‘Tis the month for claimed decodings of the mysterious Voynich Manuscript: a couple of weeks ago we posted about researchers wondering if the strange document was actually written in an extinct Mexican language. But now Stephen Bax, Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Bedfordshire in the U.K., has claimed that he has decoded a few of the words of the manuscript and is calling on other scholars to join him in continuing to decipher the document. His approach took a leaf out of history’s most famous decoding:
I hit on the idea of identifying proper names in the text, following historic approaches which successfully deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs and other mystery scripts, and I then used those names to work out part of the script. The manuscript has a lot of illustrations of stars and plants. I was able to identify some of these, with their names, by looking at medieval herbal manuscripts in Arabic and other languages, and I then made a start on a decoding, with some exciting results.
In doing so, Professor Bax says he has likely decoded the word ‘Taurus’ alongside a picture of seven stars which seem to be the Pleiades, and also the word ‘kantairon’ alongside a picture of the plant Centaury, a known mediaeval herb.
Although the decipherment is still at the very beginning stages, Professor Bax says his research already “shows conclusively that the manuscript is not a hoax, as some have claimed, and is probably a treatise on nature, perhaps in a Near Eastern or Asian language”.