London: Scientists say they have decoded the Voynich manuscript, a mysterious medieval code whose purpose and meaning has eluded scholars for over a century. The Voynich manuscript is an illustrated codex hand-written in an unknown writing system. The vellum on which it is written has been carbon-dated to the early 15th century.
By cracking the Voynich code, the researchers at the University of Bristol in the UK succeeded where countless cryptographers, linguistics scholars and computer programmes have failed. It took Research Associate Gerard Cheshire two weeks, using a combination of lateral thinking and ingenuity, to identify the language and writing system of the famously inscrutable document.
It is named after Wilfrid Voynich, a Polish-Samogitian book dealer who purchased it in 1912. Cheshire describes how he successfully deciphered the manuscript’s codex and, at the same time, revealed the only known example of proto-Romance language.
“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 said.
He said “what it reveals is even more amazing than the myths and fantasies it has generated.” For example, the manuscript was compiled by Dominican nuns as a source of reference for Maria of Castile, Queen of Aragon — an autonomous community in Spain, said Cheshire.