Strangest Things

Having lately watched the Science Channel docu series Strangest Things, I noticed that they covered the Voynich Manunscript as well. (It was episode 7, IIRC)

Overall I like the series very much for its down-to-earth examination of riddles, prefering the plausbile over the spectacular and keeping a (let’s use the dirty word:) scientific mindset, rather than an esoteric one. I found the coverage of the VM overall fairly balanced and thorough enough. (Maybe they didn’t put enough emphasis on the cryptological aspects, but this may be my personal bias. ;-))

I found it interesting that they exmained the plausibility of the VM being a “historical” or modern forgery (Hello, Rich!). I especially like the new angle they gave it by suggesting the VM may not have been a hoax perpetrated by the man himself, but by the Villa Frascati team, meaning they duped Voynich because they themselves direly needed the money.

It’s a nice twist, though IMHO a fanciful one. One crucial aspect is that the VM is missing almost all the Christian iconography present in medieval art. I doubt the Jesuits would have so strongly violated their work ethos, when they could have used the opportunity just the same to insert spectacular new theological content.

Notes from the Past

I’ve been browsing through an old notebook in which I kept notes about my Voynich studies lately. In June 2004 (boy, have we made progess since…!) I jotted down some ideas I had completely forgotten about by now:

“Apparently there are medieval ciphers where one vowel and the following letter are encoded with the same character: “a”/”b” -> <q>, “e”/”f” -> <r>, etc.

Of course, this would explain the occurence of triple glyphs.”

By “following” I meant “next in the alphabet.” Thus, the cipher would be basically a monoalphabetic subsitution cipher, but with “a” and “b” from the plaintext mapping to the same ciphertext character, “e” and “f” mapping to the same, etc.

Back then I devoted a bit of time and statistics to the issue, but aside of a suggestion of Italian as the plaintext language and a tentative mapping of EVA <e> to letters “i”/”l” (both “j” and “k” being uncommon at the time of creation of the VM, “l” would be the character following “i” in the alphabet), I didn’t get far.

Since 2004, I’ve moved away from simple substitution ciphers, because while the above scheme would indeed explain the occurence of three or more identical letters in a row, it fails to give an answer to the VM word grammar, why certain letter combinations are only ever found word-intitial or word-terminal, and other oddities.

Nevertheless, does one of my readers have more background where I may have come about this scheme?