What has been called the most mysterious manuscript in the world has at last given up a tiny handful of its secrets. An applied linguistics professor thinks he's deciphered 14 characters from the famous Voynich manuscript, and with them 10 complete words, LiveScience, the BBC, and the Independent report. The 600-year-old illustrated text was re-discovered in 1912, but it's written in an unknown alphabet, and in the century since no one has been able to make heads or tails of it. Some have suggested it's an untranslatable medieval hoax.
"I hit on the idea of identifying proper names in the text," like those of stars and planets, researcher Stephen Bax explains. The same technique was once used to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs. After that, he could identify other words; pictures of corriander, hellebore, and juniper turned out to be labeled as such. "My research shows conclusively that the manuscript is not a hoax," Bax says. It "is probably a treatise on nature." Last year, another study suggested the same, demonstrating that the text follows linguistic rules.