Why the Voynich manuscript is not a hoax (part 1)

Some people consider that the Vm is a hoax, created perhaps by a sort of grille. I think I’ve answered that comprehensively in my paper, by showing that it can’t possibly be a hoax, as it contains real semantic content.  But in any case, why on earth would anyone waste their time on creating a  hoax of this kind? It’s just not credible, is it?

Yesterday I found this nice account from David Kahn’s book “The Codebreakers”. Although it was written before the hoax mania set in, I still think it is eminently sensible – I can’t argue with any of it. The highlighting is mine:

“Is it [the Voynich manuscript], then, just a gigantic hoax, like the Cardiff giant or the Piltdown man or the fossils of Professor Beringer? Nobody involved with it seems to think so—and this includes those who have been rebuffed by it. The work is too well organized, too extensive, too homogeneous. Nothing repeats larger than a group of five words, whereas in actual hoaxes, such as the fake hieroglyphic papyri sometimes sold to tourists in Egypt, much longer phrases are repeated. Moreover, the words in the text recur, but in different combinations, just as in ordinary writing. Even if it were a hoax, there seems to be no point to having made it so long. Most critically, the medieval quasi-science that was seeking the philosopher’s stone and the elixir of life while the manuscript was being written was too credulous to entertain the concept of a hoax.

David Kahn (The Codebreakers: The Comprehensive History of Secret Communication from Ancient Times to the Internet) 1996 p871.

Surely Kahn is right? In summary:

1. the VM is ‘too extensive and homogenous’ to be a hoax. Why would anyone add pages and pages of extra text at the end, completely unnecessarily, to create a hoax?

2. There is repetition, but not as much as a typical hoaxer would use.

3. The text shows other patterns which closely resemble real writing.

4. Again, why make a hoax so long?

5. No-one at the time would have believed it, so why bother to do it?

By the way, I’m ignorant of any 15th century manuscript hoaxes of any kind……. does anyone know of any?

 

 

22 Comments

  1. One other comment for all the code at this site is free for you to copy; just look at the source and yes please if you can when making your site make it visible on all computers. In the fonts directory you can download them.

    http://voynichlanguage.orgfree.com/index.html

  2. The voynich manuscript is not a hoax, nor a cipher. In fact and I hate writing this, but it is not a known language. The words and voynich letters meaning died with the author. My suspicions about the voynich in regards to a language only conveyed meaning to its writer. I feel that the author was def and perhaps mentally ill, yet highly intelligent in a sense from an artistic point of view. If you research the text like I have you will find when trying to map an alphabet to the voynich letters impossible. In the end the consonants or vowels become garbage in garbage out.

    Of course I could be wrong then the text would be a language and yes a very convoluted cipher. It would flat out be an entire text of anagrams with entire sentences mixed or at least two voynich words used to form words. On top of that then there could be just plain gibberish in the code too. After looking over the voynich for seven years now the likely hood of a clear translation from beginning to end will never be realized for eternity.

    Let history show this

    Hope is not gone there remains a book which does contain answers.

    http://www.amazon.com/Voynich-Manuscript-Unchopped-Volume-Unchoped/dp/1497489172

  3. Mark Sullivan

    Hoax? Perhaps there is a more innocent explanation…

    (attached image courtesy of xkcd.com)

    • Stephen Bax

      You got it! :-) Solved at last!

  4. Kent

    I think it’s a hoax Steve. An extended royal hoax. Someone asked for a royal funding to explore the ** new world **. It goes with the discovery era. The funding granted but The Man didn’t really go any where near any new world. He then hired some local scribe to create a hoax manuscript of royal quality to convince the royal court that indeed a new world existed, with different lingo and of course a totally different “new world”. He could probably asked for more funds after sending in that ‘proof’.

    The entire scenario of the Manuscript is about giving an impression of the existence of “a new world”.

  5. BERNARD MCKERNAN

    I assume the Wycliffe library of linguistics in Waxhau NC has been utilized for content.It contains all of the known written languages….

  6. Why are people fixated on the idea of the Vonynich Manuscript as a hoax? Why couldn’t it just be a crank like Nostradamus? Perhaps the author is writing of magical properties of plants and other items. The writer uses a code so he can’t be accused of practicing magic and then being burned at the stake until dead, or at least golden-brown and properly repentant.

    • Bigzebra
      RichSantacoloma, who maintains the Voynich mailing list, has been arguing the “hoax” scenario for years. Then Gordon Rugg suggested the written part of the text was a fake, generated rather than written or enciphered. And since then many people who have realised they’ll probably never get a solution, have drifted or jumped to the same camp. I have no opinion about the written text, but the manuscript, its materials, the finish and date of the parchment, and all the internal details of the imagery persuade me that even if the written part were gibberish, the rest of the work has integrity – that is, not just genuine but coherent in terms of history and art. It’s just not from art of the European Christian tradition. I doubt if it’s in any sense magical; it strikes me as a work of immense practicality and therefore (given its subject matter) of real value.

  7. Mark Stevens

    I would love to contribute to its decipherment but don’t know what I could do.
    I downloaded a copy last year .

    Thanks
    Mark Stevens

    • Stephen Bax

      Thanks Mark – that depends on which area interests you – plants? Stars? Language? Lots of areas are open for study! The best thing to do is see what others have done – maybe at voynich.nu?

      Good luck with it.

  8. Mark Stevens

    I don’t remember where I read it ,ether Paul Solomon or Edgar Casey , that in the Hall of records there are seeds of plants that are no longer growing on the planet.
    Is it possible that the text is from a previous ancient culture as well as the plants????
    I know it sounds wild or improbable but could it be ….. An Atlantis remnant.

    • Stephen Bax

      I think that an Atlantis theory has been proposed! Maybe an internet search might reveal all?!

  9. daniel aronstein

    it’s a fraud.

    proof: the “names” of two adjacent “signs” on a “zodiac” image are MIRROR-IMAGES of each other.

    http://www.matrixseite.de/gfx/Voynich-ZodiacB-800×600.jpg

    the “word” under the gemini is the mirror image of the “word” under the ram to gemini’s left.

    end of story.

    no real alphabet could do that and no made-up cryptographic one that can be translated, either.

    imho.

    sorry

    • Stephen Bax

      I’m confused – where did you get this picture from? It is not from the Voynich manuscript at all. I think you have been looking at the wrong manuscript!

      • daniel aronstein

        i hope so for you sake! i’ll double check.

        but then you agree: the image i found is NOT a language?

        • Stephen Bax

          That image looks like a composite which someone has invented, using fake Voynich words! Sorry about that.

    • Stuart

      Gemini (the twins)…
      The words that look like
      “oFFcosax” and “oFFgxax”???
      Not quite the same to me…

  10. cf

    “…why on earth would anyone waste their time on creating a hoax of this kind?”

    My thought has always been that I see clearly why Rugg invented his system, because the hoax theory needs a method to explain why modern analysis indicates that it does contain information, in a form consistent with either a natural language or a cipher. So Rugg invents a way to randomly generate something similar.

    But why does a 16th century con artist invent this system, to thwart investigation techniques that won’t be discovered for another four centuries? This was at a time when the Porta table was strong crypto, and to be an expert you only had to be able to solve homophonic ciphers. There wasn’t a person alive at the time who could have determined that one text was an actual cipher or language, and another was just random letters, through analysis alone. The best they could hope for would be strong evidence of a fake after solving the first and eventually giving up on the second after decades of effort.

    Modern day con artists don’t try to thwart future detection techniques, they produce something good enough to get the victim to part with their money, and then they run like hell. In my opinion, Rugg has made an error in logic as serious as putting your cart in front of your horse.

    • Stephen Bax

      Thanks for this – you are way ahead of me in knowledge of such matters! But I do feel that the hoax theory is unlikely, for reasons I mention in my article.

      • Stephen, I am glad that you have a secure reputation in linguistics and that no-one in their right minds could suggest that your contributing to this research was done from any but the most genuine scholarly interest.

        I say this because I have today received a copy of a communication sent by a certain person to others of their circle. The gist of the thing was that everyone should refuse to acknowledge a certain scholar’s work “in case they made a name for themselves”. The object of the slur was not you, but another scholar entirely. My reaction, however, is to re-think whether or not I wish to be part of such a group, even though I still find the manuscript of considerable interest.

        • Stephen Bax

          Hi Diane, I agree. One thing I too find unappealing about some discussions of the Voynich is the occasional envy and competitiveness, linked with quite pointless vituperative attacks on the work of others.

          But please don’t abandon your contributions, which have been immense, hugely well-informed, and most stimulating!

          And please do keep linking to your own interesting blog posts, past and recent: the more cross-linking we do, the more likely we are to find clues!

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