(c) Torsten Timm, reproduced with permission.


 After all, one cannot have everything. One cannot combine historical continuity with logical consistency.

George Sarton.


“Voynich theorists are more likely to die of old age than to surrender their first born (theory).”

as a quotation, unattributed,  posted by Patrick Lockerby in a comment  to ciphermysteries‘ post, ‘Who Owns the Voynich Manuscript’ (Feb.1st, 2017).


It is clear that there is no classification … that is not arbitrary and full of conjectures. The reason for this is very simple: we do not know what kind of thing [it] is.

Jorge Luis Borges, Otras Inquisiciones – speaking about the Universe.  As translated by Will Fitzgerald.  Borges’ comments on the John Wilkins’ Universal Language are online here in an essay  ‘The Analytical Language of John Wilkins’.


“I am aware that many quite reasonable people … find a non-European origin so unlikely (a priori) that they would rather believe in impractically complicated codes, Byzantine decoys, and secretive communities of herbal conspirators, just to avoid it. ”

Jorge Stolfi, in 2002, writing to the first Voynich mailing list. (read the conversation)


They may beat us on quantity of madness, but on quality? Never!

Nick Pelling, a comment  in response to others made on his “Alien cipher language” post . (Nov. 19, 2009)


“but the encyclopaedists  drew further and further away from primary sources. There was little attempt to match reported statements with observations of reality: what was significant was the authority of the source and not pragmatic validation of its assertions.”

Keith Allen, Ch.7  ‘Prescriptivism from the early middle ages on’ (p.132) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

in case anyone wonders about what principle informs my work published here.. this is pretty much how it goes. ..

… intellectual analysis, namely, the process of describing the content of a work of art as systematically as possible so that its underlying meaning may be discerned as systematically as possible ..

from: Irving Lavin, ‘Iconography as a Humanistic Discipline’ in
Brendan Cassidy (ed.),  Iconography at the Crossroads.

Panofsky originally distinguished iconography from a deeper ‘iconology’ but is said later to have given up using the latter term; I expect that he came to recognise that to do the one sort of analysis well means employing the other, as a matter of course.


“Reasonable, intelligent people have always recognized that the earth is flat.”

Charles K. Johnson, president of the International Flat Earth Research Society


” More evidence for the God/Baseball/Square-Earth connection …..”

Roger Wilcox, The International Square Earth Society




Much of what has been written on the subject [of this manuscript] would have been laughed out of court under normal circumstances. Why it has not been is another enigma.

Jacques Guy, ‘Folly Follows the Script: the Voynich Manuscript’, Times Higher Education Supplement, September 17, 2004.

– written before my time, but still true enough  – D.


I have a problem with people who are not presenting data and methodology because I believe they are contributing to the bad reputation that surrounds the study of this manuscript.

‘Robin’ in a comment to the voynichninja forum.


“I believe that an essentially forensic approach is our only real hope of making progress”

~Nick Pelling, ‘Hieronymus Reusner & the Voynich Manuscript…’, ciphermysteries.com, June 17th., 2009


I have to admit that to the best of my knowledge no one has been able to find any point of connection with any other mediaeval [European] manuscript or early printed book. This is all the stranger because the range of [European] writing and illustration on the subject of the plant world from the early middle ages right through into the 16th and even 17th centuries is very limited indeed.
Brigadier John Tiltman,  addressing the Baltimore Bibliophiles in 1967.
(One or two images constantly touted as disproving Tiltman’s observation do nothing of the kind, but this is not the place to elaborate. – D.

It is somewhat futile to try to decode any document without being able to put it into a context of time and place.  It is time and place which give us our first clues as to the author’s probable purpose and language. 

Patrick Lockerby, 29th Sept. 2009.


technical accomplishment is there, but partly at the cost of breadth of interest. There comes a gradual restriction of scope and enquiry …This is very largely due to the dominance of dialectic … the trivium as well as the quadrivium .. neglected; not only was the range of intellectual discussion narrowed, but the existing subjects were either ignored or transformed…

Gordon Leff on Europe during the 13thC and a fair description of what happened to the public face of Voynich studies after c.2002.  Those differing from the ‘central European’ theory were actively marginalised, something of which a residue is observable even today (c.2016)


ON THE SAME NOTE:  The non-quantifiable dimensions to study of history and of art often pass under the radar of Voynicheros, many of whom are accustomed to think in terms of “sic et non’, binary classes and other forms of prescriptive logic.  So here I repeat the words of an eminent mathematician, and what he says of verse may serve also to describe pictures:

.. how can a single line of verse contain far more ‘information’ than a highly concise telegram of the same length?..  The … richness of meaning of literary works seems to be in contradiction with the laws of information theory. … The writer does not merely give us information, but also plays on the strings of the language … A poet can recall [ to mind…i.e. evoke in the reader] chains of ideas, emotions and memories with  one well-turned word.”

Professor Alfréd Rényi (~ with thanks to Futility closet for the reference).



.. breaking ciphers is all about testing hypotheses and finding *the* consistent solution, of which there will be only one. Historical research doesn’t admit of one neat solution and works very differently.

“SirHubert” ( comment to ciphermysteries, December 10, 2013)


It has been argued – I used to argue myself – that the [Voynich] phonetic structure was beyond the powers of a 16th-century forger to create, so that the text must be a real language or an unknown type of cipher.

– Philip Neal

Neal strolls the knife-edge quite casually ~ as if  ye Voynich saloon weren’t (then) all fist-fights at ground level and flying glass at head-height. This gem from an article about Rugg.


Voynichese may not be Chinese, of course. However, our failure to identify any familiar grammatical structure in 70+ years must mean something. If Voynichese is an unencrypted natural language (which, IMHO, is still the most likely alternative), then it is almost certainly not an Indo-European one.

-Jorge Stolfi, writing to the first Voynich mailing list (Sat. Jan. 19th., 1998 at 08:10:14).

During the eighteen years since Stolfi wrote that, Voynich studies has seen little done that was  likely to change that opinion;  Stephen Bax and Emma May Smith have again recently approached the text from the linguists’ angle.


My dating of the manuscript is 1350 to 1450. From that perspective, whatever happened in Italy after 1450 is of no relevance in formulating any theory about the Voynich ms.

~ Patrick Lockerby.

Though Patrick had no stated competence in codicology, palaeography, or art analysis, he correctly made that  range  before either McCrone’s evaluation of the pigments or the radiocarbon dating. And he rightly points out that the “histories” created for the manuscript covering 1450-1912 are irrelevant.


or, in the words of a correspondent

When you have a car that won’t go, you have three choices.  You can take the time to become a car-mechanic while it rusts; you can get a licensed car-mechanic. Or you can sit in the dam thing saying “Vrooom, vroom”….The last describes most of the stuff written about the manuscript since Wilfrid Voynich died.

~ a correspondent who signed his email ‘Henry Ford’.


If [your suggestions for] the labels for a row of plants turn out to translate as “sock, forbid, uncle”, it will be clear that there is either no link or an extremely symbolic one.

Koen Gheuens.


We know that the Orient occupies a fundamental place in medieval Western conceptions and spatial representations; they are expressed in several genres, in geographical elaborations,  crusade-projects,  treatises of natural philosophy, in travel narratives and in vernacular literature. The documentary material is so abundant that it is impossible to implement it exhaustively. 

~ Patrick Gautier Dalché. (translated from the French by D.N. O’Donovan)


When you find something new you have to immediately be your own worst critic and ask “is this above the threshold of significance?”, and to ruthlessly test your finding against that.

~ Mark Fincher in a comment to Stephen Bax.


‘it was the study of visual culture that opened up new paths of enquiry..”

~ Shiela S. Blair, about historical study of medieval Tabriz.


“It’s not that fucking difficult”

– Tony Gaffney,

.. commenting on one  happy German blogger’s  ‘mystery cipher’.  Sadly, no link. The blogsite  triggers some people’s virus-alarms.


A scholar doesn’t have to be ‘for’ or ‘against’ something. They can just make the thing they have to make.

–  with apologies for re-casting Jeremy Sigler’s original:




” I need not relate all that was said. Tempers became so heated and voices so loud that it was impossible for anyone to be clearly heard, and the chairman, who should have kept order, was among the loudest and most excited… there was an unreal air about it all …  Finally, when the noise had reached deafening levels, a woman sitting in the corner called out that, fascinating as the quarrel might be, she had come to hear the third paper… “

from the introductory remarks by Thomas F. Madden,  ‘Outside and Inside the Fourth Crusade’,  The International History Review, Vol. 17, No. 4 (Nov., 1995), pp. 726-743.


 “I don’t understand it better than you don’t understand it –  nyahhh”

– ‘Voynich theory-wars.


“Voynicheros are all about ego; mind-changing is just not something they do.”

– correspondent, explaining why he stopped communicating online. I’m grateful for the insight.


You’re not supposed to get crazy when your pet theory turns out to be unlikely.

– Derek Abbott  in connection with a different mystery.


You can lose entire days while researching the Voynich Manuscript on the Internet

– Nick Moran, April 27th., 2013


I am oddly heartened by ad hominem attacks; it suggests difficulty in finding any fault with my thesis other than its conclusions.(citing reaction to Darwin’s theory of natural selection)

pers.comm.  anonymous by choice.


You are of course totally right, … I misread a source and in a hurry wrote some crap. Thank you for catching my error, I have modified the text above.

“Thonyc” – Science/Math blogger

(not  by a Voynich researcher but oh-don’t-I-know-that-feeling!)


I … firmly believe: That the need for rationalizations, in order to explain contradictions, is far greater in the genuine camp…”

– Rich Santacoloma

I don’t wish I’d said this but  I had to preserve it.


“The Pyramids fear the Voynich..”

– ‘Thomas’ commenting on  ‘Alternative Voynich Manuscript Wikipedia Page’ ciphermysteries.com


Just look at the list of scholars ignored if their observations didn’t suit the current noise: Petersen on medieval history;  Panofsky on the imagery; Tiltman and Friedman on the written part; Stolfi on linguistics; Dana Scott on botany; Pelling on codicology, you on chronological strata … the list runs on forever.

Poor bloody Beinecke; they should have used  a much longer spoon.

~ pers.comm.


One suspects that the following is the deepest certainty in the breast of a Voynichero:

“It is our desire that you should know that the above historical works of ours, which you now consider so trivial, in time to come will, as we believe and, indeed, know for certain, survive for a very long time, and be more valued than very many works.”

 – Gerald of Wales

.. which same sentiment, expressed in  21stC America-speak, becomes:

“You need my Great Knowledge, a lot more than I need your sorry ass.”

– DIOSpeedDemon, 17 May 2015. responding to comments on his “hexbolt” decipherment of the Vms on YouTube.


‘It’s the world,’ said Dean. ‘My God!’ he cried, slapping the wheel. ‘It’s the world! …. Think of it! Son-of-a-bitch! Gawd-damn!’

Jack Kerouac, On the Road, Part Four, ch. 5.

– as quoted by Professor J. L. LIGHTFOOT in the frontispiece to her translation of Dionysius Periegetes’ geographic poem, to which I had said in 2011 or so (in a personal communication) that I was coming, increasingly, to think that the Voynich might be related (at least partly) because its folio 86v was a ‘world’-map which I thought Alexandrian in origin) –


the question you are trying to learn how to ask.

page lab.org



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s