Voynich Theories

If you have ever found yourself asking “Where can I found out about XYZ’s moderately-loopy-but-eerily-hard-to-disprove Voynich Manuscript theory?“, then you’ve come to the right place. Here’s very probably the longest list of such theories on the Internet…

And finally, Voynich theorists who wish to remain (at least partially) anonymous…

48 Comments

  1. avatar Shiam September 18, 2012 2:21 pm

    Upon viewing the Voynich Book page by page, IMMEDIATLY
    understood the language, and why no one in the past times have not deciphered.
    This language is ” The Heavenly Language”.
    No one has before has understood this language, It is a gift given. Man did not write this, it was penned by man, but the language was given from our heavens.
    Know that these plants were in the Garden, Long past.
    For Healing and Knowledge purpose. Look and see, understand.

  2. avatar Joachim Dathe October 13, 2012 3:10 pm

    I am missing my development here:
    voynich2arabic.wordpress.com

    http://voynich2arabic.wordpress.com

  3. avatar Mary October 26, 2012 5:05 pm

    This is indeed a difficult book to break down, I have taken a look at it thoroughly, perhaps because it seems like it is a copy of another book and hence why it is scribed without fault in penmanship, with the exception of a repeated word here and there (which is often the case when someone is copying text from another book). Things that add more to my suspicion that this is a copy are the crude drawings, from someone with no drawing ability trying to re-draw a depiction by someone else as well as some of the drawings appearing somewhat similar to the botanical pharmaceutical portion of the Harleian Manuscripts. Perhaps both had access to the original and decided to “re-write” them by their own conclusions and perceptions. I don’t quite agree with the Manchu suggestion and many others as I had tried those languages. Problem with it lays in that it’s in the stylized writing of the era, almost as a Latin cursiva but with variations of what seem to be some sort of ancient language combination which meant the original writer was adept in linguistics as well as ancient languages. There’s a colophon, and there might be indeed the phonetic form of writing which adds even more difficulty in translation. If indeed some of the researchers suggesting that the writing is ancient Hebrew, because then there seems to be some mix match of Aramaic along with a few ancient Greek letters then that would mean that either it’s a copy of something from somewhere slightly before (or around) 300 BCE Mesopotamia or someone with a good knowledge base of the languages of the era. I don’t agree that this was something someone wrote to make a book seem to have more value, since I myself had made in the past some private journals written in a mix match of ancient languages or made up runes (like Tolkien’s Uruk) so no one could read my journals. But for the invented runs I do have a puzzle (a table or legend) to help break down the alphabet of those fictional runes if I were to give the journal to someone else. Meaning this was something secretive of the time in which only a selected few were meant to read it (ie apprentice). This is just my opinion from a mere observer, nonetheless despite everything it is a beautiful “journal” of sorts.

  4. avatar thomas spande December 12, 2012 9:52 pm

    Mary, I think you are right on many points, or at least they tend to agree with my prejudices. I believe it is in Latin cursive, maybe of the Czech flavor (no Q. W and the incorporation of what I think are “ch”s. I think the language overlaid is not Hebrew but Armenian which has a number of glyphs used in the VM: the 4, the 8 and 9, the mirrored “&”, the tipped “?” the “o” sometimes appearing as “a” and the backward swirly “S”.The key to a decrypt is the 8 and 9 which use letters (Roman e and t respectively) so that 89 becomes et (and). The 4, “mirrored &”, tipped ? are “c”. “f” and “ch” respectively. The herbs are deliberately fanciful and have medical uses embedded in them. They are reasonably well drawn but very poorly tinted and retinted. Orignal ink can be found in every one by careful inspection.I think the substituted ciphers (the c-c combinations and the gallows glyphs) were designed to resemble Arabic. Nick pelling on his pages points out the use of Latin scribal abbreviations for omitted letters and truncations. These abound in the VM. We may never know the purpose of this thing and the extreme care used in copying from some coded plaintext, likely in Latin but with a lot of English, German and Italian may as you indicate be intended for initiates or intimates of the scribes. I don’t think there is a “colophon” or if there were one, it was scraped off. The sentences on the last page were not by either of the scribal hands involved in the creation of the VM. Any normal colophon is in the hand of the vellum maker and scribe, not a sloppy thing like we see in the VM. Best wishes. Tom Spande

  5. avatar Ruby December 13, 2012 2:35 pm

    Hello! I started to publish my first attempts at translation of the Voynich manuscript on my blog. I would be honored to your review at the work. Best regards
    Ruby

    http://readingvoynich.wordpress.com

  6. avatar thomas spande December 18, 2012 7:54 pm

    Dear all, I think most Voynichers will agree to the following:

    1) the end product is Latin but likely a Latin style, loaded with scribal abbreviations, that is older than the early 15C vellum date of the VM.

    2)Most think it is a cipher substitution code

    3)I doubt personally that many, maybe none, of the plants depicted in the herbal section are accurate depictions of real plants but have been altered to feature likely medicinal uses. Some are totally fanciful with mouse- or beetle- shaped leaves. Leaves are often joined and indicate, I think, the plant’s use for healing breaks in the skin. If green, then fresh leaves are used. If brown, dried leaves can be used. If plant stems join, the leaves or roots can be used as an aid in healing bone breaks. If the roots are untinted, they are not used. Hidden writing is in some roots.

    3) Certain glyphs resemble those used in Armenian but have other meanings (my idea, not generally accepted).

    4)Two scribes are at work but both seem to use the same abbreviations and cipher substitutions so are likely working from an enciphered plain text. The VM is definitely a copy as has been shown by codicology studies of Nick Pelling and others.

    5)the tinting or coloration is of two types: original, very faint in most drawings or done later and perhaps several times by tinters of varying skills. Some water color is used, some crayon and apparently some goache is used. The original was evidently colored ink.

    5) The vellum has been fairly precisely dated by C-14/C-12 isotope ratios but the date at which the ink was applied remains uncertain. It likely also originates from the early 15C.

    Cheers, Tom

  7. avatar thomas spande December 18, 2012 11:17 pm

    Dear all, a “ps” to my last post. One very important point, recognized by most, is that the word lengths in the VM are arbitary but made to resemble real word lengths. Words have been taken apart and put back together in odd ways. There seem no really reliable markers for word endings although my view is that the tipped “?” which is “ch” in Armenian may serve often as the end of a word. The ampersand, “&” occurs here and there but often at the start of a word, sometimes isolated and sometimes at the end of a word. It can mean just the letters “et” but also Latin for “and” or part of “etc”. Its use in Latin, either medieval or renaissance, is a puzzle at the moment.

    There are many Tironian notes (Nick first pointed this out) and other scribal abbreviations which complicate life as often the usual indicators like the “overbar” are missing. Cheers, Tom

  8. avatar Michael Kyle January 6, 2013 6:47 pm

    After a brief study of the VMs, I came to a possibly insignificant conclusion to describe the plant drawings with no real life counterpart. Someone who would go to such great lengths to hide the meaning of the text would also find a way to hide the identity of the botanical plants referenced in the text.

    I believe the VM to be nothing more than an early 15th century physician or herbalist going to great depths to hide the secrets of his practice. After all, there was a lot of money to be made by reputable physicians from the noble class during this age. This author in the process just also happened to create an indecipherable text, probably due to his own paranoia of the subject matter becoming public, thus rendering his knowledge unprofitable.

  9. avatar nickpelling January 6, 2013 8:44 pm

    Michael: all fair enough deductions… but the big question is how. Specifically, how that person managed to achieve that before anything as complex as polyalphabetic ciphers were invented. :-)

    http://www.nickpelling.com/

  10. avatar Michael Kyle January 6, 2013 9:30 pm

    nickpelling: I guess that is where my knowledge on the subject of ciphers and cryptology ends. I know very little.

    Now I could be very wrong, but would it be so hard to make up your own script and ways of transcoding that would be impossible for anyone to mathematically deduce based on the sheer randomness of the encoding methods?

    Say every letter has more than one character, actual spaces are random, deciphered spaces are indicated using a number of encrypted characters. Encoded character order shifts on a set order with the introduction of new sentences on a given page. Letter order for any given word could shift based on position in a sentence. etc. etc. etc.

    Could something that complex and thought out really be decoded by a person who knows nothing of the encoding methods? This subject is starting to fascinate me, I think I’m going to read more on it.

  11. avatar nickpelling January 6, 2013 9:42 pm

    Michael: it is indeed possible to tie very complicated (and random-looking) cryptographic knots with a relatively small amount of creative effort. Yet that’s [k]not what we see in the Voynich Manuscript: there, we see a strong patterning system, with even tighter letter-to-letter binding than in English or Latin. There are even strong statistical patterns in places you wouldn’t necessarily expect, like the first letter of a paragraph, two-thirds of the way along the top line of a paragraph, the end of a line, the start of a word, etc.

    So, the challenge here isn’t explaining away too much randomness, it’s explaining away too little randomness. Hope this is a help! :-)

    http://www.nickpelling.com/

  12. avatar thomas spande January 8, 2013 6:39 pm

    Dear all, In my opinion, the cipher substitution is consistent and constant, i.e. a “backward swirly S” is an S throughout the VM. An important proviso however is that not all those swirly S’s are created equal. For example, some represent embedded scribal abbreviations, a right paren “)” atop a “c” null, at first glance looks like that backward swirly S but is made with two strokes of the pen and indicates truncation follows. Here is the nux of why the decoding of the VM is problematic. I think a consistent system of cipher substitution can be achieved but then another layer of the onion is met and that is the use of invented scribal abbreviations as well as incorporation of known abbreviations, such as the Tironian notation that Nick has commented on. We have layered atop a cipher substitution, the use of deletions and truncations that are indicated by what appear at first glance, simple scribal flourishes but are, I think, embedded macrons. Cheers, Tom S.

  13. avatar Rolando (@fisicoteorico) January 13, 2013 1:25 am

    I let them know that the code, is based on u8n code used by the kings of the world to communicate secretly, but the bigger problem is that this code behind, I met since I was 7a, there are other codes, that could only be decode, if someone had the table where there are over 784 simulated codes, right, 784 codes, to the left, 784 down codes, and 784 codes up, meaning that there are more than 3136 combinations, but I think just used the code 9, these tables may still be in the hands of some other king, he is satisfied of their ancestors, was the most common form of communication of their reigns and the decisions they had to do, I have a notion , some of the symbols, but these are artificial, and to decode them, must be obtained in order such as decoding, the plants are similar to each other, that we still have, but mostly, these plants seem familiar, are seen in Guatemala, Ecuador. I’m working on artificial remember those codes, I doubt that the words of 2, 3, and more letters, may be giving other codes, indicating that only the codes are fake or artificial, any communication, may do so by writing to rolandohernandezrivero @ gmail.com.

    quiero hacerles saber, que el código, está basado en u8n código que usaban los reyes del mundo para comunicarse secretamente, pero el problema mayor, es que detrás de este código, que conocí desde que tenía 7a, hay otros códigos, que solo se podrían decodificar, si alguien tuviera la tabla en donde hay más de 784 códigos simulados, hacia la derecha, 784 códigos, hacia la izquierda, 784 códigos hacia abajo, y 784 códigos hacia arriba, ósea que hay más de 3136 combinaciones, pero, creo que solo usaba el código 9, estas tablas, podrían estar aun, en manos de algún otro rey, que tenga constancia de sus ancestros, era la forma más común de la comunicación de sus reinados y las decisiones que tenían que hacer, creo tener, noción, de algunos de los símbolos, pero estos son artificiales, y para decodificarlos, hay que obtener en su orden dicha forma de decodificarlo, las plantas, tienen parecidos a otras, que aun tenemos, pero mayormente, estas plantas aparentemente familiares, son vistas en Guatemala, Ecuador.
    Estoy trabajando en recordar dichos códigos artificiales, dudo, que las palabras, de 2, 3, y más letras, puedan estar dando otros códigos, esto solamente están indicando a los códigos falsos, o artificiales, cualquier comunicación, pueden hacerlo escribiendo a rolandohernandezrivero@gmail.com.

  14. avatar Diane O’Donovan April 23, 2013 2:46 pm

    I would have liked to read Ackerson’s ideas, but the link seems long gone.

  15. avatar Tricia May 21, 2013 3:47 pm

    Landmann says
    They believe (through a wrong letter assignment) to read the word “oladabas.” Then they put to the level of the word “olazabel” and deem the VMS to be catalane. “Olazabel” is Basque.

    I wonder if that was ever tested more?

  16. avatar TB June 22, 2013 1:47 pm

    @Nickpelling

    Was just looking through comments, and you mentioned that no polyalphabetic ciphers had been invented.
    This is untrue, Leon Battista Alberti invented a known polyalphabetic cipher, the Alberti cipher, and was alive in the early half of the 15th century, so it is possible that his ideas had spread among a select few including VM’s author.

  17. avatar nickpelling June 22, 2013 2:31 pm

    TB: Alberti’s work on ciphers is well-known, but if you read his 1467 book De Componendis Cyfris, his invention of a cipher disk was specifically triggered by a conversation he had with his friend Leonardo Dati in Rome in 1465.

    There is, to the very best of my knowledge, no flicker of a mention of polyalphabetic ciphers before this date (though, as always, I’d be delighted to hear about any information or evidence to the contrary).

    http://www.nickpelling.com/

  18. avatar Diane June 22, 2013 5:10 pm

    Don’t know about ciphers, but I read recently that Arabic was sometimes written with Hebrew letters, though with numerals written in Coptic style (not Indian).
    and so
    http://hmmlorientalia.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/syriac-letters-and-coptic-numerals/

  19. avatar DC July 29, 2013 12:59 am

    Has it ever been considered that what is thought of as a character is actually a whole word? 200 pages is not much space to write a detailed medical book. Compressing words into characters would allow a lot of space saving. This insight offered to me when attempting to decipher Korean code in a programming problem.

    In chemistry there would be perhaps the twenty most common words like boil, concentration, titrate, pH, dissolve, temperature, etc along with a method for constructing odd terms. These would correspond to a letter. There needs to be numbers also. If I were a student or teacher of chemistry I would and have made my own shorthand. Try keeping up with university physics lectures and making notes in prose. It is not practical, it’s onerous and wastes precious lab time also.

    So when these frequency analyses are done, they seem to be cross-correlated with languages in general, why not specific science books of the time written in deciphered languages?

    Why not start by taking a science book often time, finding the most common words like boil and dry and dissolve and make the shorthand. Write out the book in shorthand, do a frequency analysis and then cross correlate that with the manuscript?

    You can email me comments to enrol@DivinIT.com

  20. avatar Adriana September 23, 2013 5:17 pm

    This author suggest that it might have been written by a young Leonardo Da Vinci when he was around 10 years old. That might explain the poor drawings (thet are very childish, and is not hard to thing he invented some of the plants, like any child will do) here ‘s the link : http://www.edithsherwood.com/index.php

    http://www.edithsherwood.com/index.php

  21. avatar Menno Knul September 23, 2013 8:52 pm

    Adriana, I don’t think that the drawings of the plants in the VMS are childish, even if difficult to identify. I would not know about a child of 10 years old, who would be able to invent plants, know about astrology and astronomy in detail, would depict nude women in baths and invent a script that no one could read. Not even Leonardo da Vinci.

    By the way, the origin of the VMS seems to me much older than is indicated by carbon dating. Probably 12th-13th century, when various towns and regions in Italy had yet their own scripts. The carbon dating pertains to the present VMS binding, not to its predecessor(s), so called libellae with various contents.

    http://www.rodinbook.nl

  22. avatar Patrick David October 21, 2013 1:33 am

    http://ambushprinting.com/voynich-book/

    The link above is the Voynich Manuscript reproduction for sale. handmade and full size including the fold-outs.

  23. avatar nickpelling October 21, 2013 7:42 am

    Patrick David: thanks for leaving three basically identical comments linking to what is presumably your own printing company. But… are you aware of the other Voynich Manuscript reproductions already out there? I know of at least three (French, Russian, Czech), all selling for roughly a fifth of what you’re charging for yours.

    http://www.nickpelling.com/

  24. avatar Patrick David October 28, 2013 3:59 am

    Nick, I’m curious to know where you can find those book. I have really looked everywhere for reproduction and couldn’t find any? I just figured since I wanted a real authentic reproduction others would too. The price I know is a lot, but since I sold a few i should be Cutting that in half soon.

  25. avatar kbnz November 15, 2013 4:55 am

    I would buy one if the price was halved Patrick.

  26. avatar mark stahley December 22, 2013 10:38 pm

    I had some luck relating the peripheral words to numbers.relating to the calculation of pi. (22/7)
    I used g= “=”
    v= “-”
    a= “+”
    e= “x”
    0=”total”
    G=3
    & or 8=2
    ?=5
    double loop=10
    aGoe8e8g0
    3(+)(x) 2×2=total
    6 + 5 x2 =22

  27. avatar Young collegestudent February 27, 2014 3:02 am

    Has anyone pondered the possibility of it originating from another dimension? We cannot identify the pigments used in the ink, the plants used in the drawings, or the language. What if this text is from another dimension in the sense that someone actually somehow traveled to this alternate dimension and brought this text back or composed this text during his travels in said alternate dimension?
    Just a thought.

  28. avatar David C. Rea May 7, 2014 4:35 pm

    This manuscript is of Martian origin, the strange astrological interpretations, the plants which don’t seem to exist on this planet. And last and finally a language that cannot be deciphered by humanity, or any “earthling” because the language and the writing system did not originate on our planet. Considering an advanced language beyond our own may be impossible to decipher even given thousands of years without access to this language in any other form. This book which seems to be drawn on parchments from earth, by an earthlings hand, may in fact shed light on the fact that advanced beings from Mars have “abducted” Earths inhabitants and given them tours of their own home planet. I had even heard some theories that suggest Leonardo Da Vinci could have written the book as a child. Perhaps he was the “abducted” taken and taught about another planet and it’s biology with sensitivity to the beings that inhabit the said planet. Could this be why Da Vinci was often interested by flying machines, and designs, if you flew once in a machine you would know it was possible and perhaps even dedicate your own time towards this modern marvel.

    The renaissance, an evolution of humanity. I don’t find it hard to believe that an advanced race would attempt to make some kind of contact with people that could be trusted. I believe this book to be a renaissance humans field book from their visitation to Mars, fostered by Martians. Thus the book was required to be written in their language and writing which was also taught to our renaissance human.

    “In school do I not learn how to read, and write in our language, and then learn about our planet, the things that inhabit it, and our history using this language?”

    I am merely basing this off of what I have researched about mars currently. There is writing on the planet surface that matches the symbolism of the writing found in the manuscript. And almost all of Google Mars is blotched out in red swaths and the only bits of high definition released look like mountains fields, trees, and bushes. So what is NASA really keeping under the covers. I can see my neighbor on Google Earth but they’ve had satellites circling mars for years, and all we get is a little questionable swath of visible land? Think about it.

  29. avatar Diane May 13, 2014 3:25 pm

    Dear all, pick up a piece of Indian woodblock-printed fabric, or a Persian tile, or look at some old (i.e. pre-Roman) wall-paintings or even some medieval church wood-carving. The plants are not meant to reproduce botanical specimens whether or not meant to evoke a well-known plant.

    What we have in MS Beinecke 408 are not “plants unknown on this planet” but images… and ones that may well evoke a known plant in its more important aspects without conforming to our idea that plant drawings should be specimen drawings. Such does not appear to have been their purpose at all.

  30. avatar Mirgry May 19, 2014 1:40 am

    Greetings, All,

    I have been studying herbs for myself recently. I know that sometimes leaves, stems and roots of a plant are used together, and sometimes singly, due to one part being poisonous and the other parts not. Is it possible that the plants do not represent actual plants, but rather a pictorial combination of a concoction? For example, the leaves of Plant A, the stems of Plant B, and the root of Plant C? There are many remedies that use multiple plants to achieve the desired effect. Perhaps if a non-reader were to use the manuscript as a guide, that person would still know what plants were used in which combination. This was my first thought upon learning of the ‘mixed’ plant pictures and I only offer this possibility as a reasoning for the possible mix and match. This is my first introduction to the VM. Regards.

  31. avatar Mirgry May 19, 2014 1:43 am

    I have read that there are over 170,000 glyphs in the VM. Having just recently stumbled upon this mystery, I was wondering if anyone has put together a list of the glyphs? It would certainly save time from me going through and creating my own list. Regards.

  32. avatar hakan June 6, 2014 7:22 am

    In f68r2, The diagram contains 59 stars. Ptolemy (Batlamyus) calculated the distance to the moon as 59 times earth’s radius. This diagram may indicate distance between Earth and the Moon???

  33. avatar hakan June 6, 2014 7:29 am

    Perhaps this 59 stars referring to lunar calendar. The average length of the lunar month is 29.5 days.
    29.5 x 2: 59 days
    Who knows

  34. avatar hakan June 6, 2014 7:31 am

    continue to work…

  35. avatar hakan June 11, 2014 7:22 am

    Have you noticed, the stars drawn different. Some of whom six-pointed, some of seven pointed, some of eigth pointed. I even saw nine cornered. Why not drawn all the same ? Normally, draws everyone the same way. This should be troublesome. Perhaps, this is key the cipher. What do you think about this?

  36. avatar hakan June 11, 2014 8:08 am
  37. avatar Micah L Dean June 13, 2014 7:37 pm

    In respect to everyone’s opinion they are wrong. The voynich manuscript is actual a medicine research book. And it can be proven

  38. avatar nickpelling June 14, 2014 8:39 am

    Micah: the mechanics of such a proof would be the interesting thing – right now, it’s very difficult to prove even the most basic assertions about the Voynich Manuscript. :-|

    http://www.nickpelling.com/

  39. avatar mary June 19, 2014 6:24 am

    I will always maintain that the ‘best’ solution/explanation for the Voynic lies in the area of outsider art. The book was the product of someone with skill s and access to materials but had gone to some other reality in their head. Possibly after being a skilled illuminator in a scriptorium somewhere. If the text is ever deciphered it will be meaningless -other than to the author. Those intrigued by it should visit two galleries in Europe. One on the edge of Lille and the other in Paris. Both are wonderful and crammed with art made by people whose field of reference is way beyond the ‘normal’….

  40. avatar nickpelling June 19, 2014 10:53 am

    Mary: thanks for dropping by. Outsider art has long been a popular Voynich meta-theory: but as time has gone by, we (Voynich researchers) have come to understand that the Voynich Manuscript was the product both of an ordered mind and (as it has ended up over time) of a disordered page evolution. In those places where we have been able to reconstruct its original (pre-quiration) gathering and bifolio nesting order, we have discovered additional layers of orderliness.

    All of which is not sufficient to completely rule out outsider art, but I think they are strong indications that the ‘outsiderness’ of the manuscript is only one of several truths that hold simultaneously.

    http://www.nickpelling.com/

  41. avatar hakan July 17, 2014 12:04 pm

    I have a strange theory, but nobody cares anyway

  42. avatar M. Sox July 17, 2014 11:54 pm

    I am very curious,hakan

  43. avatar B Deveson July 18, 2014 10:24 pm

    Hakan, I take it from what you said that there are no five pointed stars?
    If there are no five pointed stars in the VM, but plenty of six, seven, eight and nine pointed stars, then this could be a clue to the provenance of the VM. A lack of five pointed stars would seem to imply a prohibition on their use. I have conducted some searches but I can find no clear evidence of such a prohibition at any time or place. But, the five pointed star has religious meaning, particularly in Christianity and in Islam. I wonder if Islam had a prohibition against five pointed stars in the fifteenth Century?

  44. avatar M. Sox July 20, 2014 8:04 pm

    It happens rare that a author considers his own theory strange.
    When you will publish your theory,hakan ?

  45. avatar B Deveson July 21, 2014 8:58 am

    If five pointed stars are not present in the VM, then, to me at least, this implies a prohibition of some sort. I have not been able to confirm that five pointed stars do not occur in the VM because of a) eye trouble, and b) I am out in the mulga and only have access to an old computer with a poor screen. I did discover that in the fifteenth century the Star of David (Seal or Shield of Solomon) was a five pointed star, not six pointed.
    So, maybe the VM has a Jewish provenance?

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