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'Mysterious Voynich manuscript has finally been decoded' - 9/9/2017 1:26:08 PM   
Zorch

 

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Or so says this article.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/09/the-mysterious-voynich-manuscript-has-finally-been-decoded/

History researcher says that it's a mostly plagiarized guide to women's health.

Since its discovery in 1969, the 15th century Voynich Manuscript has been a mystery and a cult phenomenon. Full of handwriting in an unknown language or code, the book is heavily illustrated with weird pictures of alien plants, naked women, strange objects, and zodiac symbols. Now, history researcher and television writer Nicholas Gibbs appears to have cracked the code, discovering that the book is actually a guide to women's health that's mostly plagiarized from other guides of the era.

Gibbs writes in the Times Literary Supplement that he was commissioned by a television network to analyze the Voynich Manuscript three years ago. Because the manuscript has been entirely digitized by Yale's Beinecke Library, he could see tiny details in each page and pore over them at his leisure. His experience with medieval Latin and familiarity with ancient medical guides allowed him to uncover the first clues.

After looking at the so-called code for a while, Gibbs realized he was seeing a common form of medieval Latin abbreviations, often used in medical treatises about herbs. "From the herbarium incorporated into the Voynich manuscript, a standard pattern of abbreviations and ligatures emerged from each plant entry," he wrote. "The abbreviations correspond to the standard pattern of words used in the Herbarium Apuleius Platonicus – aq = aqua (water), dq = decoque / decoctio (decoction), con = confundo (mix), ris = radacis / radix (root), s aiij = seminis ana iij (3 grains each), etc." So this wasn't a code at all; it was just shorthand. The text would have been very familiar to anyone at the time who was interested in medicine.

Further study of the herbs and images in the book reminded Gibbs of other Latin medical texts. When he consulted the Trotula and De Balneis Puteolanis, two commonly copied medieval Latin medical books, he realized that a lot of the Voynich Manuscript's text and images had been plagiarized directly from them (they, in turn, were copied in part from ancient Latin texts by Galen, Pliny, and Hippocrates). During the Middle Ages, it was very common for scribes to reproduce older texts to preserve the knowledge in them. There were no formal rules about copyright and authorship, and indeed books were extremely rare, so nobody complained.

Once he realized that the Voynich Manuscript was a medical textbook, Gibbs explained, it helped him understand the odd images in it. Pictures of plants referred to herbal medicines, and all the images of bathing women marked it out as a gynecological manual. Baths were often prescribed as medicine, and the Romans were particularly fond of the idea that a nice dip could cure all ills. Zodiac maps were included because ancient and medieval doctors believed that certain cures worked better under specific astrological signs. Gibbs even identified one image—copied, of course, from another manuscript—of women holding donut-shaped magnets in baths. Even back then, people believed in the pseudoscience of magnets. (The women's pseudoscience health website Goop would fit right in during the 15th century.)

The Voynich Manuscript has been reliably dated to mere decades before the invention of the printing press, so it's likely that its peculiar blend of plagiarism and curation was a dying format. Once people could just reproduce several copies of the original Trotula or De Balneis Puteolanis on a printing press, there would have been no need for scribes to painstakingly collate its information into a new, handwritten volume.

Gibbs concluded that it's likely the Voynich Manuscript was a customized book, possibly created for one person, devoted mostly to women's medicine. Other medieval Latin scholars will certainly want to weigh in, but the sheer mundanity of Gibbs' discovery makes it sound plausible.

See for yourself! You can look at pages from the Voynich Manuscript here. http://beinecke1.library.yale.edu/download/Voynich-New/


Post #: 1
RE: 'Mysterious Voynich manuscript has finally been dec... - 9/9/2017 4:24:21 PM   
wings7


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Wow, more interesting reading...thanks for posting!

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RE: 'Mysterious Voynich manuscript has finally been dec... - 9/9/2017 6:09:30 PM   
E

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Zorch
...the Romans were particularly fond of the idea that a nice dip could cure all ills.








Attachment (1)

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RE: 'Mysterious Voynich manuscript has finally been dec... - 9/9/2017 6:55:39 PM   
mikkey


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Interesting, thanks for sharing.

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RE: 'Mysterious Voynich manuscript has finally been dec... - 9/9/2017 7:05:03 PM   
76mm


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hmm, very interesting, but it seems very odd that none of the other many scholars who have studied the manuscript would have noticed that it is simply a form of shorthand...also, the letters/symbols do not appear to be Latin. Will be interesting to see how the many people who have studied the manuscript react to his findings.

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RE: 'Mysterious Voynich manuscript has finally been dec... - 9/9/2017 7:09:01 PM   
Orm


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Thank you for sharing.

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RE: 'Mysterious Voynich manuscript has finally been dec... - 9/9/2017 7:12:18 PM   
76mm


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Here is a more detailed article by the scholar himself, very interesting:
Detailed Article

< Message edited by 76mm -- 9/9/2017 7:13:18 PM >

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RE: 'Mysterious Voynich manuscript has finally been dec... - 9/9/2017 9:09:40 PM   
redcoat


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So it wasn't the Aliens then ...


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RE: 'Mysterious Voynich manuscript has finally been dec... - 9/11/2017 9:36:53 AM   
bayonetbrant

 

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https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/09/experts-are-extremely-dubious-about-the-voynich-solution/?amp=1

quote:

Last week, a history researcher and television writer named Nicholas Gibbs published a long article in the Times Literary Supplement about how he'd cracked the code on the mysterious Voynich Manuscript. Unfortunately, say experts, his analysis was a mix of stuff we already knew and stuff he couldn't possibly prove.

As soon as Gibbs' article hit the Internet, news about it spread rapidly through social media (we covered it at Ars too), arousing the skepticism of cipher geeks and scholars alike. As Harvard's Houghton Library curator of early modern books John Overholt put it on Twitter, "We're not buying this Voynich thing, right?" Medievalist Kate Wiles, an editor at History Today, replied, "I've yet to see a medievalist who does. Personally I object to his interpretation of abbreviations."

The weirdly-illustrated 15th century book has been the subject of speculation and conspiracy theories since its discovery in 1912. In his article, Gibbs claimed that he'd figured out the Voynich Manuscript was a women's health manual whose odd script was actually just a bunch of Latin abbreviations. He provided two lines of translation from the text to "prove" his point.

However, this isn't sitting well with people who actually read medieval Latin. Medieval Academy of America director Lisa Fagin Davis told The Atlantic's Sarah Zhang, "They’re not grammatically correct. It doesn’t result in Latin that makes sense." She added, "Frankly I’m a little surprised the TLS published it...If they had simply sent to it to the Beinecke Library, they would have rebutted it in a heartbeat." The Beinecke Library at Yale is where the Voynich Manuscript is currently kept. Davis noted that a big part of Gibbs' claim rests on the idea that the Voynich Manuscript once had an index that would provide a key to the abbreviations. Unfortunately, he has no evidence for such an index, other than the fact that the book does have a few missing pages.

The idea that the book is a medical treatise on women's health, however, might turn out to be correct. But that wasn't Gibbs' discovery. Many scholars and amateur sleuths had already reached that conclusion, using the same evidence that Gibbs did. Essentially, Gibbs rolled together a bunch of already-existing scholarship and did a highly speculative translation, without even consulting the librarians at the institute where the book resides.

Gibbs said in the TLS article that he did his research for an unnamed "television network." Given that Gibbs' main claim to fame before this article was a series of books about how to write and sell television screenplays, it seems that his goal in this research was probably to sell a television screenplay of his own. In 2015, Gibbs did an interview where he said that in five years, "I would like to think I could have a returnable series up and running." Considering the dubious accuracy of many History Channel "documentaries," he might just get his wish.


(go to the article to see all the links within it)

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Post #: 9
RE: 'Mysterious Voynich manuscript has finally been dec... - 9/11/2017 1:31:51 PM   
76mm


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Joined: 5/2/2004
From: Berlin
Status: offline
Yeah, oh well. Not very impressed with ars technica's reporting.

(in reply to bayonetbrant)
Post #: 10
RE: 'Mysterious Voynich manuscript has finally been dec... - 9/11/2017 7:53:35 PM   
Zorch

 

Posts: 3459
Joined: 3/7/2010
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quote:

ORIGINAL: bayonetbrant

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/09/experts-are-extremely-dubious-about-the-voynich-solution/?amp=1

quote:

Last week, a history researcher and television writer named Nicholas Gibbs published a long article in the Times Literary Supplement about how he'd cracked the code on the mysterious Voynich Manuscript. Unfortunately, say experts, his analysis was a mix of stuff we already knew and stuff he couldn't possibly prove.

As soon as Gibbs' article hit the Internet, news about it spread rapidly through social media (we covered it at Ars too), arousing the skepticism of cipher geeks and scholars alike. As Harvard's Houghton Library curator of early modern books John Overholt put it on Twitter, "We're not buying this Voynich thing, right?" Medievalist Kate Wiles, an editor at History Today, replied, "I've yet to see a medievalist who does. Personally I object to his interpretation of abbreviations."

The weirdly-illustrated 15th century book has been the subject of speculation and conspiracy theories since its discovery in 1912. In his article, Gibbs claimed that he'd figured out the Voynich Manuscript was a women's health manual whose odd script was actually just a bunch of Latin abbreviations. He provided two lines of translation from the text to "prove" his point.

However, this isn't sitting well with people who actually read medieval Latin. Medieval Academy of America director Lisa Fagin Davis told The Atlantic's Sarah Zhang, "They’re not grammatically correct. It doesn’t result in Latin that makes sense." She added, "Frankly I’m a little surprised the TLS published it...If they had simply sent to it to the Beinecke Library, they would have rebutted it in a heartbeat." The Beinecke Library at Yale is where the Voynich Manuscript is currently kept. Davis noted that a big part of Gibbs' claim rests on the idea that the Voynich Manuscript once had an index that would provide a key to the abbreviations. Unfortunately, he has no evidence for such an index, other than the fact that the book does have a few missing pages.

The idea that the book is a medical treatise on women's health, however, might turn out to be correct. But that wasn't Gibbs' discovery. Many scholars and amateur sleuths had already reached that conclusion, using the same evidence that Gibbs did. Essentially, Gibbs rolled together a bunch of already-existing scholarship and did a highly speculative translation, without even consulting the librarians at the institute where the book resides.

Gibbs said in the TLS article that he did his research for an unnamed "television network." Given that Gibbs' main claim to fame before this article was a series of books about how to write and sell television screenplays, it seems that his goal in this research was probably to sell a television screenplay of his own. In 2015, Gibbs did an interview where he said that in five years, "I would like to think I could have a returnable series up and running." Considering the dubious accuracy of many History Channel "documentaries," he might just get his wish.


(go to the article to see all the links within it)

I'm not surprised.

(in reply to bayonetbrant)
Post #: 11
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