A Little Bit Like Everything, a Whole Lot Like Nothing

…That is how I often think of the Voynich Manuscript. On the one hand it has reminded countless people of many different styles from every age of every corner of the earth… while at the same time, it is almost universally noted to be too little like any one thing to “be” any of them. And I think this “being so similar to so much” is an important clue in itself, our most important clue even, and also, the clue most often missed or ignored. I was recently interviewed for a documentary segment on the Voynich (not the ORF), and I made this point. Unfortunately the interview did not make it into the final production, which I think is indicative of the problem in identifying, or maybe in my explaining, the point I am trying to make. It is difficult to define a nebulous concept such as this, and certainly not to an audience unfamiliar with the Voynich.

Characters: Just a bit different than anything.

I will try this way: Try to imagine just how impossibly difficult it would be for something to accidentally be so close to so many things, with so many individual elements similar to many other, varied and common elements… while each one of those elements, when every one of the little bitty parts and pieces is off “just enough” to not be the thing it most looks like? That may happen a few times in other works, and of course has and does… because it is unavoidable, on occasion. But to get every minute aspect of such a lengthy and complex work such as the Voynich this “wrong”, this “different”, on every level of minute detail? I mean, it would not… could not… happen by accident… I sense the odds would be astronomical for this effect to have happened by chance or error. I feel it must be intentional.

And by “intentional”, I mean that the author wanted the work as a whole, by seeing to this level of mismatch on every detail, to not evoke any real time, or author, or area, or culture, or language, and so on. And then, we would ask, why? Of course I have proposed, and still propose, fantasy… either a fantasy document in it’s own right, or one reflecting an existing mythology… possibly one unknown or forgotten.

Plants: Just a bit off each time.

And yet, I am mostly, almost entirely, alone in this. At the moment there is talk about how similar the character set is to Tibetian. I agree. It is. It is also similar to dozens of other character sets from several centuries, such as Chinese, and Arabic, and, I feel, like some Native American transcription characters… and many codes and cipher characters… while, again, being not enough like any of them to identify them as such. As an example of the effect this has on the investigation, there is a very good Facebook account called “The Voynich Revisited”, which does a wonderful job of both pointing out the myriad of “things it is like”, while really, making my point… it is like many of these things, I agree… and, again, just a bit “off” from every one, on every level. Sometimes the talk moves to herbals, and the real plants which may be presented in them. I agree… the plants do look similar to herbals, and some of the real plants in them, from many decades, and even, centuries. But, again, just “off” enough to not be any one of them. The same with the architecture… not identified as actual structures, but said to have the elements of Northern Italy to some extent, and also, perhaps, some Russian onion-domes, or maybe Middle-Eastern… with some Jewish Temple-like iconography thrown in. Elements, similar… again, “like” some things, but just different enough to not be identifiable. And the animals, and the style of dress, and on and on…

Astronomy? Well, not quite.

Added up, all these myriad of these similarities, so close and yet so far, are staggering in number. And again, I propose, to accidentally miss on thousands of individual elements, over 200 plus pages of text, without giving away one concrete connection to anything real… this, in my opinion, would be almost impossible to have happened by chance, and must have been intentional, and therefore is our biggest clue… a clue never followed. Instead, effort is put into finding a real connection, endlessly, as it has for a hundred years.

Even though history is ripe with fantasy and mythology, from Gilgamesh to Prestor John; from old Atlantis to New Atlantis; in music, poetry, plays, and literature, the idea that the Voynich represents a fantasy of some sort is scoffed at repeatedly. And fantasy and mythology such as El Dorado, or the Fountain of Youth have driven the quest for real discoveries, such as the New World, and new routes to the East. Fiction is a major factor in our world history, and has driven the imagination of millions to real achievements in the sciences and discovery. And yet, the whole realm of fiction is seldom turned to, the idea of fantasy and mythologies are discarded and ignored, when looking at the one document which continues to defy a solid connection to anything real. I find that bafflingly ironic.

Known Astrology? Very close, but no cigar.

I was also told once that fantasy, as an outcome for the Voynich, would be boring. Perhaps many share this view, and it has dissuaded others from entering this area of research. Also, and possibly connected, is that many investigators would feel cheated if the Voynich were based on fantasy… as if to find and answer which turned out to be poetic rather than pragmatic, would somehow rob the seeker of a valuable, interesting, useful, or valid outcome. I disagree entirely. Whether based on a real discipline, or mythology, the Voynich would continue to excite. Think of finding a lost book of Homer… or a play by Euripides… or think of a new real find of a fantasy or religious document we did not even know existed, such as Gilgamesh. Are these boring concepts? The lost plays of Shakepeare? A forgotten, dead religion? A secret cult? Boring? If the Voynich turns out to reflect a fiction, as I still strongly believe it does, I feel it will be one of the most exciting outcomes of all… and, I feel, it is the most probable possibility, and ironically, the most ignored.

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3 Responses to A Little Bit Like Everything, a Whole Lot Like Nothing

  1. Henrik says:

    I started reading about the Voynich manuscript this afternoon and got stuck. After having scanned the net for sites that deal with it I found your site. Impressively open minded.

    I have a silly question: Could it not have been fantasy written by a boy in “school”? It would explain the different advanced themes (plants, astrology) but also that they correspond to nothing in the real world. It would also explain variations in theme and style as the boy grew older.

    What cipher would a child use? Pig latin springs to mind. Similar child languages occur in many languages. It would be easy to write and to read. If a word becomes very long, just split in two. Then the variation in length of the words would be less than in a natural language, but the text would retain similarities to a natural language. Another things children like to play with is the anagram. If you want to write something megasupertopsecret that grow ups can’t read, you write a transposition chiper of pig latin with an alphabeth you invented yourself. The transpositions can be made up as you go.

    Ywfai ayyou acyan ydarae htisya, yauoy eyavah spyarha dyniam.

    • proto57 says:

      Hi, Henrik: Thank you for the nice comments about my blog.

      Your question and idea are not silly at all, in my opinion. Not that it matters to it’s value, but it has also been suggested by others. I suppose that there is an overall child-like nature to the Voynich. The glyphs are really nice and orderly, but so was the writing of your educated child or teen in the Renaissance. As for Pig Latin, I can’t say one way or the other, without playing with it myself. But it is your idea, and maybe you got “hooked” just enough to try variations of this. Make certain you read Mary D’imperio’s 1970’s compilation of methods and theories up to then, and also Rene Zandbergen’s very complete site dealing with just about every aspect of the Voynich. Another site, if you have not seen it, is the really excellent one of Jan Hurych, which has many detailed explanations on provenance. And of course, there are links on my main page here, with those and others. Have fun!… Rich.

  2. Henrik says:

    Thanks! I have a feeling I will not be able to let this go… I’ll check out the links.

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