A Professor in Applied Linguistics believes he has decoded a few words from the mysterious Voynich Manuscript, a 600-year old work that has baffled scholars for the last hundred years.
Stephen Bax, who teaches at the University of Bedfordshire, has produced a paper and a video where he details his theories on the text and provides translations of ten words from the manuscript, which are proper names of various plants that are depicted in the manuscript.
Professor Bax explains, “I hit on the idea of identifying proper names in the text, following historic approaches which successfully deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs and other mystery scripts, and I then used those names to work out part of the script.
“The manuscript has a lot of illustrations of stars and plants. I was able to identify some of these, with their names, by looking at mediaeval herbal manuscripts in Arabic and other languages, and I then made a start on a decoding, with some exciting results.”
In his paper, A proposed partial decoding of the Voynich script, Bax details his system and how he discovered the words such as Taurus, Juniper, Coriander, Hellebore, Centaurea and Nigella Sativa.
Bax also believes that his findings refute any notions that this manuscript is a hoax. He adds that “The content of the manuscript, at least on the plant pages, seems to be completely in accordance with its outward appearance, namely information about the plants and perhaps their medicinal and other uses. If we look back at the earlier description of typical features of mediaeval herbals, every one of them is evidenced in the analysis in this paper. In other words, the manuscript is probably not a trick document disguising secrets behind a different genre.”
He also speculates that the reason this work is written in a language never seen before was that it was made by a small group of people who belonged to a culture that didn’t have a written form. They created the text, borrowing some European, Middle Eastern and Caucasian elements, to help preserve their knowledge about nature. He adds that “given that the 15th century was a time of upheaval, in Europe in the Balkans, in the Near East with Timurid expansion as far as Turkey and the Black Sea, and also with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453, it is plausible to consider this ‘cultural extinction’ to be a possibility, with the group in question developing a script and literacy, only for it to be extinguished.”
Stephen Bax is seeking input from scholars and those interested in the Voynich Manuscript – he can be contacted through his website http://stephenbax.net/. Meanwhile, he is excited about the possibility that others might use his system to examine other words in the manuscript. He adds, “My aim in reporting on my findings at this stage is to encourage other linguists to work with me to decode the whole script using the same approach, though it still won’t be easy. That way we can finally understand what the mysterious authors were trying to tell us.”
The Voynich Manuscript was first found in 1912 by a book dealer named Wilfrid Voynich. Carbon dating has revealed that the manuscript dates from the first half of the fifteenth-century, but until now scholars have been unable to translate any of the words in its text. Several theories have been proposed about it, including that is was a hoax created by Voynich or that it contained some type of mystical knowledge.