A MYSTERIOUS 600-year-old manuscript that has been deemed “unreadable” by the world’s top cryptographers has finally been deciphered.
That’s the claim by one Bristol academic who has cracked the legendary Voynich manuscript and revealed its secrets.
PA:Press Association This image depicts two women dealing with five children in a bath, each of whom has a different temperament described below – like noisy, foolish and losing patience
PA:Press Association This image depicts a “palina” – a rod for measuring the depth of water – with an eye added to make it look more like a snake, added as a joke
Dr Gerard Cheshire believes that the document is written in a dead language called proto-Romance.
By studying the letter and symbols through the manuscript, he was able to decipher the meaning of the words.
According to the linguistics boff, the Voynich manuscript contains sex tips, info on parenting and psychology, and herbal remedies.
“I experienced a series of ‘eureka’ moments whilst deciphering the code, followed by a sense of disbelief and excitement when I realised the magnitude of the achievement, both in terms of its linguistic importance and the revelations about the origin and content of the manuscript,” Cheshire explained.
PA:Press Association The Voynich manuscript contains around 240 pages, some of which fold out
University of Bristol Now the code has finally been cracked by Bristol academic Dr Gerard Cheshire
He said that his finding is “even more amazing than the myths and fantasies” typically associated with the Voynich manuscript.
These include previous theories that the documents contained prophecies about aliens.
According to Cheshire, the book was compiled by Dominican nuns as a source of reference for Maria of Castile, Queen of Aragon.
Maria was a great aunt to Catherine of Aragon, who was Queen of England from June 1509 until May 1533, as the first wife of King Henry VIII.
“It is no exaggeration to say this work represents one of the most important developments to date in Romance linguistics,” Cheshire said.
In Cheshire’s paper in the Romance Studies journal, it’s revealed that the manuscript is written in proto-Romance.
It’s ancestral to today’s Romance languages, which include Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian and Romanian.
Proto-Romance was once very popular, but has since become extinct in its original form – only partially living on through modern languages.
“The language used was ubiquitous in the Mediterranean during the Medieval period, but it was seldom written in official or important documents because Latin was the language of royalty, church and government,” said Cheshire.
“As a result, proto-Romance was lost from the record until now.”
The University Of Bristol Dr Cheshire managed to identify letters and symbols within the Voynich manuscript
Rex Features The confusing text has no capital letters or punctuation, and left experts baffled for more than a century
Voynich manuscript – what is it, and why is it important?Here’s what you need to know…
The Voynich manuscript is a mysterious hand-written book in an unknown writing system
Carbon-dating has revealed that the vellum it was written on is from between 1404 and 1438
Experts believe that it was composed in Northern Italy during the Italian Renaissance
The manuscript was named after Wilfrid Voynich, a Polish book dealer who bought it in 1912
The book has around 240 pages, although some additional pages are missing
Most of the pages have illustrations or diagrams, with some foldable sheets worked in
The book has baffled cryptographers and codebreakers for decades
In May 2019, Bristol academic Dr Gerard Cheshire claimed to have deciphered the document
He described it as the only known example of the extinct proto-Romance language
Dr Cheshire claims the manuscript contains sex tips, hermal remedies and psychological wisdom
Romance Studies This image depicts a bearded monk in a bath in the monastery where the Voynich manuscript was created. The text reads “opat a sa”, which translates to “it is abbot”
Romance Studies This figure represents a miscarriage or abortion, with a mass of blood exiting tubes along with the words “omor nena” (killed/dead baby). The word “omor” survives in Romanian as “to murder”, and the word “nena” survives in Spanish as “female baby”
Romance Studies The Voynich manuscript depicts the eruption of Vulcanello with such detail that it must have come from a first-hand observation
Romance Studies This figure shows heaven represented as a castle in the sky where the dead travel. It reads “o’mena omor na” or “the direction of death’s flight”
What made the Voynich manuscript particularly difficult to understand was the fact that the language used was extinct.
Its alphabet is a combination of familiar and unfamiliar symbols, and it doesn’t even have punctuation marks.
However, Cheshire noted that some letters have “symbol variants” to indicate punctuation or phonetic accents.
All of the letters are in lower case and there are no double consonents, but there are “diphthongs, triphthongs, quadriphtongs and even quintiphthongs”, which are combined vowel sounds.
“It also includes some words and abbreviations in Latin,” Cheshire added.
In fact, the text is so cryptic that it even baffled top codebreakers – including Alan Turing and his Bletchley Park colleagues, who played a pivotal role in intercepting and deciphering Nazi communications during World War II.
Cheshire hopes that fellow researchers will now use his findings to translate the entire Voynich manuscript.
“Now the language and writing system have been explained, the pages of the manuscript have been laid open for scholars to explore and reveal, for the first time, its true linguistic and informative content,” he said.
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Do you think the code has been cracked? Let us know in the comments!
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