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Nice article on the Voynich manuscript

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deuce

Colin Wilson tried to say it was the Necronomicon. Utterly impossible if one takes HPL's descriptions -- of the admittedly fake tome -- at face value. If he was wrong, who could possibly be considered trustworthy?  Wilson was always running off and doing his wildly unorthodox "take" on the Mythos. It never resulted in anything noteworthy or entertaining, IMO, and that would be the only justification for such shenanigans.

 

All things considered, I've come to the conclusion that the Voynich manuscript is an elaborate hoax perpetrated in the 1400s. Considering what its actual contents are, it's not even particularly disturbing. It's just an oddity. I have more expectation of something interesting being below Oak Island than I do in regard to the Voynich book.

 

By the way, RB, I'm not saying anything against you posting this. The long, tangled tale is interesting. I simply needed to get that off my chest.  :-D

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JeffErwin

I'm using the Voynich Manuscript in my Elizabethan campaign, of course. There are a number of direct connections between Dee, of course, and the remnants of the library of the Greyfriars in Oxford where Bacon's manuscripts were... but there's no evidence that Bacon actually had anything to do with the VM. Arthur Dee mentioned a book that's somewhat similar, with indecipherable hieroglyphs, in his father's library.

 

A few of the plants in the book look very similar to those found in mediaeval herbals. This website has some persuasive examples but I don't feel as confident about certain other hypotheses in it: http://www.edithsherwood.com/index.php.

 

I suspect personally the work was created out some sort of mania. The work seems too elaborate to be worth forging.

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billwalsh

I actually use the Voynich as a Macguffin in my novel, Tales from the Black Chamber (which I describe here). As one of nature’s pessimists, I tend to lean towards the hoax theory, although if you ever go through a facsimile of it, the sheer size, density, and variety of the content does give you pause. One could have made a credible hoax a lot more simply. if, as I certainly hope, it’s a legit work, I suspect it’s perhaps both got an odd (and probably erratic) encoding, maybe with a lot of null characters that aren't the spaces, and that may be in an obscure-ish language (or dialect) that hasn't been tested yet. But who knows.

 

For those interested in some serious folks taking hard looks at it, my acquaintance Nick Pelling has a ton of stuff on his website, Cipher Mysteries, and of course René Zandbergen’s voynich.nu is probably the best single site on the internet about it.

 

Hope this is of interest…

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balhaza

Thanks for the information on the Voynich Manuscript. I will be checking it out. Still considering if I should get a print version myself knowing there is no way I will be reading that.

That said, a very recent incident comes to mind when discussing about the Voynich Manuscript and that is the curious case of the Brazilian man, Bruno Borges, who supposedly disappeared from his room full of encrypted text - extremely ordered written and placed i must add, after locking himself in for 20+ days. He also left 14 books encrypted in code.

There is an active reddit thread about it and it seems that some of the code has been broken though part of it has yet to be solved. If this a kind of mania, similar to what may have inspired the Voynich Manuscript, it might be interesting inspirations for occult/Mcguffins.

https://www.reddit.com/r/conspiracy/comments/64xhnm/news_updates_about_the_story_of_bruno_borges_the/

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billwalsh

Glad it was helpful! Yale has just put out a very nice facsimile edition of the Voynich ms., so I'd recommend that one. It has some good scholarly material in it as well. There is, also, an older French facsimile edition (Le code Voynich) which you might be able to find used.

 

Thanks for the Borges link, I'll check it out…

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JMG

I'll second Billwalsh's recommendation of the Yale facsimile edition - gorgeously produced and beautifully photographed. It begs for better Mythos treatment than Wilson gave it.

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JeffErwin

Perhaps it comes from some sort of parallel universe, like the Codex Seraphinianus. Or is the work of a Yithian...

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billwalsh

Well, JMG, if I can modestly suggest my book…  :? Although I'm the first to admit, I did not set out to write a canonical Mythos work, but I did consciously make it not-incompatible with the fictional history of HPL's world in many respects.

 

rlyehNC, that's a great cartoon. I hadn't seen that!

 

JeffErwin, I like the idea that it's Yithian language. Would explain a lot!

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JMG

Billwalsh, so noted! I wasn't thinking of "Tales of the Black Chamber" as a Mythos work at all -- mind you, I haven't read it yet, but it's come up for discussion in a couple of places as a lively supernatural-adventure tale. Apologies if you felt dissed; in penance, I'll move it way up the buy-this-and-read-it list.

 

If I'd been thinking, I'd have included the Voynich Manuscript in my inverted-Mythos novels, but that didn't occur to me when I was plotting things out. Oh well.

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billwalsh

Wow, JMG, I am rather shocked (in a pleasant way) that it's come up at all anywhere outside my immediate family. I'm not the world's best self-publicist, so it always amazes me to hear of any word of mouth. And, yep, it's a fun little entertainment, I think. Hope you like it whenever it it crosses your path. I hope to check out your novels at some point! I did just pick up some of your reference works on Amazon…

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JMG

Billwalsh, I've got a couple of friends who devour that sort of thing -- the kind of people who adore Dion Fortune's "Dr. Taverner" stories et al. -- so there was a certain cosmic inevitability at work. ;-) I hope it sells well. Is this your first published work?

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billwalsh

Thanks very much, JMG. Hope it's enjoyable. Yep. First published work, which is kind of funny as it was written mostly to entertain some old friends (many of whom were CoC confrères back in the day).

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yronimoswhateley

...All things considered, I've come to the conclusion that the Voynich manuscript is an elaborate hoax perpetrated in the 1400s. Considering what its actual contents are, it's not even particularly disturbing. It's just an oddity. I have more expectation of something interesting being below Oak Island than I do in regard to the Voynich book....

 

I had to reach the same conclusion myself after looking at the evidence carefully.  Nevertheless, between that bizarre fake language and especially those weird, wild childish scrawls that pass for illustrations, there's a lot of surprisingly imaginative stuff, whether it can be blamed on the carelessness and naivete of the illustrator, or a genuine effort at creativity.  You could do much worse than loot this amusing oddity of a hoax for cool ideas for stories and RPG scenarios!

 

200px-Voynich_manuscript_bathtub2_exampl

 

What the heck is going on in illustrations like this one?

 

Between the artist's hideous lack of skill and the strong likelihood that it's just random doodles in the margin of a book that doesn't mean anything, I don't know either, but I bet that if you just have fun with it and don't let reality get in your way, any story you cook up to explain it is probably going to be amusing!

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JeffErwin

There's a theory that the art of all the naked "nymphs" is an elaborate treatise on mineral bathing, which was (as in Europe now) a significant part of semi-mystical medical practice. The art actually resembles the sort of amateur work found in a lot of mediaeval books that were more for practical use than display.

 

Another possibility is that it's an alchemical treatise and the imagery uses encoded symbolism. Alchemical works were deliberately obscure. The word "gibberish" probably derives from the name of JÄbir ibn HayyÄn - an Arabic alchemist whose work rivals post-structuralist philosophy in its abstruse jargon.

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JMG

The thing that makes it fascinating to me is that it's pretty clearly divided into thematic sections. The first section gives detailed if crude colored drawings -- the sort of thing you routinely find in medieval manuscripts -- of dozens of plants, none of which seem to be identifiable in terms of earthly botany. (The plants aren't marginal doodles -- they fill the center of the page, and have the text fitted around them.) Then there's a set of circular diagrams that seem to show constellations and seasons. Then you get the bathing beauties -- and not all of them are marginal drawings, either -- and then more circular diagrams; then more herbs; and finally a long series of what appear to be descriptions of the influences of individual stars. If it's fakery, someone went to immense effort to make something that seems to make sense: a medieval medical text, basically, that covers herbal medicine, healing baths, and the influence of astrology, which was much used by medieval doctors.

 

You can see the whole thing online here: www.bibliotecapleyades.net/ciencia/esp_ciencia_manuscrito07a.htm

 

Seriously weird, and seriously cool.

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billwalsh

I should mention the theory of Nick Pelling, among others, who claim it both is and isn't a fake. That is, a lot of it is nonsense and filler, but that something in it justified the immense effort and in some places quite skilled execution of it. Pelling’s rather wild theory is that the illustrations (he spends more time on the plants, I believe) are actually encoded technical drawings for various types of mechanisms. He looks at the architect-engineer Alberti as a candidate, as I recall, and hypothesizes that he encoded a variety of engineering “blueprints†in order to be able to travel with them to the Ottoman Empire without having them stolen or suspected. Not sure the details of his scenario hang together, but the idea that it could be a mixture of fakery and legitimately encoded content of one sort or another is not ridiculous.

 

However, I tend to suspect that absent someone finding a key or a reference outside the text, whatever encoding there is (if there is any!) is good enough that we may never figure it out…

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balhaza

I've not gone into detail about the Voynich Manuscript nor about the theories around. Just want to comment that the image that yronimoswhateley provided is quite reminiscent of the anatomy of neurons. I'm not sure about bathing nymphs unless it was a very rudimentary understanding of "beings" active within cells, as its only recently that people have begun to grasp the concepts of cells and intracellular structures.

But I am totally onboard on using the material in it for game/story purposes.

e50f4fb21c8f4422c1c7604c0a0a9dfb.jpg
 

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JeffErwin

I, errrrr..., have a working theory on the manuscript's origins that fits several of the known facts. I would have to partner with a cryptographer knowledgable in South Slavic languages to pursue it, however.

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billwalsh

I, errrrr..., have a working theory on the manuscript's origins that fits several of the known facts. I would have to partner with a cryptographer knowledgable in South Slavic languages to pursue it, however.

Well, I'm out. My only Slavic language is Russian, and I'm not a cryptographer. That said, if you're in Monterey, maybe put a “help wanted†sign on a bulletin board outside the DLI…

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heresiarch

I, errrrr..., have a working theory on the manuscript's origins that fits several of the known facts. I would have to partner with a cryptographer knowledgable in South Slavic languages to pursue it, however.

 

Try the NSA.  I'm semi serious, they have had an on-going research program into the Voynich Manuscript since the 1950s. 

 

Both William Friedman (the father of American cryptography) and Brigadier John Tillman (Bletchley Park and later a consultant to the NSA) ran research groups working on the VM.  The reason is that the Voynich Manuscript text passes the tests for an enciphered natural language, and regardless whether the manuscript is Medieval or a C20 fake, the NSA want to know how someone created a pencil and paper cryptosystem capable of passing their tests. 

 

The NSA published a summary of their research in 1978, which is available on-line: "The Voynich Manuscript: an elegant enigma" Mary D'Imperio, NSA CSS 1978.

 

https://www.nsa.gov/about/cryptologic-heritage/historical-figures-publications/publications/misc/assets/files/voynich_manuscript.pdf

 

Of course, this is also great material for 1920s, Atomic Age Cthulhu and Delta Green. 

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billwalsh

Seems like quite a reach and generalizing from a very few data points (and absences). Who knows, though?

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JeffErwin

Seems like quite a reach and generalizing from a very few data points (and absences). Who knows, though?

 

Having my own theory - which is in fact shared by a few others - I have to say that the evidence presented also supports my own suspicion. I think the evidence of non-Christian and Mediterranean/north Italian origin is plausible - though I feel it supports my theory better. But there are other groups besides Jews to consider.

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