- the Research
Dr Rugg's website outlining his theories about the
Debate Observations about the Voynich manuscript
High quality images from the Voynich manuscript
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Voynich manuscript, illustrated with strange unearthly plants and
sophisticated scenes, has baffled experts since its discovery in
the sixteenth century. It has been described as a 'parchment book'
and dates back to around 1550.
Now a computer expert has suggested the book may be an elaborate
the code of ....
Originally it was thought the manuscript contained a previously
undiscovered language or that it may have been an ancient herbal
However, no one managed to come up with a theory to crack the codes.
Dr Gordon Rugg, a senior lecturer in computer science at Keele University
near Newcastle in North Staffordshire , has devoted his spare time
to try and break the code on the mysterious manuscript and now believes
his theory shows a hoax is entirely possible.
Experts before him had tried to recreate the script using complex
modern code breaking techniques.
Dr Rugg however used a technique which he had developed with Dr
Joanne Hyde, a researcher at Bath University, to re-assess difficult
He found that a possible solution was a 'Cardan grille', which is
a relatively low tech approach.
simple but effective Cardan Grille code-breaking system, as
used by Gordon Rugg
Cardan grille involves putting the script in a table formula, then
placing a piece of card with holes cut out, to replicate words.
This enabled Dr Rugg to find out the consistency of each letter
and any patterns that were formed.
He found the evidence suggested the manuscript is in fact 'gibberish!'
Rugg says: 'It does not prove indefinitely that the manuscript
is a hoax, but it does mean it is now a possible explanation and
also the most likely one".
It is now thought that the colourful Elizabethan adventurer Edward
Kelley wrote the manuscript some time between 1550-1586, as a hoax
purely for monetary gain.
Edward Kelly was a known con artist, claiming among other things
that he could turn iron into gold and that he communicated with
He wrote a book containing the 'language of the angels', which has
later been discovered as a hoax language.
So convincing was Kelly that he was made a Baron, before been jailed
for fraud, where he escaped by drugging his guards and was never
heard of again.
of a hoax
The manuscript first appeared in the late sixteenth century, when
an unknown seller sold the book to Emperor Rudolph II in Prague
for 600 ducats, the equivalent to about £35,000 today. The
book then passed through the libraries of a number of noble men
before disappearing in the late seventeenth century.
It was not then rediscovered until US book guru Wilfred Voynich
purchased the manuscript in 1912.
manuscript is currently kept in Beinecke Rare Book Library at Yale
University, to which was donated after Voynich's death.
Dr Rugg did his research using images downloaded from the internet,
as a complete copy of the manuscript is available on line.
ALL questions answered
is continuing his work with Dr Joanne Hyde, and they are now applying
for funding to research medical problems, using the same technique
they have developed to try break the code on the manuscript.
However this does not mean the end of the mysterious manuscript.
There are still some unanswered features of 'Voynichese', the name
given to the script, which Laura Aylward, a final year computer
science student of Dr Rugg's, is continuing to research.
Laura is writing computer software that allows the symbols to be
replicated in larger quantities, which may lead to more conflicting
and interesting theories.
We read your article with interest. However we
have now deciphered the manuscript completely, and anyone who
wishes to understand the puzzle can order the result (in English)
from our website.
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