The Voynich Manuscript - Speech Notes for a Presentation?

What is this image for, what is it about and what language is that?

René Zandbergen:- "Over the years, I have formed many different opinions about the MS, or particular aspects of it, but many of these have changed, or I have simply discarded them. Several times, I have gone through the process that I noticed something striking, and was convinced that I was onto something. Very often, I found it impossible to convince anyone else of my striking discoveries, and typically, I ended up deciding that it was probably nothing after all. ... "


René Zandbergen again:-

"The Voynich MS does not look to me like a document commissioned by a client. It rather looks like this was someone's own initiative."

I agree.

It appears to be generally accepted, and not merely obvious, that the VM is made up of sections related to various topics. In that repect it is rather like an automobile workshop manual, with sections on the engine, transmission, fuel system, etc.

Suppose for the moment that John Doe wants to build a record-breaking wind powered vehicle. Seeking financial support, he produces sketches and descriptions of his invention. But how to protect his intellectual property against theft if he can't afford the cost of a patent?

Here is a possible solution to the problem of protection: he creates rough sketches to be enhanced by oral descriptions. He realises that putting his sketches and plain language descriptions together in pamphlet form is risky. So: he writes the descriptions as presention speech notes in a script of his own invention.

Only the inventor can read those notes. He knows what the symbols represent and he knows his subject. To anyone else, the notes are gibberish.

Here is an example of some desriptive text taken from a real workshop manual and abbreviated such that I, having rehearsed it as part of a presentation, can readily sight-read it.

tdismg n assy ofavvv ng s mr cmpx t fo ranrml 4c blk

This is a form of text compression. It is lossy compression. Lossy because even I, having full knowledge of the context and my memory of the original text, cannot be certain of my ability to reproduce the original text exactly as it was written in the original workshop manual.

This example of text compression demonstrates a writing method unique to its author. Once the author shuffles off his mortal coil and becomes an ex author the exact decompression method is gone for all time. If the "speech notes" are written using a unique invented script it becomes much more difficult - but still remains possible - to make an educated guess as to the most probable words of which only the compressed forms remain.

Educated guesswork

Anybody attempting to reconstruct the original of the compressed text example would need to guess its purpose, its context and the underlying language.


If the illustration above were part of a collection of similar pages, then anyone familiar with the Volkswagen Beetle would guess with confidence that the document is about the VW Beetle.


Could this be a sales pitch, a user manual or perhaps a maintenance guide?


It's a VW, so first guess would be the national language of the reader. Given the global sales of the VW: that's a lot of languages. It would take many processes of elimination before arriving at the statistically high probability that the original language is English.

The Voynich Manuscript as a "workshop manual".


The VM appears to be written in the context of herbs and baths. That observation goes beyond the self-evident, the blindingly obvious and the pithy remarks that amount to the same thing. We know roughly when the VM was created; we know that herbal medicines and baths have been popular from long before the VM was written through to modern times.


It is possible that the VM is either a "user manual", a "workshop manual" or a prospectus for herbal baths. If a prospectus then it could be intended to be read aloud by its creator/s as a presentation on the benefits of herbal remedies and baths.


The VM was not found in a cave in the Sinai desert. Nor was it discovered carved on stone deep in the jungle. The consensus opinion is that it originated in Europe in the 15th century. Documents of that era intended to be read widely across Europe were written in Latin. If the VM was intended to be read aloud to prospective patrons or customers over a large area or in places where many languages may be heard then it would be based in Latin.


None of the above proves that the language underlying the VM writing is Latin. It merely demonstrates a strong possibility that such is the case.


The original text, from a manual, reads:

"The dismantling and reassembly of a Volkwagen engine is more complex than for a normal four cylinder block."