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Since retiring from the process of using my various educational accomplishments and work experiences for the vulgar process of earning money, I have been devoting some time and effort to interesting concepts in teaching medieval history through new technology. Unfortunately, the new technology keeps developing faster than the projects can be completed, but the modern web does allow things to be updated. Apart from that, I am a grandmother of four and donkey owner trying to combine modern technology with living a simple life like we did in the olden days. Yes, that is an old photo. Look at the computer. I've aged better than it has.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Not that Voynich Manuscript Again

In the course of running Medieval Writing I get a number of interesting emails. I also get some uninteresting ones. (No, please, I don't want a 50 page document on the heraldry in your personal family tree!) I also get some rather odd ones. Some of these concern the Voynich manuscript.
For those who have been concentrating on their real work rather than following this, the Voynich manuscript is a mysterious beastie that resides in no less august an institution than the Beinecke Rare Book Library at Yale University. It may be a fake, or maybe it isn't. It may be medieval. It looks like some old herbal and astronomical text that was written by someone who had perchance partaken of too many of some of the illustrated herbs, and is written in a code that nobody has cracked. It has been examined by experts in many different disciplines relating to language, paleography and cryptography.
The holding library seems to have a very generous attitude to dissemination of digital images of the manuscript, or perhaps it has just escaped from lawful custody. There are complete digital facsimiles on the web, and some dodgy CDs going around with images of all the pages. So everybody and his dog is having a crack at it now, and there are various blogs and collaborative websites where ideas are pooled.
This seems to be based on the Wikipedia principle that if you get enough people on the job, the obsessed and fruit cake cases will cancel each other out, and a variety of expertises will create a synergy that will lead to new approaches and ideas. However, it seems that an awful lot of people are just poking about in it and stirring the pot, creating a huge muddlement of unsorted theory and misinformation.
So here is my theory. In Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels there is a character called Leonard of Quirm. He is a mad multitalented intellectual genius who is kept incarcerated by The Patrician for his own protection, although he can escape whenever he wants to. I believe that the Voynich manuscript was written by Leonard of Quirm. The script is clearly Ankh-Morporkian minuscule and the code is one well known to the scorpion pits of that city, used to pass secret messages between the prisoners. Through a strange hole in the space-time dimension, it has escaped into our world where it is creating chaos and confusion, not only because of its incomprehensible cultural context, but because the fabric of reality has been distorted during the transfer. I am not prepared to discuss this theory any further. That is my last word on the subject.


Nick Pelling said...

Hi Dianne,

I suspect that the Beinecke Library prefers virtual Voynich visitors to real ones: presumably the logistics of where to hang all those tinfoil hats has worn the curators down over the years. "Put it online", they shouted, "...and lock the doors!" :-)

Pratchett, ever the cheeky Tolkienesque B'zugda-hiara, likes to insert references to made-up languages: so why not Leonard of Quim indeed? As an aside, I would be unsurprised if Pratchett has been secretly working on Sim Pratchett, an AI able to elaborate a tiny germ of an idea into a 400-page Ankh-Morpork novel. Perhaps in the future, you will be able to click through on Amazon to commission your own Leonard of Quim Voynich novel, who knows? :-)

Cheers, ....Nick Pelling....

Anonymous said...

Ahoj Dianne,

Voynich manuscript je alchymistický rukopis, Czech alchymisty 15. století, JANA z LAZU. Rukopis se jmenuje ,,ZLATO BLATO,,( Gold Mud ). 1OO %.

Zlatoděj J.T.

Dianne said...

No idea what that last one is about, but at least it doesn't seem to carry a url for a porn site for once.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dianne,
The manuscript is writen and encrypted in the Czech language.Author manuscript czech alchemist 15.th century, John of Lazy. Manuscript can not resolve the English language.Contain nothing mysterious,alchemical many only description of operations. I have compiled many pages of the manuscript.Pictures are only symbolic.Women in the alchemy symbol of rebirth.And not only in alchemy.Plants are only symbolic.

Zlatoděj J.T.

Dianne said...

That solves that then.

Anonymous said...

hi, new to the site, thanks.