Since its rediscovery in 1912, the Voynich manuscript has puzzled scholars around the world. And, until recently, we knew very little about it. Although it probably had 270-something pages in its original form, only around 240 pages remain today. The manuscript appears to describe aspects of the natural world, primarily things related to plants and astronomy. (Check out the entire thing online here.)
I say "appears" because, for more than 100 years, no one has been able to make heads or tails of the Voynich manuscript's language. It's been an utter mystery. Experts knew that it wasn't just chicken-scratch, because the text appears to obey arcane rules of syntax and grammar... but, honestly, no one knew what the heck to do with this thing.
At least, that is, until this year. Enter Dr. Stephen Bax, a professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Bedfordshire. Using an analytical approach to compare and identify proper names in the text, Dr. Bax has partially decoded the Voynich manuscript. So far, he's been able to figure out the names of some herbs and specific constellations. His verdict? The Voynich manuscript is written in a real language -- probably a Near Eastern or Asian tongue -- and it's a treatise on nature.
There's no question that Dr. Bax is a genius, but here's the most exciting part of the story: he's looking for help. He wants other linguists to work with him, applying similar analytic processes to the entire manuscript. What do you think? Are you up for the job? Learn more about Dr. Bax's work here.
Which, now that I think about it, we'll probably have to update if Dr. Bax gets his way.