Six Questions with Nick Pelling: Author of The Curse of the Voynich
As the subtitle to Nick Pelling’s book The Curse of the Voynich mentions, the Voynich manuscript is considered the world’s most mysterious manuscript. Continuing to capture the attention of many, Nick Pelling is a leading researcher into the intriguing and alluring enigma. His work on the manuscript has been recently highlighted on National Geographic (Ancient X-Files, series 2, episode 4, second half).
Although still protecting many of its secrets, Nick has been able to pry a few from the Voynich manuscript and shares these amazing findings within his book. With just Six Questions, I touched on only some of these. Reading his book is like taking an enlightening journey through history and I was happy for the opportunity to pry into his mind and then share his thoughts with you all.
Q1) The historical account, which is proposed in your book (The Curse of the Voynich) to provide an explanation for the creation of the Voynich Manuscript, is highly researched, immense, and offers a persuasive case. What would you say was one of the most challenging connections or discoveries made during your investigation? And then was this your most exciting?
- The most exciting and challenging connection was the notion that the later (“B hand”) part of the plant drawings represent machines. Though I’m sure that this will eventually prove to be correct, right now it remains a step further than just about any other researcher is prepared to take. Oh well!
Q2) Do you feel you have gone as far as you can with revealing the manuscript’s origins or meanings; or do you continue to make further advances? Would you be satisfied with leaving the manuscript with its secrets?
- I’m continuing to make progress, though it’s now of a very different nature to that which I was doing in 2006, essentially because there’s precious little to do with Filarete that I haven’t already gone through. Still, because the Voynich Manuscript is a lot like a Rubik cube with a thousand sides, there’s always plenty to look at. 🙂
Q3) Is there one unexplained symbol, image, or characteristic of the manuscript which continues to nag you the most? Is there a question about the manuscript which you feel you just must answer? (Other than a total decipherment)
- One itch that remains resolutely unscratched for me is how ‘Voynichese’ (the apparent ‘language’ of the Voynich Manuscript) evolved. We’ve known for decades that there are two basic ‘dialects’ (named Currier A and Currier B, in honour of the code-breaker who first properly described them), but how did A change into B? I’d love to find a way of bringing this relationship to the surface more rigorously, and so continue to muse on ways to achieve this.
Q4) Your observation about the symbols called ‘gallows’ inspired by architecture is very interesting. You mention other amazing architectural relationships as well within the manuscript. Have you researched architecture in the reverse? Instead of writings leading to structural designs, do you feel secret messages or knowledge is hidden in architecture? Do you have interest in this?
- There are those people who see hidden meanings encoded in all kinds of historical artistic creation, such as sculpture, architecture and of course painting: yet whenever I’ve personally tried to reproduce any of these so-called “sacred geometry” results for myself, I always end up dissatisfied. I suspect that few (if any) of these have any meaning beyond either simple internal construction lines or visuo-spatial homage to a master’s work… but that’s just my opinion, make of it what you will.
Q5) On your website, Cipher Mysteries, you share your enthusiasm for cracking codes. What is it that inspires you to like ciphers and codes so much? Do you remember your first breaking of a mystery or challenging puzzle?
- My personal research focus has always been more on cracking secret histories than on cracking ciphers, and the Voynich Manuscript remains my #1 target. I’ll get there in the end, though…
Q6) Although the Voynich Manuscript remains an unsolved code, is there another unsolved mystery which has attracted your attention? Are you passionately working on any other unsolved puzzles or conundrums like you did with the Voynich?
- I’ve currently got three splendid cipher mysteries on the go, one of which is occupying far more of my time than the others: it may well turn into another book or perhaps even a film, who knows? The problem with each is that – just as with The Curse of the Voynich – each one is already a huge topic, and it’s hard to know where to begin without trying to present the whole thing. Perhaps that’s why I like them so much, though. 😉 Cheers, ….Nick…
Such sweet and precise answers, Nick. Thank-you so much for them! They reveal your passion for history and encourage all to explore. I love your comparison of the manuscript to ‘a Rubik cube with a thousand sides’. So many mysteries in this world are like this; it makes me wonder how anyone can say there is nothing more to discover.
For more information about the Voynich manuscript, Nick has a written an excellent summary on his website; The Voynich Manuscript. Many other historical and unsolved ciphers can be found on Nick’s Cipher Mysteries site, as well. Be sure to check it out!
Although currently sold out on Amazon, his book, The Curse of the Voynich Manuscript, is in the process of reprinting and should become available later this year.