… a handwritten book thought to have been written in the early 15th century and comprising about 240 vellum pages,[notes 1] most with illustrations. Although many possible authors have been proposed, the author, script, and language remain unknown.
Recently I have been ‘reading’ the Voynich Manuscript. I say ‘reading’ because, according to the Wiki, it’s:
Interestingly, nobody has been able to decipher the script. Not even chaps (and chapettes?) who were cryptographers in the 1st and 2nd World Wars.
The best bit about this is that the manuscript is oddly entertaining, and equally oddly reassuring to look at. The Wiki tells me a statistical analysis reveals that the text has similar patterns to those found in ‘natural languages’. So it’s a familiar form, but with meaningless content.
But is it meaningless? The illustrations are curious and, if related to the text, represent a whole world of herbs, astronomy, biology, cosmology, pharmacology and even recipes. Except that the elements in these aren’t really identifiable. Plants are familiar but not quite right. The constellations are sort of right … but not.
As readers and game-players, some of us love this kind of immersive experience. It’s like the worlds of Tolkien or Rowling or Pratchett, in which everything down to teeth-brushing has its own order and physics. The world is different, but it is complete and internally consistent. An alternate world.
Or is it? The Voynich manuscript might in fact be no language at all. It might be just the ramblings of someone in the lost wilderness of madness.
But does it matter? Not especially. It’s quite a work of art, and it made sense to someone, sometime – hoaxer or not.