100-Year-Old Hoax May Be 600-Year-Old Code

UK researchers find new patterns in mysterious manuscript

By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 22, 2013 5:26 PM CDT

(Newser) – Many people believe that the Voynich manuscript—a book found in 1912 written in an unknown language with images of plants and astronomy—is a hoax. Cryptographers, mathematicians, and linguists have been trying to decipher the supposedly 15th-century text found by book dealer Wilfrid Voynich in 1912 for 100 years, with many deducing it's just a nonsense language fabricated by Voynich himself. But a new study has found the words may hold a real message after all, the BBC reports.

"It's not easy to dismiss the manuscript as simple nonsensical gibberish, as it shows a significant [linguistic] structure," says study author Marcelo Montemurro, a theoretical physicist at the University of Manchester. Montemurro used computers to analyze the text, finding the semantic patterns were similar to known languages, but in a way he says Voynich couldn't have known about in 1912 to make the language look "real." But although they have found the pattern, what the words actually say remains a mystery. "There must be a story behind it, which we may never know," he says.

The Voynich manuscript
The Voynich manuscript   (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University)
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