How many more Voynich Manuscript theories does 2014 plan to dump in my inbox? Hot on the heels of Tucker & Talbert, Fallacara & Occhinegro, and indeed Stephen Bax (who I recently banned from commenting on Cipher Mysteries) as well as several others whose theories I’m patiently working through (please forgive the delay, but e.g. it takes time to learn Nahuatl well enough to comment on it), comes yet another new Voynich theory, this time courtesy of Jutta Kellner of Dransfeld.

Kellner has historical mystery ‘form’, in that she previously self-published a (2011) book 2012 + 4,3 Die Lösung des Mayakalenders und mehr… (i.e. a 2012 Mayan calendar theory book). And just so you know, her company JKdesign also sells a range of curiously beautiful neck-warmers as well as loads and loads of zips.

But what of her Voynich Manuscript theory, I hear you asak? Well, she claims to have first begun to solve the puzzle over an intensive five day period in February 2007, and to have been supported in her extensive secondary research by a family member ever since. Now she is looking for some kind of ‘crowdfunding’ to help her complete the last stage – translating the body of the text – by the end of 2014: she’s looking for somewhere between 20,000 and 25,000 euros. Which is, of course, a lot of zips.

But rather than laying to claim nine wonky words or one wobbly diagram, Kellner has actually published some fragments of her decryption. She claims that the plaintext is in Latin, dates from the 13th and 14th centuries, and “was written as a kind of adventure novel”: specifically, “it’s all about battles, assaults, quarrels, togetherness, voyages, captureing ships and much, much more…” So why can’t we just read it all straight off? Her good reason is that:

No computer program in the world can do this translation work, because you first need to extract the meaning from a “speech cloud”, but in the end there is always a unique solution. You never know in advance how long a sentence is. It’s like solveing a two-sided crossword in the head.

Of course I will not exposure the key. That would be just like you publish an ingenious invention without patent application. There were many inventors or explorers in the past who were cheated, exploited and ignored.

All the same, I think we can get pretty close to what (she thinks) she’s doing to decrypt our mysterious manuscript’s text. Let’s look at one of her examples (decrypted from Voynichese into Latin, and then translated into German and English), the top line of f28v (though she has the first word as EVA “tshol” when it should clearly be “kshol”):-

Voynichese: tshol qooiiin shor pchoiiin shepchy qoty dy shory

German: Zum Vierten Male Wasser zu holen ist mit Mühe verbunden. Wir sind sauer, weil wir nicht in den Hafen können, da dieser natürlich nicht die Tiefe hat. Demzufolge müssen wir jetzt außerhalb vor Anker liegen.

English: A fourth time to fetch water requires effort. We are angry because we can not in the harbor, because it certainly does not have the depth. Accordingly, we now have to be at anchor outside.

(Incidentally, Kellner dates this page to “10/12/1245”.)

For a Voynich researcher, the top line of f28v presents lots of classic Voynichese ‘motifs’ (one might even call them ‘leitmotifs’):
* it has a gallows character as the first letter of the line, paragraph, and page (just as you’d expect)
* it has a horizontal “Neal key” (a pair of single-leg gallows half-to-two-thirds of the way across the topmost line of the paragraph)
* it has a double ‘o’ in the second word (qooiiin), as a result of which looks to me as though it may well have been miscopied from ‘qoaiin’
* it has a jarring e-gallows pair, that (again) looks like it may have been miscopied (‘shepchy’ as written, when I would have instead expected ‘shcphey’)

Perhaps the most visually obvious thing about this short line is that it contains about eight words, and many of those are built up out of extremely common patterns: ol, or, qo, aiin, dy. But while I would broadly agree with the late Mark Perakh’s conclusion that the Voynich Manuscript’s text is probably abbreviated in some way, I somehow doubt that it could have been abbreviated to the degree that Kellner’s claimed decryption would appear to have been.

What’s going on here? I suspect that Kellner is translating the “4”-shape in the first “qo” pair to “A fourth time”: but this would make no sense for a 13th century or even a 14th century text, because the digit “4” wasn’t written in that way until very late in the 15th century. As for the rest, I have the strong suspicion that she is largely reading the rest as a Latin acrostic – i.e. building up phrases based on the first letter of the words only.

Perhaps Cipher Mysteries readers will do better than me at working out precisely what she’s doing with all this. But really, whatever it happens to be, right now I honestly don’t think it will turn out to be anything much to do with either cryptology or linguistics.

As always, you are entirely free to do with your own money whatsoever you will. But so far I’m failling to find any reason at all to direct any of my own crowd-of-one’s money in the direction of Dransfeld.

36 thoughts on “Jutta Kellner proposes Voynich theory, asks for money…

  1. You really ought to drop the drama with Stephen Bax. From my point of view, he’s been completely civil, and you can’t seem to let it go.

    You have every right to ban him from commenting, but to continue the dispute into your posts reflects poorly. Feel free to delete this post, but I suggest you also quietly remove the line from above.

    Regarding Kellner’s proposition: how offensive!

  2. Diane on March 19, 2014 at 3:33 am said:

    With the word ‘theory’ so debased that it means little more than a more-or-less novel, more-or-less plausible, plotline for another e-book, it’s hard to find enough enthusiasm to read the latest.

    A theory is supposed to offer an inclusive explanation for all established observations of phenomena in a given field.

    . I’ve yet to see any theory worth the name for the Voynich script, text, imagery, manufacture and proposed raison d’etre.

    Nor are we likely to see one soon, I’d suggest, with so many determined to push their own imagined storyline at the expense of balance, rationality and respect for prior impartial observations.

    Leave it to the professionals in manuscript evaluation lend it to the Brit Lib. or Christie’s or something and stand well back for a year.


  3. B Deveson on March 19, 2014 at 4:42 am said:

    I note that Prof. Abbott’s students are looking at the Voynich manuscrip this year.

  4. Ivan Y on March 19, 2014 at 6:22 am said:

    A more worthwhile endeavor would be crowdfunding “Encyclopedia Girl” 😉

  5. Ralph: Stephen Bax has been extremely uncivil, dismissive and rude directly at me. I’ll happily ban any other academic troll who tries the same charmless stunt.

  6. SirHubert on March 19, 2014 at 10:06 am said:


    Quite. And – God forbid – try to get someone competent to have a crack at the text as well as the pictures. After all, there are 250,000-odd characters to work with…

    Persons who still think it’s a monoalphabetic substitution cipher or a natural language in a funny script need not apply.

  7. Ivan: is there a Kickstarter category for “Will Write For Beer”? 😉

  8. SirHubert: …as if anyone would be so stupid. 😐

  9. SirHubert on March 19, 2014 at 3:20 pm said:

    Nick: …what does Wikipedia say about it?

  10. SirHubert: I don’t know, and I sincerely hope that you don’t either. 😉

  11. bdid1dr on March 19, 2014 at 3:27 pm said:

    Nick, I’m hoping you’ll spend more time on a sequel to your first book. How about writing it as an historical novel? But with citations & credits? Vanora Bennett’s book “Portrait of an UnKnown Woman” is an excellent x-ample. My copy of her book is a first edition which even the hard-covers (inside and out) have maps of London, and portrait (slightly tweaked but admittedly so) of Sir Thomas More’s extended family.
    Many citations, including four authors on medieval medicine.
    Fun and fascinating!

  12. thomas spande on March 19, 2014 at 7:38 pm said:

    Nick, I urge you also to consider a sequel to “Curse” but I think you have enough to keep this sequel factual. I have found that Curse provides a likely blueprint for any book treating the VM in an unbiased manner, with no agenda other than a logical progression of where likely facts take the investigator. Some will find your explanation that a few of the VM botanical plants may represent stylized machines as improbable but then how else explain their manifest weirdnesses? Maybe Averlino remains out there as an unproved hypothesis but all Voynichers would have to tip their hats to the best shot so far at deducing the when, the where, and most importantly, the why of the VM. The tools of codicology, such as bleed across and bleed through the quire gatherings and regatherings the folio and quire number styles as used by you are likely to remain cornerstones we all rely on. Any changes will amount to nibbling around the edges of your obervations, just “valet parking” issues to use a popular US term for inconsequential political proposals..

    I think you are in a position to shed more light on 1) what new facts have emerged, in view of the vellum dating and pigment analysis done on the VM. 2) what pressing areas need more work and 3) maybe some plant IDs that more than one Voynicher can accept. Cheers, Tom

    ps. Suggested title: “Exorcising the Curse of the Voynich: a Work in Progress”

  13. bdid1dr on March 20, 2014 at 1:12 am said:

    Nick, this IS your blog! You have the right to express your own views (scurrilous or not) on your own pages. I’m just hoping you will start re-viewing some of our various discussions, here, and also pull some of the more interesting posts out of your ‘storage’ warehouse (‘the back pages, I call ’em’).
    You KNOW I am on the right track (in translating, rather than decoding). I think you have gotten a lot of ‘good stuff’ from various visitors to your Voynich posts. A lot needs ‘editing’, I know, but what’s the good of a blog if it isn’t at least a two-way ‘discussion’ (rather than those many blogs ‘out there’ which never get even a single reader’s response)?
    I understand that you are focused on the B-408 manuscript. B-u-u–t perhaps you might consider the blueprint/drawings which I identified as being the drawings/blueprints for Colonel North’s “Turkish Bath and Greenhouse”; which eventually became the “North Campus” of Greenwich University. I didn’t post it then (nor will I now) but I did learn the name of the person who submitted that ‘puzzle’ to you. I also learned where those documents were stored by the University. I went no further in my search because you stated that the donor wanted to remain anonymous.
    I really, really, want to see your sequel to the “Voynich”/Boenicke 408 mystery. Howsomever, I still think you’ve explored many interesting medieval writings (telescopes; a rabbit tied onto a ‘rocket-propelled’ “skateboard” (fire-cracker/gunpowder evolution?); swallow-tail merlins; a very elderly gentleman/botanist who began mushroom nomenclature/identification……
    Am I making it clear that I have found whole lot of other very interesting discussions, here, on “Cipher Mysteries”, whether they were actual mysteries or not!
    Three cheers for you! Rah! Rah! Rah!
    beady-eyed wonder(er). 😉

  14. Ralph on March 20, 2014 at 1:55 pm said:

    Nick: I understand that. I just don’t see why you’re beating a dead horse. Also, sorry to be off topic.

    Beady: As others have said, you really need a place to organize your thoughts if you want a coherent review. Some use books, some use papers. I know you’ve said you couldn’t maintain a blog (if you want help setting one up, I would volunteer) but I think at the very least, you should consolidate your important posts into a Word document.

  15. Ralph: Bax has done his utmost to be unlikeable and unwelcome on my blog, and all I’m really doing is accepting that this doesn’t make him the kind of Netizen I want around. He kept on trying to get my goat until he succeeded in getting me to kick him off.

    Which, considering the crazy-ass trolls whose comments I do let through, is quite an achievement.

  16. bdid1dr on March 20, 2014 at 4:20 pm said:

    Ralph, Nick knows I’ve been compiling and documenting my translations herein. I’ve also provided the latin discussions, line by line, here and there, on the WWW. Certain other persons would rather decry my “decryptions” than follow-through on the references I also provide, here, on Nick’s pages.
    After all, what IS the mystery that makes the “Voynich” so mysteriously interesting? There IS a mystery as far as do the “descriptions” allow for ‘decryption’.
    So, translate first, then match the verbiage with the illustration (if there is an illustration). Do a trial run on those very verbose pages which contain NO illustrations, but rather refer to various illustrations throughout the document. I’ve been working on them.

  17. Ralph on March 20, 2014 at 5:25 pm said:

    Beady (and Nick): I’d be very curious to hear the degree to which Nick has been able to keep track of your incremental updates. I only want to see you get the full critique you deserve. I think it would help Nick and others if you had better organization. (Think, each post tagged by the folios referenced!) If you do decide you want help setting something up, please let me know. Nick: if this offer is unwelcome, I do retract my offer and again, feel free to remove the post.

  18. thomas spande on March 20, 2014 at 6:06 pm said:

    Dear all, particularly Diane. Diane is totally correct that Voynichers tend to abuse the word “theory” when an hypothesis is meant. But not every theory, even it it is a widely accepted, self consistent, predictive body of experiment and evidence, proves to last. Consider the Ptolemeic earth-centric model of our solar system employing epicycles to make it all work out OR the theory of phlogiston to explain oxidation causing a loss of something with a negative weight. They were beautiful while they lasted but reality was simpler and it was by experimentation that the original theories bit the dust. You are totally correct though in that nothing remotely approaching a “theory” for the VM exists at the moment, or at least not in print. But again, it is by piecing together real facts from various quarters that a theory can be constructed. So to all Voynichers: “everyone to the oars” and maybe some useful factoid emerges that can eventually, like a lego block, create a final, widely accepted “theory”. Cheers, Tom

    ps. In our times, the “Big Bang” theory was really an hypothesis, even with a perjorative packaging, until an early concentration of gravity waves was detected after 6 yrs of radio telescope observations at the South Pole. Now it is likely to become a theory if enough additional proof of the South Pole observations can be supplied.

  19. bdid1dr on March 21, 2014 at 5:39 pm said:

    Hmm, I wonder if the folks at Stanford (with both radio telescopes, and nuclear cyclotron) have anything ‘new’ to add to the South Pole observations.
    Ralph, I consistently give a full folio reference number for any B-408 manuscript offering which I have translated. If any folio is a “fold-out’ specimen (B-408, f-86-r 3, for example) I try to give a clear description of any objects, animals, birds, flowing water(fall)s…I didn’t find any ships/boats, even though the story being told was about the goddess-protector of sailors. So, if people are interested enough, they too can obtain photographs from Boenicke Library, or Wikipedia, or Google,…..

  20. bdid1dr on March 22, 2014 at 4:37 pm said:

    Thanx Nick, for the ‘shortcut’ to your archives (by subject matter/title). This should make room for serious “Voynichers” who would debate minutiae rather than discuss translations! Back to the (now archived) ‘back pages’ I now shall go!
    beady-eyed wonder ‘-)

  21. Robin Matus on March 22, 2014 at 5:53 pm said:

    Greetings, Mister Pelling and netizens.

    First of all, Mister Pelling, your research work on the Voynich Manuscript is amazing and solid, respectable, though not the only one, in contrast to many baseless hypothesis that have been formulated. I am a calligrapher, and have considered the Voynich Manuscript a unique masterpiece since I saw it for the first time.

    Recently found your article about Leonardo da Vinci’s authorship of the Voynich Manuscript as proposed by Edith Sherwood and the relationship with the Visconti-Sforza tarot cards, and will quote a part of it because it condenses most of what I think is the real knowledge we have about the manuscript in simple words:

    “If you look at the VMs with truly open art historical eyes (as Sherwood set out to do), I think you will almost inevitably reach a certain position: it’s mid-Quattrocento Northern Italian, with its cryptographic roots in Milan, its intellectual roots in Florence, its stylistic roots in Venice, and its philosophical roots in Dante. Oh, and it was written by a secrets-obsessed right-hander with a far greater command of cryptography than Leonardo da Vinci ever had”.

    You could have not defined it better. The manuscript has nothing to do with Leonardo. The Voynich Manuscript author -the point of my post- spent way more time mastering not only cryptography but also calligraphy that Leonardo, with absolutely no disregard of Leonardo’s genius, just saying he can not possibly be the Voynich Manuscript’s author, considering the technique and style of each one is different and the solid evidence or radiocarbon dating. And, as you have stated before, Filarete is only a possibility, but a very realistic one, since the author must have been born circa 1380 – 1400.

    Getting back to my point, which is about the author’s identity, I believe as the most likely scenario that we will never know the name of this unique artist, calligrapher and cryptographer. I mean, it is very likely that his name is lost to history forever.

    But apart of this personal opinion, no matter if his name is revealed or not in the near or far future, I think it would be nice to discuss the possibility of giving him a conventional name, let us say…
    Pseudo-Bacon, following the same tradition that gives a name to those completely unknown writers whose texts and treatises were attributed once to other known authors. That is the case of the Pseudo-Dionysius, the Pseudo-Aristotle, the Pseudo-Democritus and many more, as the manuscript was at first attributed to Bacon, or, maybe, Pseudo-Filarete / Pseudo-Averlino.

    Needless to say I am fond of the idea the manuscript was designed from the first to the last page by the same hand, but during a long time span, contrary to Currier.

    Thank you.

  22. bdid1dr on March 24, 2014 at 3:43 pm said:

    Robin, I’m quite fond of the idea (my own, apparently) that B-408’s layout, design, and contents were dictated by a “Master” whose scribe(s) were natives to the country from which it originated. There are a surprising number of manuscripts ‘out there’ with identifying names “Florentino”, “Badianus”, “Vaticanus”…

    Do we really need to continue to use Mr. Voynich’s name ‘in vain’? I’d really like to get access to the codices which were returned to Mexico by Pope John II.

  23. Robin Matus on March 25, 2014 at 9:30 am said:

    Hello, bdid1dr.

    I find your idea about the “Master” quite interesting.

    About the manuscripts, you are right. There is plenty of manuscripts with identifying names. However, from those that you mentioned, only the Badianus is named after a person, Juan Badiano.

    My point was about a conventional name for the artist and genius that we always call “the Voynich Manuscript’s author”.

  24. bdid1dr on March 25, 2014 at 4:38 pm said:

    How about a name such as “Codex Osuna”. An excellent fully illustrated discussion of the Triple Alliance can be found on wikipedia.
    What really caught my attention was the ‘paragraph’ and ‘layout’ headings which very much resembled the markings on B-408 f-1.
    In the case of “Osuna”, the illustration and discussion are identified as appearing on “the middle section of page 34”, and show the pictorial symbols for Texcoco, Tenochtitlan, and Tlacopan.
    For an author’s pseudonym which could be attached to Boenicke Ms 408: How about “Ben” (or “Nicke”) ? At least, here, on Nick’s blog pages?

  25. Robin Matus on March 25, 2014 at 8:12 pm said:

    Yes,the Codex Osuna. It is a fact that the elements you mention on the Osuna resemble the markings made on the first page of the Voynich.

    But It is a fact, also, that the Voynich Manuscript is more than a century older that the Osuna, therefore it is pre-Columbus and its design and contents can not be linked to Mexico.

    About the name, I do not know which name could be attached to the author, that is why I suggested it would be nice to comment about it. I just thought Pseudo-Bacon because I recently read about authors whose true names remain unknown, such as Pseudo-Democritus. It is a conventional name to make all the references to those unknown authors more practical.

    Otherwise, we would call Pseudo-Democritus “the guy whose treatise was once attributed to Democritus, but that was not Democritus”.

  26. James Comegys on March 26, 2014 at 3:05 am said:

    You are right. It takes a long time to learn Nahuatl. It would also be such a convenience if there were a standardized spelling for Nahua words. Finally, it would be terribly convenient if there were a lexicon or dictionary of medical terms. It looks like the Gold Rush is to MesoAmerica is on. Wahoo!

  27. bdid1dr on March 26, 2014 at 3:37 pm said:

    Well, I suspect that ms B-408 may have been a ‘rough draft’ for the Osuna, and other (Badianus) discussions initiated by the proselytizing monks. I’ve also mentioned that parchment/vellum was often prepared and stored for months and years before being written upon.
    Thanks to Pope John II (who returned some manuscripts to Mexico in 1990) we are now able to translate the contents of B-408, Osuna, Badianus, Florentino,…..
    The Maya pictographic manuscripts are another entire discussion (mostly calendar events); of which I am not going to address, herein.

  28. bdid1dr on March 26, 2014 at 3:56 pm said:

    BTW, the Gregorian University now has a vast hoard of manuscripts which are still being photographed, categorized, and subsequently archived (beginning in 2010). Apparently these remained hidden behind the earlier-remodeled walls of the University. I wonder if Pope John II may have initiated the ‘remodeling’ subsequent to his visit to Mexico in 1990.
    I’m trying to be brief but still coherent about some 500 years of manuscriptorial history!

  29. bdid1dr on March 30, 2014 at 3:57 pm said:

    I’m pretty certain that prior to his visit to Mexico (in 1990) Pope John had an inventory done for the (visible) Vatican manuscript archives. I can imagine the Vatican archivists shock when they discovered a hoard of undocumented manuscripts behind the wall which was being torn down to enlarge that area of the building (remodeling in 2010). I think they are still in the process of indexing and documenting those manuscripts which were discovered only after the Pope’s return to Italy.

  30. bdid1dr on March 31, 2014 at 4:07 pm said:

    I’ve been doing a little research into the financing/sponsorship of the explorers to the ‘New World’. It came to be of no surprise, to me, to discover that Holy Roman Emperor Charles V extracted considerable amounts of money from various Hapsburg relatives (Ferdinand & Isabella, foremost) and other kin, before he retired to a monastery.
    So, I now know how a lot of ‘New World’ documents ended up in Papal archives.
    So, y’all might like to take a look at a manuscript identified as:
    Nahuatl de San Augustine A Casa Guantlans
    This can be found in the Berendt-Brinton Linguistic Collection: Ms. Coll. 700, item 149 and item 244
    University of Pennsylvania

    It appears that quite a few “New World” manuscripts may never have left the New World territories. The manuscript to which I’ve just referred is is discussing a casa located at what we call, today, Guantanamo. Today, Guantanamo Bay is a holding prison for suspected terrorists who conspired to destroy the World Trade Center in New York City.

  31. bdid1dr on March 31, 2014 at 6:41 pm said:

    Correction (blame it on my failing eyesight): AcasaguaStlan
    So, ignore my ref to Guantanamo. Thanx!

  32. bdid1dr on April 4, 2014 at 5:19 pm said:

    Gentle Persons:
    I refer you to a set of CD’s, “Nican Mopohua”, which is accompanied by a booklet which translates the Nahuatl dialogue into Latin.
    We were able to request the item from our local library. Yes, I understand that this particular item is ‘younger’ than B-408; but if you would like to get a good look at a manuscript which has been translated from Nahuatl into Espanol/Latin, check it out. Beautiful, low-voiced, singing/chanting is accompanied with the booklet’s content. I was able to understand what was being sung on that page of the manuscript.
    Try to get around the modern-day professorial argumentation which apparently has been going on for centuries. Enjoy the sound. I especially enjoy being able to listen-along with that antique manuscript’s photo in front of me.

  33. bdid1dr on April 25, 2014 at 3:12 pm said:

    I recently posted to one of Nick’s other V-discussion pages a reference to a CLOTH manuscript which discussed the Quatemalan peace treaty (Hapsburg) with Cortez. Key search words: Lienzo de Quaqueshcollan (with Hapsburg coat of arms in upper left corner of the fabric document).
    You may find it interesting from the point of view of its dimensions; roughly seven feet by 10 feet.

  34. bdid1dr on May 20, 2014 at 3:43 pm said:

    I still haven’t been able to determine if Sahagun’s fabulous accordian-folded manuscript(s) were written on fig-bark paper or vellum/parchment. Nick, have you been able to visit Mexicolore’s fabulous website which features material for all ages?
    ;-^ (bd with tongue-in-cheek)

  35. bdid1dr on May 23, 2014 at 3:54 pm said:

    Nick, when I return from my Greek festival this coming weekend, I will be compiling my translations by folio number, with citations and documentation. I do not bother to translate every folio, but only back up my identification of the pictorial elements by referencing the underlying latin nomenclature which is easily read by anyone who was able to complete their university studies. I’m hoping that you and some of your regular correspondents will be able to write an interesting sequel to your first book.
    Yassou! Hola!
    A tout a l’heure!

  36. Oh, how disappointing to read here the informed reviews of Kellner’s translation. I had hoped they might confirm a translation, since her scraps suggest the work of a ship’s doctor, or travelling vet (baitar) or something of that sort.

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