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Sciam 07/2004

The July Issue of Scientific American has been released, with details and free content available at the Sciam website. TDG readers will certainly be interested in a long article on “The Mystery of the Voynich Manuscript“, by computer scientist and psychology PhD Gordon Rugg. Rugg performed cryptographic analysis of the perplexing medieval document, and concluded that it may have been a hoax made of gibberish. Interestingly though, he also found that the ‘hoax’ could have been created in the short time of 3-4 months. Other interesting articles also available in full on the SciAm website, as well as teasers for the rest (prefixed with a ‘D’).

  1. Blaming it on Kelley
    Whenever the hoax argument comes up concerning the Voynich manuscript, Edward Kelley always comes up as a possible author, but the reasons aren’t necessarily well-founded. The reasons given are usually (a) he was accused of forgery, (b) he knew something about alchemy, and (c) he visited Rudolph’s court in the 1580’s. However, (a) he was accused of forging metals, not texts, as far as I know, (b) Kelley was one of many people who were well-versed in alchemy in the 16th century, and (c) he was also one of many people who visit the court of a Holy Roman Emperor. So, that doesn’t disqualify Kelley, but it doesn’t qualify him either. Given the criteria above, of (a) suspicion of devious crimes, (b) knowledge of alchemy and (c) visiting Rudolph’s court, John Dee, accused as a spy, the man who wrote the Hieroglyphic Monad, and also a visitor of Rudolph, would be just as likely a suspect as Edward Kelley. That is, if it indeed is a hoax…

    1. voynich manuscript
      Here’s the interesting question. This author argues that the manuscript is encrypted with a Cardan cipher. Yet underneath the Cardan cipher, it appears to be gibberish. This then leads to the hoax argument.

      It would strike me that that might also suggest it is double ciphered… did that not occur to anybody?

      Also, if it’s a forgery, what is it supposed to be a forgery of? I just don’t get how, if you wanted to create a forgery that an emperor would buy, the convincing way to do this would be to start with meaningless text? What’s the point, then, of the enigmatic illustrations?

      Steven Mizrach
      Academic, Pop Culture Junkie, Grail Recycler

        1. Voynich Website
          Hi Akemsuegauuij,

          Hard to go past this website:

          Plenty of other information online, just plug voynich into and you’ll be reading all night.

          Peace and Respect

          You monkeys only think you’re running things

      1. Voynich Cipher
        My wife also brought that up. In the article itself, it mentions that there are words that are repeated multiple times, such as their exmaple of ‘qokady qokady’, etc. The author seems to come to the conclusion that this is evidence of a hoax. However, if there are multiple ciphers, then there could be rules for using them. For example, the first word of a sentence could receive the ‘word one’ cipher, while the second word would receive the ‘second word’ cipher, etc. The possibilities are really endless in this regard. You could have a letter at the beginning or end of a word indicate which cipher to use. You could even make multiple levels of ciphers, in which a sign within the document would indicate which cipher to use to decode the other ciphers.
        And why would an emperor buy a manuscript like this for 600 ducats, unless it was worth 600 ducats? Maybe Dee, if indeed he sold it to Rudolph II in the first place, was being paid a messenger’s fee, since he had the personal connections between Queen Elizabeth, Count Laski from Poland, and Rudolph II of Austria to pull of such a trade.

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