Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Top 10 Voynich Manuscript theories, decoded...

Note: this article has now moved to top-10-voynich-manuscript-theories-decoded on Cipher Mysteries

Symmetrical and repetitive prey behaviour is the key tool exploited by hunter gatherers: and so it goes with Voynich Manuscript websites. Once you've seen the same damaged pattern a few times, the shared wonky rationale behind it is usually fairly transparent.

And so here is a suggested critical reader for those fruity (but decidedly wobbly) jellies we all love to dip our fingers in: Voynich theories. Make of them all what you will...

(1) Any theory involving time travel or aliens
Subtext: "My theory has so many holes in, it would need two series of Doctor Who to fix them all."

(2) Any theory involving Jesuits
Subtext: "I prefer reading 18th century fiction to 20th century non-fiction."

(3) Any theory involving China
Subtext: "What do you mean, Jacques Guy wasn't being serious?"

(4) Any theory involving the New World
Subtext: "I've got the hots for that Brazilian woman. What do you mean, she's not female?"

(5) Any theory where the VMs is written in lightly disguised Hebrew
Subtext: "I wish I had read the Bible when I was young, instead of taking so many drugs."

(6) Any theory where the VMs is written in a mixture of European languages
Subtext: "I put so much time into learning those languages, they have to be useful soon, right?"

(7) Any theory where the VMs contains alchemical or heretical secrets
Subtext: "Lynn Thorndike's books are far too heavy for my weak arms to lift."

(8) Any theory where the VMs describes telescopes, microscopes, or computers
Subtext: "I can rewrite the technological history of the world howsoever I please; and anyone who objects is just a moany old loser."

(9) Any theory where the VMs is a hoax, channeled writing, glossolalia, etc
Subtext: "I can say anything I like about the VMs, and there's absolutely nothing you idiot historians can do about it, ner ner ner."

And finally...

(10) Any theory where the VMs was written by an architect
Subtext: "I see everything in the VMs as rational and ordered, however irrational and disordered everyone else may think it is. Perhaps I should lighten up."

PS: because the torrent of VMs-related news has dwindled to a thin trickle over recent weeks, I'm taking the rest of August off - see you again in September! ;-)


karlpaananen@hotmail.com said...

Why do we need to dismiss any and every theory involving China? (or the far east generally)

Maybe China is involved, but only marginally?

One theory on my short list at the moment, what if it was originally a Chinese (or other far Eastern) manuscript, that fell into the hands of a European who spoke the language. This European decided to copy the manuscript. The European first copied the pictures, but gave them more of a European look (and also distorted the plant pictures until they became unrecognizable). Then he decided that the system of writing Chinese (or whatever) didn't make sense, and so invented a new alphabet for writing the language, and so wrote the text in this new European-style writing system he had invented. The result was the Voynich MS. But his ideas for a new writing system for a Far Eastern language did not become popular, and were never used again.

To me this makes as much sense as any other theory of the MS.

Nick Pelling said...

Hi Karl,

It's an appealing narrative, of there are doubtless several dozen variants. However, where it falls down is in the pictures: surely even the slackest copyist would be able to keep the pictures basically intact, rather than introducing impossible root-structures (etc)?

My point is that I think there's some kind of image transformation at play here, which no "bad copyist" explanation can really explain away. But I would say that, wouldn't I? :-)

Cheers, ....Nick P....