In the Press - Breakthrough over 600-year-old mystery manuscript
A breakthrough has been made in attempts to decipher a mysterious 600-year-old manuscript written in an unknown language: The Voynich Manuscript, carbon-dated to the 1400s, was rediscovered in 1912, when the antiquarian bookseller Wilfrid Voynich bought it in Italy as part of a rare book collection. Since then it has defied codebreakers and scientists.
“Now, Bedfordshire University's Stephen Bax says he has deciphered 10 words, which could lead to more discoveries. The manuscript, which some think is a hoax, is full of illustrations of plants and stars, as well as text. It has been latched onto by supporters of a whole range of strange theories including some linking it to Leonardo da Vinci or even aliens.”
Bax, an expert in linguistics and specialist in the Semitic languages and medieval manuscripts, had been working on the Voynich Manuscript for two years:
"I hit on the idea of identifying proper names in the text, following historic approaches which successfully deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs and other mystery scripts, and I then used those names to work out part of the script … The manuscript has a lot of illustrations of stars and plants. I was able to identify some of these, with their names, by looking at medieval herbal manuscripts in Arabic and other languages, and I then made a start on a decoding, with some exciting results.”