Errrm…. yes, really. A few days ago, I discovered that the online Carrot Museum has a page dedicated to early depictions of carrots in manuscripts and paintings, which also includes a rather disbelieving section referring to alleged depictions of carrots in the Voynich Manuscript.
To add to the confusion, it turns out that medieval writers often got carrots and parsnips confused, so even if a Voynich root does look somewhat carrot-like to you, it might actually still be a parsnip and yet be referred to as a carrot. Or vice versa. All we can be certain of is that if the linked text does turn out to encipher some kind of carrot-related secret, it won’t be about ‘seeing in the dark’ (that came courtesy of the second world war’s Dr Carrot).
I ought to point out that the Carrot Museum’s virtual curators didn’t sprout this whole leafy conjecture on their own: rather, they relied heavily on Julian Bunn’s Voynich Attacks website, which has its own carrot-related page. The backstory there was that, while hunting for cribs in the Voynich Manuscript, Julian noticed that one particular label appears beside three separate plants all with carrot-like roots (one of which is helpfully painted orange), and wondered whether the label might somehow encipher “carota”. (Note that though Julian labels the label “okae89”, it’s “otaldy” in EVA).
It’s a good observation, particularly because the carrot-like plants are in the pharmacological section of the Voynich Manuscript which historically has attracted the least research interest (don’t ask me why, I don’t know). Anyone who wants something to work on within the Voynich sphere really should put some time into going over the two pharma quires, I’m sure there’s plenty else there that nobody has yet noticed.
However, at this point I have to caution any Voynich newbie rubbing their thighs with cryptological excitement at the thought of a carroty crib, that we currently have… zero evidence that Voynichese text is a simple letter-for-letter substitution cipher. So, even if ‘otaldy’ does genuinely encipher ‘CAROTA’ in some way, we can be pretty certain that ‘o’ does not simply encipher ‘C’, ‘t’ does not simply encipher ‘A’ etc.
All the same, Julian’s carrot crib may well prove to be a step in the right direction, you never know. You might even say that the past’s bright – the past’s orange! 😉