with odd-looking plants and nymphs sliding down a curious slide into the cool water.
Naturally, that’s not the real story here, not when the question I immediately wanted answered was “who is Hypatia Pickens, exactly?”
It turns out Hypatia’s real name is Sarah Higley; she teaches medieval literature at the University of Rochester; she wrote a 2007 book on Hildegard of Bingen’s Lingua Ignota (which I wonder whether my friend Philip Neal has yet seen); she has created a conlang (constructed language) called Teonaht; and she created the (largely satirical) Star Trek character Reginald Barclay.
All of which probably serves to explain her interest in the Voynich Manuscript, which is surely – if you believe all you read on the Internet – nothing less than a medieval constructed lingua ignota invented by aliens… specifically Ferengi (simply because the world is itself a lovable medieval Arabic term meaning Franks).