Thursday, February 10, 2011
exciting news about the Voynich manuscript
Experts Determine Age of Voynich Manuscript
"the manuscript's parchment pages date back to the early 15th century, making the book a century older than scholars had previously thought. "
I'll have to think more about the implications but here's a little bit clipped from a Facebook rant
the dating is important because it shows that the Voynich manuscript predates any of the renaissance magic that has been read into/associated with it (i.e. passing through John Dee's hands) and also predates the early modern alchemical flowering that gave us proto-spiritual alchemy or the medical alchemy of Paracelsus... so the idea that the text is some kinda allegorical head trip becomes more intriguing as it would have been way ahead of its time, we get a new perspective on the originality (I like to compare it to hypnerotomachia polyphilii which is the greatest dreamy text ever but obviously slightly less obscure... see also the modern codex serafinus which is a badass avant-garde art homage to stuff like voynich) ... the early 15th century was decidedly still the medieval head space, it's fascinating to me that somebody wrote that book out of it. utter, unspeakable genius if it's half the joke it seems to be.
The connection with Dee is resonant because of the aura of hoax that surrounds Dee's angelic conversations with the alchemist Edward Kelly, who had his ears cropped for some kinda fraud and may have been running an elaborate con on Dee. I like the idea that the Voynich manuscript isn't really a code, but that it's a fake code designed well enough to seem like it's impossible to crack, although it's really nonsense. But it was such an expensive manuscript to produce, that it would have to be some really heavy con game.
If it's a hoax it's an amazing hoax, more admirable than if it's merely an alchemical or herbological text. Here's why: some of the best cryptologists in history haven't been able to figure out if it's even a code or not. If it is a hoax intended to fuck with people's heads like that, then it's one of the greatest masterpieces of guerilla ontology ever created. As I understand they still can't prove that it's not a code, although there are whole sub-disciplines in cryptology being invented in order to study the information content and make the determination of whether it's a code or not. If it really isn't a code, but rather a hoax designed to look like a complicated code, then the guy who wrote it was hundreds of years ahead of his time. If it just means something we can't figure out, or is really just gibberish, it's far less interesting, although it would turn out to be merely a remarkable historical accident (of Jungian synchronicity proportions on crack!) that it has stumped the best minds in cryptology so far.
Granted, if it really was an alchemist giving the method for making a philosopher's stone that works, that would probably be bigger news. But it would be big news because our lives would change forever, not because it's interesting from a cryptological point of view.