Grille Experiment

Cardan Grilles, or grills of some type, have been suspected as taking a role in Voynich creation. Most famously, Dr. Gordon Rugg investigated the possibility, and discovered that the text could have been created with such a grill, and could contain gibberish. This caused a firestorm of objections in the Voynich community, and very unfairly in my opinion. Neither I, nor Mr. Rugg, knows or is declaring the Voynich to be gibberish… but if there is such possibility, it is only helpful to everyone when this is carefully investigated. No matter what the truth is, we have to be ready for it.

But this post is not about that controversy, exactly. It stems from my attempt to see if there would be a way to determine the original grill used… that is, the position of the cut-outs… by examining several pages of text created with it. The basic premise of the experiment is to determine the positions of hypothetical grill openings which would be necessary to pen a word in, then compare the positions of those openings across multiple pages. Where the openings would line up, one could assume a common grill opening. Of course this assumes several things, which in practice, may not have been done: That the same grill is used for all pages, and in the same orientation (not rotated or flipped). But perhaps if the concept is practical as I describe, there would be a way to encorporate such variables. The following is adapted from my webpage on this subject. For larger images, see the original page (recycling again! I’m all the rage…):

The first step was to mark out the positions of all words on the first six lines of two pages. If it seemed to be a workable method, I could then do entire pages. I made each box just large enough to allow for all of the characters in each word to fit, even if they went far beyond the word. To discriminate between the boxes for each page, I made one red and the other, blue. To be able to separate out the information I added and subtracted, I used additional layers in each image. Here is the first six lines of f104r:

And here are the first six lines of f104v:

And below are these two samples with the Voynich images removed:


On the blue (f104v) example, the words bent because of the folding of the page, causing their position to different than they were in reality… I excluded them for that reason, and traced lines where they had been. After getting my two word size/position examples, I merged them into one. I then moved one over the other, until I seemed to have the best alignment. Interestingly, the best match of all word sizes which were anywhere near their relative placements on both pages, was the first word:
The green rectangles are marking where the red and blue word rectangles aligned well enough to suggest a possible grille opening. I could then remove the red and blue, and I was left with the suggested grill openings:
This is just an experiment to try the method, and look for improvements. I have no reason to believe that the Voynich was created with a grille, or that such a grille would be used without rotating (as it usually is, I understand), or used with words and not letters, or that an enciphered would even use the same grill on different pages. It is just an experiment to try out the method in it’s simplest form. In this form, all it would tell you the approximate common positions of words across multiple pages, and as such, where a hypothetical grill would have it’s holes. It would not, I don’t think, tell one whether a grill was used or not. Unless, of course, the same positions, and only those positions, repeated over some larger number of sample pages.

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