Unraveling the Voynich Manuscript: would you be up to it?

Remember when we last wrote about the elusive Voynich Manuscript? It’s a vellum book filled with nothing but indecipherable text in an unknown script, paired with elaborate drawings of everything from herbs and plants to female nudes.

image credit: Wikimedia Commons

I know what kind of picture you were expecting, but we’re not having any of that nonsense today!

The manuscript is notoriously difficult to translate

Well, piece by piece, researchers (manuscriptologists?) are attempting to figure out what the text says, and which culture it might have originated from. And just to give you an idea of at what rate they’re succeeding at this, we can now report that a further ten words have been translated.

Thing is, we can’t even be sure if the translation is right

Well, that is, potentially translated. Linguists wouldn’t be linguists if they actually agreed with one another.

LiveScience reports that Applied Linguistics professor Stephen Bax at the University of Bedfordshire hit upon the notion of trying to identify proper names, such as place names and historical figures. This approach had been applied on previous translation efforts of other historical documents, and seems to have proved worthwhile:

LiveScience: [Professor Bax] says he’s deciphered 14 characters of the script and can read a handful of items in the Voynich text, such as the words for coriander, hellebore and juniper next to drawings of the plants. He says he’s also picked out the word for Taurus written beside an illustration of the Pleiades, a star cluster in the constellation Taurus.

image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Yeah, I’d have given up at the dust jacket.

The mystery endures (for now)

So, not exactly the magical book of mysteries of the Universe we were hoping suspecting this might turn out to be. Still, it’s fascinating that even with all our linguistic knowledge and technological prowess, something written in the Middle Ages can still confound the best of us.

Want to still your hunger for obscure, arcane knowledge some more? Head on through to the source link for the full write-up at LiveScience. You can also check out Professor Baxter’s homepage for all the up-to-the-minute updates.

The fact that he has three hats makes me trust him implicitly. Source: Bedfordshire University website