Not only can writers now get books published hyper-fast, so too can their debunkers reply no less quickly: where faulty observing, theorizing or reasoning leave holes large enough to languidly drive a truck-load of Voynich conference attendees through, you can these days expect the same to be pointed out quickly enough. So it rapidly proves to be with the recently published “Le manuscrit Voynich décodé” by mystery writers Fabrice Kircher [love the surname] and Dominique Becker, who boldly claim to have decrypted the Voynich Manuscript: but, as you’ll see, this comes with an unexpected twist in the tail…

Their four-page Chapter One briskly dismisses the preceding history of the Voynich up to 2004, before launching head-first into an explanation of their transcription and analysis. Chapter 5 transcribes the ten last words on f20r thus:

olluig ollug llug golliig hand has ouand uos uouiig lluig

This babble poetry they fearlessly translate as:-

Le mouvement du lac, le mouvement d’ouverture, l’ouverture. Marche la lumière, advient, en glissant, le mauvais esprit inférieur, la basse fumée, l’inférieure vapeur de l’eau, du lac.

They get to this point by interpreting Voynichese as a polyglot mixture of (p.157) “l’allemand, le suédois, le néerlandais, le latin, l’anglais, avec quelque notions de gaélique et de nahuatl“. Because of the presence of Nahuatl (which got to Europe no earlier than 1521) and various other features, they date the object to (p.157) “entre 1570 et 1610“.

By now, most people who’ve read anything about the Voynich Manuscript in the last three years will be sighing miserably at the futility of this whole exercise. Not only have the authors recapitulated Levitov’s sorry polyglottism, they’ve also created a reading that has little obvious to commend it over other long-failed decryptions such as John Stojko’s. Frankly, to my eyes their base theory is a mess; the way all the polyglot languages are supposedly linked together is a mess; and the final translation is a mess. And I suspect that any broadly sane reviewer would say the same.

But here’s the twist: the book comes with an afterword by Jean-Michel Grandsire, a self-taught anti-conformist with a interest in the paranormal. To my great surprise, Grandsire points out the inconsistency with the 2009 radiocarbon dating and the 15th century swallowtail merlons in the nine-rosette page; and suggests (p.170) that the authors may have fallen foul of what Pierre Barthélémy in the discussion at the front of “Le Code Voynich” called la “malédiction du manuscrit” – basically, the curse of the Voynich.

So there you have it: a Voynich theory presented in a way that preempts the need for writing a critical review of it (because they do that for you). How very modern!

24 thoughts on “French researchers decode the Voynich Manuscript (errrrm… or maybe not)

  1. bdid1dr on May 27, 2012 at 4:34 pm said:


    I’m surprised you’ve given them this much “column space”. Thanks for the “heads up”!


  2. Hello Nick. Excuse my ignorance but: ¿What is the inconsistency between the 2009 radiocarbon dating and the swallowtail battlements? I though the dating (early 1400’s )was totally congruent with the existence of such defenses in the Noth of Italy at the time. Am I wrong?

  3. Eloy: yes, they are perfectly congruent with each other – however both are inconsistent with the 1570-1610 date proposed by the book’s two main French authors. Hope you’re fine and enjoyed the links I sent through to you after Frascati! 🙂

  4. Diane O'Donovan on May 28, 2012 at 12:00 am said:

    The presence of swallowtail merlons cannot be used to date the information in the manuscript – at least not with any precision. We know too little about their origin, original exent of use, and since examples still exist today they could have been included at any time – including the sixteenth century. It’s the C-14 dating, the range of pigments used, and to a lesser extent the style of handwriting which are our best indicators of when the manuscript was made. But form and content – as I’ve noted in another place – are entirely different issues.

  5. Diane: in this instance I was mainly passing on Jean-Michel Grandsire’s opinion, not expressing my own. Note that by the start of the sixteenth century crenellations were generally covered over with a roof, because of attacks with flaming arrows, so the fact that the swallowtail crenellations are visible (i.e. not covered by a roof) is what helps to date them here. 🙂

  6. Modern: All the searches include references so any estimate of relevance will be wrong.
    Search: (5/28/2012) “Voynich Manuscript”: About 1,900,000 results.
    Estimate: 1000 are not copied or rephrased from other sites and not inappropriate search results.
    Estimate: 100 are reasonable.
    Search: “Voynich Manuscript Solutions”. About 290,000 results.
    Actual claims: ?
    Search: “Voynich Manuscript Theories”. About 20,800 results
    Modern: Knox calls his three (and counting) solutions “spoofs”.
    Search: “Voynich Manuscript spoofs”. About 134,000 results. Notakrian by Knox is at the top of the list. His serious work is not found with the first search. Who looks past page three?
    The moral is …

  7. Knox: I suspect the moral is that nobody should take Google results pages too seriously! 😉

  8. Diane O'Donovan on May 28, 2012 at 5:30 pm said:

    Nick – not to be difficult, because I agree that that detail refers to a period before the sixteenth century.. just in general it is a mistake to read manuscript imagery as if it intended to be realistic as photographs. Even in a later manuscript, the image might be taken from an older manuscript rather than being drawn from life – especially if it isn’t showing an historical battle or something of that sort in which the person commissioning the work had some special interest.

  9. I’ll go with that. What I had in mind is: We need BS.

  10. Diane O'Donovan on May 30, 2012 at 12:39 pm said:

    Tomorrow, I’ll finally get my copy of the ‘C.of the V’. So looking forward to it. But it will get no debunking from me. I owe too much to this blog, which I refer to as the Voynichpedia, an without which I’d know nothing of the codicology.

  11. nickpelling on May 30, 2012 at 1:39 pm said:

    Diane: there should be plenty in there that hasn’t yet been revisited in one form or another in Cipher Mysteries, so feel free to let me know if there’s anything that surprises you (for good or bad, I really don’t mind).

    In many ways, ‘Curse’ proposes just about as unsurprising a theory as could be constructed – an author consistent with the art historical, codicological, and palaeographical dating, with eclectic interests, an interest in cryptography, strong connections to the Sforza crypto ‘establishment’, and who talked about his various books of secrets (including a book on agriculture, a book on machines, and a book on water). Oh, and who had his own herbal (though I didn’t know that in 2006). 🙂 It’s not a bad suggestion as suggestions go. 😉

  12. Diane O'Donovan on June 1, 2012 at 4:39 am said:

    (reading ‘the Curse..’)
    Two thoughts so far:
    1. That you might start a new post inviting comments from all who have read your book, and thus receive due credit as well as new angles.

    2. (p.24). If I were working on the language, I think I should investigate whether there is any evidence of the term for light being applied to the more general idea of the east: sunwards. Then the passage might intend something like: to run more directly (efficiently, optimally) to the east..

    just an idea. But certainly in Latin one finds the correspondance: offhand I recall one where oriens/Orion/orient/point of sunrise are equated to make a theological point as in (without looking it up) Christ is our Orion/east and his the light to which we are oriented (sort of thing).

  13. Dennis on June 2, 2012 at 4:21 am said:

    Quel faux derche! (Pardon my French.)

  14. Diane O'Donovan on June 2, 2012 at 9:08 am said:


  15. Diane O'Donovan on June 2, 2012 at 9:59 am said:

    previous a response to Dennis’ cryptic comment, of course.

  16. Diane O'Donovan on June 2, 2012 at 6:57 pm said:

    Well, since you asked..
    I’m a little surprised at the lack of “if.. then.. else” constructions; you seem to rely rather on “if..then..therefore”. It is surprising given your clear ability to think analytically and critically about Voynich arguments in general. I rather think you wouldn’t let anyone else get away with a phrase like “the 15th century swallowtail merlons in the nine-rosette page” – because any history of European architecture will show that the ‘heyday’ of the swallow tail merlon was somewhat earlier. Still, C of the V is a great read: part detective story, part history of codicology and cryptanalysis, part historical novel. Absolutely recommended from my point of view.

  17. bdid1dr on June 7, 2012 at 6:07 pm said:

    In re the discussion directions/orientations: several weeks ago, I pointed out that if one scrutinized the “9-rosettes pages (as laid out by Boenicke) and focused on the upper left corner and bottom right corner, one would see “solar” discs.

    Whether any of this latest comment from me is relevant (I haven’t read Nick’s book nor the French) y’all can decide for yourselves.

    Keep on keeping on!

  18. bdid1dr on June 7, 2012 at 6:22 pm said:

    In re “battle scenes”: “one” of the Aldobrandini family Popes has in the background of his portrait (mural?) an inset of a naval battle scene.

  19. bdid1dr on June 8, 2012 at 2:45 am said:

    Could it be they are “kidding around”? Pseudonymously? Kircher, Becker (Beckx?)

    Finally, my punny question: manuscript material: kid-skin= kidding (?tee-hee?)

    I hope you’re not too thin-skinned?

    a-tout a l’heure!


  20. bdid1dr on June 9, 2012 at 4:59 pm said:

    Late last night I took another look at Monte Cassino’s history. An item of considerable interest was the rescue/relocation of the monastery’s treasures to Rome during the Allied bombing of WWII. One of the two German officers directing that operation was named Becker.

    No joke!

  21. bdid1dr on June 11, 2012 at 4:59 pm said:

    Joking aside: I thought my mention of where a lot of Monte Cassino’s “archives” ended up during World War II might be of interest to some of our latest readers of the “Voynich Mystery”. Oh well!

  22. bdid1dr on June 11, 2012 at 5:07 pm said:

    Addendum to my last comment: Can you, Nick, or other researchers explain how the manuscript came to the attention of the US military cryptologists post-WWII? Can anyone explain the downright evasive, scanty “findings” made by Mary D’Imperio?

  23. Diane O'Donovan on July 5, 2012 at 5:06 am said:

    Just as a point of curiosity – how many published translations does this make?

  24. them swallows are relevant,every individual has a personal style of writing,and drawing.the artistic influences may hold more objective evidence than if and but ,and jumping the walls of languauge interpretation/meaning.Checking the print and ink /paint compositions will reveal a lot.

    If the manuscript was analysed SYMBOLICALLY and ARTISTICLY then more objective facts will come to light.
    problem is many of us love to find what we are chasing,and are very blind to our own interpretations/motives.

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