To get 2012 rolling, I thought you might like to know that Walter Grosse has just started an English-language blog about his Voynich Manuscript theory.

Briefly, he proposes that each Voynichese ‘word’ super-verbosely enciphers a digit, based purely on the number of letters it contains. So, the first six words of page f1r (in EVA: “fachys ykal ar ytaiin shol shosy”) is [=5] y.k.a.l [=4] a.r [=2] y.t.a.i.i.n [=6] sh.o.l [=3] sh.o.s.y [=4], i.e. “542634”. By then assigning (somehow) a set of Greek letters to each verbosely enciphered digit, Grosse generates a list of permuted words, and then chooses the one that makes most sense. In this case, “542634” turns out to be two 3-letter words (“542” and “634”), which he reads as σαν ετι, i.e. “As yet”.

Inevitably, though, it seems (from other posts) that he’s experiencing difficulty applying this same ambiguous cipher-breaking methodology to other pages, because he has posted lists of permutation tables followed by the rather dour phrase “0 possibilities”.

In some ways, it’s fascinating to see how old ideas keep coming round in slightly different guises. Brumbaugh similarly converted Voynichese to digits (though not so extraordinarily verbosely, it has to be said), and tried to salvage text from the resulting digit stream, though ultimately accepting somewhat grudgingly that the digit stream was not meaningful. Claude Martin travelled much the same path as Brumbaugh, proposing instead that it was constructed from a deliberately nonsensical digit stream. In my opinion, both Brumbaugh’s and Martin’s digit stream theories explained nothing whatsoever about the nature and structure of Voynichese, and so have nothing to commend them: and σαν ετι I don’t see any reason why I should think differently about Grosse’s superverbose digit stream theory. Sorry to have to point it out, but “it’s like that, that’s the way it is”.

So there is also a depressing fatalism to Voynich theories: that if you wait long enough, someone will inevitably build a contemporary doppelganger of William Romaine Newbold’s ink-craquelure Latin shorthand pareidoiliac theory, or indeed any other theory you may have already seen. Feeling desperate to see yet another Hebrew Voynich theory? Have no fear, like London buses there’ll doubtless be one along any minute. As my grandfather used to chortle, “Aldgate East, Aldgate aht!” 😉

28 thoughts on “First Voynich theory of 2012…

  1. bdid1dr on January 28, 2012 at 7:38 pm said:

    “Depressing fatalism? You? You started it all. Note the low-key, lack of exclamation marks. Hang in there. We’re closing in on a solution. I, for one, am beginning a “diphthong” “vowel-less” trial translation, though I have not been able to participate in any language studies because of my hearing impairment. I’ll keep you posted in a month or so.

    a’tout a’lheure! (I learned this expression from a Parisienne who was visiting Club Med Moorea. I also learned several Tahitian phrases, but only when they spoke directly into my ear.)

    %^ bifocals with tongue in cheek

  2. Mildred on January 29, 2012 at 5:37 am said:

    Would also be good to know in what form of Greek san eti means ‘as yet’ (though eti can mean ‘yet’).

  3. cjbearden on January 29, 2012 at 8:20 am said:



    Dr. Gates!!! Seriously Cool!!!

  4. Mildred: errrrrrrm, “mention or discuss” isn’t the same as “endorse”. 🙂

  5. bdid1dr on January 29, 2012 at 4:52 pm said:

    Nick: On your “other/last” Voynich discussion page (that was still getting comments into this New Year), Diane referred us to a very convoluted India-man mnemonic system. I won’t go into detail except to refer to a mnemonic device used by medical students just about “everywhere”:

    On Old Olympus’ Tiny Top a Finn and German Viewed Some Hops …..

    Some 40 years later, I can only remember a few of the nerves Olfactory Trigeminal Vagus…….

  6. bdid1dr: indeed, people have used mnemonics for centuries, and all kinds of reasons besides the cranial nerves. My personal favourite is the “cisoianus” crib, used in the Middle Ages to help people remember the order of feast days (i.e. long before it was simplified down to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and State of the Union address 🙂 ). Here’s a post discussing it, enjoy!

  7. I mentioned the Indian system because Nick appears to collect encryption-methods, and -well, yes – I was rather hoping it might merit a post somewhat clearer than the original:D

  8. bdid1dr on January 30, 2012 at 12:43 am said:

    Heh! I DID link. I notice that you apparently linked Diane also. Really, we aren’t necessarily “working in concert” here. So, I still think that a lot of the Voynich charts have to do with “monthly cycles” of a more “delicate” nature:

    Women in the Ottoman seraglio would have been under the scrutiny of eunuch guardians. Those guardians would be keeping track of the women’s cycles and most likely would also have been creating astrological charts for the women under their charge. So, depending on the nationality of the neutered men, their “common language may have been Latin — regardless if their nationality was French, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, English. How “far back” does the University of Leiden record its history?

  9. An interesting set of astronomical diagrams
    – with Franciscans, predecessor in the east of Jesuits.

    MS Brit Lib Harley 3734 fol.1v

  10. And – ah – it takes us back to Nicholas …

    “f. 2 is a reused document in German with two astronomical tables on the verso showing the constellations for 11 and 12 March 1362.

    Nicholas of Cues (b. 1401, d. 1464), bishop of St. Brixen in Tyrol in 1450, cardinal in 1449, founder of the hospital of St Nicholas at Cues on the Moselle, Germany: left his entire library to the hospital in his last will dated 6 August 1464”

  11. bdid1dr on January 30, 2012 at 7:04 pm said:

    Astronomical or Astrological? Or Whose birth chart? Or which stars/planets are being indicated?

    On another note, but maybe related: Was it not during the mid-1500’s when the Jesuit, Franciscan, and Dominican orders were all in turmoil? I know very little about Medieval European history except what I have gleaned from two of my favorite novelists: Josephine Tey (“Daughter of Time”) and Vannora Bennett (“Portrait of an Unknown Woman).

    Henry the Eighth. Elizabeth and Mary (Queen of Scots). King James Bible. Fascinating.

  12. bdid1dr on January 30, 2012 at 11:56 pm said:

    This may be a reference “doppelganger” but I haven’t been able to find anything more:

    Mary D’Imperio’s section 11.4 refers to “Currier’s transcript”. Have you or any “contributor” followed up on that reference? It’s pretty interesting — she refers to Currier but does not include his 20-page document within her publication. If you haven’t seen Currier’s ms, let me know and I will type the intro info re its “privately circulated typewritten manuscript…..
    (Also mentioned are Jacques Guy and Jim Reeds transcription of Currier’s work….

  13. bdid1dr on January 31, 2012 at 12:15 am said:

    One last post:

    Yesterday I was gazing out my kitchen window at my herb garden. I was leaning against my cookbook case when I remembered shoving a newly-purchased book I had bought from our library’s “Friends of….”. ($10 for a $25 book):

    Wilfrid Blunt
    Sandra Raphael
    published by Thames and Hudson, Inc. in association with the Metropolitan Museum of Art ISBN 0-500-01226-1
    10-79 (pages 88-91 in re “Voynich)

  14. bdid1dr: Blunt and Raphael’s book is very nice to have around! Enjoy! 🙂

  15. bdid1dr on February 5, 2012 at 8:35 pm said:

    Circling back to Nick’s “cisoiannus crib”..
    Several years ago, my bro-in-law was taking some photos of some “Roman” ruins and the courtyard nearby. At the base of one of the columns was carved a rabbit (Don didn’t notice that detail even when he was doing a layout of his photos). So, I went online to see what I could find about the significance of this one lonely rabbit.

    So, Nick, d’you think there might be a connection as to how the Easter Bunny got involved with the Christian calculations for that particular holiday?


  16. bdid1dr: not a hope. But I like it all the same! 😉

  17. bdid1dr on February 6, 2012 at 4:19 am said:

    O-o-o-kay, maybe I’ll hop on over to Diane’s spot; just to get her take on the subject. Tee-hee!

  18. bdid1dr on February 8, 2012 at 1:22 am said:

    Oestre: I’m going to have to back-track on the origin of this goddess (unless Diane can fill us in). (?) I may seem “spacy” but I read — a whole lot. My “bump of curiousity” often provokes my urge to connect “loose ends”.

    Forgive me if I wander off onto side trails. On another of your posts, I posed a Q to Diane as far as the strange-looking cap I noticed on a (not-antique) Greek ceramic tile portrait of a woman wearing a very strange looking cap. I’ve since recovered my memory of the origin: IF I remember correctly, the cap was an identifying feature for the goddess Diana (I think) and the Amazons.

    I shall now go afield with Google and try to back up my faulty (?) memory. G’night y’all!

  19. bdid1dr on February 8, 2012 at 5:57 am said:


    I linked to your comment (#9 above). I see the friars. What I see hovering above them is an Archer. So, would this be an astrological chart or astronomical?

  20. bdid1dr on February 11, 2012 at 6:19 pm said:

    Diane, I went back to the page/chart you refer to (#9comment above). This time around, I didn’t see an “archer” but rather two “cherubs”” amongst the clouds.

    I shall now be heading out for two evenings of Greek dinner and dancing at our local taverna.


  21. Dear Did1 (to use the familiar, if I may)
    I wrote a considered answer, but the link dropped out on posting.

    All fault of my i/net speed, not the blog’s.

    Too disgrunted to say more.

  22. bdid1dr on February 24, 2012 at 1:53 am said:


    I left a message on Esther’s notepage re my “voyages of discovery” re Kircher’s Mundus Subterraneus: briefly, the Michitonese section is ALL KIRCHER’s wording. Whether he was dictating to a scribe or penning the document himself is probably moot.

    The particular web/doc I cited can be found on Esther’s post site, but here it is for your benefit if you’d like to link:

    His opening ‘prayer’ (latin) was immediately recognizable. The subject matter dealt with volcanic activity and the Campi Flegri hot springs near Naples. Hydrophylacia. Fascinating! Take a good look at the Rosettes page also.

    My “vibes” perceptions my be a little “off”, but I decided to back off posting for a while and give Jim Reed, Nick, Esther, and you some time to catch up. Meanwhile I’ve gone through two reams of paper and uncounted ink cartridges to document my latest adventures in cyber/cipher-space. I’ll still be following the action, but will keep silent for a while. As the other “Jim” pointed out, whoever solves the Voynich isn’t necessarily going to be remembered, much like the last husband of Elisabeth Taylor…..

    bdid1dr (and half-deaf also)

  23. bdid1dr: sorry once again, but Kircher’s Mundus Subterraneus (though fascinating in its own right) arrived some 60 years after the Voynich Manuscript first pinged on the cultural radar in the Imperial Court. The Michitonese handwriting [in its unemended original state] contains many elements of 15th century handwriting style, and can also – I believe, and have argued at length here – be tied to the original author. In short, the Voynich Manuscript itself originated a century and a half before Kircher was born, and the Michitonese was entirely contemporary with that.

    Also: I don’t really understand comparisons with Larry Fortensky: for the majority of people who see the Voynich Manuscript as having been cleverly encrypted, it is basically the Everest of cryptology on top of the K2 of codicology… all in all, one heck of a hard climb. And without oxygen!

  24. I may have misunderstood Jim Comegy’s comment re Elizabeth Taylor’s last husband. (?)

    As far as understanding your comparison of the Voynich cryptology re Everest/K2 oxygen deprivation:

    I physically cannot fly above 4 or 5K anymore because my deformed sinuses/Eustachian tubes cannot equalize air pressure. I also won’t take chances with Italian cruise ships after the recent fiasco. So, what does all my ailments have to do with this post, you wonder? I would sign up for your next forum, regardless of the expense!

    Have a great time! Keep us all posted! My regards to Rene Z, Reed, Esther, et al!

  25. bdid1dr on March 19, 2012 at 8:01 pm said:

    re item 23 above:

    My point was/still is: Kircher apparently plagiarized just about everything he inherited from Crown archives (Holy Roman Emperor), Vatican Archives, Missionary reports…..

    He very likely was the person who “appended” the Michitonese/Latin to what may have been a blank end-page of the original document.

    How long after Rudolph II’s demise did the “Thirty-Years War” begin? How much written history was being produced during those years? Did not Continental Europe endure a “Hundred Years War” also? I’ve also mentioned the Hapsburgs multi-country, multi-generations, “Kingdoms/Empires”. Any one of those various “thrones” could have produced voluminous “libraries” in languages other than “Holy Roman”. But, unless we can “get past” Kircher’s (michitonese) introductory “greeting/prayer” to each and every article he published (with Vatican funding) we are likely going to fall into the same “sinkhole” in which I now think Esther Molen may be thrashing.

  26. bdid1dr on March 20, 2012 at 5:28 pm said:

    Again, shades of the “Blitz Cipher”, which I re-visited this morning. Though I can’t visit Greenwich “U”s Mansion Campus, I was hoping you might get a round “tuit”.

    BTW: A “round tuit” bears some resemblance to the “boss” letterhead in the Blitz papers.

    Did the Papal Librarians/Records sections use any kind of stamp/seal on the documents in their archives?

  27. Several months ago a Yahoo commentor claimed that they had determined the manuscript to be written in a variant of Italian ( a dialect perhaps) and that it was just a book about herbs, nothing special.

  28. voynich mean under fear,,or taking fear,,

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