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The Voynich Question

The Text
The text appears as a series of glyphs, apparently made up of combinations of different basic symbols. The glyphs are probably of Roman or Arabian origin, pointing to an early date, possibly during the Roman Empire. There are from 22 or 36 basic symbols (depending on which alphabet you use) making up over 5000 distinct glyph sequences. Some researchers have thought that each glyph sequence corresponds to a word. There are also a number of special (or rare) symbols that occur only once or twice in the text. The meaning of these is unclear, although they may be either uncorrected transcription errors or context specific pictographs (like the little telephones you get in front of phone numbers).
Analysis of the 'words' has revealed that they follow the normal distributions for natural languages, although the word length is, on average, shorter than for English and Latin. These points to a language that does not use vowels.
From textual analysis, the document appears to be in two sections. The document starts with a section where the word '8AM' is the most frequent. In the last the word distribution is different and '8AM' is no longer the most common word.
Researchers have long puzzled over what the original language might have been. They have feared that it is written in a language that we have no record of. Or they have wondered if it a private phonetic alphabet for a language that was used long ago. Others have wondered if it was ciphered (encoded) Latin, Greek, Italian, German, or English. However if this was the case then the words would have to be longer than they are. Grammar experts have struggled with the makeup of the language. It is not clear if there is any sense of grammar in the language. They have wondered which words can follow which others, and which words never occur in sequence. We know that '8AM' can appear twice in succession, so its role is unlikely to be that of a conjunction.
The Language
It is known that the average word length is shorter than English and Latin. This means its also shorter than French, Italian and German. Semitic languages are a distinct possibility, as they did not write vowels into the text making the word length about 20-30% shorter, but still giving the same amount of phonetic space.
Analysis of the text has revealed a lack of any consistent set of characters that seem to be playing the role of vowels, but other researchers argue that the text might be a partially devoweled version of Latin, Italian, French of English (and several others). German is unlikely because its words tend to be 30% or so longer than English ones, with the excess mainly being consonants.
The work has the appearance of being an encyclopedia or research document of some sorts. If this is the case, then ambiguity in the written meaning would not be good. If you fully devowel a European language you get something that is very ambiguous - some words (a and I) disappear, while others shrink to just a single letter (at, it, to, on, no, in, an) from which the original cannot be derived. Semitic languages usually have the propositions and pronouns built into the actual word or verb so that the meaning is not lost.
There are some features in the text (mainly the usage of dots as word separators, and the lack of a sentence structure) which would indicate that the original document is probably quite a bit older than the date of about 1600 that is gained from the signature.
One researcher has put forth the theory that it is the work of Francs Bacon, which would place its origin in England around 1350. This would serve to limit the choice of source languages to Latin, Old English, French, Greek, Hebrew, Norse, or an artificial one.
The Herbs
The herbal section constitutes about the half of the manuscript with 130 pages. These pages usually consist of single plants, occasionally two plants, with short descriptions beside it. Most of the plants illustrated have not been identified. However, the larger leaf depicted on 42r is Rumex acetosa, called "green sorrel" and the smaller leaf alongside it is identified to be an Oxalis, of the other genus commonly called "sorrel". Both produce large quantities of oxalic acid in their leaves, giving them the same sour taste. As another example, the identification by O'Neill for the plant illustration on 100v may be given for its resemblance to "Botrychium lunaria" Some researchers have felt that the herbal section contains instructions for grafting plants, or shaping them, similar to styles that existed in ancient China. Some of the pages seem to give instructions for drying or processing parts of the plants, and are accompanied by pictures of what appear to be oriental drying devices. More information can be found here.
The Charts
Astronomical section consists of the drawings of the sun, the moon and the stars and some pages include zodiac figures.
The Biological section?
For many years, researchers have labeled a section of the manuscript as a Biological section. This section contains many illustrations of groups of naked women, usually immersed in large pools of liquid connected by pipes and tubes which they imagined represented the blood vessels, reproductive organs, and intestinal track. Others, looking at the pictures, recognized women crushing grapes in large vats.
Other similar manuscripts
Researchers looked for clues in ancient texts which give somewhat the similar look and feel of the symbols and illustrations of the text in order to associate a date to the manuscript. Alchemy texts ( contain resembling symbols, enchantments, incantations, and illustrations which were quite popular in medieval era. Employment of nymphs ( in a circular design with embedded zodiac signs in a 9th century Byzantine manuscript though made with completely different tools and technique from those in Voynich MS, are speculated to be similar with VMS's nymph posture and arrangement. [].

There is no solid evidence to attach the manuscript to any location or date. Some experts propose that it is European, based on the hair and clothing styles, and some guess that it has Chinese origin with an original phonetic or semi-phonetic alphabet based on the prefix-suffix decomposition of the language. In short, everyone is still guessing, and nothing has been firmly established as to the manuscript's contents or origin.
Download It Now
It is possible to view the Voynich Manuscript by visiting this web page:
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