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From: Christoph Neidhart <neidhart@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: voynich@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx (Voynich Ms. mailing list)
Date: Wed, 05 Jun 2002 10:24:03 +0900

Hello --

I'm preparing a feature for the leading Swiss weekly DIE WELTWOCHE
on the Voynich-ms. Here are a few questions to the list:
1. It is not possible to predict success. I think that a relatively small
number of people have the linguistic and cryptanalytical skills to solve
the puzzle. The great decipherers from Champollion to Ventris immersed
themselves in their problem for years and finally broke through in a matter
of weeks. This moment could be days, months or years away. (I know that
some people do not think the Voynich manuscript is a cipher text to be
deciphered like Trithemius, but that is my view for what it is worth.)

2. There is something about the manuscript which attracts knowledgeable
amateurs, among whom I classify myself. For one thing, it is now easy to
get access to the entire text, thanks to a dedicated group of transcribers
who will deserve part of the credit for any decipherment. Problems such as
Elamite or even the Indus script require regular access to a research
library. On the other hand, the length of the manuscript is a deterrent to
outright cranks. Self-deluding people tend to go for short texts such as
the Phaistos disc. 120 pages of nonsense backed up by endless special
pleading is easily seen for what it is.

I was a mediaevalist at university and I sometimes dream of being a Michael
Ventris, but the Voynich manuscript as a hobby is also an excuse to keep up
my programming and web skills (I have worked on the fringes of computing
for years). It can be an obsession, but I have several obsessions which
go through an irregular cycle.

3. The list ebbs and flows, the sun sets at ten in summer, and the Voynich
manuscript is not my only hobby. Even when I am working on it, I do not
find something to say every week and I have never come up with anything
truly original.

4. The work of transcription conducted in recent years is a considerable
advance. Dana Scott's work on the plants is also original. There has not
been a breakthrough in structural analysis since Currier and d'Imperio in
the 1970s.

5. If it is a hoax it is an old hoax. It is not easy to produce large
amounts of nonsense to order, as Edward Kelly discovered to his cost. I
think that some kind of logic underlies the text.

6. The Chinese theory is not inconceivable. I don't believe it myself and
I have produced linguistic arguments against it, but other researchers
have their counter-arguments.

7. I have only ever met one person, Nick Pelling, who is actively trying
to read the manuscript (I have friends who have heard of it and know
something about it but are not working on it). The community is essentially
a web community because we are geographically scattered with a few clusters
in places like London. I should be delighted to meet other enthusiasts in
real life.

Philip Neal

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