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The Voynich Manuscript Decoded? (edithsherwood.com)
28 points by lt on Dec 14, 2009 | hide | past | favorite | 10 comments

Not really, at least, not this time and not by this person. If it was a set of anagrams, frequency analysis would have matched medieval Italian. See:


It's an interesting approach, and the 'plaintext'/plant matching looks convincing. Many of the words she derives require omitting letters or adding letters to the anagram text. There go standard frequencies. In some cases one letter stands for several (x=>ver). Add to that the likelihood that the author was poor & uneducated, throw in bad spelling but great knowledge of flora.

It'd be awesome if the solution was going under so many heads for so long.

Not if the text has an unusual character distribution.

Which is another way of saying, maybe the book is not in Medieval Italian. You can't write 35k words in a language, jumble the letters, and have it come out with such aberrant statistical properties.

Citing Wikipedia:

"the Voynich manuscript's "language" is quite unlike European languages in several aspects. Firstly, there are practically no words comprising more than ten glyphs, yet there are also few one- or two-letter words. The distribution of letters within words is also rather peculiar: some characters only occur at the beginning of a word, some only at the end, and some always in the middle section."

The link pvg pasted mentions other difficulties.

One wonders if the then-common use of ligatures, abbreviation and short form substitution could account for the apparent discrepancy with the character counts?


If you're intending to be obfuscatory, you might come up with "aberrant statistical properties".

Not over any significant length of text and it's not going to be tremendously aberrant. The text of Gadsby is easy to google, try tossing a chapter or two into a letter frequency counter. The resulting histogram still looks a great deal like what you'd get for plain English.

I don't have the italian language skills to evaluate the theory, but it seems plausible. Attributing it to a young da Vinci just seems silly though. Much like how every interesting quote is attributed to Churchill, Twain and Einstein.

The author does elaborate on that theory in a previous article: http://www.edithsherwood.com/voynich_author_da_vinci

As an Italian speaker, I do recognize some of the words, and they seem to make sense. The spelling is in line with my scarce knowledge of 15th century Italian.

We're used to a very rational way of thinking, whereby one would devise a system and apply consistently throughout the whole text, but from what little I have seen and read of this manuscript, it seems that whoever wrote used lots of artistic license and was intentionally trying to conceal the content. So it could be possible that the writer(s) decided to do away with all manners of grammatical rules, and parts of the language, like article, propositions, and the letters F and Z (if that seems weird, imagine that there was no U in Latin). All the other missing letters are not in the Italian alphabet.

Though, it would be interesting to see how this theory works with the non-herbal sections of the manuscript.

Finally, I totally agree with muddylemon that attributing to Da Vinci is silly. Like he was the only literate Italian alive in 15th century.

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