Voynich Manuscript in the news

A friend of mine has a beautiful sleeve of tattoos based on the bulging and whimsical flora and fauna in The Voynich Manuscript, which has come up in two of my newsfeeds in the last few weeks. This article in the New Yorker talks a lot about the historical theories and contemporary culture surrounding the manuscript (maybe I should join the listserv?) This article in New Scientist discusses a new theory for decoding based on the entropy of distinct words. The idea is that identifying where words are concentrated within an entire text allows you to analyze themes (if the words can be read) or in this case how likely it is that page after page of undecipherable text has actual meaning. The fact words with a high concentration in the astronomical sections are not found in the botanical sections means it is more likely that these words actually have meaning–which is exciting!

I would really like this manuscript to have actual content that can one day be decoded. The X-Files enthusiast in me really *really* wants it to be some kind of lexicon from another planet… 

I wrote a paper on medieval cataloging, and one of the things I learned is that medieval library catalogs existed less to keep record of the collection in a single library and more to let users know what was available in the surrounding area. Individual collections were relatively limited because of the time and expense it took to create a work pre-printing press, so it was helpful to know what other material was within reach. It makes me wonder if any medieval catalogs have any record of who owned the Voynich Manuscript.

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