Join Plus+ and get exclusive shows and extensions! Subscribe Today!

Russian Mathematicians Solve the Mysterious Voynich Manuscript

The CIA tried to decrypt it and failed. The FBI tried to break the code and also failed. Scholars, cryptologists and really smart people all over the world have been trying for 600 years to decrypt a mysterious book known as The Voynich Manuscript that’s written in a code so unbreakable, some theorize it was written by aliens. The failures are finally over. A team of Russian mathematicians claim they have solved the puzzle of the manuscript. And it says …

Not so fast. A breakthrough like this needs to be revealed slowly. The manuscript is named for anti-Tsarist Polish revolutionary and book dealer Wilfrid Voynich, who bought it in 1912 at a Jesuit college outside of Rome. The illustrated codex was radiocarbon-dated to medieval Italy between 1404 and 1438. The pictures are mostly of herbs and plants, with others depicting astronomical, pharmaceutical or biological objects. The writing … well, the writing is gibberish.

Until now.

Mathematicians from the RAS Institute of Applied Mathematics deciphered the Voynich manuscript, currently kept at Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, with an unusual code-breaking technique. They first removed all of the vowels and spaces, turning the codex into what looked like one extremely long Russian name. That obviously wasn’t the solution. But believe it or not, it was close.

They compared the vowel-less, space-less string of characters to Indo-European languages such as the Slavic subgroup, Germanic, Romance, Greek, Bac and Latin. They then looked at the Ural family of languages and the Finno-Ugric (Hungarian) branch. They also included artificial languages such as Esperanto, Interlingua and Klingon. You read that right … Klingon. A statistical analysis on all of that data concluded that the text was 60 percent English and German and 40 percent Romance language – Spanish, Italian and maybe a little Latin.

Having broken the code, what mysterious messages or secrets did the Russian mathematicians find in the Voynich manuscript?

Still, I don’t know why understanding the text can be important today because, judging by the drawings, it explains in what part of the year you need to sow poppy seed in order to later obtain opium.

Yuri Orlov, Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences at the Institute of Applied Mathematics Behalf of M.V. Keldysh Academy of Sciences and co-author of the report on the research, gave that disappointing answer. It appears that the parts of the text thought to be associated with the pictures – named “Botanical part,” “Female bodies,” “Astrology” and “Mortar” – are mixed up. Without the vowels and spaces, the language may be identifiable but many of the actual words are not.

However, the decoding so far is still a victory, Yuri Orlov explains why:

We now know that this can be done.

Now get your secret decoding rings out and finish the job.


Paul Seaburn Paul Seaburn is one of the most prolific writers at Mysterious Universe. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.
You can follow Paul on and