A few days ago, I was emailed by Gerry Scott from Cornell who recently, with the help of a friend, started putting together his own Wiki (a set of webpages editable by anybody) to try to give structure to the seething mass / wobbly jelly that is Voynich Manuscript research. Here’s a direct link to what they’ve done so far.

One of the nice things about this is that Gerry has tried to take my (many) criticisms of the Wikipedia page on board, and so has consciously…

tried to segregate facts and speculation. The wiki includes separate sections for textual, linguistic, provenience [sic], and art-historical research, and uses distinct “theory” and “fact” subsections within each section.

He’s aiming high, which is admirable: but it has to be pointed out that the challenge involved – basically, building an online ‘Encyclopaedia Voynichiana’ – is nothing short of gargantuan. It’s at least a decade’s work, and with Wilfrid Voynich’s 2012 centenary looming, we only really have a year before the next tsunami of documentaries hits our virtual shores.

Personally, I think there’s a better way: fix the Wikipedia entry. It’s the #1 resource served up by just about every Voynich-related web-search, as well as the #1 link given by just about every inane half-troll writing up their own gee-whiz account of the VMs: whether we like it or not, it’s going to remain the public face of Voynichology for quite some time yet.

The problem is that it’s, well, pants – it’s overlong, overcondensed, underreadable, and a reader coming to the topic fresh doesn’t really leave the page any the wiser. Structurally, the page’s core problem is that it has no clear distinction between facts, evidence, observations, hypotheses and suppositions: at the same time, over time its text has expanded to about 55K, which is just about the right point to start splitting it up into smaller, more useful pages. But how should it be split?

Personally, I think the content has been squeezed out by a barrage of meta-content – most of the text now seems to be taken up with theories about theories. Honestly: the moment any Wikipedia page fixates so heavily on theories that the thing itself gets lost, something has gone badly wrong.

But what to replace it with? I think there should be a guiding strategic principle in play: no theories on the root page, just facts and evidence. Furthermore, I’d split it up so that Voynich theories (Bacon, Filarete, Leonardo, Ascham, Dee/Kelley and, errrm, Bacon again, etc), Voynich meta-theories (hoax, glossolalia, exotic language, artificial language, hybrid language, shorthand, ciphers, etc), and Voynich history/provenance each have their own page. Which is not to say that those topics are not interesting in their own right: but rather that they’re secondary topics, and not essential to building up a primary understanding of the object itself.

At this point, some might say… “but take away all that stuff, and what would be left?” Actually, I think a surprisingly large amount would remain, pretty much all of which is what people new to the VMs primarily want to know about.

The Wikipedia page is the shopfront to our community and our research, and it’s not serving us well… so it’s time to fix it. If you would like to have a say in what happens next, please join in the debate on the Voynich Wikipedia talk page, or just leave a comment here.

21 thoughts on “Overhauling the Wikipedia Voynich page…

  1. Nick, I personally think that made any selection of the Voynich manusript research is unnecessary. Research that does not help. And that’s one reason.
    The manuscript is written in Czech language. It is also encrypted in Czech language.I ask.
    Who of you know Czech language ?
    The manuscript is clearly written,, John of Lazy, which is zlatoděj (alchemist).
    There is also the name of the treatise,, Gold Mud,,.
    Manuscript ,,Gold Mud,, is historically documented, bud it is considered LOST.
    What you tell me about it ?

    Hi, Josef

  2. Hi Nick: Your readers might want to know that the English version of the Austrian documentary will air in the USA this week, on the National Geographic Channel (NGC). The series is “Naked Science”, and the episode is “The Book That Can’t be Read”. It can’t, as you know! Maybe it will be in Britain, too, if you get NGC.

    BTW, when will you tell us your “number one” cipher mystery? Is that the mystery, what it is?! All the best, Rich.

  3. Marke Fincher on February 6, 2011 at 6:12 pm said:

    Hi Josef,
    I assume you must be one of the latest nutters to join the ranks of all the people who have solved this mystery before breakfast and wonders what all the fuss is about.

    So as you have solved this one, how about you move on to something else? Like ALIENS! Come on…you know you want to!

    And here’s Nick wasting his time trying to judge things on merit!

  4. *** No hay ninguna prueba al respecto. Porque Checo? y no Bereber? o Navajo?

    *** No evidence. Why Czech? and not Berber? or Navajo?

  5. Rich: thanks for that, I read the blurb on “Naked Science” last night. Please be reassured that I’ll announce my #1 cipher mystery as soon as it’s properly ready, lots of things to get right…

  6. Sergi.Ponder.I translated 50 pages of the manuscript.The entire manuscript is alchemy.
    Czech it’s because John was the Lazy Czech alchemist.
    Up to 50 pages translates hand writing, so that you know well. Frem the Hebrew John borro wed just kabbalistic gematia system.
    And with these Indians, you probably kidding. Indian gold was enough, even without alchemy.
    Unable to decipher another language.(only in Czech).
    ———————
    Marke, Manuscript gave me guite confused. Search for author’s signature six months.
    Determine encryption 20 minutes.
    I gave the site some 30 pages of translation manuscript Voynich.
    Now listen. If the manuscript was encrypted, and written in English, so it’s long been translated and decryption!!!
    The manuscript is written by John of Lazy.
    (Lazy in the Czech town).
    Lazy JJohn of the Czech alchemist of the 15th century.
    So think !!
    Hi Joseph.

  7. Nick,
    It is based on the book by Rudolf II. The book is also a section on the Voynich manuscript. Zandbergen wrote the book Prinke.
    If you want to send the entire pasage, witch concerns voynich.

    Josef.

  8. I’m quite prepared to believe it might be czech.

    But Josef, since (as you say) many of us have not the skills in Czech, why not make a full translation, and decipherment/decryption, yourself?

  9. By “it” of course, I mean here the language of the Voynich manuscript. I see no necessity for supposing that the language imagery and content need all be contemporaneous.

    That assumption is largely due to the projection of later custom onto this medieval manuscript. But at the time it was made, copying and translating older works was common enough.

    I do not think, though, that Czech is likely to be the original language in which the content of the ms had been recorded, since the imagery appears to me to refer to a much earlier era than c.1000ce, when the Czech language is thought to have taken shape.

  10. Correction .(Supposed to be)
    If You Want to Send the Entire chapter book. The book will be released in the spring around March.
    ——————————–
    Diane,
    the manuscript is written and encrypted in the Czech language.Translation overall.Meaningless. The manuscript is alchemy.Few people can read in alchemical manuscript.Making sense of alchemical record is difficult.John used the system of gematria.Leters=numbers= letters. He lived a long time in Italy.
    There he learned alcemy.
    Signated in several places.
    John the Lazy,the alchemist.
    The manuscript recounts Czech wife of Emperor Sigismund. Czech queen Barbora Celská. John the Lazy, accused Barbara of alchemical fraud.And then apparently fled. (myable).So much history.

  11. Rene Zandbergen on February 9, 2011 at 11:59 am said:

    As regards Jan of Lazu, there is already something about him here. Nick could certainly provide a working link to the blog entry titled:

    The secret history of “Antonio of Florence”

  12. Rene: there was also a follow-up post on Antonio of Florence here that may be of interest to anyone wanting to see his house. 🙂

  13. Manuscript 15th century.
    Why not translate what is seen in the manuscript It’s simple. Why do more complicated. You’re on the wrong track.
    Your theory know by heart.As Nick and your Rene.

  14. Josef: the problem is that I’ve seen more than ten similar direct “translations” of the Voynich Manuscript, and they all read as badly as each other. Why should I prefer one over the other?

  15. The problem is ,it is clear.And the problem is.That manuscript is encrypted gematria.And also the language alchemist 15th century.(slang word).
    Today I put the plants site f 3 v. Look and understad.
    (the blog zlatodej).

  16. Josef: Making 15th century slang Czech alchemy written as “encrypted gematria” clear to anyone is going to be a big challenge. And I know about encryption, gematria and Czech alchemy, and have read many pages from your blog! 🙁

  17. Nick,
    And what about the plant?
    (f3v). Sheer numbers and letters. And so are all encoded images.
    Plant code.

  18. Nick,I looked agin at f17r.
    Continiation of the deleted text. (( Jony Lassnio-o)).
    Jony = expressive Johny.
    Jony = Johny = John=Jan.

    Manuscript:
    Czech language:( Moc píši.I slov. Cizích píši. Jan Lassnioro).
    English language:
    (Power writing. And words. Foreign writing. John Lassnioro).
    ———————-
    y= J,,H= n,,(cabala)
    y,,o,,H,,Y,, = Jony.
    ————————

  19. Corectione :
    (Continuation),(again).
    —————————–
    Look at f 72v. Dating.
    Bottom right. The letters and numbers.
    37mq. ( 37mq= 1437)
    ( q=1,,m=4).
    1437th. B.Cellská crowed queen of the Czech lands.

  20. (( crowned)).

    Korunována.
    B.Cellská korunována v roce 1437, v chrámu svatého Víta na Pražském hradě na královnu české země.

  21. Thomas on June 30, 2015 at 1:42 pm said:

    Josef: I translated parts of your blog to funny English. So its useless.

    My negative IQ and hollow head! I laughed. You tirading whole world scientists because they stupid. I no scientist but same stupid, never mind. I fix railway semaphore with hammer. No speak czech.

    Please, I beg, make proper english language blog. To show us hollow heads real science.

    Seriously, Josef, please, make your work accessible to the wider world in formal English, and not in just the obscure and isolated Czech language. I, for one, am interested to learn of your theory, and I need to read a coherent account of it first of all.

    Finally, I don’t mean to offend. My own native language is Hungarian but I would not use the insular, narrow band Hungarian passionately to enlighten the entire world about my discovery that I am so strongly inclined to broadcast.

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