It’s Voynich time again

Which means another round of breathless headlines, as I discussed in 2017: [ ] That time the theory was that the author was an Italian Jewish doctor. This time the theory is the author was a nun who lived here

The peer-reviewed paper [ ] presents a plausible case that the writing is in a “proto-romance” language with its own writing system related to Latin letters.

Unfortunately the response to “the Voynich manuscript has been cracked!” is “oh no it hasn’t!”. Ars Technica has a more sceptical article than most on the news [ ] Specifically, it seems “proto-romance language” is more of a means to make matching possible labels to words i.e. find a word that matches from across any one of Europe’s Romance languages from Spanish to Romanian without requiring a consistent mapping. It also allows for borrowings from near-by languages (e.g. Slavic or Persian) — it’s plausible for a language to have such borrowings but it gives a lot of freedom for matching script to words and then “translating” the words.

There’s a longer sceptical analysis here [ETA: and a follow up that is even more brutal ]

Way beyond my capacity to judge but the test would be in translating longer un-illustrated passages, which apparently has yet to occur.


12 responses to “It’s Voynich time again”

  1. I think that the very best Voynich theory I ever saw was in a Discworld Fanfic which crosses Big Bang Theory with UU And the Assassins’ Guild. (Incidentally, pretty much all of this Author’s fics are well worth a read.)

    IIRC, the Burser is browsing the internet and finds an online copy and asks why someone on Roundworld had a copy of a manuscript describing the Flora of Bhangbhangduc.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “it’s a language that was really common but no-one ever wrote down, apart from here” kinda raises the red flags for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am very certain that the Voynich manuscript is outsider art, untranslatable because there is no deeper meaning to it other than “this is my cool thing:” and that every single attempt at translation will be just like this–invent a bunch of stuff and twist the evidence to fit.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There’s a name for proto-Romance language – Vulgar Latin. Though the articles suggest something more like a proto-Esperanto.


  5. “We’ve realised we look really gullible and should read papers before we promote them”

    Liked by 1 person

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: