The Voynich manuscript, a book of illustrations and text in a bizarre language that no one has been able to make sense of, may have finally been solved, The Guardian reports. Or at least, researchers believe they’ve figured out what language it’s in, as a starting point.
The manuscript, for those not familiar, is a book believed to date to the 15th century, whose meaning has eluded researchers for centuries. It contains illustrations of nude women, animals (some real, some apparently imaginary), plants (some real, some apparently imaginary), and a text that makes no sense to anyone who has ever tried to read it.
The text somewhat resembles Hebrew, though is written from left to right (not right to left, like Hebrew). The text also contains linguistic descriptors that have convinced researchers that it’s an actual language and not a random series of pen strokes designed to mimic a language.
Other than that, they don’t have much.
So is it coded? Is it written in some ancient and forgotten language? Is it instructions from aliens? Or is it all just an elaborate hoax?
Gerard Cheshire, a linguist and research associate at the University of Bristol, thinks that he’s figured out what language it’s in, according to a paper published in the academic journal Romance Studies.
The Voynich manuscript, a mysterious text from the Middle Ages which has baffled cryptographers since it was found in an Italian monastery in 1912, has been deciphered by researchers @BristolUni, @bbc reports https://t.co/W4dIyXjLzH— New Scientist (@newscientist) May 16, 2019
He believes it was written in proto-Romance, a language which would have been in use around the time of the writing of the manuscript, but which has been lost for centuries. What’s more, he believes it was written by a group of nuns and given to a real person: Maria of Castile, Queen of Aragon.
The book, he believes, is a “compendium of information on herbal remedies, therapeutic bathing and astrological readings,” intended for women and concerned such things as parenting and women’s health.
He also believes it’s the only known surviving text written in proto-Romance.
So has the mystery of the Voynich manuscript finally been solved once and for all? Far from it.
As IFL Science notes, Cheshire’s colleagues in the linguistics community aren’t exactly taking his research as canon.
For example, one linguist, Dr. Kate Miles, notes that a new theory that supposedly “solves” the Voynich manuscript, including one that was reported just months ago by The Inquisitr, comes about a couple of times per year, and all such theories have wound up being much ado about not a lot.
Similarly, Dr. Lisa Fagin Davis, executive director of the Medieval Academy of America, says unequivocally that the supposed proto-Romance language is not actually a thing.
“This is just more aspirational, circular, self-fulfilling nonsense,” she wrote.
So unless and until someone comes up with a translation that the history and linguistics community can all agree on, the mysteries of the Voynich manuscript will have to remain just that: mysteries.