Thoughts from France

For some odd reason, my blog seems to attract mostly people not from the US, and here’s what Michel Travers from France sent me lately regarding the VM. It’s not really a “theory” but a few notes which deserve attention.

I’am a new comer in the Field but eventually it occured to me that too little attemps has been seriously done about identifying numbers. EVA alphabet has assigned all of the Voynich characters to letters and not even to one single number ! Some researchers have tentatively suggested a 2, an 8, a 9, eventually a 4, but that’s all.
In that respect the choice of your main page with the drawing from 69r is probably not a coincidence: between the arms of the starfish we have 6 different characters with apparent counter characteristics. Then we have 22 radius-like, clearly identified sentences/sequences and another 16 on the brim the wheel, mostly all of them ending with one of those characters… The radius at “2 o’clock” seems to be a starting index. Interesting… Have you worked on this page ?

Michel, you seem to be the victim of a misunderstanding regarding EVA. EVA is not a suggested decipherment, but it is simply a transcription, that is, a rendering of the Voynich characters in a digital, computer-readable format. The idea is no more and no less than to always designate the same transcription character to identical VM characters, and different transcription characters to different VM characters. (Of course, this is a delicate enough task difficult.) The purpose is to allow communication through email with the transcription, and to be able to start computerized statistics on it, so that two researches on the VM list can exchange their ideas, “I’ve noticed that ‘qo’ seems to be always word-initial, while ‘dy’ is word-final.”

But which transcription symbol is used for any VM character is completely arbitrary, provided your system is consistent. Some researchers have chosen to include numbers into their transcription, because, well, it’s a fairly obvious thing to do to transcribe a character which looks like “8” or “9” with — you guessed it “8”, and “9”, respectively. In the case of EVA, the visual similarity was relegated in favour of a representation which allowed researchers to pronounce the VM transcription, ie, most VM words can be spoken when transcribed into EVA,*) so two researchers can’t only exchange mails about it, but even literally talk about EVA words.

But in no way was the EVA transcription be meant to be a translation. EVA doesn’t assume any special meaning behind the VM letters; the EVA letters were simply codes chosen to represent the VM letters, much like ZIP codes are used to represent cities, but of course aren’t the cities.

Does that clear up the misunderstanding?

(As for 69r, I haven’t done particular work on it, but Rich SantaColoma has, and I like his ideas…)

*) I think I (and others) have mentioned before that the fact that this is possible at all is most remarkable, but nobody really knows what to make of it.


From Russia, with Voynich

I’m finally getting around to process the mails which have arrived over the last few weeks regarding readers’ ideas about the VM. (I apologize again to the posters for the delay!)

First of all in the queue is “Y.M.” (Yurij? Yewgenij?), hailing from Russia. He’s a self-declared newcomer to the VM (as opposed to us “old hands” who have been so successful in making heads or tails of it over the last years, apparently ;-), and he has a suggested reading for the notorious marginalia of the VM’s last page, f116v. (Click on the image to get a full-res display.)

M.V.last page

I’m not so sure what to make of it, because to me it looks like just another possible reading of the letter sequences, and one which doesn’t make any more or less sense than the scores which have been presented previously.

One distinguishing feature “Y.M.” failed to address explicitly, though, is the idea that the last “word” on the second line might actually be the astrological symbol for Capricorn, rather than the letter “m” as is usually believed. While inserting Capricorn here doesn’t make the short paragraph much more readable, in general it might be a good idea to include astrological/alchemical symbols into the “character repertoire” against which we try to match the marginalia.

Your ideas? Comments welcome, as always.

Please hold the line!

Right now, I unfortunately don’t have the time to take care of the Voynichthoughts blog properly, please bear with me — this is especially true for “Y.M.”, Michel Travers and Stephanie Levavasseur, who are awaiting my responses to their ideas about the VMs origin and contents.

I’ll catch up with all of you as soon as I can, promise, and I hope this will be within a week or so!

— Elmar

It’s a Game?

Jackie Speel has sent me a note, regarding her suggestion that the VM might be a puzzle book, in the vein of Kit Williams’ Masquerade or Mike Wilks’ The Ultimate Alphabet.

I’m moderately unconvinced that this is the answer, but Jackie has also pointed me to two wikis she maintains, namely the Voynich manuscript Wiki and Voynich Wiki. I have not yet had time to look deeper into those two wikis, but at a first glance, they seem to contain quite an amount of compiled information. Check it out!

More Theories to Come

And Cheryl from the Unpuzzler blog has also sent me a few ideas of hers for discussion:

I am not submitting a theory, though I do have a few, mostly of the “it’s an herbal” type, maybe a copy in a not-as-mainstream language). I am also in the Occam’s Razor camp, so to me the most likely scenario is a copy of a pre-existing manuscript, made by someone who cannot read the original language so copied it as closely as possible hoping to take it “home” and have it translated. Perhaps from an Arabic, Asian, Slavic, or (as I think you suggested) a language like Hungarian. I have very little experience with other languages so I’ll leave that for better equipped minds.

I have only been aware of the Voynich for about a year and haven’t had much time to devote to it…yet.

(And she also says a few nice words about my blog, but I’ll keep that in private!)

As soon as I find the time, I’d love to comment a few words on this, but don’t let this keep you from already submitting your comments!

Daniel’s Questions

It appears I struck a nerve when offering to people that they could submit their own pet theories on the Voynichthoughts site, since I seem to be getting contributions on an almost daily basis.

Today, it was a submission by “Daniel” who, after a friendly enough introduction —

Dear Elmar,

thank you for your blog. I am neither an expert nor a scientist but I curiously look up on whats new to Voynich once in a while. Thank you for giving me the chance to address some questions to the community, that came to my mind. Feel free to publish or not publish any or parts of it.

proceeded with, rather than presenting his own suggestions, a kind of questionnaire regarding the VM.

Since I find all of these questions very intelligent and thoughtful, here they are for you, in the hope of a lively discusson. To avoid getting the individual threads hopelessly entangled, I’ve decided to post Daniel’s questions individually. (I will join in the fray as soon as I find the time!)

  1. Information hiding
  2. Language, music, numbers
  3. Steganography
  4. Jürgen Hermes
  5. Nekkidness
  6. “Solitary” ciphers
  7. Editorial structure
  8. Lonely language

(By the way, with these posts Voynichthoughts will break the mark of 100 messages, wohoo!)