Imagine a book which contains a secret language and mysterious drawings, a book whose meaning has eluded the finest cryptographers and linguists for at least 400 years. This is the Voynich Manuscript
The Voynich Manuscript
is a document with a long history. It was rediscovered in 1912 by Wilfrid Voynich:
While examining the manuscripts, with a view to the acquisition of at
least a part of the collection, my attention was especially drawn by
one volume. It was such an ugly duckling compared with the other
manuscripts, with their rich decorations in gold and colors, that my
interest was aroused at once. I found that it was written entirely in
cipher. Even a necessarily brief examination of of the vellum upon
which it was written, the calligraphy, the drawings and the pigments
suggested to me as the origin the latter part of the thirteenth
century. The drawings indicated it to be an encyclopedic work on
natural philosophy. [...] the fact that this was a thirteenth century
manuscript in cipher convinced me that it must be a work of
exceptional importance, and to my knowledge the existence of a
manuscript of such an early date written entirely in cipher was
unkown, so I included it among the manuscripts which I purchased from
Yale has some sample pages online at http://inky.library.yale.edu/voy/voy2.html
There seems to be agreement that the text contains at least two seperate "languages" - either different ciphers, authors or plain text languages. This is born out by statistical analysis and examination of handwriting.
During my research, I came across these fascinating representations of texts in various languages including the Voynich text, with letters coloured according to their entropy (i.e. how easy they are to predict). So, for example, in English, the letters in the word "the" are pretty predictable - most of the time, a "th" is followed by an "e". Similarly for "qu".
Another subject I find fascinating is Data Compression
, an article at http://web.bham.ac.uk/G.Landini/evmt/commas.htm
discusses the use of Lempel-Ziv / "comma counting" to determine the entropy of the Voynich text(s).