The Voynich manuscript was covered in the latest episode of the German documentary TV series “Terra X”.

Since 1982, the TV series Terra X, aired by the Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF), has been one of the most popular documentary programs in Germany. Terra X started as a series about unsolved hostoric mysteries, but later also included other history and geography topics.

 

The Voynich manuscript in Terra X

Although there have been hundreds of Terra X episodes over the last four decades, to my knowledge the Voynich manuscript was never covered – though it is one of the most fascinating historic mysteries I know.

Yesterday, this finally changed. In a Terra X episode titled “Geheimnisvolle Botschaften” (“Secret messages”), among a few other stories, an 11-minutes report on the Voynich manuscript was featured. It was moderated by Harald Lesch, a professor known for his ability to explain scientific topics to a non-expert audience.

The Terra X episode containing the Voynich manuscript report is available on the ZDF website. I’m afraid this video will be deleted after two weeks or so, but I hope somebody will upload it to YouTube. The Voynich manuscript part starts at 17:38 and lasts until 28:18.

The report starts with Harald Lesch explaining a few well-known facts about the manuscript. After this introduction, it focusses on the theory that Nostradamus was the author of the mysterious book. Nostradamus is only one out of very many candidates who might have created the Voynich manuscript and he is by far not the most likely one, but apparently the creators of the report wanted to present something spectacular and the time slot of 11 minutes was too short for a detailed analysis anyway.

The only expert quoted in the report was US medievist Lisa Fagin Davis. I heared from her for the first time last year when she rejected a recently published Voynich theoriy via Twitter.

Source: Twitter

Davis is certainly not the most prominent Voynich expert, but I’m sure she is competent. I assume she was chosen because the original of the report was produced in the USA and the creators were looking for a US expert thry could interview. My friend Richard Santa-Coloma would certainly have been a good choice, too.

 

An interview with Jürgen Hermes

If you’re looking for a more detailed treatise of the Voynich manuscript and if you understand German, I recommend a podcast interview given by German linguist and Voynich manuscript expert Jürgen Hermes.

Source: Hermes

The interview, which lasts over two hours, is available on Zeitsprung, a history podcast and blog hosted by Richard Hemmer and Daniel Meßner. Thanks to Michael Poitner, Ralf Bülow and Ralf Stamm for making me aware of it.


Further reading: René Zandbergen’s views about the Voynich manuscript

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Kommentare (6)

  1. #1 Richard SantaColoma
    https://proto57.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/the-modern-forgery-hypothesis/
    21. Januar 2020

    Thank you for the mention!

    I watched the film, but unfortunately I do not understand German, and it was too difficult for me to hear the English dialog of Ms. Davis under the narration. But I see what you mean about Nostradamus: This show does seem to focus on this particular theory, and probably because it is considered one of the most “exciting” proposals, if not the most widely held.

    Perhaps this show will become available with English subtitles. But the producers also allow one to download the video by a link (unusual, but welcome), so I saved a copy.

    And perhaps Lisa Davis will see your blog, and comment here. I may also write her, if I can, and ask her for her thoughts on the documentary, and the Voynich in general.

    Rich.

    PS: One scene in the film that I found ironic is when they were folding the 1666 Marci letter copy they used as a prop. This is because I, too, printed out a copy of it, several years ago, and discovered that it DOES not work if you fold it along the visible fold lines. And you see this in the show: In order to make it fold “properly”, they had to ignore those lines.

    You can see a video of my folding of the letter copy, by searching “marci letter” on my blog, linked above.

  2. #2 David Oranchak
    http://zodiackillerciphers.com
    22. Januar 2020

    I extracted the subtitles in German and ran them through Google Translate:

    SUBTITLES (GERMAN):

    Auch nach der Entzifferung der Hieroglyphen bleibt uns vieles vom Alten Ägypten verborgen. Da ist uns das europäische Mittelalter doch viel näher. Aber auch bei uns gibt es noch jede Menge Rätsel zu knacken. Beispiel gefällig? Wenn Sie sich einen Eintrag ins Buch der Geschichte sichern wollen, dann entziffern Sie doch bitte diesen Text.

    Das geheimnisvollste Buch der Welt wird es genannt, das Voynich-Manuskript.

    Hier wird “das Buch, das keiner lesen kann” aufbewahrt. In der altehrwürdigen Universität von Yale.

    Im Büchertresor der Beinecke Bibliothek seltener Bücher liegt die Handschrift unter der Katalognummer MS 408. Zur Ansicht bekommt man jedoch nur eine 1 zu 1-Kopie der 246 Seiten mit 250.000 rätselhaften Zeichen und Illustrationen.

    Unbekannt ist daran alles: Sprache, Bilder, Inhalt, Autor, Entstehungszeit und -ort.

    Die Mittelalter-Spezialistin Lisa Fagin Davis befasst sich seit Jahren mit dem geheimnisvollen Manuskript.

    Dr. Lisa Fagin Davis, Direktorin der Medieval Academy of America:
    Die größten Kryptologen des 20. und 21. Jahrhunderts haben sich an diesem Manuskript versucht. Die Jungs in Bletchley Park, die den Enigma-Code der Nazis knackten, versuchten es über Jahrzehnte mit dem Voynich-Manuskript. Die weltweit stärksten Supercomputer wurden damit gefüttert. Und keiner hat es bisher geschafft, es zu dechiffrieren.

    Die Spur des Manuskripts führt zu dem Büchersammler und Antiquar Wilfrid Michael Voynich, dessen Namen es bis heute trägt. Angeblich hatte er es 1912 in Frascati in der Bibliothek des dortigen Jesuitenkollegs entdeckt. Und fasziniert von der Geheimschrift sogleich erworben.

    1639 soll sich das Werk im Vatikan befunden haben. Selbst der Universalgelehrte Athanasius Kircher, der schon versucht hatte, die ägyptischen Hieroglyphen zu entziffern, scheiterte an seiner Entschlüsselung. Von dort führt die Spur weiter zurück zum Hof Kaiser Rudolf II. Für 600 Dukaten soll der Habsburger, der sich für alles Kryptische und Spirituelle interessierte, es einem Unbekannten abgekauft haben. Ein Vermögen für ein Buch, das niemand lesen konnte.

    Davis forscht seit 20 Jahren an dem Manuskript. Ihre erstaunliche Erkenntnis: Nicht wie bisher angenommen eine, sondern vier verschiedene “Hände” fertigten den Kodex. Und auch der Entschlüsselung glaubt sie auf der Spur zu sein.

    Davis:
    Es fühlt sich langsam so an, als ob es sich gar nicht um eine Geheimschrift handelt. Sondern eher um die Umschreibung einer nur mündlich überlieferten Sprache. Eine phonetische Transkription, bei der jedes Zeichen für einen Laut steht, nicht für einen Buchstaben.

    Die Bibliotheken der Yale-Universität umfassen 12,5 Millionen Bücher. Und kein einziges ist in der Sprache des Voynich-Kodex geschrieben oder zeigt ähnliche Illustrationen.

    Seit 100 Jahren versuchen sich Gelehrte an der Dechiffrierung der unbekannten Zeichen. Doch das Manuskript hat noch keinem von ihnen seine Geheimnisse preisgegeben. Es ist nach wie vor eines der größten ungelösten Rätsel der Geschichte.

    Ohne neue Erkenntnisse wird sich die Autorenschaft des Voynich-Manuskripts niemals zu 100 Prozent klären lassen. Vielleicht hat sich jemand ja auch nur einen genialen Spaß erlaubt. Dann allerdings mit großem Aufwand und allergrößter Sorgfalt.

    Das Wissen um die frühen Besitzer beruht auf einem Brief aus dem Jahre 1665, den Voynich im Manuskript gefunden haben will. Altersbestimmungen anhand von mikroskopisch kleinen Pergament-Teilchen deuten auf eine Entstehungszeit des Manuskripts im 15. Jahrhundert. Das Alter der Tinte ist jedoch kaum zu bestimmen. Und die große Frage bleibt: Worum geht es in dem Buch?

    Davis:
    Ich hab überhaupt keinen wissenschaftlichen Beweis. Aber ich liebe die Idee einer Gemeinschaft von weisen Frauen, die ihr Wissen über Generationen mündlich weitergegeben haben. Und irgendwann schreibt es jemand auf.

    Davis ist mit dem Chefkurator der Beinecke Bibliothek, Raymond Clemens, verabredet. Schon oft haben sie über die Inhalte der Illustrationen diskutiert: Astronomische Symbole, unbekannte Pflanzen und badende Frauen. Das klingt nach einem Verdächtigen: Einem bekannten mittelalterlichen Arzt, Astrologen und Apotheker:

    Davis:
    Es gibt definitiv Menschen, die das Voynich-Manuskript gerne in der Tradition eines Nostradamus sehen wollen. In der Tradition der Propheten und Visionäre.

    Führt die Spur etwa vom Prag Kaiser Rudolfs in die Provence, wo Nostradamus lebte? Eine Verbindung zum Kaiser ist historisch belegt: Nostradamus schrieb das Horoskop für Rudolf II. und hielt sich in Prag auf. Seine Prophezeiungen hatten ihn in ganz Europa berühmt gemacht.

    Nostradamus, der weltberühmte Astrologe, Hellseher und Prophet, der Kriege, Revolutionen und Naturkatastrophen prophezeit hat. Ausgerechnet der soll das Buch geschrieben haben, “das keiner lesen kann”? Na ja, ganz so abwegig ist das nicht. Denn Nostradamus war auch als Kryptologe unterwegs. Er hat versucht, die ägyptischen Hieroglyphen zu entziffern. Und wer entschlüsseln kann, der kann auch verschlüsseln. Schauen wir uns doch diesen Mann ein bisschen genauer an.

    Die kargen Berge der Provence zwischen Rhône und Marseille sind die Heimat des legendären Astrologen. Hier wird Michel de Nostradame am 14. Dezember 1503 geboren. Lange lebt er in der Stadt Salon de Provence. Im dortigen Schloss empfängt ihn Katharina de Medici mit ihrem Sohn, dem späteren französischen König. Katharina verehrt Nostradamus. Sie lässt sich mehrmals vom “Seher von Salon” die Zukunft weissagen. Und benutzt seine Schönheitssalben, hergestellt nach Geheimrezeptur. Wir heute verbinden mit seinem Namen jedoch hauptsächlich die knapp 1000 prophetischen Vierzeiler.

    Der hat seine Prophezeiungen nicht nur in Versform aufgeschrieben, sondern auch in metaphorischer Sprache. Da besiegt der junge Löwe den alten, da fällt das Wasser rot vom Himmel. Das wird interpretiert als der Kampf des Thronfolgers mit dem König. Man kann ja alles Mögliche hineininterpretieren. Ein deutscher Philosoph hat mal gesagt: “Das Wunder an Nostradamus ist nicht sein Text, sondern die Auslegekunst seiner Erklärer.”

    Barbara Galland leitet das Nostradamus-Museum in Salon de Provence, das in seinem ehemaligen Wohnhaus untergebracht ist. Im Depot lagern Schätze. Originalschriften und Erstausgaben von Nostradamus. Ihr Inhalt: oft dunkel, verworren, verschlüsselt. Er selbst erklärt es mit seiner Verfolgung durch die Inquisition. Mehrmals hat sie ihn vorgeladen. Vom Publizieren abhalten lässt sich der Gelehrte dadurch aber nicht.

    Barbara Galland, Musée “La Maison de Nostradamus”:
    Dieser kleine Almanach, nicht größer als meine Handfläche. Heute würde man “Taschenbuch” dazu sagen, ist ein Marketing-Knaller. Nostradamus war nicht nur Mediziner, Prophet, Sterndeuter. Nein, er war vor allem auch der König des Kommerzes.

    Als Apotheker verdient er gut mit seinen selbstgebrauten Tinkturen und Salben. Noch mehr nimmt er als Sterndeuter mit seinen Horoskopen für Fürsten und Könige ein. Von seinen Prophezeiungen, die er bewusst in “nebelhaften Umrissen” hält, könnte er wohl noch heute leben.

    Die Arbeiten des Sehers erinnern an die Illustrationen im Voynich-Manuskript.

    Ihn faszinierten die Anatomie des Menschen, Geburtsvorgänge, Heilpflanzen und Sterne. All das findet sich anscheinend auch in der Voynich-Handschrift.

    Ob er tatsächlich der oder einer der Autoren des “geheimnisvollsten Buchs der Welt” ist?

    Nicht das einzige Geheimnis, das der Seher bei seinem Tod mit ins Grab nimmt.

    Die Antwort darauf steht noch genauso in den Sternen wie die Erfüllung so mancher Prophezeiung.

    SUBTITLES (GOOGLE TRANSLATED TO ENGLISH):

    Even after deciphering the hieroglyphs, much of Ancient Egypt remains hidden to us. The European Middle Ages are much closer to us. But we still have a lot of puzzles to solve. Would you like an example? If you want to secure an entry in the book of history, please decipher this text.

    It is called the most mysterious book in the world, the Voynich manuscript.

    “The book that nobody can read” is kept here. In the time-honored Yale University.

    The manuscript is in the book vault of the Beincke library of rare books under catalog number MS 408. However, you can only view a 1 to 1 copy of the 246 pages with 250,000 enigmatic characters and illustrations.

    Everything about it is unknown: language, images, content, author, time and place of creation.

    Medieval specialist Lisa Fagin Davis has been dealing with the mysterious manuscript for years.

    Dr. Lisa Fagin Davis, director of the Medieval Academy of America:
    The greatest cryptologists of the 20th and 21st centuries have tried this manuscript. The guys in Bletchley Park who cracked the Nazi Enigma code tried the Voynich manuscript for decades. The world’s strongest supercomputers were fed with it. And no one has yet managed to decipher it.

    The trace of the manuscript leads to the book collector and antiquarian Wilfrid Michael Voynich, whose name it bears to this day. He allegedly discovered it in Frascati in 1912 in the library of the Jesuit college there. And immediately fascinated by the secret font.

    In 1639 the plant is said to have been in the Vatican. Even the universal scholar Athanasius Kircher, who had already tried to decipher the Egyptian hieroglyphs, failed to decipher it. From there the trail leads back to the court of Emperor Rudolf II. For 600 ducats, the Habsburg, who was interested in everything cryptic and spiritual, is said to have bought it from an unknown person. A fortune for a book that nobody could read.

    Davis has been researching the manuscript for 20 years. Your astonishing finding: Not one, as previously assumed, but four different “hands” produced the code. And she also believes that she is on the track of decoding.

    Davis:
    It is starting to feel like it’s not a secret. Rather, it is about the description of a language that has only been passed down orally. A phonetic transcription in which each character represents a sound, not a letter.

    Yale University libraries hold 12.5 million books. And not a single one is written in the language of the Voynich Code or shows similar illustrations.

    Scholars have been trying to decipher the unknown characters for 100 years. But the manuscript has yet to reveal its secrets to any of them. It remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in history.

    Without new knowledge, the authorship of the Voynich manuscript will never be 100 percent clear. Maybe someone has just had a great time. Then, however, with great effort and great care.

    The knowledge of the early owners is based on a letter from 1665 that Voynich claims to have found in the manuscript. Age determinations using microscopic parchment particles indicate that the manuscript was written in the 15th century. However, the age of the ink can hardly be determined. And the big question remains: what is the book about?

    Davis:
    I have no scientific evidence at all. But I love the idea of a community of wise women who have passed on their knowledge through generations. And someday someone wrote it down.

    Davis has an appointment with the chief curator of the Beincke Library, Raymond Clemens. They have often discussed the contents of the illustrations: astronomical symbols, unknown plants and bathing women. That sounds like a suspect: A well-known medieval doctor, astrologer and pharmacist:

    Davis:
    There are definitely people who would like to see the Voynich manuscript in the Nostradamus tradition. In the tradition of the prophets and visionaries.

    Does the trail lead from the Emperor Rudolf’s Prague to Provence, where Nostradamus lived? A connection to the emperor is historically documented: Nostradamus wrote the horoscope for Rudolf II and stayed in Prague. His prophecies had made him famous throughout Europe.

    Nostradamus, the world famous astrologer, clairvoyant and prophet who prophesied wars, revolutions and natural disasters. Of all people who should have written the book “that nobody can read”? Well, it’s not that strange. Because Nostradamus was also a cryptologist. He tried to decipher the Egyptian hieroglyphs. And if you can decrypt, you can also encrypt. Let’s take a closer look at this man.

    The barren mountains of Provence between Rhône and Marseille are the home of the legendary astrologer. Michel de Nostradame was born here on December 14, 1503. He lived for a long time in the city of Salon de Provence. In the castle there, Katharina de Medici welcomes him with her son, who later became the French king. Catherine adores Nostradamus. Several times she lets the “seer of salon” predict the future. And uses his beauty ointments, made according to a secret recipe. Today, however, we mainly associate the almost 1,000 prophetic quatrains with his name.

    He not only wrote down his prophecies in verse form, but also in metaphorical language. The young lion defeats the old one, the water falls red from the sky. This is interpreted as the struggle of the heir to the throne with the king. One can interpret everything possible. A German philosopher once said: “The miracle of Nostradamus is not his text, but the art of interpreting his explaners.”

    Barbara Galland heads the Nostradamus Museum in Salon de Provence, which is housed in his former home. Treasures are stored in the depot. Original writings and first editions of Nostradamus. Their content: often dark, confused, encrypted. He himself explains it with his persecution by the Inquisition. She has summoned him several times. This does not prevent the scholar from publishing.

    Barbara Galland, “La Maison de Nostradamus” Museum:
    That little almanac, no bigger than the palm of my hand. Today one would say “paperback” is a marketing hit. Nostradamus was not just a doctor, a prophet, an interpreter of the stars. No, he was above all the king of commerce.

    As a pharmacist, he earns well with his self-brewed tinctures and ointments. With his horoscopes for princes and kings he takes even more as a star interpreter. He could still live today from his prophecies, which he deliberately keeps in “foggy outlines”.

    The visionary’s works are reminiscent of the illustrations in the Voynich manuscript.

    He was fascinated by human anatomy, birth processes, medicinal plants and stars. All of this can apparently also be found in the Voynich manuscript.

    Is he really the author of the “most mysterious book in the world”?

    Not the only secret the seer takes to his grave when he dies.

    The answer to this is still in the stars, as is the fulfillment of some prophecy.

  3. #3 Nikolai
    22. Januar 2020

    I am deciphering the manuscript of Voynich and got positive results.
    There is a key to cipher the Voynich manuscript.
    The key to the cipher manuscript placed in the manuscript. It is placed throughout the text. Part of the key hints is placed on the sheet 14. With her help was able to translate a few dozen words that are completely relevant to the theme sections.
    The Voynich manuscript is not written with letters. It is written in signs. Characters replace the letters of the alphabet one of the ancient language. Moreover, in the text there are 2 levels of encryption. I figured out the key by which the first section could read the following words: hemp, wearing hemp; food, food (sheet 20 at the numbering on the Internet); to clean (gut), knowledge, perhaps the desire, to drink, sweet beverage (nectar), maturation (maturity), to consider, to believe (sheet 107); to drink; six; flourishing; increasing; intense; peas; sweet drink, nectar, etc. Is just the short words, 2-3 sign. To translate words with more than 2-3 characters requires knowledge of this ancient language. The fact that some symbols represent two letters. In the end, the word consisting of three characters can fit up to six letters. Three letters are superfluous. In the end, you need six characters to define the semantic word of three letters. Of course, without knowledge of this language make it very difficult even with a dictionary.
    And most important. In the manuscript there is information about “the Holy Grail”.
    I’m willing to share information.

  4. #4 Klaus Schmeh
    22. Januar 2020

    Thank you very much, Dave.

  5. #5 Christian Reinhard
    23. Januar 2020

    I never heard about a hypothesis that the Voynich represents a phonetic transcription. Is this a new hypothesis? What is the evidence in favor of this hypotheses?

  6. #6 Jurgen Hermes
    Köln
    24. Januar 2020

    Dear Klaus, many thanks for the advertisement!
    @ Christian Reinhard: Yes, the theory has been around for quite some time. For example, Jacques Guy has speculated that the VMs text could be a transcription of an East Asian language. IMO there is some evidence (mainly the entropy values) that speaks strongly against a natural language origin without an additional cipher/code step.