Voynich Quest Continues

A little over three years ago, a computer scientist by the name of Gordon Rugg offered up an explanation for the mysterious Voynich Manuscript - it was a hoax. Rugg's hypothesis was based on cryptographical analysis (using a 16th century encoding device called the Cardan Grille), and his analysis suggested the so-called words on the manuscript were in reality 'gobbledigook'.

Now comes news of an upcoming article in the journal Cryptologia, by Austrian researcher Dr Andreas Schinner, a theoretical physicist and software engineer at the Johannes Kepler University. Schinner...

...analysed the text of the manuscript using specialist statistics capable of handling quasi-stochastic distributions, and found that the manuscript’s statistical properties were consistent with a hoax consisting of meaningless gibberish produced using Rugg’s method or a similar quasi-random method.

This does not prove that the manuscript is a hoax, but it strongly suggests that the hoax theory is correct. If there is meaningful coded material in the manuscript, then either:

  • There is only a small amount, surrounded by large amounts of meaningless padding – otherwise the statistics would have come out differently, or
  • If there is a large amount of meaningful coded material, then it must have been encoded using a method which just happens to produce the same statistical properties as a quasi-random gibberish generator.

The quest to understand (or not understand, as the case may be!) the Voynich Manuscript continues...

Update: Check out this wonderful gallery of pages from the Voynich (h/t Mark Pilkington).


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Prof. Oddfellow's picture
Member since:
19 April 2007
Last activity:
7 years 18 weeks

The Voynich Manuscript is undoubtably an historical document, an artwork, and an insight into psychology (as the creator's brainstorm). To call it a "hoax" seems so dismissive. Whether or not the document encodes specific meaning, it *exists* and has significance. One is reminded of ancient petroglyphs, which could be a form of writing, or merely whimsical doodles/graffiti, but certainly "meaningful" and worthy of study (or at least appreciation). I'm all for computer scientists and cryptographers, but these so-called explanations of the Voynich Manuscript tell more about the tunnel vision of those fields than they do about the manuscript itself. And I thought only statisticians still cited statistical probabilities with a straight face, everyone else in the world having realized that statistics are (unfortunately) as useless as tomorrow's weather forecast.