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The Voynich Question

A Possible Middle Eastern Connection
CanBooks Copyright April 2003

First Impressions
  • This is most likely an oriental manuscript (according to the style of the glyphs, styles of the illustration, and the oriental herb driers illustrated in one section.
  • While the document appears to be left justified, many of the characters appear to be best written from right to left
  • If the original text read from right to left the back of the book is actually the beginning
  • Several sections of text seem to be right justified.
  • It is my opinion that the text may have originally been written in a derivative of Nabataean Script (five or six of the letters are still clearly identifiable, as illustrated below)
  • This appears to be a scientific book, most likely related to the scientific knowledge of a particular civilization, or the accounts of someone on a journey, recording findings along the way. (The second section of the book seems to describe trade winds along his route.)
  • The European monks/scribes who transcribed the book over the centuries would not have known the Nabataean language, and thus it can be assumed that they made copy errors with the text. These errors were compounded by the next copyist etc. Since the scribes did not know which of the parts of the individual characters were important, the characters slowly evolved over time, until only a small number of them are clearly identifiable. The final copyist seems to have been a professional, but this says nothing of the qualities of previous copyists.
  • I suspect that the book was recognized as a book of science during the Middle Ages, albeit somewhat exotic, and thus worth preservation, even though the scribes did not know the language of the text. The book lost it's importance with the development of modern science and the introduction of the printing press
  • The scribes who copied the text made several decorative changes to the text. This was common during the Middle Ages. Thus the first letter of each paragraph was capitalized and decorated. Since the scribes did not know the language of the text, the chose the first (left) letter and made it look special.
  • The scribes also aligned the text to the left margin, although several places in the text the right alignment still exists
  • Some of the artwork has been re-interpreted by the artists who re-drew the drawings during the Middle Ages, and adapted the clothing and hair style common to their time.
  • Many paragraphs are highlighted with stars, typical to the stars used by the Nabataeans
  • The length of the words is too short for European languages, but seems to indicate an unvoweled text as used in most Semitic scripts (such as Aramaic in its various forms (including Nabataean), Syriac, Hebrew, or Arabic.

First Impressions of George Turnbull (Agricultural Researcher)

  • The general impression I received is that this a European manuscript on pharmaceutical plants.
  • However it is quite distinct from any other European manuscript in that it should have common European plants in it. For instance, dandelions are found in almost all ancient European guides. They were a "good for what ails you" type of herb. Theirs and other plants that are absent here is disturbing.
  • Perhaps this is a pharmaceutical manual from another location that was copied and prepared for a European audience.
Arguments for a Nabataean manuscript
  • The presence of Nabataean characters in the character set used
  • The glyphs in the manuscript are of Roman and Arabian origin, pointing to a very early date, and a location in Romanized Arabia
  • The use of Nabataean stars
  • The collection of plants, stories, etc., from many locations around the earth would have been typical of a Nabataean scholar/merchant during the Roman Empire.
  • The alphabet uses 22- 27 characters. The Nabataean alphabet has 22 characters
  • The words are short, pointing to an unvoweled text. Nabataean is unvoweled
  • The presence of a number of plants that are native to Nabataea
  • The existance of a manuscript with similar script in the country of Jordan.
The Text
There are several places in the text, where individual letters are used to head sections. (See page 66r and 76r.) These pages are very useful in identifying individual characters. The chart below lists these individual characters.
These characters and the others found in the book show considerable likeness to Nabataean characters. The chart below demonstrates this. (The shadowed rows show the characters with a distinct Nabataean likeness).
While Nabataean letters do show up in the Voynich Manuscript, many of these letters are the same as ancient Syriac letters, or Qumran Hebrew characters. See Chart One.
It is possible to view the Voynich Manuscript by visiting this web page: Type in Voynich and search
Coming Soon: Second Impressions. Later: An attempt at transcribing some Voynich text into Nabataean, and ancient Chaldean (Strangali).
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