Voynich Manuscript

As can be seen from the sample page above, the text in the Voynich Manuscript was clearly written from left to right, with a slightly ragged right margin. Longer sections are broken into paragraphs, sometimes with "bullets" on the left margin. There is no obvious punctuation. The ductus (the speed, care, and cursiveness with which the letters are written) flows smoothly, as if the scribe understood what he was writing when it was written; the manuscript does not give the impression that each character had to be calculated before being put on the page.

The text consists of over 170,000 discrete glyphs, usually separated from each other by thin gaps. Most of the glyphs are written with one or two simple pen strokes. While there is some dispute as to whether certain glyphs are distinct or not, an alphabet with 20-30 glyphs would account for virtually all of the text; the exceptions are a few dozen "unusual" characters that occur only once or twice each.

Wider gaps divide the text into about 35,000 "words" of varying length. These seem to follow phonetic or orthographic laws of some sort; e.g., certain characters must appear in each word (like the vowels in English), some characters never follow others, some may be doubled but others may not.
Statistical analysis of the text reveals patterns similar to natural languages. For instance, the word frequencies follow Zipf's law Zipf's law, and the word entropy (about 10 bits per word) is similar to that of English or Latin texts. Some words occur only in certain sections, or in only a few pages; others occur throughout the manuscript. There are very few repetitions among the thousand or so "labels" attached to the illustrations. In the herbal section, the first word on each page occurs only on that page, and may be the name of the plant.

On the other hand, the Voynich Manuscript's "language" is quite unlike European languages in several aspects. For example, there are practically no words with more than ten "letters," yet there are also few one- or two-letter words. The distribution of letters within the word is also rather peculiar: some characters only occur at the beginning of a word, some only at the end, and some always in the middle section – an arrangement found in Arabic, but not in the Roman, Greek or Cyrillic alphabets.

The text seems to be more repetitious than typical European languages; there are instances where the same common word appears up to three times in a row. Words that differ only by one letter also repeat with unusual frequency.

There are only a few words in the manuscript written in a seemingly Latin script. In the last page there are four lines of writing which are written in (rather distorted) Latin letters, except for two words in the main script. The lettering resembles European alphabets of the 15th century, but the words do not seem to make sense in any language. Also, a series of diagrams in the "astronomical" section has the names of ten of the months (from March to December) written in Latin script, with spellings suggestive of the medieval languages of France or the Iberian Peninsula. However, it is not known whether these bits of Latin script were part of the original text, or were added at a later time.


Some people have theorized that the identification of several of the plants as New World specimens brought back to Europe by Columbus indicates that the manuscript could not have been written before 1493. This theory is illogical since it is now widely acknowledged that the Vikings discovered the East coast of North America (Vinland) in 985, and new evidence also indicates that China may have discovered the American West coast in 1421.

One thing to keep in mind is that before the invention of the printing press in 1440, the writing of manuscripts or scrolls was limited to the very privileged, and book writing was an art. A manuscript of this nature would have been very expensive to create.

If the manuscript was made before 1493, then what time frame are we talking about? Is the manuscript a copy of an original manuscript like the Piri Reis map, which was copied from an earlier map? Nothing is impossible. Although several scholars have claimed to have deciphered the Voynich Manuscript, for the most part the text remains an unsolved mystery.

You may view the Voynich Manuscript by downloading the following files. The files are scanned images of the Voynich Manuscript, and are in .PDF format; you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the files. Due to the condition of the manuscript, not every page was scanned.

Adobe Acrobat Reader

Front Cover (245KB) Pages 97-102 (923KB)
Back Cover (239KB) Pages 103-108 (941KB)
Pages 1-6 (833KB) Pages 109-114 (968KB)
Pages 7-12 (824KB) Pages 115-120 (853KB)
Pages 13-18 (792KB) Pages 121-126 (876KB)
Pages 19-24 (986KB) Pages 127-132 (718KB)
Pages 25-30 (836KB) Pages 133-138 (1191KB)
Pages 31-36 (819KB) Pages 139-144 (1190KB)
Pages 37-42 (876KB) Pages 145-150 (1120KB)
Pages 43-48 (858KB) Pages 151-156 (1028KB)
Pages 49-54 (865KB) Pages 157-162 (556KB)
Pages 55-60 (928KB) Pages 163-168 (812KB)
Pages 61-66 (1154KB) Pages 169-174 (1040KB)
Pages 67-72 (943KB) Pages 175-180 (868KB)
Pages 73-78 (1031KB) Pages 181-186 (1155KB)
Pages 79-84 (940KB) Pages 187-192 (1113KB)
Pages 85-90 (961KB) Pages 193-198 (1050KB)
Pages 91-96 (1039KB) Pages 199-204 (989KB)

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