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Posted by on Jun 15, 2020 in TellMeWhy |

What Does the Voynich Manuscript Say?

What Does the Voynich Manuscript Say?

No one knows! What does the Voynich Manuscript say? In fact, experts aren’t even sure what language it’s in. Now, after three years of analysis, the German Egyptologist Rainer Hannig from the Roemer-und Pelizaeus Museum in Hildesheim, believes he has cracked the code to translating the work, and found the manuscript’s language to be based on Hebrew. However, the same study said the document may also be in Malay, Arabic, or Amharic.

Experts think the Voynich Manuscript was written in the 15th Century. Where did it come from? No one is quite sure, but historians believe it came from Central Europe. Since then, it’s passed through several hands. It had earlier belonged to the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, and probably John Dee, the infamous astrologer at British Queen Elizabeth I’s court. Most recently, it was purchased by Wilfrid Michael Voynich, a book dealer, in 1912. That’s where the document got its name.

Since 1969, the manuscript has been kept in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University. A conference is planned to take place in Hildesheim this August for scholars to discuss the breakthrough.

To muddle matters further, the Voynich Manuscript was likely written in code. Most experts think a substitution cipher was used. In this method, a person can encode a message by switching some letters of the alphabet with made-up characters. That means we may never know what was truly written by the author of this mysterious book.

Still, whoever wrote the Voynich Manuscript had a lot to say. Today, the book contains 246 pages. Those who have studied the document say that some pieces may be missing. They also think some pages may be out-of-order.

What keeps people so interested in a book they can’t even read? The Voynich Manuscript is full of strange illustrations. It has images of people, castles, and dragons. There are also drawings of strange plants and astronomical signs. These pictures give experts an idea of what the book may be about. They think it has six sections. These include herbs, astronomy, biology, cosmology, medicine, and recipes. 

Over the years, countless people have tried to read this mysterious book. So far, none have been able to do so. The mathematician Alan Turing even tried to decode the document. He helped break the German Enigma code during World War II. But he was unsuccessful with the Voynich Manuscript.

Most recently, Professor Greg Kondrak and his student Bradley Hauer tried to crack the code. They had the help of Artificial Intelligence. The two used Google Translate to try to identify the language the book was written in. That’s how they decided it was most likely Hebrew.

Next, Kondrak and Hauer tried to unscramble the code itself. Based on their findings, they think they may have decoded the first sentence. It might say, “She made recommendations to the priest, man of the house and me and people.”

Of course, Kondrak and Hauer’s findings aren’t certain. Their interpretation of the first sentence could be wrong. Many experts have pointed out flaws in the experiment. However, it does provide a starting place for those interested in helping to decode this centuries-old manuscript. Will the Voynich Manuscript, an early 15th century document kept at Yale University and known as the world’s most mysterious book, finally reveal its secrets?

Content for this question contributed by Trista Mentz, resident of Bethel Park, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA