the Voynich Manuscript

While aimlessly browsing through Wikipedia on this lazy Friday afternoon, I stumbled upon an entry on a bizarre late-medieval (1450-1520?) book called the Voynich Manuscript. Written in an unknown, indecipherable language but definitely being European in origin, the contents of this book have puzzled scholars, cryptographers, and linguists since it was re-discovered by a book dealer in 1912.

Judging by the illustrations, the book seems to be divided into herbal, biological, astronomical, cosmological, pharmaceutical, and recipe sections, possibly serving as a reference book or encyclopedia. Analysis of the writing has shown that it was written in a fluid style where the author did not pause to plan the next letter, indicating that the alphabet must have been established before.

However, the lettering and grammar seem to be a hybrid of different languages. The word frequencies follow English or Latin texts, the letter distribution within words resembles Semitic but not Indo-European languages, while another interpretation is that it is an alphabet created by a European to transliterate a foreign exotic language, such as Manchu, Chinese, or Tibetan. Other theories have ranged from it being a product of glossolalia (or speaking in tongues, by channeling an unknown language) to a description of a Cathar suicide ritual. Alternatively, it could just be an elaborate hoax.

Whatever the case, this is very interesting indeed.

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