By Gordon Rugg
I’d never realised how easy it was to decipher the Voynich Manuscript. There have been at least two solutions in the last two weeks (and those are just the ones with press releases).
It’s getting difficult for journalists, researchers, and the public to keep up with decipherments, so I’ll add the latest ones to a list when I hear about them. If I miss any, please drop me a line in the comments section, and I’ll add them. (Please only mention the ones that have had a journal publication and/or a press release, otherwise there will be no chance of keeping the list reasonably up to date.)
Yes, in case you’re wondering, this post is basically humorous. But seriously, anyone who puts out a press release claiming a new solution really ought to check whether their approach contains anything new. Two classic re-inventings of the wheel are:
- “Some words of the Manuscript look like words in this real language.” If you’re claiming that, you should be aware that the “unidentified language” approach was shot down years ago – the text of the manuscript is very different structurally from any known language.
- “The text of the Manuscript is non-random.” Yes, we’ve known that for at least ten years. If you’re going on to claim that therefore it can’t be a meaningless hoax, then you should consider that my proposed hoax solution specifically involves non-random combinations of text.
Here’s the list, helpfully annotated. I hope that it’s useful to readers.
Update, 16 February: I’ve had feedback from one of the authors of a proposed decipherment, saying that I’ve made some errors in my interpretation of their paper. I’ve taken down the section on that article, so that I can discuss the issues with the author in proper depth, and will then amend the article accordingly.
Further update, 17 February: On reflection, it was unkind and unnecessary to give star ratings for features of the purported solutions, so I’ve amended the tables below accordingly, with my apologies to the authors.