Last week's solution to the ages-old mystery of the Voynich Manuscript was offered in the Times Literary Supplement by TV history researcher Nicholas Gibbs, who claimed that his unique background in several fields meant that he could pierce the mystery where so many others had failed.
Gibbs claimed that the manuscript was an anthology cribbed from other manuscripts, some obscure, others popular, and that the mysterious script was an idiosyncratic version of an otherwise well-known system of Latin abbreviations. Based on this, Gibbs concluded that the Manuscript was a medical manual on women's health, compiled by a team, possibly for the benefit of a single rich commissioner.
Lisa Fagin Davis, director of the Medieval Academy of America says that the Latin explanation doesn't hold together, and that the "translated" lines offered by Gibbs don't make any grammatical sense. She added that the experts at Yale's Beinecke Library (where the manuscript is kept) "would have rebutted [Gibbs' theories] in a heartbeat."
Meanwhile, the part about this being a women's health manual was already a widely discussed theory in Voynich scholarship.
Gibbs said in the TLS article that he did his research for an unnamed "television network." Given that Gibbs' main claim to fame before this article was a series of books about how to write and sell television screenplays, it seems that his goal in this research was probably to sell a television screenplay of his own. In 2015, Gibbs did an interview where he said that in five years, "I would like to think I could have a returnable series up and running." Considering the dubious accuracy of many History Channel "documentaries," he might just get his wish.
So much for that Voynich manuscript “solution”
[Annalee Newitz/Ars Technica]
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