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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).