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No, Someone Hasn't Cracked the Code of the Mysterious Voynich Manuscript

Thursday May 16, 2019. 03:00 PM , from Slashdot
An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via Ars Technica: The Voynich manuscript is a famous medieval text written in a mysterious language that so far has proven to be undecipherable. Now, Gerard Cheshire, a University of Bristol academic, has announced his own solution to the conundrum in a new paper in the journal Romance Studies. Cheshire identifies the mysterious writing as a 'calligraphic proto-Romance' language, and he thinks the manuscript was put together by a Dominican nun as a reference source on behalf of Maria of Castile, Queen of Aragon. Apparently it took him all of two weeks to accomplish a feat that has eluded our most brilliant scholars for at least a century. So case closed, right? After all, headlines are already trumpeting that the 'Voynich manuscript is solved,' decoded by a 'UK genius.' Not so fast. There's a long, checkered history of people making similar claims. None of them have proved convincing to date, and medievalists are justly skeptical of Cheshire's conclusions as well.

What is this mysterious manuscript that has everyone so excited? It's a 15th century medieval handwritten text dated between 1404 and 1438, purchased in 1912 by a Polish book dealer and antiquarian named Wilfrid M. Voynich (hence its moniker). Along with the strange handwriting in an unknown language or code, the book is heavily illustrated with bizarre pictures of alien plants, naked women, strange objects, and zodiac symbols. It's currently kept at Yale University's Beinecke Library of rare books and manuscripts. Possible authors include Roger Bacon, Elizabethan astrologer/alchemist John Dee, or even Voynich himself, possibly as a hoax. 'Cheshire argues that the text is a kind of proto-Romance language, a precursor to modern languages like Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian, Romanian, Catalan, and Galician that he claims is now extinct because it was seldom written in official documents,' the report adds. 'If true, that would make the Voynich manuscript the only known surviving example of such a proto-Romance language.'

Lisa Fagin Davis, executive director of the Medieval Academy of America, is dubious of Cheshire's claim, tweeting: 'Sorry, folks, 'proto-Romance language' is not a thing. This is just more aspirational, circular, self-fulfilling nonsense.'

Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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