was its purpose to record arcane knowledge, or is it just a clever cipher with fictional material?
1. Roger Bacon, as suggested by Voynich and Newbold. No longer believed.
2. A Cathar cult of Isis followers, as part of a proposed solution by Levitov. His thesis is unbelievable both historically and linguistically.
3. A copy of letters between Ukrainian rebels in a proto-slavic language, as suggested by John Stojko. This proposal has not convinced anyone.
4. Anthony Askham, the lesser known brother of Roger, as suggested by L.C. Strong. The name of Askham derives from an incredible proposed decryption of the MS and cannot therefore be believed.
5. A hoax by John Dee and/or Edward Kelly as suggested by many and most strongly supported by Brumbaugh and currently Rugg. This is essentially out of the question as it concerns Dee. As for Kelly, there is also nothing to support this.
6. An early form of a synthetic language, as suggested by Friedman and Tiltman. This cannot be disproved, but the time frame is a problem.
7. An early attempt to convert a syllabic, tonal language (such as Chinese) to an alphabetic script. This theory is based on certain peculiar text statistics and is by no means disproved, but there is difficulty with the fact that the entire MS has a Western European look. A specific connection (e.g. encoding) with any specific oriental language has also not yet been proposed.
8. A modern fake by Wilfrid Voynich. Disproved by the recent discovery of earlier references to the Voynich MS.
9. The Dürer expert E.Panofsky studied the MS in the 1930's and concluded that the MS dates from about 1470 or at the latest the early years of the 16th Century. He places the origin of the MS in Germany.
10. In the 1990's, the expert in Medieval herbals S.Toresella suggests around 1460 as the time of origin of the MS, and is convinced that it originates from Italy, comparing the script to the Italian humanist script.
Alchemy is an influential philosophical tradition whose early practitioners' claims to profound powers were known from antiquity. The defining objectives of alchemy are varied; these include the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone possessing powers including the capability of turning base metals into the noble metals gold or silver, as well as an elixir of life conferring youth and longevity. Western alchemy is recognized as a protoscience that contributed to the development of modern chemistry and medicine. Alchemists developed a framework of theory, terminology, experimental process and basic laboratory techniques that are still recognizable today. But alchemy differs from modern science in the inclusion of Hermetic principles and practices related to mythology, religion, and spirituality.
The Elixir of life, also known as elixir of immortality and sometimes equated with the philosopher's stone, is a legendary/mythical potion, or drink, that grants the drinker eternal life and/or eternal youth. Many practitioners of alchemy pursued it. The elixir of life was also said to be able to create life. It is related to the myths of Thoth, and Hermes Trismegistus, all of whom in various tales are said to have drunk "the white drops" (liquid gold) and thus achieved immortality. It is mentioned in one of the Nag Hammadi texts
Words were handwritten, and for those few who were literate, savored beyond measure, read and re-read. Before the mass production of written material, a work of fiction was something to use to escape the mundane, the trivials of life, and shared with friends. Since there were no libraries at the time, a lengthy manuscript such as this would have been used to entertain an elite circle of friends, unable to be mass produced, but fortunate enough to have survived until modern times.
Kings and Church, modern day academia - all wanting to access this information - why?
The development and eventual dominance of Christianity in late antiquity profoundly changed the needs of patrons and the output of artists. Unlike paganism, Christianity required no images of naked divinities, and new attitudes cast doubt and opprobrium on nude athletics, public bathing, and the very value of the human body. The early Christian emphasis on chastity and celibacy further discounted depictions of nakedness. In this climate, there was little motive to study the nude, and unclothed figures are thus rare in medieval art.
The rediscovery of Greco-Roman culture in the Renaissance restored the nude to the heart of creative endeavor. Nude figures based on antique models appear in Italy as early as the mid-thirteenth century, and by the mid-fifteenth century, nudes had become symbols of antiquity and its reincarnation.
The author felt that it would be useful to pull together all the information that he could obtain from all the sources and present them in an orderly fashion. This monograph is arranged in four main sections. First, the presentation of a survey of all of the basic facts of the problem: the “givens,” as it were. Second, coverage of all the primary avenues of attack and the information relevant to each, the external characteristics of the manuscript itself, the drawings, and the text. Third, a survey of the major claims of decipherment and other substantial analytic work carried out by various researchers. Fourth, a sketch of collateral and background topics which seem likely to be useful.
Trithemius' most famous work is Steganographia (written c.1499; published Frankfurt, 1606, placed on theIndex Librorum Prohibitorum in 1609, removed in 1900). This book is in three volumes, and appears to be about magic - specifically, about using spirits to communicate over long distances. Since the publication of the decryption key to the first two volumes in 1606, they have been known to be actually concerned with cryptography and steganography. Until recently, the third volume was widely still believed to be solely about magic, but the "magical" formulae have now been shown to be cover texts for yet more cryptography content. However, mentions of the magical work within the third book by such figures as Agrippa and John Dee still lend credence to the idea of a mystic-magical foundation concerning the third volume. Additionally, while Trithemius's steganographic methods can be established to be free of the need for angelic-astrological mediation, still left intact is an underlying theological motive for their contrivance. The preface to the Polygraphia equally establishes, the everyday practicability of cryptography was conceived by Trithemius as a "secular consequent of the ability of a soul specially empowered by God to reach, by magical means, from earth to Heaven."The work has lent its name to the modern field of steganography
If it were a work of fiction, why encode it?
Why take the time and expense to produce a worthless document?
This was a very compelling and interesting debate with great depth and availability of external source material to draw from.
In judging it I determined not to access the external content before rendering a decision as I felt that doing so would disrupt the spirit of a character limited debate. But I am thankful for the external links and plan to access them all for personal enjoyment.
Both participants did an amazing job of presenting their cases. I did, however, find a singular flaw within each argument:
In Sublimecraft's case - he began very strongly, but then focusing upon the "elixir of life" aspect weakened his argument considerably. IMO the subject itself gave him the high ground, as the Voynich document itself simply exudes the "feel" of an arcane work. In trying to define that, Sublimecraft narrowed his options and left the door open for Druid42 to attack the specifics of that claim.
Druid42, sadly, missed that window of opportunity. Instead he focused upon the notion that the Voynich manuscript was something of an early work of fiction. Aspects of this argument, in my opinion were very compelling - particularly that it was encoded to avoid the wrath of the Church. IMO this opened a very interesting path that Druid42 then failed to pursue in his closing post. Some very interesting people lived in that time period and Druid42 could easily have taken us into some fun speculations regarding the renaissance after tabling the issue.
Both participants were very strong in their research and referencing - demonstrating that they both put a great deal of time and consideration into this debate - and that is something to be appreciated and applauded by the readers of this debate. There is enough information contained within the six posts to keep the curious mind busy for weeks. So kudos to both participants.
In the end, though I disagree with his "elixir of life" conclusions, I have to give this one, by a hair, to Sublimecraft for providing the most compelling argument that this manuscript, whatever it is, is not a hoax or a fake.
Well, first off I’d just like to point out that this was a very entertaining debate to read and also an incredibly hard debate to judge. Both fighters have done a good job and should both be proud.
Through the course of the debate however, I do feel as though Sublime did a much better job and brought forward a much more convincing, more toned case. One that Druid initially did well to keep up with and counter, but towards the end of the debate I think the enthusiasm was gone and I felt as though he was rushing and wanted it to be over already. Bearing that in mind I think Druid certainly started strong but It just didn’t seem to last. Sublime also started strongly but he was able to keep up the pace and he provided a strong case throughout.
I would’ve liked to have seen Druid expand on his arguments, again, particularly towards the end of the debate where he seemed to fall apart a little bit, effectively handing the debate to his opponent after a relatively strong start.
Sublime is the winner in my eyes.