Thursday, February 19, 2004


Well, it turns out that the Voynich Manuscript is a hoax. I'm shocked. It took a mere 500 years, but a British computer scientist has managed to figure it out [...with a little help from his computer, as well as from a rudimentary little device known as a Cardan grille...], which is not to say that he decoded the folio manuscript. Having baffled linguists and cryptanalysts for centuries, the elaborate "codex" is purportedly the handiwork of one Edward Kelley, English adventurer and con man extraordinaire. It is posited that his intended target was Rudolph II, a serious collector of all manner of trinkets, as well as the occasional codex thrown in for good measure, and all for the low low price of 600 ducats [approx. $50000 USD worth of gold by todays standards]. If the creator of the work used a Cardan grille in its production, it is estimated that the MS could have been created in three months time... that works out to about $100 an hour if Kelley worked at it eight hours a day, five days a week. Not a bad gig, that cryptography...

What puzzles me is why all of these linguists and cryptanalysts didn't consider that many so-called adventurers of the time were exercising similar creative license... a potentially lucrative undertaking during a period that found Europeans hungering for knowledge of terra incognita. Any proof of the existence of utopian societies was eaten up with eager curiosity, any description of la terre australe taken at face value... Defoe, Chetwood, Psalmanazar... but a few examples of individuals who chose to exploit this phenomenon, albeit through the auspices of literature, while purporting to have travelled to the places that they wrote about. Though what else can one call the Voynich MS besides literature, especially now that we know it is a hoax?

Perhaps it can be re-named as the following: Travels in, and subsequent description of, an unknown land in an unknown place, though most likely, but not definitely, terrestrial, with an ensuing explication of pertinent herbals, astronomicals, biologicals, cosmologicals, pharmaceuticals, and recipes.

N.B. Please pardon my negligence with regard to failing to observe the rules of quasi-facsimile transcription for the above title.

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