Sad News- Stephen Bax

As many in the Voynich Community know, Stephen Bax passed away suddenly and too soon, on the 22nd November 2017.

Our father Stephen was a man with many passions and interests, but the Voynich Manuscript was one of his central focuses in recent years.

We will be keeping this website (stephenbax.net) open in his honour so that those interested can continue to theorise, debate and even decipher the Voynich manuscript. Having a space for all Voynich related discussion was, after all, a main reason he created this website. His work on the Voynich will now be continued by all of you.

RenĂ© Zandbergen , a close Voynich collaborator of my Father’s will be the best person for more technical questions.

To read more about Stephen’s life, his obituary can be found in the Times Higher Education .

Another legacy of his, Text Inspector, will also be continued by friends and collegues.

Over to you now.

Andrew & Michael Bax

p.s We look forward to comments on how we can help you all get to the bottom of this mysterious manuscript!

9 Comments

  1. I have been wondering about John Dee’s role in the creation or previous discovery of the Voynich Manuscript. Dee was a famous 16th century polymath and adviser to Queen Elizabeth I. He owned the largest library in all of England, and seemed to have an obsession with cryptography. Ian Fleming gave James Bond his code name 007 after John Dee, who was apparently the first 007. About half of the one hundred books that have been found belonging to Dee (with his notes in the margin) were put on display at the Royal College of Physicians in 2016. It includes Johannes Trithemius’s “Cryptographic Book Polygrahie” of 1561. He also would have had access to Heinrich Agrippa’s treatise “Three Books on Occult Philosophy” that includes a curious table of the Witch’s Alphabet or Theban Alphabet. Look very closely at this script. It is not associated with any language. It was used exclusively to encode spells. This script reminds me of the VM in many ways. John Dee practiced magic, studied astronomy, and practiced astrology. He encrypted messages for the Queen. Dee owned an Aztec mirror, which he used to create spells on a daily basis. Many of the plants found in the VM are from Mexico and the Americas. Botanists have recently discovered that some of the plants in the VM come from Mexico. Dee may have been familiar with Nahuatl, which is the Aztec language. This language was spoken by natives in Mexico during Dee’s lifetime.

    Since John Dee owned a large library of manuscripts, it could have included older books with blank vellum pages. Could some of these blank pages been cut out and used by Dee to create the VM? Could they have dated from 1404 to 1438? This is close to the time of Agrippa, who was also a polymath like Dee, and abscessed with codes. Theresa Barns and J. Alan Moore have written an article called “John Dee and Edward Kelly’s Great Table (or What’s this Grid For. Anyway?) http://www.jwmt.org/v2n18/tablets.html They talk about Dee’s possible use of this table to communicate with Angles (or extraterrestrials). It just shows more of Dee’s encrypting strategies. Dee had been arrested during his life by the Church for possible heresy. He had a narrow escape, possibly owing to his close association with Queen Elizabeth. Dee wanted to make certain that the Church would never be able to decipher his writings about anything. He buried books in large chests around his yard. Some of these books were no doubt concerning his communications with angels. See “A Beautiful Mind”. Paranoia may have set in as he grew older.

    The VM came into the possession of Emperor Rudolph II via the head of his botanical gardens, Jacobus Tepenecz. The VM was sold to Tepenecz for gold. It is likely that either John Dee or Edward Kelley sold it to him, as they were working for the Emperor at the time, and John Dee needed the money. Dee had to sell off many of his precious books to make ends meet after King James came to the throne.

    The VM is written in a beautiful script that seems to include elements of the Theban Alphabet, Egyptian astrological symbols, and other alchemist symbols that would have been known to Dee. The names of the botanical plants are in Nahuatl (Aztec language). Blank pages could have been cut from older manuscripts, and pieced together to create a new manuscript. The VM would have taken a master cryptographer to create it. Dee was a brilliant polymath, who was asked to lecture on Euclidean math in Paris. The VM would also have required a master Astrologer to create it. If the VM had actually been created in 1404 -1438 (the time indicated by the carbon dating), then it would have been too early for Europeans to have access to the New World, or Aztec speaking natives. The VM needed to be produced after 1492 and before the death of the botanist Tepenecz in 1622. Rudolph II reigned 1576 to 1612. John Dee and Edward Kelley had audiences with Rudolph II in Prague around 1583, while they were touring Europe (and communing with angels). If Dee is the one who sold the VM to Tepenecz, then it is likely that the VM was created before this date. It is possible that John Dee created the alphabet in the VM as his language of the Angles, or Enochian language. If so, he may have been in a trance state when he wrote the manuscript. This might explain the strange visions in the book. John Dee loved to doodle in the margins of the books that he owned. Some of these doodles are still visible in his collection. You can also view samples of his hand writing to get an idea if they a similar to the VM. It seems that Dee’s hand writing was similar, but not as perfect as the VM. Food for thought.

  2. I am saddened to hear of the loss of Stephen Bax. I appreciate everything he did to advance the decoding of the VM. He was an inspiration to us all.

  3. JP

    The Voynich manuscript sits in an academically uncomfortable space between fact and fiction – a void easily filled with wild speculation, self-delusion and monomaniacal fantasy. Prof. Bax brought with him an extensive background in linguistics but also the bravery to tackle something which most credible people shy away from. He clearly inspired and facilitated rigour and rational discourse where it had so often been lacking.

    As someone watching only occasionally from the sidelines, I was saddened to learn of his death and at such a relatively young age too. I can but only express admiration for the scientist and communicator that he was and send belated commiserations to his family and friends.

  4. Erik

    Really saddened by the news. My condolences to his family.

  5. Tom O'Neil

    This deeply saddened me because Bax and I were a little contentious. I hope all is well with his family Bax really pushed me to strive for a cipher in my own way. I’ll miss him.

    BAX was a great Voynich Warrior:

    Here is my work so far.

    https://voynichcipher.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/what-happened-to-the-voynich-manuscript.pdf

  6. Dear Andrew and Michael,
    Your father will be much missed in the Voynich community. His ideas inspired much good debate and simulated intellectual discussion.
    I feel privileged to have been able to discuss some of these ideas with him, and will always remember him as he was the last time I met him in Burgos, a charming and intelligent man.
    My fellow mods at the Voynich. Ninja have asked me to pass on our little community’s thanks for your initiative, and our regards and best wishes to your family.

  7. Dear Andrew and Michael,

    many thanks for this initiative!

  8. MarcoP

    Dear Andrew and Michael,
    I would like to express my deepest sympathies to you and your family. I greatly miss Stephen. I discovered the Voynich manuscript thanks to the paper he published in 2014. Since then, I have spent many wonderful hours following Stephen’s ideas and looking for related evidence in ancient texts and diagrams. I am grateful for your initiative to keep this site active: I often come back to it to reread Stephen’s insights and to enjoy once again the clarity and kindness that permeate everything he wrote.

  9. D.N. O'Donovan

    I’d like to express my gratitude for your father’s generosity to those interested in Beinecke MS 408, and for yours in keeping this site open. I trust that whoever takes on the difficult task of deciding what information, and what comments are to appear will be as fair-minded as he was.

    For what it is worth, I felt that his sense of the text as being in a Persian-related dialect was very probably correct, although I do wish he had been able to explore further the Persian-related dialects of which we know. I doubt there is anyone else at present with the same skills, or the same degree of dispassionate scholarly interest in the manuscript’s language – his willingness to consider all possibilities suggested by the evidence and to give theory-spinning a much lower priority than evidence itself was of enormous value, and its being so suddenly removed from the discussion will surely set back this study by decades. There is simply no-one else with the requisite intelligence, training, natural ability or disposition who is able to take his place.

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