The nature and origin of the manuscript have long remained a mystery. Over the years, the Voynich manuscript
has caused a lot of controversy and debate. This ancient medieval text is a cryptic document written by an unknown
Many skilled cryptographers have studied the document. Their attempts to break the code failed. Up to now, none of
them has been able to crack the code.
It is worth mentioning that at the end of WWII the U.S. military passed some spare time encrypting
ancient texts. They managed to decipher every text except the Voynich manuscript.
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Does the Voynich manuscript really contain a message?
Are we unable to break the mysterious code? Is the book a deliberate hoax? Is it an encoded version
of a known language or a totally invented language?
A new study, published in the journal
Plos One, suggests that the manuscript holds a genuine message.
"While the text written on medieval parchment - using an unknown script system - shows basic statistical patterns
that bear resemblance to those from real languages, there are features that suggested to some researches that the
manuscript was a forgery intended as a hoax," researchers explain in their paper.
The manuscript was named after Wilfrid M. Voynich, a Polish-American book dealer who
found this manuscript in a chest in the Jesuit College at the Villa Mondragone, in Frascati in 1912.
He bought it from the Jesuits, and gave photographic copies to a number of experts to have it deciphered.
None of them succeeded.
Certain features in the illustrations, such as hairstyles for example, suggested that the book was produced between 1470
But by whom and why?
The Milky Way
Inside the manuscript, which is 240 pages long, there was a 17th century letter, written by Johannes Marcus Marci
of Cronland, a Bohemian doctor and scientist, rector of the University of Prague, and official physician to the
Holy Roman Emperors.
The paper dated 1666, was addressed to Athanasius Kircher,
a 17th-century German Jesuit scholar and informed that the manuscript was bought by Emperor Rudolph II
During the 1600s, some scholars attempted to decipher the script. Then the mysterious manuscript disappeared
for 250 years before Voynich discovered it.
Voynich was also eager to learn more about his new remarkable finding, but establishing the origin of the book and
deciphering the code, was a much more complex task than he anticipated.
Dr Marcelo Montemurro, a theoretical physicist from the University of Manchester, UK, and his colleagues say that
that the "manuscript presents a complex organization in the distribution of words that is
compatible with those found in real language sequences."
We are also able to extract some of the most
significant semantic word-networks in the text. These results together with some previously known statistical
features of the Voynich manuscript, give support to the presence of a genuine message inside the book."
Dr Montemurro and his team used a computerised statistical method to analyse the text and focused on patterns of
how the words were arranged in order to extract meaningful content-bearing words.
"There is substantial evidence that content-bearing words tend to occur in a clustered pattern, where they are
required as part of the specific information being written," he explains.
"Over long spans of texts, words leave a statistical signature about their use. When the topic shifts, other
words are needed.
"The semantic networks we obtained clearly show that related words tend to share structure similarities.
This also happens to a certain degree in real languages."
Dr Montemurro argues that the hoax hypothesis cannot possibly explain the semantic patterns he has discovered.
He believes it unlikely that these features were simply "incorporated" into the text to make
a hoax more realistic, as most of the required academic knowledge of these structures did not exist
at the time the Voynich manuscript was created.
"While the mystery of origins and meaning of the text still remain to be solved, the accumulated evidence
about organization at different levels, limits severely the scope of the
hoax hypothesis and suggests the presence of a genuine linguistic structure," scientists say in their paper.
Those who believe in the authenticity of the Voynich manuscript maintain that the script is far too complex to be a
hoax. Skeptics on the other hand, suggest that the failure of the code breaking indicates there might be no code to
decipher and no hidden message.
There is also a possibility that the manuscript is not a code, but rather an unidentified language and of course, as
usual it is very convenient to dismiss certain uncomfortable findings as hoaxes simply because we do not understand
their origin and meaning.