How Many Glyphs and How Many Scribes? Digital Paleography and the Voynich Manuscript
- Manuscript Studies: A Journal of the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies
- University of Pennsylvania Press
- Volume 5, Number 1, Spring 2020
- pp. 164-180
- Additional Information
It can be safely claimed that there is no medieval script that has been seen, analyzed, and debated more than that of the mysterious and as-yet-unread Voynich Manuscript (Beinecke MS 408). For centuries, bibliophiles, linguists, codicologists, art historians, and amateur cryptologists have pored over the manuscript, examining it from every angle, debating every wormhole, arguing over every stain and crease. Some things we know: the invented script is comprised of carefully-written glyphs without precedent or obvious model; forensic material evidence has determined that the parchment, ink, and pigments date from the early 15th century; the provenance trail is nearly unbroken from the seventeenth century to today. But we still don't know how to read it, in spite of new theories flying across the internet on a near-weekly basis. "Voynichologists" disagree as to some of the most important and basic questions about the manuscript. How many letterforms are there? How many scribes can be identified? Are there ligatures, majuscules, abbreviations, and other scribal conventions? These questions have never been satisfactorily answered. Using digital paleographic methodologies including the Archetype (DigiPal) application and other annotation tools, this project will revisit the paleographic analyses of the Voynich glyphs to propose answers to some of these questions and discuss how these answers open avenues for further research.