A few days ago, I posted here about my dissatisfaction with the current Wikipedia page on the Voynich manuscript, and about the kind of changes I proposed should be done to make it a better ‘shopfront’ for Voynich research. Basically, my idea was to move all the speculative theory-filled discussion across from the main Wikipedia page over to two or more new pages, so that the main page could instead focus on what the mysterious manuscript actually is (rather than on what it possibly might be). Separating the subjective from the objective in this way would, I think, be a much better way of presenting Voynich-related information, which tends to suffer from conceptual sprawl and lack of focus.

Since then, I’ve been working on a new ‘Voynich theories’ page as a container for a good number of the various historical theories surrounding the Voynich manuscript. What quickly became apparent to me here was that this similarly requires a structured way of presenting this information to visually separate each individual theory from the critique of that theory. Thinking about it all, it may be even better to separate the discussion of each theory into three distinct parts:

  • the key supporting evidence (that which is true)
  • the speculative theory itself (that which is proposed or inferred)
  • the main critiques of the theory (the key problems with the theory)

So, here’s a link to my first draft ‘Voynich theories’ Wikipedia page – what do you think of it? I haven’t even tried to complete the citations and references yet, I’d really like to get some initial reactions before I develop it further or even (*gasp*) add it into Wikipedia. Please leave your comments here, thanks!

18 thoughts on “My proposed ‘Voynich theories’ Wikipedia page…

  1. Marke Fincher on February 12, 2011 at 4:46 pm said:

    I think it’s cool Nick.
    And using a timeline to lay out the various theories of origin creates a nice structural way of organizing and presenting them.

    Similarly, alongside this, different theories of ciper/code type could be arranged on a timeline also – only in a non-definite way….mostly on the basis of when those certain cipher/code techniques were believed to be invented and first used.

    And the same triple section would work well in terms of (a) what the theory of system type is, (b) what evidence/features support the theory and (c) what evidence/features contradict the theory.

  2. I like it. I totally agree that the existing Wikipedia page mixes the facts and the theories together so that it is very difficult to get a clear idea about what the actual “facts” are and how each theory fits or doesn’t fit them.

    Your page is clear and comprehensible and well laid out. Love the time line; a nice and tidy treatment of the data. Makes the Wiki version seem hopelessly muddled in comparison. 🙂

  3. NB. Off-topic: I posted another comment ( replying to yours ) on your last news update ( about the carbon dating ) nearly nine hours ago now, but it hasn’t appeared yet. Should I repost a copy of my message ( might it have got lost ) or are you just in the middle of moderating recent comments still? 🙂

  4. OuiNon: I don’t know what’s happened there, the last comments I have from you were to do with parallel hatching – could you possibly post your radiocarbon dating comment again?

  5. 🙂 Thanks, your reply has made me realise that although my missing comment started off by talking about the hatching again ( in the context of the carbon dating and art techniques at different times in history ) I went majorly off topic thereafter! :lol :oops Sorry about that. … Particularly ironic seeing how much I appreciated the clarity of your proposed Wiki page about the VM.

    Will repost my comment in two separate parts, more appropriately. Thanks for your patience. 🙂

  6. 😕 I’ve just tried reposting a relevant bit of my comment on the carbon dating thread again, and it’s still not working, but on the other hand another part of that comment which I just posted on your “fuzzy thinking for a VM solution” blog piece has apparently gone through. 😕 🙂 …

  7. *** Esta muy bien que participes en Wikipedia, y tienes toda la razón en lo explicado en este texto.

    Creo que harás un buen trabajo, pero no tengo mucha confianza en los moderadores de la wiki.

    ***This very well participate in Wikipedia, and you have every reason explained in the text.

    I think you will do a good job, but I have great confidence in the moderators of the wiki.

  8. don latham on February 13, 2011 at 7:04 am said:

    Nice. Should have been done long ago, IMHO. In my line of work, no evidence can be excluded; an hypothesis must explain all of the evidence.

  9. I find the page fulfilling and you should proceed with the publishing. Thank you for such enlightening information.

  10. an.nymous on February 13, 2011 at 8:44 pm said:

    I know it’s only a draft, but to me it screams “needs reference”. (Especially if you make a page trying to separate fact from hypothesis) As most stuff is rather controversial, any claim in the ‘fact’ section needs (preferably multiple) references to back them up.

    Regarding the hypothesis part : I like the idea of listing hypothesis + ‘however sections’. Maybe turning each ‘however section’ into lists which might validate/invalidate each hypothesis seems more subjective, rather than advocating the authors viewpoint.

    If this is really intended as a wikipage, I’m missing initial paragraphs giving a general description and I don’t think wiki did a bad job there. (It’s only starting with the “purpose” section it starts to degrade rapidly)

  11. an.nymous: it was a substantial enough effort to get the draft that far, and it would definitely require collaborative effort to turn it into a proper Wikipedia page. As for initial paragraphs: the point of the page was not to supersede the main Voynich page, but simply to act a structured container for all the history speculation that was, errrm, polluting that page. Hence the new page would need to be ‘in balance’ with that page, so it would probably be a bit premature to add those in right now. 🙂

  12. Don: as I tried to make clear in the page, most Voynich theories end up putting a lot of effort into explaining why key parts of the evidence are wrong. What a mess! 🙁

  13. Marke: I’m thinking about other Voynich Wikipedia pages right now, but they present many other challenges. It’s a tricky area! 🙁

  14. Philip Neal on February 13, 2011 at 11:01 pm said:

    I like it a lot. I think that a historical classification of the theories in order of the suggested originators of the manuscript is the best way to cover the ground. But the way we classify types of theory is important too. you have cipher, hoax, forgery and a couple of others. I think it is important to flag the decipherment claims for the benefit of readers who are interested in that type of theory only. Ideally one would want consistent terminology to distinguish between

    1 claims to have deciphered the text
    2 theories that the text is a cipher of a certain type
    3 theories that the text is a plaintext in some forgotten human language
    4 theories that the text is meaningless

    1 decipherment claim
    2 crypto theory
    3 forgotten script theory
    4 hoax

    And should it be ‘theory’ or ‘hypothesis’? Strictly speaking, ‘hypothesis’ as I don’t doubt you know, but I suppose it depends who you are writing for.

  15. Hi. You have a fantastically funciful. Maybe you Nick will comfort you good news.
    I found the manuscript in the name of John Dee.
    This would prove that the Dee had the manuscript his hand.

  16. Hi Nick: Since you gave a start to my theories, I took the liberty of writing a description, and posting it. I removed the Drebbel theory bit you had there, as the newer “Utopian Book” concept replaces it. I think it is concise enough, and gets the points across in few enough words. Thanks… Rich.

  17. Rich: thanks!

  18. Philip: I’m planning out a separate page for Voynich metatheories / “category theories”, so this is something I’ll be tackling soon.

    As far as theory/hypothesis goes, I tend to use “hypothesis” to mean “a possible idea that is consistent with the evidence“, and “theory” to mean “an idea that is being asserted and actively used to deny or disprove evidence that doesn’t fit“. That is, the moment an hypothesis starts to spill out of its conceptual box, it becomes a theory – not necessarily a true theory (in fact, usually a false theory in the Voynich world), but a theory all the same.

    In these terms, there are hardly any Voynich hypotheses out there – even my Averlino suggestion doesn’t quite fit with the radiocarbon dating, so it’s not strictly a pure hypothesis.

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