The Voynich manuscript is known as the book nobody can read, but now a University of Bristol academic is claiming he's cracked the elusive code.
However, this new theory has been met with skepticism by many of the world's medieval experts.
In a new peer-reviewed paper published in the journal Romance Studies, Gerard Cheshire from the University of Bristol revealed that he was able to find an explanation for the Voynich manuscript's language and writing system.
The research associate theorized that instead of the famous manuscript written in code, its author actually wrote using an extinct proto-Romance language that was commonly used in medieval times. This would make the Voynich manuscript the only known surviving document using this lost language.
Since the manuscript first emerged about a century ago, it has been dated to the early 15th century and baffled even the most experienced linguistic experts and medieval scholars in the world. Its elusive meaning has led to the Voynich manuscript being dubbed as the world's most mysterious book for many years.
On the other hand, Cheshire told The Guardian that he was able to decode the manuscript in just two weeks by combining lateral thinking and ingenuity.
According to him, the illustrated book was penned by Dominican nuns in the island of Castello Aragonese for Maria of Castile, Queen of Aragon. It was meant to be a female-centric reference source with herbal remedies, therapeutic practices, and astrological readings.
"I experienced a series of eureka moments whilst deciphering the code, followed by a sense of disbelief and excitement when I realised the magnitude of the achievement, both in terms of its linguistic importance and the revelations about the origin and content of the manuscript," said Cheshire.
What Critics Are Saying
Although Cheshire is convinced of his discovery of the proto-Romance language of the Voynich manuscript, not everyone is convinced that his findings check out.
Dr. Kate Wiles, who is a medievalist, linguist, and senior editor at History Today, told The Guardian that there's no shortage of theories on the Voynich manuscript with a new one cropping up on a regular basis. Regarding Cheshire's work, she pointed out that he took liberties with how language works and how scholars understand them.
"He is arguing for a language built of words drawn from lots of places and periods, but together they don't create something that is convincing as a workable language," Wiles explained.
Dr. Lisa Fagin Davis, who is the executive director of the Medieval Academy of America, is even blunter in a tweet that described the theory as "just more aspirational, circular, self-fulfilling nonsense."
Ars Technica notes that there have been plenty of similar claims over the past century and none of those has ever stood the test of time and scientific analysis.
For his part, Cheshire pointed out to The Guardian that his published research has been peer-reviewed and verified by fellow scholars, which is standard confirmation in the scientific community.
"Furthermore, there is no 'interpretation' involved, as the alphabet, writing system and language have been fully expounded for others to consistently translate of any word, phrase or sentence," he said, adding that other scholars can expand on his work to fully translate the book.