Saturday, January 25, 2014

A code for comparison to the Voynich

In an earlier post, I proposed something I called the GAV hypothesis, suggesting that the Voynich manuscript could be written in a shorthand, where all vowels accept the stressed vowel in a word are normally dropped, and that the stressed vowels were represented by the gallows letters.

As it happens, when visiting a used book store about 15 years ago, I picked up a manual for a secret society that is written in a similar code. The manual, printed in 1895, is written in an abbreviated form of English, and it is clear that the authors hoped that it would serve as a reminder to those who already knew its contents, but be impenetrable to the uninitiated. The owner of the bookstore told me that an old man would often come in and tease him about the book, saying he would never understand it.

Some parts of the manual are very obscure, apparently containing more critical secrets than others. At the moment, though, I am not so interested in the content of the manual, as much as the statistical properties of the code. In a way, this form of abbreviation serves to increase the entropy of the text in a way that would be similar to compression.

Here is a sample of my 1895 text:
Ths wd is cmpsd % fo Hebrw chrcts, crspdng in our lngg t J, H, V, H, @ cn nt b prncd wthot +| aid % thr sds % +| trigl, tt bng an mblm % De. Th Syric, Chldc, @ Egyptn wds, tkn as ons, is thrfr cld +| G O ℞ ₳ W. Thr is no gp in this °.
Which reads as:
This word is composed of four Hebrew characters, corresponding in our language to J, H, V, H, and can not be pronounced without the aid of three sounds of the triglot, that being an emblem of the (De=Deity?). The Syriac, Chaldaic and Egyptian words, taken as (ons=?), is therefore called the G O R A W. There is no (gp=?) in this degree. [Or maybe: "There is no gap in this circle"?]
This is fairly clear, but just imagine how hard it would be to work with if it were masked by a simple substitution cipher. Consider also the following passage, which is nearly impenetrable, even in plain text:
H P- (Xplns +| d-g, pnl-§, grn hlg-§, @ +| §s gvn at +| vls.)
Perhaps to be read something like:
High Priest- (Explains the ..., ..., ..., and the ...s given at the ...)
If I have time, I'll try to do a statistical analysis of the text for comparison to the VM. But I am thinking there are a couple of things here that could be really instructive. First, it is possible that two people could abbreviate the same language in different ways, creating "dialects" in the text. Second, the language of the code could change depending on the importance of the content.

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