This is just a short post while I work on more substantial ones, an idea that seemed fun to develop. It’s somewhat unpolished, so don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you have suggestions for improvements.


The Voynich manuscript is strange. I noticed long ago that competing theories often differ in their explanation for this strangeness. Indeed, a theory (or a single theory-based statement) is determined by this very variable. So I thought it should be possible to distill a typology of Voynich theories (and also serious arguments and statements) based on the author’s preferred explanation for the strangeness. Let’s get right to it!

typology

According to the theory, argument or statement, the Voynich is unusual for 15th century Europe because:

A: Its author was unusual.

A1: a creative individual
A2: a person with a different world view than his surroundings
A3: mentally deranged
A4: a genius

B: Its contents are not 15th century European.

B1: an (adaptive) copy of foreign sources
B2: a remnant of an unknown culture

C: Its contents are secret, somehow obscured.

D: It is fake.

D1: a medieval fake
D2: a more recent fake

E: It is really not that unusual.

F: Aliens, time travelers, Satan…

 


The scheme can also be used to place a person’s views, if those are pronounced. A is very popular, as well as C. I’d place myself in B1. Rich Santacoloma’s theory is the most well known example of D2.

“F” type theories are ones which fall completely outside of the realm of possibilities because they involve aliens or the supernatural.

Some types are mutually exclusive, though others can be combined. For example, A, unusual author, is common in combination with C: secret content. Another common approach is to use arguments of type “E: it’s not unusual” and turn to “A: unusual author” whenever “E” doesn’t apply.

Obviously the typology only applies to theories, not to manuscript-internal analyses like text statistics, comparisons between nymphs and so on.

I probably missed some types. It would be interesting to check other theories to see whether they fit or whether the typology must be adapted.

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