The Voynich Variable


 

The Voynich Manuscript is one of the most mysterious manuscripts in the world. Within its 200 vellum leave pages is an extraordinary display of writing composed from an unknown alphabet with accompanying illustrations of plants, humans, and astronomical and astrological configurations. One of the theories surrounding the Voynich is that it is the work of Roger Bacon a 13th century alchemist and philosopher who liked to be known as Dr. Mirabilis. The Voynich has never been completely read or decoded but there have been a few scholarly attempts to unravel its mystery. One such attempt was made by Robert S. Brumbaugh of Yale University in the 1970's. He proposed that some of the writing was a number code where each number from 1-9 represented three letters of the alphabet. The numbers were substituted for the "Voynichese" symbols that appeared on some of the pages. It is believed that much of the writing in the manuscript is a form of simplified Latin where the words frequently end in us. Here is Brumbaugh's proposed number key code:

 

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With this number/letter/symbol substitution code, Brumbaugh was able to decipher the word PEPPER from the derived substituted numbers of 757752. The illustration that accompanied this cipher strongly resembled a pepper plant. The names of other plants and of some of the stars in the manuscript were also deciphered in this manner.