voynich transcription - a glyph-based transcription of the voynich manuscript

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    A-Voynich Transcription

    A glyph-based transcription of the Voynich Manuscript

    Contents

    Overview page 1

    Some Transcription History page 2

    Glyph Construction Theory page 5

    A-Voynich Font Equivalents page 8

    Sample Transcription Pages page 12Overview

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    The A-Voynich Transcription is a product of many years and testing of many

    different theories on character identification. While this is a project I would have liked to

    have taken on and mastered many years ago, it has been only recently that quality images

    of the Voynich script have been released by Beinecke Rare Book Library at Yale. When

    these images are compared against the black and white copyflo, it becomes evident that

    much information has been kept from the hands of Voynich enthusiasts over the years.The new images confirm that many strokes are routinely connected, and if written in a

    fluid and connected fashion must most probably be individual glyphs. While my

    transcriptions have always maintained that certain strokes comprise individual glyphs, my

    own methods are in need of revision, and in the process perhaps this effort will bring

    others to the realization that stroke-based transcriptions are very unlikely to lead to a

    solution of the Voynich Manuscript.

    Any reasonable transcription methodology should be based on a fairly sound glyph

    construction theory and incorporate enough information about the characters to make

    alteration of the transcription a simple matter, without the need to retranscribe large

    sections of the text. It is with this in mind that this transcription is undertaken, and it is myhope that this effort proves to be beneficial to all Voynich enthusiasts.

    Some Transcription History

    However complex and interesting the drawings are, the script

    in which the bulk of the manuscript is written is undoubtedly themost intriguing part of the elegant enigma. It has a deceptively

    flowing, rhythmic quality that suggests long practice and

    familiarity on the part of the scribe or scribes. The script seems

    like a reasonable, workable, well-constructed system of writing,

    with a look of ease and natural flow. On closer inspection, the

    surface appearance of simplicity vanishes, and a still more

    seductive and captivating character emerges, in the form of an

    intricate but structurally logical system of ligaturing or

    compounding of simple forms to build up more complex outlines.Whatever else may be alleged concerning the value of the

    manuscript as a whole to science, I am convinced that an

    understanding of the construction of this writing system cannot

    fail to be of great interest in the study of human thought. It

    appears to be a tour de force of artistry and ingenuity.M.E. DImperio

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    Thus begins Chapter 4 in M.E. DImperios paper The Voynich Manuscript An

    Elegant Enigma, a statement that rings in the ears of all Voynichologists. Rather than

    rewrite the general makeup of early attempts, I quote here DImperios synopsis taken

    again from Chapter 4:

    It has been concluded by most students that the Voynichscript includes at least some compound symbols. Various attempts

    have been made to arrive at a rationale to explain the ligatures and

    resolve them consistently into component elements. Some

    students have proposed that the symbols may have been built up

    from elementary strokes in a manner similar to the method upon

    which they supposed that the Chinese writing system was based.

    Tiltman suggested that missionaries visiting the Far East, who had

    studied the Chinese system, might have brought back a

    description of it which then might have inspired some fifteenth- or

    sixteenth- century scholar to design the Voynich script(unpublished notes). A. W. Exell, in his letter to Tiltman, 30

    August 1957, refers to a theory (not further specified) that early

    Arabic numerals were built up from one, two, three, four or more

    strokes in a similar Oriental manner; he suggests a sketchy and

    incomplete correspondence between Voynich symbols and

    conventional numerals along these lines.

    The earliest modern attempt at decipherment was by William R. Newbold, who

    identified the Voynich script as a shorthand cipher, based on an ancient Greek systemof abbreviation. His system of transcription involved the use of a magnifying glass and

    the dissection of each Voynich glyph into several strokes. While Newbolds methods

    were publicly refuted, the appeal of stroke-based transcriptions has not diminished.

    Other early transcriptions included those of Tiltman, the First Voynich Study

    Group, the Second Study Group, Currier, Krischer, and DImperio. While these tended to

    universally handle certain Voynich glyphs as individual characters, such as the gallows i,h, g and f, or the glyphs a, e, o, and w, there was a decided split of opinion when it cameto some other common glyphs, primarily the ' series glyphs. Currier transcribed thestrokes 'N and ''N as 'M and N respectively, while others chose to transcribe them as a

    series of glyphs. The Second Study Group and the Currier transcriptions are unique in

    assigning single transcription characters to the more common Voynich combination

    glyphs. DImperio considered the various transcription approaches to embody the

    theories of individual transcribers, and I believe this is a fair assumption.

    Somewhere in the 1990s a new transcription methodology popped up, called

    Frogguy and Neo-Frogguy, the work of Jacques Guy, a linguist extraordinaire. The

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    apparent purpose of this transcription was to make the Voynich characters

    pronounceable. This transcription was heavily stroke-based in orientation, and a clear

    departure from the transcriptions generated in the cryptographic arena. Frogguy was used

    as the basis for a complete Voynich transcription project conducted by Gabriel Landini

    and Rene Zandbergen, entitled the EVA transcription.

    What sets the EVA transcription apart from cryptographically orientedtranscriptions is the use of multiple characters to represent the strokes that compose a

    single Voynich glyph. Where Currier transcribed a G with a single character, and TheFirst Study Group transcribed it with two, (a combination ofg and w), EVA transcribes itwith three characters, meant to represent c, g, and Z. While I prefer Curriersrepresentation of the G as a single glyph, there is logic in the First Study Groupscombination of g and w, since both are very common glyphs in their own right.Occurrences of Z as a single glyph are very rare indeed, and no other transcriptiondivided the extremely common glyph w into two parts, c and Z as they occur in the EVA

    transcription. EVA also transcribes the very common W glyph as a combination of2 andZ, when in fact 2 is a standalone glyph that has little to do with the construction of W inthis sense. The Voynich combined form X does exist, as does the form x, but these

    differences are ignored in the EVA transcription. This transcription seeks to encode these

    differences in common Voynich glyphs.

    Voynich Glyph Construction Theory

    . . . . . It is my feeling that we need not look beyond the system of

    Latin abbreviations, familiar to all learned men of the Middle

    Ages and Renaissance throughout Europe, combined with early

    forms of Arabic numerals and some common alchemical and

    astrological symbols, to find the inspiration for the design of the

    Voynich script.

    M.E. DImperio

    I couldnt agree more with any statement made by any other Voynichologist, but

    the fact remains that esoteric theories of glyph origination and construction still abound.

    Tiltmans Chinese Theory is still out there, and the belief that the Voynich is a

    representation of some unknown language is very much alive and well.

    I hold to the opinion that the Voynich is a manufactured script, hiding some

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    underlying cryptographic system. Those who view the Voynich from this position have

    little difficulty comparing this script to known stenographic systems and artificial

    cryptographic alphabets. The alphabets outlined in Trithemius, Agrippa, Vigenere and

    Porta have common elements, namely the fact that they are a set of symbols that are

    variations of a base set of glyphs. An alphabet tableau from Portas De Furtivus

    Literarum Notis Vulgo. De Ziferis, reproduced on the following page, provides a visualexample of the human tendency to create glyph variations based on singular forms.

    The Voynich script is in my estimation not very different in construction from the

    artificial alphabets found in these books, with the exception that it appears to be more

    tachygraphically based than any known artificial alphabet. It would be nice to be able to

    break down the construction of the Voynich glyphs into three sets, simple, compound and

    combination, but the line is not always clear on which is which. Since the actual intention

    of the author may not be entirely clear, this theory should be considered but one