The Bax article on a proposed Voynich Manuscript decipherment

By Gordon Rugg

There’s a new claimed decipherment of the Voynich Manuscript, by Stephen Bax. In this blog article, I’ll report what the proposed decipherment claims, as far as possible in Bax’s own words, using screenshots to ensure as much accuracy as possible.

Here’s how it’s described in the press release from his university. I’ve trimmed detail from the middle, for brevity.

Slide1

(snip)

Slide2

http://www.beds.ac.uk/news/2014/february/600-year-old-mystery-manuscript-decoded-by-university-of-bedfordshire-professor

(Update: Some users have had problems with the link above; you might find it easier to use a search engine and follow the most recent link to the story.)

First, the extent of this claimed partial decipherment. Here’s how many words Bax claims to have provisionally deciphered (detail from the complete abstract of his online article, available at his http://www.stephenbax.net website). The italics are in the original Bax article.

bax ten words

If I’ve understood the abstract correctly, the article claims a provisional decipherment of ten words.

Here’s the entire abstract, to make the context clear.

Slide4
To put the ten words in context, here’s the length of the Voynich Manuscript given in the introduction to his article. bax word count3

So that’s ten words possibly identified out of 240 pages.

Next, the methodology used in the paper.

Slide5

He also used another method as a double-check. Readers interested in the technical details of research may be interested in his footnote 11.

Slide6

The result claimed in the article was provisional decipherments of the names of seven plants, and of the name of the constellation Taurus, with ten words claimed to be deciphered in total.

As for the language involved, here’s what the article has to say about the language in which the Voynich Manuscript might be written.

bax language identification

In other words, it might be a language from one of the language families he mentions, or it might be a language from another language family. That appears to make every language, known or unknown, a possibility.

The next steps for future research that the article proposes in its closing section are as follows.

bax conclusion

In summary, I do not find this a convincing decipherment, but others may have different opinions.

Notes

I have used screenshots from the press release and the Bax article under fair use principles, since both documents are already in the public domain, and this blog article is an academic commentary on the work described.

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4 thoughts on “The Bax article on a proposed Voynich Manuscript decipherment

  1. Pingback: Voynich articles overview | hyde and rugg

  2. Great points, Gordon. If you will forgive a “copy/paste”, here is the situation as I see it, which may add to your ideas on this:

    “It is easy to “translate” under a dozen words from the Voynich… many people have done it, or thought they have (they haven’t, unless by chance they hit on one or two words over the past decades… we do not know yet). The next dozen to about 50 words become very hard to rationalize, to contort into a system (of rapidly increasing complexity and built in exceptions). But then, even if one makes it this far… and many also have… they still have tens of thousands of words after that, spreading out in front like acres of quicksand. It is when one realizes that the first 12 or 20 words cannot give a shred of usable insight into the next 20,000, that the system or observation or intuition for results (whatever was used until then), breaks down. And it is also then that one knows… usually… that they do not have the answer.

    “There must be thousands of people who have quietly toiled through this process, then clearly saw the problem. They just as quietly gave up, or tried something new… but not all.”

  3. Dr. Bax,

    Do not stop reading this, it is important for you and all minds are at stake here. Let go of my harshness and open up to other ideas please.

    I’m sorry, but I’m appalled by the interview video regarding the decoding of the Voynich Manuscript which your work represents, especially your references of so many languages involved. The ladies sitting in green water bath’s make sense to me, because of all the Roman bath’s which are mostly green and are still today. I have witnessed this with my eyes for I was all over Italy in 1995 while on a honeymoon.

    You say you have been working only 18 to 20 months on trying to figure out the Voynich. You have to realize you can’t pretend here. What will happen is your system will cave in on itself; when basically you start mixing glyphs and then stating the glyphs represent the same letter or by intertwining several alphabets which you discuss in the video interview with out a proper cipher. Not only do you mention several languages, but you say using your methods, you can decode the Voynich in 2 years from now. Come on I know your a trooper, but I’m sorry you will get taste of reality regarding this project.

    Dr. Bax what I will show you and others who visit your forum is a link to a document; which contains some of the Voynich letters used from a Italian Estate document ironically in Latin. Seriously look at this and it is from Grosseto, Italy. As I have stated at my website this is the area where the Voynich originated. I found this much later after creating my cipher in Italian which pointed towards Castle Cotone, Scansano and Tosi Italy. I feel these odd Voynich symbols in this document where borrowed by the coder to work out the cipher in Italian.

    What I wish for is that you simply realize is that the Voynich cannot possibly be about several languages in your video except Italian. Your hours of frustrations will continue. I hope you come on board with what I have showed you at my website. I know you mentioned Italian in the video and I believe I am the person you referred to who is negative towards your work other than Nick Pelling. Remember after all I found what the Pleiades is actually understood through my cipher.

    Voynich Cipher: cr et c oi ce one eot r a et
    Italian: cacce eterne io te toro
    English: I’ll hunt eternal bull
    http://voynichcode.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/voynich-i-hunt-the-bull2.jpg?w=906&h=906

    Cipher link here:
    http://voynichcode.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/voynichcode.jpg?w=906&h=1053

    Thanks again for this outlet for us all in respects to your work and yes I’m happy that you have garnished further attention for the Voynich Manuscript for that will only bring in other amateurs like my self and professionals. Thanks all here for reading my frustration and venting towards Dr. Bax. Have a look at this and really focus on it. You may find only 1 or 2 mistakes, but my process should open your mind.
    http://voynichcode.wordpress.com/

    Sincerely yours

    Thomas Edward O’Neil
    Author: Voynich Manuscript The Code Unchopped Volume II

    http://www.amazon.com/Voynich-Manuscript-Code-Unchopped-Unchoped/dp/1497489172/ref=sr_1_15?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1398204886&sr=1-15&keywords=Voynich+Manuscript

    Thomas O’Neil

  4. Also I have a side by comparison in which Dr. Bax makes a mistake with the last font in the Pleiades section word which is a voynich, “o”. Here is the link for inquiring minds.

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