Pitfalls of Decipherment

I am barely a cipher amateur. Nonetheless, I’ve read and studied about many historical cipher attempts, both successes and failures, and over the last few years, and I’ve been privy to a great many decipherment attempts on the Voynich, both in public and in private. And so even if I have not made any significant decipherments of my own, the successes and failures of others have still taught me many useful signs of error in the process of decipherment. The failure of many of these attempts may be obvious to me and others, but is often not at all apparent to their proponents. This should not be so, as there is available a very simple two-step test one can use to determine a the correctness of any proposed solution. These tests are derived from several sources, but most notably the works of Elizebeth and William Friedman. Both of these conditions MUST be met in order for a claimed decipherment to be deemed correct:

1) Repeatability: If one can explain the system used, to a second person, and then they derive the same cipher text as the solution’s proponent, then part one has been passed.

2) Meaning: If the system is repeatable, as above, then the results must have meaning.

But the problem is that, in a very many instances, a decipherer believes they have met the above two-step criteria, and passed the test, when they have not. As I asked, why? It usually is because they have been trapped by various pitfalls, in which “ways around” the tests… although invalid… seem to obviate a need to meet those basic requirements, or convince them that they have met them. I’d call these “pitfalls” then, and are very dangerous. By not recognizing them in one’s own work, by stepping over or around them, one can become victim to spending huge amounts of life and effort continuing to work on what is a failed scheme.

List of potential pitfalls to decipherment:
1) Defending subjective input: It is normal, in many cases, for a decipherer to insert speculative plain text characters, words or phrases in order to test cipher schemes: Such as using the name of an item in an illustration, or a word which might make sense in the context of the work in general. But then a problem arises if the system is not seen as flawed when it needs to alter itself in order to allow for new results from new cipher text. That is, if the scheme needs to be altered to fit the new, speculative plain text, then this should be seen as a test of the scheme, and that the scheme has failed. It this “red flag” is missed, there is no limit to the complexities that that a decipherment scheme/system can grow to, in order to continue to adapt to speculative, desired, plain text. But we know the solution is wrong, because no cipher system needs to adapt for individual words. No matter how complex, a proper cipher will work consistently to decipher the text without needing to adapt as it progresses.

The signs to look for are if the decipherer will not try new text, and only sticks to small section of selected text. Another is if the system is not shared, often said to be “too complicated” for others, or if there is no expressed, relatable system at all. Sometimes a system is shared, but cannot be used to create meaningful text by a second party, and then this shows the solution is wrong.

2) Multiple Plain Text Choices: If at any point in the decipherment process, choices of multiple possible plaintext letters or words are needed, the number of outcomes quickly rises. The level of subjectivity in such decipherment schemes can be so high that many different translations of meaning, or near meaning, can be derived from the same cipher text. What to look for are charts with columns or rows of alternate “translations” for one cipher character or word.

Often the pitfall is that the translator has a concept of what they think the content is, or should be, so then the choices they make for the output don’t seem subjective to them, but the only logical possibility from the many variations conceivable during the process. In these cases, a proposer may believe the “repeatability” requirement must be bent, as there needs to be a mutual understanding of what choices should be made in the process, and that the original users of the cipher would possess that understanding. Another excuse is that the original creator alone possessed the necessary understanding, as they never intended anyone else to read the plain text. They then feel that, possessing this understanding, they alone come to the proper results. This is a dangerous pitfall, as there is really no way to convince oneself, or others, that this is unlikely to be the case. But it is  historically unknown as a concept, if that helps.

Another good test is falsification, as if many other results can be derived by using other choices of characters, then at the very least it should be apparent that any particular results cannot be known if correct or if in error. That is, any such results are virtually indistinguishable from guesswork, and therefore, the solution can be assumed incorrect.

3) Anagrams: Similar to the above, if any string of plain text results needs to be reordered to derive meaning, the chance are the derived meaning is purely speculative on the part of the decipherer. It is true that anagrams have historically been used to hide information, but rarely used to hide it in a way that another person could readily derive the meaning without help. This is a common misconception about various historic uses of anagrams, such as those by Roger Bacon and Galileo. They were using anagrams to insert a “watermark” of sorts in the test, so that they could later reveal that they were privy to some knowledge, so that they could later claim precedence to that knowledge, but without revealing it to unwanted eyes. But the purpose was not for another party to discern the meaning on their own, as it needed help from the creator to find it.

But if for whatever reason anagrams might be suspected, after only a few characters the possible translations quickly rises beyond any sensible use of hiding plain text, since many alternate plain texts can be derived from even short strings of plaintext characters. This means it becomes purely subjective, and almost from the start of the process. This was one of the pitfalls that William Romaine Newbold fell into, when attempting to decipher the Voynich Manuscript cipher text.  He derived long strings of characters, from which he, or really anyone, could assemble some resemblance of meaningful text. Newbold was assuming Roger Bacon content, however, and so he manipulated his anagrams until he found it.

4) Small Set of Input/Output: If a scheme seems to work for a select few words, usually under 20 (and rarely approaching it), and then the decipherer stops attempting their scheme on new words, it then becomes a pitfall. There are several such claims of translation, some of which have made it into mainstream media. In order to avoid this, one must make certain that their scheme continues to work on a larger set of cipher words, and that they do not stop at early, perceived, “successes”. Likewise, for those attempting to determine the validity of such small set solutions, they should first insist that the proponent apply their method to a larger set (editors and producers take note). Until they do so, the solution should not be taken seriously.

5) Lack of plain text meaning: This is only a pitfall if it is not seen as a failure of a decipherment, as per the two step test at the top of this post.

It is of course easy to translate the Voynich text, or any cipher I suppose, in a way that produces “something”. But if that something has no discernible meaning, it is wrong. The pitfall comes when one does not accept that this lack of meaning exists, or that it is important. For the former, one may think the encipherer must have had a meaning in mind for the resultant ramblings; for the latter, that it is simply not a problem that there is no meaning- that is, they simply do not address it, to themselves or to others. But if one wants to self test their scheme, or the scheme of others, then lack of meaning is a sign of an incorrect solution.

Nonetheless, there are many claimed solutions which produce meaningless text… in the case of the Voynich, this almost always involves long strings of repetitive words and phrases, as the cipher text of the Voynich has much repetition. It is often claimed that these meaningless solutions must be either song, chants or poetry we don’t understand, or lists of recipe ingredients or formulas, which we simply do not know how to use due to our modern viewpoint. In reality, they are simply gibberish, and not the solution.

6) False Patterns: It is human nature to seek, and then find, patterns in randomness. But the ability can become a pitfall when left unchecked in the practice of decipherment. This pitfall not only arises in seeing patterns in the text, but in illustrations, also. And a very good self-test is, again, if the results have meaning. There has to be a greater context for the pattern, or it is probably purely subjective. If one does not make an attempt to find that greater context, or diminishes the importance of doing so, they may never see the error in the scheme. But also, like many schemes which are vulnerable to subjective errors, a pattern may be “seen” which matches a preconception for meaning and context, and this then is mistakenly thought to be validation of the pattern. Another good check in that case is falsification… that is, seeing if other patterns can be also found, with other meanings, in the same text or illustration… by oneself, or better yet, by others. If they can, then there is no way of knowing which one, if any, may be correct, and the solution is in error.

7) Skipping the process: This is rare, but there are cases of decipherers simply inserting plain text for cipher characters or words, purely speculatively (or maybe loosely based on some belief of what the Voynich may be about): This can be food sources, if one thinks it a cookbook; or chemical names, if one believes it a formula book; or maybe herbal and plant names, if one believes it a pharmacopeia. Great lists of meanings for characters or words may be offered. The tests as usual are repeatability and resultant meaning, but these are often avoided in this case. One case I’ve seen is that the proponent wrongly claims repeatability because of anyone using the list will arrive at the same exact results as they do. But the point being missed in this case is that the list is the decipherment, and the list must therefore be repeatable, and is not. And so, repeatability has actually failed. Another danger is that one may simply surmise there is a missing code book that was originally used to derive the lists of meanings; and that the results are (again) simply not understandable to a modern mind. But if one is objective, and realizes that any list of words can be substituted for one’s own (for any speculative code book), and that any results can be claimed meaningful, as in #5, they will see the error, and so can avoid this pitfall.

Conclusion: There are many historical, and even contemporary, instances of decipherment attempts which have consumed large portions of their proponent’s life and effort. In the case of the many failed Baconian theories, several individuals spent decades in a fruitless pursuit of hidden meanings in Shakespeare’s texts. But there are many other cases like this, and unfortunately even in our time. The Voynich cipher has engendered many dozens, if not hundreds, of its own instances of this unfortunate effect. I’ve personally witnessed several cases in which very brilliant and sincere people have fallen into the traps I relate above, and so are expending their precious life energy, year after year, to baseless chimeras so easily avoided- if but a small amount of careful introspection would be applied. I offer my observations, above, as a well-meant and helpful warning to them.


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30 Responses to “Pitfalls of Decipherment”

  1. Thomas E. O'Neil Says:

    Rich you have to see my post on Reddit! Anyway I’m going to investigate the Cast Mouse Business Card from Wilfrid and it does look like it could contain some hidden Morse Code.

    Sorbus AriA plant f102v2 otol found AriA plant in f30v
    The facts are in otol is AriA!

    Looks like the facts are slamming us right in logical hemisphere of our minds! AriA is associated to Mars from Ares the God of war from Greek Mythology, which the Romans inherited as Mars the God of War. Yet AriA in Italian translates to air in English as it follows the theme of an empty otol pipe in f77r. So I just looked up AriA as keywords ( vegetation, plant). The plant leaf in f102v2 which looks like its cut in half has the serrated edges.


    Folio 49r Teste roma giuoco per le gente ade
    The folio translates to: (Witness Rome game for the people (hell or Hades)). I guess the serpent really added the kicker here for the author. After all Satan transformed himself into a serpent in the Garden of Eden. The Romans adored Hades!

    What is interesting to me was if this is referring to the Coliseum Wilfrid was using English grammar to write in Italian. I believe Wilfrid authored MS-408, because the writing style of Italian follows the English language grammatically!

    Whilst in Siberia, Voynich acquired a working knowledge of eighteen different languages, albeit not well.





    – . … – . ……. .-. — — .- ……. –. .. ..- — -.-. — ……. .–. . .-. ……. .-.. . ……. –. . -. – . ……. .- -.. .

  2. Thomas E. O'Neil Says:

    Hi Rich,

    This may interest you as well as I linked your Michal Wojincz Business Card. He actually did apply a variable Morse Code Cipher to the VMS and the Morse Code Cipher is inherent in his business card too.

  3. Thomas E. O'Neil Says:

    Hi Rich,

    My decryption is about Voynichese to Morse code to Italian anagrams and some English words.

    You should see this:
    MIT believes the Voynich Corpus to be in a Anagram format, list Italian a possible candidate!
    We then present an approach to decoding anagrammed substitution ciphers, in which the letters within words have been arbitrarily transposed. It obtains the average decryption word accuracy of 93% on a set of 50 ciphertexts in 5 languages.

    The properties and the dating of the manuscript imply Latin and Italian as potential candidates.


    I just want to say to all those people out there that think I’m drinking the kool-aid regarding a nutty approach for the text to be in anagrams, they should contact MIT. If they are on to Italian they should check in with my cipher as it leans more towards a Polyalphabetic over substitution.


    • proto57 Says:

      Hi Thomas: I’ve spent a lot of time reading over your ideas, and watching your Youtube videos, and I do not believe you have a solution to the Voynich. I do not believe there is any Morse code in it… at least, not where and how you believe it exists… not in the ms., and not in the logo, and so on.

      I think that your believing so might be a case of pareidolia, much the same as any of the well-meant observations with the Voynich text and illustrations, and very similar to the famous cases of believing one sees biliteral evidence in the works of Shakespeare.

      As far as, “I just want to say to all those people out there that think I’m drinking the kool-aid regarding a nutty approach for the text to be in anagrams, they should contact MIT.”

      It has nothing to do with “nutty”, and people do not need to drink kool-aid (that’s when you join others, anyway, and most people with ideas about the Voynich work alone), and you are VERY obviously a really nice person, smart and observant, with a great trust and belief in your own ideas… which we all are, of course, for the most part. But the work of MIT does not necessarily support your ideas, because if the Morse code, and other information you suggest, is not there, MIT can be right as rain, and you can still be wrong. It would be the same as saying “Expert XYZ thinks it may be Latin, and my proposal says it is Latin, therefore Expert XYZ supports my theory“. No, they don’t.

      Now I have to tell you I have been here before, for many years, as many of us have, many times. There are a GREAT many proposals like yours, although different information, different observations, different results. But they are similar in that they are unsupportable, and un-provable. For a very long time I have suggested that people with such ideas read William and Elizebeth Friedman’s, “The Shakespearean Ciphers Examined”, and also the book “Codebreakers”, by David Kahn. Perhaps you did, but I still suggest them, just in case. From the work of the Friedman’s, I derived a simple test I suggest to people, to see if they are on the right track with a solution or not. For any proposal to be correct, it has to fulfill BOTH of the below, at the same time:

      1) Repeatable: A person, when given the system, including any substitutions, lexicon, whatever information the proposer uses, will derive the same results as the proposer, from the same string of text.

      2) Meaning: The results of number 1, above, will have meaning in SOME context.

      I have seen each of 1 and 2 being fulfilled many times, and very often, also, neither, with respect to the Voynich. I have never seen anyone come close to both 1 and 2 at the same time. In the case of your work, I cannot, and cannot see how anyone else, would derive (in that case), the Morse Code you see… so right away, I cannot reproduce your work, so #1 is not fulfilled for me.

      If experience is any guide, and if I am correct in assuming that to get as far as you and all the others believe you have come, you will, of course, think I am entirely wrong, and simple have not read enough about it, or misunderstood the proposal, or don’t have the proper background. But I would only answer, should that be the case, that… in my case at least… you would have to show me how you fulfill my two requirements in the “Friedman Test” above, and of course, if you did that, I would be glad to agree you are correct.

      But as I said, I have not seen any of the Morse code, or other evidence you suggest is there, so I believe that it has already failed number 1, and so, that is my personal conclusion: You are on the wrong track here, your ideas are incorrect.

  4. john sanders Says:

    We might wonder “What hath Thomas O’Neil wrought”, upon the Voynich Intelligencia team over yonder, all of whom can be seen now sharpening swords for a turn at stabbing the bearer of bad 1421 tidings in the back. Perhaps they might be mindful of uncle Sam’s Morse’s own fraternal Yale links as well. Me thinks those pointed swords may in time need to serve another more painful purpose for detractors such as they. And Rich, you might do well to back pedal a little on your own allbeit polite negativity; As the old chinese proverb goes “My enemy’s enemy can be my brother enemy after all”…

    • proto57 Says:

      Well John it does not matter to me one whit whether or not an idea supports or detracts from my own ideas, what I matters to me is the value of the idea itself. Plenty of people support the modern forgery theories in one form or another, but I don’t automatically support them, even if it would be politically expedient.

      I want to know the idea, the basis of it, and in Thomas’s case, I see no basis.

      I have many such examples. Famously, there was a group in Italy, pretty well known, who came to me because they had published a book. They were trying to convince me that they knew of a letter by Wilfrid, in which he confessed to having forged the Voynich Manuscript. They offered to show it to me, if I came back to Italy. Of course I explored the possibility, and asked if an Italian friend could see it, and they refused.

      Is there a letter? I very much doubt it. But it would have been VERY easy for me to embrace these people, and tout the letter in my blog and writings, based on their firm assurances it existed. It would probably have convinced many. But I don’t give a crap, because their story fell apart, and I didn’t trust it, or them.

      This is a mistake often made. This is not a game to me, or politics, are some sort of contest. It is assumed… charged, really… that I, and others, are in this for those reasons, and that I must be so motivated, and will say and do whatever to “win” the “contest”.

      Which is ridiculous. I can’t speak for others, and I do trust your motivations, and, for that matter, Thomas’s, and many others… but not everyone’s. And whether or not anyone chooses to believe me is something I can’t do anything about… but as always, I only want to know the truth of the matter here, whatever it is. And so, if I thought there was any Morse in the Voynich, whether or not it supports or detracts from my own ideas, I would be equally excited to know about it.

      But there isn’t, in my opinion, so I cannot support the idea.

  5. john sanders Says:

    I couldn’t agree more Rich, but they, whoever ‘they’ may be, should be given a fair go to promote genuinely considered points of view whether right or wrong. If such be the case, it may at the end of the day, have merely provided enough rope etc and so be it. I am neither a supporter or detractor of Tom’s latest effort, though I do admire his tenacity and am quite satisfied that he believes he has a viable solution through his Morse key. Let’s not forget that one of Wilfred’s biggest lies was in his response to Miss Rickart’s query in 1917, that he knew nothing about ciphers, relying on opinion of Continental experts. Enough said on that, though if pressed I could add plenty more. Those so called scholarly detractors and bottom feeders are always out there with opinionated negative comments pertaining to others flaws, though always notably deficient in any ideas their own, so far as I can make out.

    • proto57 Says:

      Well yes, the phrase that jumps to mind, with all the really nasty responses to anything other than “old and genuine”, which I’ve seen and also weathered for a good decade plus, is,

      “What are they so afraid of?” I mean, if “they” are all correct, then it should not be a problem… because they would truly believe it is possible to one day prove their case.

      I think the negativity is a pretty good sign of frustration in NOT being able to come close to showing the Voynich to be the thing fervently projected: A 1420 (-ish) Genuine Northern European Cipher Herbal. It is really… and honestly I’m sometime embarrassed how long and how far I was led down that Primrose Path… it is really nothing like anything real, from that time, or any other. I think the only way for others to defend it IS with the “long knives”.

      I could tell you stories, too… perhaps I’ll have a chance sometime.

      “… one of Wilfred’s biggest lies was in his response to Miss Rickart’s query in 1917, that he knew nothing about ciphers, relying on opinion of Continental experts.”

      Yes he always “knew nothing”, make fawning sheepish wrong guesses, and hoped the experts could please please please “correct” him on this or that… then, of course, the expert’s “correction” would end up in his catalog. The “Boy Sketch” from the Valturious; the Columbus forgery; the Magellan Map “guess” to Hadshrin; the supposed “Giotti” miniatures on the Lives of the Martyrs; all just like the ridiculous “Topence” guess…


      Filling in between the lines… just speculation, of course… I would imagine he tugged and prodded poor Newbold along, until the unfortunate man was pretty much a puppet of Wilfrid’s, spouting all the Bacon nonsense for him… “Romaine, don’t you think this looks like a nebula?”.

  6. john sanders Says:

    One thing that really grates with me is a particilar detractor’s constant use of cute, know it all comparitive phrasiology to shoot down the merits of another’s well considered subjective opinions. The only thing more sickening that comes to mind, is the usual responding LOL… replies from his fawning disciples. Of course us good guys are live without sin.

  7. john sanders Says:

    Not mere frustration, more like desperation and attempts to distract; when a couple of the dome’s disciples, in horror cry foul & fraudulent misrepresentation against poor honest Tom O’Neil, for admitted past errors in his ill considered mistaken VM encryptions. Both agrieved scholars demand retraction, ceasure of unsold publications and reimbursement of any benefits obtained through his most audatious swindle. Not content with that, they demand that he retract present claims that Wilfred Voynich was not the honest man he perported to be.

    We might hope that, following timely admonishment and calm intervention by their site’s single voice of reason, that the chief antagonists might see the folly in continuing accusations of Tom’s alleged impropriety. For him to be be called a fraud, then perhaps others closer to their own 1421 base might also need sanctioning over their own like mistakes. Not to suggest any willful exploitation of gullible types, eager to hand over ridiculous sums to gain essential knowledge of mysteries attached to the Voynich Curse.

  8. Thomas E. O'Neil Says:

    Hi Rich and John,

    I just read all this and decided to post a rebuttal with evidence for Rich. I’m glad for John at-least he has opened his mind for this possibility of Morse Code as a Wilfrid Cipher to MS-408.

  9. proto57 Says:

    Hi Thomas: I look forward to watching your video. But first I want to address this:

    “I’m glad for John at-least he has opened his mind for this possibility of Morse Code as a Wilfrid Cipher to MS-408.”

    The only reason you hear from me at all is precisely because I AM open minded. All those many hundreds of people you never hear from are the close minded ones who will not consider your ideas enough to review and comment on them.

    Also, what makes you think that I am NOT open minded to the possibility of Morse Code in the Voynich? Because I do not believe you have found any, yourself? That is a wrong assumption. I am very open to the idea of there being many other codes, ciphers, stenography, and any and everything under the sun… in fact it was part of the theme of my talk before the NSA Historical Cipher Symposium two years ago, that people SHOULD look for and be ready for, and yes, OPEN to the idea that there may be many other types of hidden information in the Voynich.

    But because I do not agree with your observations, the things you think are there, I am therefore not open minded to them? Of course that is not correct… I am about the most open-minded of investigators out there, ready to spend my private time with a great many ideas, and review them, and give my feedback and opinion on them… and yes, hoping someone has something correct and valuable. But that is unfortunately one of the many ways in which my rejection of concepts is taken:

    – I must be closed to the idea
    – I can’t know enough about the subject (code, linguistics, whatever)
    – I don’t want the proposer to be right
    – I don’t want the Voynich solved
    – I don’t like the person
    – I’m not smart enough
    – I’m not a critical thinker

    The problem is, for the proposer, if they cannot accept criticism as valid, and then either explain why the critic is wrong, or adjust their method to fix the problems… but instead, assume one or more things from the list, above, as the REAL reason they do not agree…

    … the proposer will be stuck in a loop, always thinking they are right, the world is wrong, and nothing will ever change.

    And I point out that you didn’t either read or respond to my suggestion, above, that to convince me, or anyone, you have found something, that you meet the two critirea for success:

    1) Repeatability
    2) Meaning

    … at the same time. If you can do that… and as I said, I don’t think you can, because I already do not see the morse code you see… but if you can convince me you can do both, and show me that, then you have succeeded. Can you?

    If I sound annoyed, I can’t apologize. Perhaps I am a bit jaded, but this pattern repeats over and over and over and over…

    1) Someone anxiously suggests a “solution”
    2) Silence from the Voynich world
    3) So I break my back, spend my time, and with patience and respect, look the idea over
    4) The idea is totally wrong, demonstrably, fantastically even, wrong, and I patiently and politily and incontrovertably show WHY it is wrong…
    5) And then I am told I am just close minded, or ignorant, or mean, or biased, or or or or…

    So forgive me or not, but this is just another case, one of many. This same story is pretty tiring, really, especially in it’s almost perfect predictability.

    Now, as frustrated as I am, I am going to watch your video, and keep an open mind, because despite your thinking otherwise, that is EXACTLY what I am… even, now.

    • proto57 Says:

      OK Thomas… I watched the video, there is nothing in it I find convincing in any way, I’m sorry.

      1- Your system… from what I understand of it, is so full of speculative variables, that there is no way any two people would come close to arriving at the same conclusions you have. That is, it is not at all repeatable. So it fails the Friedman test, right there.

      2- On top of that… not that this part, in itself, matters… but you also don’t explain why you choose the words in Italian that you do choose. In other words, you give no reason for the words to be these words, your words, any more than any other words, in any other language. Yes, in one case you try and show how the plant is like a marijuana plant… but it looks far less like one than even some other plants, which also look little like one… so it seems you are trying to fit your plant to the word you found, and we don’t know why you chose that word to begin with.

      3- Then you are counting the Morse patterns to get the type or length of these words? Not clear why, again, but this is purely speculative… in fact, “speculative” does not even cover the situation here… they are chosen with no speculation, it seems, simply inserted. Speculation has some seed, some core, of reason to speculate on, as I understand it… you say, “.. take a translation of a Voynich “vord”, and add up all the equivilant dots and dashes, to get a total of dots and dashes. What we are doing is searching for an anagram word, that fits, in Italian, that total. Now, some would say it is ‘subjective’. I would say it’s half logic, and [ummm] a little subjective”. I am sorry, but I don’t see any logic in this, at all.

      4- Your results… the comparisons you show, between the Voynich words, and the Morse and Italian equivalents, actually show a great deal of variability to the choices for Voynich characters… a VMs “9” can be an “a” or an “s”, a VMs “o” can be several letters, and so on… there is more variability here…

      5- Anagrams: I is inaccurate to say I am “against” anagrams… only that they have a VERY limited use, in a very small scale, to be at all useful. They are almost NEVER used to encode information that one wants to be read by others, for this reason. The usual purpose is… again, in a very small sampling, with few letters… to hide information, so that later, the writer can prove prior knowledge or invention of something… point back to it, and say, “I thought of that first”. An example of this is Roger Bacon using an anagram of the formula for gunpowder… and Galileo used a short passage, as I remember, to prove first discover of some celestial event. But you needed the person to decode it, one, and two, it had to be very short. Past a few characters, certainly long before the length of a Voynich sentence, let alone page or the entire work, anagrams are far less than useful, as they would be totally irretrievable. And your defense of their use is not valid, “… it has to be in anagrams, because it has never been solved”. No, there are many other reasons it may not have been solved… many possible codes, stenography, languages… gibberish, too… in fact, anagrams, as they are not used like this, would not be useful like this, would arguable NOT be on the list for reasons the VMs has not been solved, let alone the only reason they were used.

      I could go on and on, Thomas… and again, you strike me as a nice, well meaning guy… but I am done here, you need to find someone else to try and convince, because all you have done with your rebuttal is further convince me… assure me, prove to me… that you do not have any solution, of any kind, at all.

      All the best, Rich.

  10. Thomas E. O'Neil Says:

    Dear Rich SantoColoma,

    You have spent your life investigating the Voynich Manuscript or the better part of it which I feel the same about my investigations; while you focused on providence I focused on the text, yet I’m not quite sure how much time you invested to decode this MS-408. So going on about valuable time I understand and don’t. We are truth seekers and I believe in your work as I understand it, that does not necessitate acceptance too mine. Yet this is a historical and pivotal decision for you here and I sense some angst. Let me clear it up in simple terms and explanations.

    First off, vord cutoffs next to images; have you ever noticed that most of the vords do not overlap the images? If upon inspection you notice the glyphs, you can see a correlation to my cipher, where gallows are used or a glyph which represents many dot and dashes is inserted to complete the vord. To me this is comprehensible due to the fact Voynich wished not to mess up the drawings! Secondly, Friedman’s little anagram was figured out like he suspected yet very difficult to do as he stated. This is in, “Elegant Enigma”, 6.5 William Friedman. Thirdly Rich, a minor suggestion and excuse me if I sound presumptuous, the past as far as William Friedman, Newbold and Tilman did not utilize the speed of computers we have today or if some of them even had access to one. Just because they failed does not imply I have! Friedman’s mantra and yours about repeatability is a little sickening don’t you think when it’s in anagrams, however the key with my cipher adds some stability to it.

    Simply put I could go on like the vords fail all frequency tests for known languages except there is a variety of vords throughout the text! It behaves like a language which indicates my method, because of different values the glyphs have to represent to obtain Italian words to form a narrative. Also sometimes you will see three vords or four in a row. Being that this cipher is in anagram format with a stable key, however perhaps that particular vord fits say ten Italian words which Wilfrid could string into a coherent sentence yet not perfectly though. He knew Italian albeit he did not know languages that well, but he was known to know a little of about 18 of them.
    Every decryption system has failed to produce a narrative except mine. Do you know for a fact that the Voynich Manuscript is not in anagram format? What if it is like my cipher suggests in anagrams? Then can you come up with a better solution? Look closely at what I call the Rosetta stone in the Voynich Manuscript’s Folio 77r section a dead center top for the empty pipe which represents Aria as in Air which some have related as the alchemy section. Look at it under a microscope and you will see the feint letters, “weird square A” and “ria”!
    .- .-. .. .- , See my cipher for dots dashes totals to explore (otol).
    Furthermore, how do you know if Wilfrid even cared to read back the document at any passage with 100% accuracy? At the time he had no computer to aid him in anagram Italian recovery. He wanted money and fame not to read a document back. I surmise most of it was on his mind all the time and so a decryption for the important vords he knew by heart. The glyphs (o,9,a and c) were for primarily for speed in his cipher whereas the (&) glyph gallows and its brother were for nearing margins and drawings.

    What you are looking at? My Morse Code to Voynich vords applied to Italian is a variable cipher. I believe if you cannot accept this possibility and not follow up then you are definitely shutting yourself up to this solution. That is closed minded in IMHO.

    Here is a step by step procedure to my method.

    a) Sum up the glyphs as dots and dashes from a vord using the cipher which I have provided.

    b) Next using the python code I provided input Morse code until the total dots and dashes are used up. This is complicated, press enter to see Italian output or simply use an anagram engine and remember the Italian word has to retain the exact sum of of dots and dashes to the vord!

    c) Retry it if it does not fit a narrative which maybe somewhat disjointed by Academia standards.

    End of Rebuttal to Rich
    Take care, friend and big thanks for your time.

  11. john sanders Says:

    We note refeference once again to William Friedman’s foolproof test for assessing viability of Tom’s morse code decryption methodology, which seems to have failed miserably once more; but is however doing a fair job scaring the pants off one of the resident debunkers over yonder….Does anyone know whether Herb Yardley, Bill’s much much maligned US Army decrypt pedecessor and lifelong nemisis, had any connections to Wilfred Voynich prior to his New York arrival in 1914. They may have been introduced by MI8 team member, John Manly, who had sought help with decoding as is revealed in the VM FBI file. The office was in mid town NY near to where Wilfred lived in E42 and it is known that Herb’s ‘girl friday’ was of Geman origins like Wilfrid’s own Ann Nhill and who had like talents for transliteration of shorthand (no mean skill). Perhaps they had even met in London around 1912 when the latter was sent over by the US Postal Service to learn the ropes on revised international Morse/radio transmission technique. Yardley had been taught Morse by his father, a railway keyman and he took up the profession aged 16, along with a lifelong affair with straight poker win chance percentages and loose oriental women with no win chance at all…

  12. john sanders Says:

    Getting away a little from the Morse thread, though still concerning times and places including a little factual repetition that may have gone unoticed earlier. My original suspects for the VM artwork, unbeknown to me previously, all from one Voynich related family, had occasion to visit the US, one for work in 1912 and another (more likely two) in 1915 for pleasure, the latter two? at a time when travel between Britain and The States would have to be considered a threat to safety due to the war. I’m thinking that perhaps the visits were made in order to make certain adjustments deemed essential to maintain initiative for the manuscript’s continued claims of bringing home the bacon so to speak. There is absolute documentary and artistic proof on both counts.

  13. Thomas E. O'Neil Says:

    Hi John,

    It seems to me that there is hardly much info out there on the net online regarding Wilfrid Voynich. Am I wrong or do you know of other sites besides here and this site.


  14. john sanders Says:

    Hey Tom,

    Am enjoying your input immensely for reasons untelated to your new work, which I commend anyway…I can’t really help much with friend Wilfrid’s lesser known bio, if that’s part of what you happen to be interested in. We could say that his Wiki nominated Telsiai (Lith.) origins may just as well be substituted for Wojnicz (Pol.) and that the more bookish Estreicher name might have been more suited to his chosen vocation than Habdak. As for a chance meeting with Ethel, his mysterious black robed future bride (marriage of convenience) looking out a slit widow in Warsaw Citadel (32 acres)..Where did they dig this bunkum up; I’m thinking either that old conman Bill the Yid or perhaps ‘The Brig’ himself who knew all the players in blighty.

    In all seriousnous though, I’m betting that our certified pharmacist cum bibliograher had been forcably signed up by Sid Reilly’s boss Bill Mellville, then gifted to Smith-Cumming SIS for overseas espionage work. Upon declaration of war in 1914, Fred would have landed on Reg ‘Blinker’ Hall’s lap and given special liason duty, with a credable cover vocation (plus suitable sale goods) in America. Setting up good contacts with the newly formed MI 8 cipher team in NY, led by friends more suited to dealing with British Admiralty agents than the antiwar pussycats in Wilson’s Washington DC. Then he would have had his nephew George down Mexico way in a secure Morse loop to Sessa from his own post office.. See Mr. ‘H’ Zimmerman Telegram.

  15. john sanders Says:

    AND Thomas: During those same heady days, at times interrupted, between August 1914 and mid 1919 (Bolshie extension), Fred’s mate, the Ace himself Sid Reilly was doing his own thing in New York City arranging clandestine arms shipments to various destinations for the hun. However, Sids work was for Smith Cumming’s SIS and Whitehall, totally at odds with our boyo’s eavesdropper pals from Room 40, so he was not likely to have been in Wilfred’s safe Sessa morse key loop. This stopped on ‘Blinker’ Hall’s desk at Admiralty, where Churchill had a different set of priorities for winning the war. It would be quite interesting to know whether all these Big Apple opperatives (on all sides), working in close proximity ever got together for ‘poker nights’ with their beligerent counterparts. Folks like HerbYardley, Ralph Van Dem, Marlborough-Curchill, Franz Von Rintelen (Manhatten Hotel) and the double dealing Bill Friedman. All quite prepared to fold on winning hands, rather than show their best cards I’d wager.

  16. Thomas E. O'Neil Says:

    Thanks John,

    Your writing contains wit and humor lol. I wish to know more about this mysterious circle of Wilfrid’s friends. Do you think Wilfrid hoaxed the manuscript himself or with a group of people. I believe he did it himself. Why are so many people falling for this manuscript to be a 15th century document and turn a blind to the fact that it’s a 20th century document? John Wilfrid’s chemist abilities had to be used while constructing the Voynich Manuscript. I suggest the missing pages perhaps held either to many clues to Morse code or mistakes. What are your thoughts?

  17. john sanders Says:


    Of course our knowledge of Wilfrid’s life up until around 1895 or so is subject to a good deal of hearsay and misinformation, likely to have been put out to satisfy a need for some background of the man long after his passing in 1930. It would also satisfy a need to conceal the true nature of his earlier clandestine activities by covering an onset of renewed academic interest in the Voynich Manuscript. My belief is that he may well have been the link between certain secret back door operations in support of the allies, but without need for direct government approval or apparent knowledge of the dirty detail. His main task was likely to collect and relay coded telegraphic cable information through a pair of most reliable confidants in the form of British born, impecably credentialled brothers based in Mexico City and Illinois; The full and substantial operating costs possibly coming out of Wilfrid’s most unlikely non existent wartime book sales and a little help from British Admiralty slush funding.

    George and Sebastian, adult sons of Mary Boole & Charles Hinton (decd.) just so happened to be Wilfrid’s favorite nephews on his wife’s side of the family. They had migrated in the 1890’s after a time in Japan, one eventually becoming a mining engineer in Mexico, his younger brother a patent attorney in Chicago We note that Ethel (Lily) Voynich had remained in England all throughout the long war years, only joining her husband sometime after 1920. Presumably she had stayed behind to run the essential GB secure Sessa cable link to the Americas, under cover of running the (not so) busy F.U.B.L. London book store and undertaking partime duties for Red Cross to prove her loyalty. In short, my theory proposes a Boole family involvement in the initial VM hoax, where a logic based non intrusive code was hatily converted from it’s original purpose of a personal rebuke against perceived scholastic snobbery, to help win the war, which as things panned out, seems to have been achieved Admirally

  18. john sanders Says:

    Whilst neither contrived or intended, for I have not done much recent research of the so called FBI file; most of those people giving their support to Wilfred therein, and to whom I have per chance recently referred, just happen to get a mention. They include a well heeled Edith Richert and John Manly, whose sister quite off handedly adds great weight to claims that our man was more than just a part time player in maverick Herb Yardley’s MI8 team …It may also come to pass, that the name Wilfred Voynich will one day be connected with convincing the Yanks to get ‘over there’ in April ’17 and help to ensure an allied victory against the axis forces in ‘a war to end all wars’, but not so long as the truth is concealed in the papers of Bill Friedman and others of his ilk.

  19. john sanders Says:

    My oh my Thomas, what wrath have thy wrought in His name?.All those ratty intellectual snobs, to which Mary Boole took umbrige to and pledged her Voynich curse upon, have turned their ungrateful spite upon you the ‘umble messenger begad. Who do you can think will crack first man?. I’d say it’s a toss up between those belligerant native German speakers; nothing to do with their grandad’s most exemplary war record of course.

  20. john sanders Says:

    We couldn’t help but note the barbed quasi comedy digs made at Rich’s expence by a former esteemed commenter; stuff about time travel machines and unattributable (not I) pangolin jibes etc. Just the sort of pathetic humorless attempt at mirth, in endeavor to get back in withthe equally unfunny and condescending 1404-38 (1465-80) Euro geeks (usual apologies svp).

  21. john sanders Says:

    I guess it’s worthwhile mentioning from the FBI file, that a renowned Chicago avangelist, confidant to Washington law makers and long time Voynich customer, gave his approval for issuance of a post war US re-entry visa for Wilfrid. Frank Cunsaulus told a BI Agent that he had often warned his friend that in helping the U.S. Army to identify Chicago/Mexican based German cross border spies, by overplaying preferential patriotic fervour, his business could face ruin. Needless to say Sessa business did suffer, though this may simply have been due to Binkers Hall of Rm 40 turning him loose after their double sting Zimmerman Telegram ‘interception’ in Mexico City; not about security concerns, nor him appearing to display a worrying degree of American favouritism.

  22. john sanders Says:

    Ger Hungerink,

    Lucky for you my man, that your story telling grandfather liked sex. Just for interest sake, are we talking gramps in a maternal or paternal sense; could make a difference to your secondary address entitlement. Wouldn’t do to have good folks like Thomas eg. refering to you as a jokular old basket, now would it?..js

  23. john sanders Says:

    Another bouncer that may have gotten through the wicket keeper or catcher (U.S.), with regard to passed over facts from mere cursory perusal of Wilfrid’s FBI file: Reveals that, in an aside off the cuff remark made by him to, non accusory questioning by the inqiring agent determining his background and bonifides, threat etc., he mentioned five nephews that were patriotically serving England in her war against the Hun. Let’s see if that pronouncement holds water for the unidentified relatives in question, original decendents of later renowned mathemation George Boole and equally talanted Mary Everest.

    Julian Taylor, son of Edward and Margaret Taylor (Boole) was already a qualified surgeon by 1914 at which time he was commissioned into the Royal Army Medical Corps as an humble ambulance driver/attendant. He served in the desert and France at the front no doubt and was decorated for his efforts at war’s end. In WW2 he was senior medical surgeon in Changi Prison, Singapore where he was inturned, performing inovative neuro surgery in primitive conditions. He dabled in the arts, like other members of his family and attended frequent artist camps in Italy in his formative years.

    Leonard Stott, son of Walter and Alicia Boole Stott also became a medical doctor specialising in war caused communicatable diseases, primarily tuberculosis, primarily serving with the International Red Cross in a quasi military designated capacity as specialist physician and overall hospital district administrator with regard to treatment and eventual re-habilitation of TB and influeza afflicted British and Commonwealth soldiers evacuated from the front. I can’t find information of his own presence at the front, though we might give him credit for doing his bit as uncle Wilfrid claimed.

    Geoffrey Taylor, another son of Edward and Margaret was already a renowed physacist and wave theorist at war’s outbreak, having been on government service to Amerca on at least one occasion around 1912. During hostilities he worked at Farnsworth RAF on aircraft wing avionics and also wave theory which may have taken him back to America for liason. His mother once an art student and father, a renowned mixed media landscape and botanical artist, were known to have been in New York about the time of Wilfred’s arrival in 1914. It can leastways be confirmed that dad was in New Jersey in 1915.

    Sebastian Hinton, second son of Charles and Mary Ellen (Boole) was married with children and working as a lawyer in Chicago in 1917. He apparently registered for service with a Provost Corps National Guard unit, though details are scanty. Being a British citizen and having travelled extensively, with family connections in Mexico, he would have been an assett to Room 40 operations from 1914. Poor chap suicided in 1923, as did his mother Mary following Charles Hintons untimely demise in 1907 or thereabouts. Chuck had been a science fiction writer, inventor, polymath, 4D theorist.

    George Hinton, oldest son of Charles and Helen had become a mine engineer in Mexico around 1903 and later an industrialist. In 1915 following raids by Pancho Villa against government supporting U.S.mine owner like himself were executed, Mr. ‘H’ took an office near Mexico City G.P.O. Having familiarity with Morse key telegrapics and a will to serve, he must thereby have engaged in surrogate contact with his Room 40 designate handler in New York. He was a selt taught botanist, plant collector and in later life, the authority on Central American flora.

    So there we have it, Wilfred’s nephews all prepared to serve jolly old England in her time of need in any capacity to which they may be called. Doing their utmost to thwart efforts by a determined foe and it’s abetors, to undermine British dominance and standing in the international powerplay game…Will we ever know if Voynich and his mystery manuscript played a role in America’s reluctant mobilisation and ultimately it’s more than fair share of the victory spoils. If it can be validated as a consequence of our input, both his patriotic acts and those of his Boole relatives will have served old Mary’s desires.

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