Current Status

Current Status

This is my personal summary of where I am at the moment, in particular which theories I’ve rejected (for better or worse!)

  • Theory: VMs words are anagrams of a plaintext that has been enciphered into the VMs glyphs
    • Attempts to find solutions with many mappings (1- 2- 3-grams) and various languages/dictionaries fail to find even mediocre matches
    • Unusual prevalence of e.g. “8am 8am 8am” not explained by this theory
  • Theory: VMs words are in fact pieces of plaintext words, that need to be a) combined b) deciphered
    • Trials with delimiters like VMs “o” and “9” and with many mappings and languages/dictionaries fail to find good matches
    • But this would explain “8am 8am 8am” at a stretch
  • Theory: VMs words contain numeric codes, that use a Selenus type code table, with e.g. gallows characters used as multipliers
    • There are too many VMs characters: for this to work – only, say, 4 gallows characters and ten digits are needed for a minimal implementation – what are all the rest for?
    • Doesn’t explain “8am 8am 8am”
  • Theory: VMs words are phonetic codes for a reading of the manuscript
    • Mapping the words to Soundex or Double Metaphone and comparing with plaintexts produces a poor frequency match (but is this a good test – see e.g. Robert Firth’s notes)
    • This could explain “8am 8am 8am”
  • Theory: The text is produced by a polyalphabetic cipher with rotating/repeating sequences (a la Strong)
    • Multiple attempt to fit this theory using various alphabet lengths and sequence lengths fails to find a convincing match, although plausible results can be generated
    • Would explain “8am 8am 8am”
  • Procedure: since the cipher/code/whatever it is changes at least between sections, and possibly between folios (and maybe even within a folio), examining large quantities of VMs text for statistical properties is very misleading. Only text within a single side of a folio should be tackled for decryption.
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  1. March 4, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Actually, a Strong-style rotating-offset-sequence polyalphabetic cipher should not easily produce structured output at all: (a presumably quite young) Jim Gillogly pointed this out to (a presumably quite old) Leonell Strong, unless you happen to be looking at plaintext sequences with an internal structure length that matches the internal structure length of the rotating-offset sequence. (12, in Strong’s case). Of course, to our modern eyes the whole point of a rotating-offset-sequence polyalphabetic cipher would be to make the output more closely approximate an impenetrably random sequence: but perhaps people viewed things differently back then.

    The larger issue is one of structure: I would argue that Voynichese has a contingent, variable-length structure that looks broadly word-like, and the positional stats seem to back this up. Given that polyalphas disrupt features, why do we see so many features? I think that the strongest case is for a hybrid cipher/shorthand mix… but you knew that already. 🙂

    • JB
      March 4, 2010 at 5:39 pm

      Hi Nick! Yes, I did know that 🙂 I’m thrashing around really, as almost any cipher hypothesis seems to stumble on one or more of the known features of the text. The biggest stumbling block is the “8am 8am 8am” feature. I feel this is a major clue to the cipher, as it is so very odd, and not explained by most ciphers.

      By far the most exciting hypothesis, that does explain “8am 8am 8am” is Philip Neal’s alphabetic anagram idea. As you know, that would have the nice effect of grouping the same words together, and the effect of finding some glyphs more likely at the start/middle/end of words. However, it doesn’t work in practice, as there are occasions where e.g. 8am appears twice in a line but not adjacently.

      • March 4, 2010 at 6:09 pm

        Given that I’ve long proposed that “8am 8am 8am” instances are no more than steganographically-enciphered Arabic digits, I’d have to point out that there are other ways of reading these that also meet the requirements for making sense (if not more sense). 🙂

      • JB
        March 4, 2010 at 6:29 pm

        Yes, but …

        “8am” is such a common word. If it enciphers a number, why does that number appear so often? (Don’t tell me: it enciphers “17”!) If it encodes a single digit, why does it need three glyphs, which would seem to go against the rest of the text, which appears to be very economical in usage of glyphs?

  2. Ryan
    May 21, 2012 at 7:12 am

    I thought perhaps 8am 8am 8am might mean “etc etc etc”. I saw in your earlier posts, I believe the phonetic one where you also applied the sound “et” to 8am. Etcetera is a latin word after all. I am not well studied on the manuscript though.

    • JB
      May 21, 2012 at 7:55 am

      Yes, it may be. There are other repeating words as well as 8am, though – what might they be?

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