My short bio: Professor of Linguistics, University of Bedfordshire, UK - website:

My Proof: See my webpage profile page, with my photo and Reddit note.

Also see the New Scientist article on my work:

and the BBC page:

I can be here for an hour, but I'll also answer questions a bit later. Or send them to my website/blog.

Thanks everyone - I'm signing out now - - ask me anything else on my website. Thanks

Comments: 445 • Responses: 106  • Date: 

elvircrn91 karma

Have you tried using Google Translate?

Stephenbax96 karma

Um, no. I'm on it now.

Stephenbax8 karma

Hey, I didn't think of that. I see they've just added 'Voynichese' to the list of language options :-)

konnikova64 karma

When I was a kid I was fascinated with the Voynich Manuscript, so I have some questions for you.

  • How does stress marks and other elements from forensic calligraphy (I don't think graphology is accurate enough) come in play in your research?

  • How does linguistic reverse enginnering work? Can you shed some light on it? Do you use some kind of correlation (i.e. the handwritten lowercase "e" and "l" are very similar), do you search for similar graphemes on ancient languages, do you group your findings by roots (Slavic roots, Latin root, etc)?

  • How do you interact with the manuscript? Do you work on digitalized copies, do they require you to keep it at special temperatures if you physically interact with it? Tell us more, please.

Thank you very much!

Edit: second question.

Stephenbax48 karma

I'm not a specialist in calligraphy, which is a handicap. So I depend on others. Reverse engineering - do you mean transcribing it all and looking at the transcript with a computer? Luckily others have done the work for us - see I work a lot with

.. a fantastic site! I have never seen the actual manuscript yet :-(

konnikova11 karma

Thank you! I mean reverse engineering as a way to understand the logic behind the language with no a priori knowledge. Speaking of it, what particular knowledge sources were you using when you discovered these words? How's a typical research day for a linguist?

Stephenbax24 karma

I do think that my approach is likely to get more results than computerised studies. My typical day - library study, coffee, library study, coffee.

karmanaut48 karma

Why did you decide to pursue this research? What makes this important to you?

Stephenbax85 karma

I studied Arabic and other oriental languages and I like different scripts. The Voynich looked to me at first like a form of Arabic, which is what attracted me, but I don't believe it is Arabic now.

Important? Well, interesting first of all, but I do feel the manuscript is important as it could shed light on some new things about wherever it was written.

dudethatsnice29 karma

Any theories yet, on what civilization may have written the manuscript?

Stephenbax125 karma

Yes, I am working on one theory which I think is exciting, because it seems to fit the evidence we have of the language, but my job now is to work hard to DISprove that theory, to find holes in it. I'm going to the British Library in London to look at an old manuscript, and a magnifying glass. I'm hopeful, but not wild

dudethatsnice20 karma

May I ask which language you're looking at for this? Unofficially of course..

Stephenbax43 karma

b x%789%$3 It's encoded so only you can see it :-)

sty1emonger22 karma

Ah, ok, so, Swahili, then.

Stephenbax23 karma


FunkyTowel213 karma

I almost wonder, and I have millions of crazy ideas on this, if someone didn't try to copy chinese, egyptian, or some other script by using combinations of the latin alphabet. That would give you all sorts of repeating sequences, but they wouldn't make sense if the characters were representing ideograms and had all sorts of modifiers on them. Worse, if the person copying the symbols didn't know the language.

I don't think it was until the 18th century that they translated egyptian, but there were still many works out there that people could copy from. Not to mention all the wild scripts from South America. Mayan script replicated in the latin alphabet, not that'd be a nightmare.

Stephenbax13 karma

True, but the question is WHY would they do that?

aeschenkarnos6 karma

Perhaps extensive conversation between intelligent speakers of a language, one of whom is literate in a second language, but neither of whom is literate in the shared language?

Suppose there is a Scribe, and a Herbalist. The Herbalist is illiterate but highly intelligent and has much wisdom to share, and can draw quite well. The Scribe is also highly intelligent and literate in a variety of languages, but not the language the Herbalist speaks. The Scribe learns the Herbalist's language, and devises a unique script for it. (There is precedent for this - Sequoyah the Cherokee.) The Scribe teaches the Herbalist to write and read. Then either the Scribe, or the Herbalist, or both, writes the Voynich Manuscript. Neither ever teaches others; perhaps they die shortly after.

Stephenbax7 karma

Interesting - though the script is remarkably free of corrections, and you might expect errors in that kind of work - but it could be a fair copy

Great_Canadian-42 karma

Sooo you pretty much spent your whole life learning languages that children in other countries can already speak?

I thought you knew Latin or someother cool stuff..

edit: downvoting me instead of him? I don't get you sometimes reddit..

Stephenbax24 karma

Well, Arabic, Akkadian, Hebrew, Syriac, French, Spanish, and a bit of English, plus fluent in Middle Earth Elvish (only in informal conversation). Oh, I did do Latin too. But I am very old.

oldspice7547 karma

What is your theory about its language and its purpose?

Stephenbax133 karma

Don't tell anyone OK? I think it is probably an invented script, probably by a small group trying to study and pass on knowledge, maybe in a region not far from Europe, e.g Turkey, Iran, Caucasus. I then think that for some reason - war? - the group died out. But not much proof ..... YET.

Joltie60 karma

Could it be... *gasp* the Muslim Illuminati?

EDIT: This is not a serious question.

Stephenbax136 karma

Yes EDIT: This is not a serious answer

oldspice7529 karma

Any particular reason why you think it could be from Iran, Turkey or the Caucasus?

Stephenbax59 karma

Now that I have made some progress on the script, I am starting to get an idea of the underlying language and a few key things about it suggest to me a few possibilities. For example I don't see anything Semitic in it, and I know Semitic languages quite well. A few prefixes and suffixes are giving me some more clues. I think it is probably Indo-European, but still a lot more work to go.

oldspice7519 karma

Do you think it could be a Turkic language? Or some lost Indo-European language from the Caucasus, like Isaurian?

Stephenbax36 karma

Yes, and yes. Both on the agenda. Though Isaurians were probably too early;

ostracize45 karma

Since you published your findings and it's been plastered all over the Internet, do you find it bothersome that despite your decades of linguistic research, now everybody and their mother is blasting you with their own 5-minute pet theories?

Stephenbax67 karma

Well, some of them are interesting! But if I translate the whole thing there will only be one theory left, so we can all have a break!

GaleW43 karma

Do you have an opinion on the theory that the VM might be a family's travelogue or teaching book of all the places they visited and things they learned along the way; such as the explorer Niccolo de Conti and his wife of India descent and their four children who traveled extensively throughout the east and Indonesia?

Stephenbax35 karma

I do find that interesting - where did you see that? But why wouldn't they just write in Italian?

That is a puzzle - why would anyone devise a new script if they already had one they could use?

GaleW47 karma

I came up with the theory that it was Niccolo de Conti and his wife and children. I wrote and opinion paper to establish my reasoning and gave some internet links to back up my research. I also included pictures to show a few of the VM drawings of the women are native dancers of India in costume. Also the language is probably because of his wife. Her exact nationality was never really known in most of the historical documents I had access to. But she was from somewhere around the region or north India perhaps even in a border area that might account for the confusing language mix. She probably was the one who taught her children to read, write, etc. Perhaps the children were the authors. Ha-ha wouldn't that be strange. But the whole family were pretty much geniuses. Niccolo de Conte spoke about 8-10 languages himself. So anything is possible. They also had contact with the Chinese explorers who may have gone to the America's before Columbus and could account for the drawing of the sunflower.

Stephenbax30 karma

Thanks - I will look it up. But the key is to translate the language - then we will know if you are right!

Friedso26 karma

Hey, Stephen! Two questions:

  • Do you hope to find something specific with the Voynich manuscript?
  • What do you think the future holds for Linguistics? I studied a bit in college, but all they talked about was the past, not future possibilities.

Stephenbax46 karma

Yes, I want to translate those strange 'bath' pages with naked ladies and green water. Good article on that recently:

Really interesting part of the V manuscript.

Linguistics? Lots more people studying it and seeing how important it is!

svjatomirskij26 karma

Why did you choose to start from the plants, whose identification will always be questionable, instead of the zodiac, where the signs are clearly labled?

Stephenbax43 karma

The problem with the Zodiac pages is that only one of them, if I remember, seems to have the name of the sign in the Voynich script.

The rest have got names, but not in the V script. They seem to be in old French or similar - like Mars for March - but they were clearly added later, in a different ink.

So unfortunately that doesn't allow us a good entry into the sign system of the V language itself :-(

xopher_mc23 karma

What other words have you already (possibly) found with the letters you have?

Stephenbax31 karma

You mean ones I haven't published? I have had a few more suggested to me and I'm now working on them - other plants. Some really good ideas, but tough to prove them - it will take a long time for each word.

I'm looking at the Castor Oil plant at the moment!

roland19d20 karma

Were you able to completely translate the Voynich manuscript, what would be your next endeavor? Are there any other manuscripts left that remain as indecipherable as the VM that you might be interested in taking a crack at?

Stephenbax36 karma

Yes, I'm keen on the Linear A script from Crete. Linear B has already been deciphered as a form of Greek, but Linear A is still a mystery.

I did work on it a few years ago, but it doesn't have any pictures to help!

Any suggestions?

roland19d5 karma

Not a clue. Well over my head I'm afraid but wish you good luck.

Stephenbax10 karma

Linear A

People have tired with computers, believe me...

EsGelesen20 karma

I've just finished watching your video:

Brilliant work. My question is: have you been tempted to keep this secret until you have the whole thing worked out? Do you have a small select set of reliable friends to help with this? Or have you found it easy to be open? Strangely, I have a similar project I am working on and I find it hard to open up to the internet about it. Also, how long do you think it will be before we have the whole document translated?

Stephenbax28 karma

My kids say: you are right - he has no friends :-) I decided to put it on the Internet because I felt the time was right to get other people's views on it. If I worked for four more years and found it was baloney....... bad. But this way I can get feedback, and that is what has happened. Some positive, some not, but some REALLY useful leads.

How long - I reckon a minimum of four years. If we can identify the language it will STILL be a long time because it will be in an old and probably odd form of that language.

FineCanadianForces19 karma

I may be too late for you to see this: My Girlfriend is a MASSIVE Voynich fan - seriously, she has a Voynich google alert, I'm sure.

Anyway, we watched your video this weekend, and then we both made artist's renditions of the scene of the video's recording. Her drawing is hilarious, and you appear to have a good sense of humour (remember - she was only going by your voice, the recording of aforementioned voice, and the material in the video.) so check it out: Hope you enjoy!

Amazing work btw!

Stephenbax25 karma

That is SERIOUSLY spooky. I JUST kicked over my coffee cup on the floor :-) My kids will laugh out loud when they see that.

Plus that guy has a lot more hair and better dress sense than me.

Thanks - you made my day.

FineCanadianForces7 karma

We're both super excited for what your research yields, and can't wait till the next video installment!

Stephenbax11 karma

Thanks for the drawing - can I post it as my Fbook profile? Better than the real thing...

FineCanadianForces5 karma

She says: "OF COURSE!!!"

Stephenbax7 karma

Thanks - my family are still laughing. I'm doing a big lecture today and will show her picture - please say thanks a lot!

jc-miles18 karma

At what time during your research did you have the insight that led to your partial decoding? When would you have abandoned your research on the manuscript? Did you expect not to have any results after so many years of work? (I'm mainly interested in knowing why would you take the risk to work on a subject where you have a high probability to fail)

Stephenbax28 karma

When I had worked out a few of the signs and then looked a page with a picture of a hellebore on it - according to people who knew about plants. I put my idea for the plant name into Google 'kaur' and the word 'hellebore' and bang! up came the word in a plant book. Then I felt I was really onto something.

Give up? No, I was always fascinated by it... but I suppose if I got nothing I might give up and watch BB theory instead.

tekoyaki6 karma

This is definitely my fav part of your video. Finding confirmation for the predicted word via Google search, very cool :)

Stephenbax16 karma

Yeah, I'm hoping Google will send me a cheque for all the publicity I'm giving them,

I_Need_To_Go_To_Bed17 karma

If you were given a choice between one hundred million dollars and the fully translated Voynich manuscript, which one would you choose?

Also, obligatory xkcd comic

Stephenbax38 karma

Um, the cash... but I might spend then 100,000 of it on a long holiday in the Bahamas working on the V manuscript...

Grillburg15 karma

I love the RPG sourcebook theory.

Stephenbax35 karma

I love the theory that it is a long recipe for vegetable soup...

acupz17 karma

What is your response to those that accuse it as being a fake?

Stephenbax26 karma

I think the evidence is all against that. Who would write a massive thing like that for a fake? It has pages of script, not only pictures, which would not impress any buyer, so it is unlikely to be a fake in my view.

Stephenbax40 karma

That's the translation I haven't published yet :-)

vectorlit16 karma

I briefly took some classical japanese translation classes in college while studying for a (modern) japanese major and actually gave up because I was so frustrated. "What do you mean we still don't know what this character means???" Then I went on to easier things, like computer programming. I'm not kidding.

My question is, how do you deal with the frustration? If I don't have something to show for my work after a few days I feel like a failure, even if intellectually I know I'm far from it. It's something I've had to struggle with personally so I'd like to hear from someone who surely bangs their head against the wall more often than I do (that's a compliment).

Stephenbax20 karma

Yep, my wall has lots of headmarks, it's true But I am happy with small bits of progress - like today someone emailed me with a single name of a star in the manuscript, and it looked really convincing - so investigating that will keep me happy for days!

MurrayPhilbman16 karma

Do you consider a hamburger to be a type of sandwich, or an entity of its own?

Stephenbax36 karma

As they say in the Voynich manuscript: keeody daain!

MurrayPhilbman22 karma

Thank you! Now all I have to do is decode the Voynich manuscript. Easy peasy.

Stephenbax31 karma

Gokdody s daiin!

Sirlantedise16 karma

What surprised you the most so far while decoding the voynich manuscript? Any crazy revelations yet?

Stephenbax36 karma

Yes, the quantity of non-European words which seem to be coming out... the pictures look so European. That needs explaining.

Sirlantedise15 karma

Do you think the manuscript could possible have been passed down to different locations which would explain the non European words and the European pictures? Such as date the ink from the writing to the ink from the pictures? Maybe it could have different dates and different compositions.

Stephenbax19 karma

Yes, or it could have been copied from other manuscripts.

Georgeasaurus14 karma

What book would you recommend on the manuscript, preferably one that has the manuscript replicated well?

Stephenbax22 karma

Two: - a website, not a book. - has the WHOLE thing in great detail. That man is a genius.

AlanDorman14 karma

I appreciated your recent paper and YouTube video. You make a strong case that the VM has to do with the Mideast and the Silk Road; it's just that theories come along so fast, it's hard to keep up. We remember the recent theory that it could be from the New World.

My only question is, under your best guess, what is going on with the trippy imagery of ladies in pools, à la Minority Report precogs?

Stephenbax18 karma

Great recent article on this - with (I think) quite a sound argument about it:

MattSpych12 karma

What is your opinion about the VMS being written outside Europe?

Stephenbax19 karma

I feel it could have been written in Europe, but I am now convinced it is written in a non-European language, maybe an unusual one. Many of the plant names I am working on are very odd, with no known parallel in any language I have looked at. Could be done by someone from that language group, but in Europe for some reason.

hitchenfanboy5 karma

I assume you have looked at basque?

Stephenbax9 karma

Yes, but with no joy so far. I love their food though.

uninnocent12 karma

What is the most out-there theory you've heard about the manuscript?

Stephenbax28 karma

Um. aliens. Anything which doesn't take into account the carbon dating of around 1430 (e.g. Aztec theories, Francis Bacon theories, my mother-in-law-did-it theories)

johnamo11 karma

Enjoyed your video -- thank you for positing it on YouTube! 1) Do you think the illustrations are original to the manuscript, or could they have been added later? 2) You mention there being evidence of multiple authors -- is there evidence of multiple illustrators? 3) I'm very curious about the somewhat unrealistic portrayals of the plants, and wonder if you think that may be drawn based on descriptions (perhaps in the manuscript) by someone naive? Thanks! Sorry for the mass of questions!

Stephenbax9 karma

1) Yes, sure. The script sometimes goes around them 2) I don't know, to be honest 3) Yes, but SOME are very good. Some might be copied, which was common in those times.

Lurkalo11 karma

If you weren't working on the Voynich manuscript, what other projects would you be working on?

Stephenbax28 karma

Well, I'm interested in other unsolved scripts - Linear A (Crete) and also Rongo Rongo (Easter Island), but I've got to get the Voynich bug out of my system first. Only ten years to go!

jc-miles8 karma

wow, you're gona tackle Rongorongo? That's a tough one! Good luck!!

More seriously, do you have any other research subject or unsolved question, other than undeciphered scripts, you'd like to pursue?

Stephenbax7 karma

I would like to travel more! I want to see Iran, Afghanistan (not now), Armenia, Georgia, Samarkand....

klbcr10 karma

What is your opinion on Nick Pelling's criticism of your work over at Cypher Mysteries?

Do you consider any of his arguments valid? Will you write an answer on your website?

Good luck with your further work and thanks for the AMA.

Stephenbax13 karma

I've done it already:

PirateAdventurer9 karma

Could you tell us a little bit about the process you use to decipher the manuscript and how your typical day researching the book might go. How did you manage to identify 14 letters/signs and their sound values?

Stephenbax16 karma

Firstly, I can only work in the evenings and weekends.... I can't neglect my students! The first thing is to find a plant which seems to be recognisable, and then to research it in old herbal manuscripts. I have access to a few online. Once I find one and it is a convincing match, I look for names in various languages which might fit what I think might be the Voynich word. But that takes hours of library study. I'm working on Ricinis Communis now, which is the source of Castor oil.

PirateAdventurer5 karma

Cool! Well, if it helps, ricinis communis is called kikayon mazui in Hebrew or kharrub in Arabic.

Do you think there is any sort of relation between the types of plants in the manuscript and where they typically grow to the language/s and area that you think the manuscript might originate from?

Stephenbax13 karma

Yes, it is the Arabic one which I am buzzing about - well spotted. But the V word looks a bit different, so I reckon the Arabic word was perhaps borrowed and altered into the V language

Yes, I do - I reckon the plant Juniperus Communis on page 16r is so lifelike that the manuscript probably comes from an area where it grew.... quite a wide area, but not as far east as India for example.

Mad__Scientist9 karma

Your work site says you have worked extensively in the Middle East, Latin America and Asia . . . Where is the best/your favorite place you have worked so far?

Stephenbax15 karma

I loved Syria - so sad it is being slowly demolished... also Morocco is great because they have preserved so much mediaeval stuff.

MattSpych8 karma

Did you contact the people of The Journal of Voynich Studies ?

Stephenbax14 karma

Good question - I haven't had any contact with them and when I looked at the pages it seems to be like a message list of some sort, not a journal, so I am confused about who they are.

Any information would be welcome.....

vonbauernfeind8 karma

What's the most exciting thing about figuring out the start of decrypting the manuscript? The fact that no historian has managed it so far, the possible contents, the media buzz that's probably going to help fund your research for a while, etc.?

Are you planning on publishing a translation when you're done?

Stephenbax21 karma

Translation - yes, but with loads of help from a speaker of whatever language family it comes from! e.g. Turkic, Semitic, Indo-European

Exciting: when you crack a word and realise that it fits everything you have worked on for four months....

vonbauernfeind6 karma

That's awesome! It's great to hear that this is so exciting down to single words! Seeing the translation of this (however far off it me be) will be amazing and will no doubt help color our knowledge of this period in even more.

And yes, translation! That's going to be the best! Even if it's a boring diatribe on plants, it's so important to recover as much data as we can about period time, that this offers a bounty of information.

Stephenbax8 karma

Yes, though I reckon that it will have some really interesting stuff - just from the pictures. I reckon it will be a major insight into the times.

svjatomirskij8 karma

Why do you think the first letters on every paragraph in the plant section are chosen from a set of just four? F,P,K and T?

Stephenbax11 karma

Well, there are a few more, but in general you are right. I suspect that some of those signs might be 'discourse markers' signalling things about the text - e.g. they might show the start of a section. That is a common reason why mediaeval manuscripts had a 'showy' initial letter. Someone emailed me today suggesting they might be case markers 'like in Russian' but I don't know if that is a possibility. Sounds intriguing though.. You saw it on Reddit first!

svjatomirskij5 karma

Care to elaborate about 'like in Russian'? I didn't get it, and I have some (although not fluent) knowledge of this language.

Can it be that these letters denote the purpose of the paragraph? Somewhat like the "Q: and A:" in a modern FAQ or the type of the paragraph. Like description, uses, history....

Stephenbax9 karma

Ha! Maybe. The person meant that the first letter in Russian sometime indicates the grammatical case of the word. I don't know if that is true.

svjatomirskij9 karma

Nope. Here is a simple table with the cases in Russian. They are always at the end of the word.

Stephenbax3 karma

Bang goes that one then! Thanks. It didn't sound likely, though I do like the idea of them being some sort of marker... maybe not of case

TheCasemanCometh7 karma

How much progress have you made translating the manuscript? What's the subject matter?

Stephenbax15 karma

I worked on it for two years (part time) and have managed to identify 14 letters/signs with their sound values. Slow work! They are used in a total of ten words - one is Taurus and the others are names of plants. So lots to do still :-)

TheCasemanCometh9 karma

That sounds like a ton more progress than any other attempt to translate it! I'm sure you'll get the whole done eventually, I look forward to hearing about it!

Stephenbax6 karma


FizxTeacher7 karma

What parts of your research are you most confident? What areas do you consider more speculative?

Stephenbax10 karma

The strongest bit is the identification of the plant 'Centaury' and the word in the text. I am sure it is that plant, and so is pretty well everyone else, and for me the translation is really convincing... but I'm biased!

Weakest? The last ones - cotton and saffron, because the pictures are so unconvincing. But I have had a few suggestions this week on that.

tee_ess_ay7 karma

Did you have any failed ideas before you hit on your successful one?

Stephenbax9 karma

Yes, very many. Loads of false starts. Every day!

voidshaper7 karma

There's been a lot of statistical research on letter distribution, entropy etc. that are very odd. Given the strange mixture of arabic/european influences, how likely is a transliteration of a creole/pidgin/lingua franca from your point of view?

Stephenbax7 karma

Hm. Good question. But it would have to be one which was so developed and used that they needed a script, and that would fit very few.

voidshaper3 karma

I'm sure you have tried to apply your results to other in-text combinations of the glyphs you may have identified (well, I tried simple substitution on a few, not that it told me something). It still feels irritating because of the repetitions. Have you chanced on something worthwhile/other candidates yet?

Stephenbax11 karma

Repetitions: I believe that the language may use a lot of what is called 'reduplication'. In Eurpean languages this is rare but in some others they use a lot - for example 'black-black' to mean 'dark black', and many bother variations.

Yes, I am trying that a lot, but more working on possible languages directly


Thanks very much for posting the YouTube explaining your research. You did a really great job of making your line of reasoning easy to follow. I noticed that you focus mostly on the herbal sections of the manuscript, using the names of the plants depicted to start identifying the letters. Do you think a similar method would bear fruit by looking at the constellations in the astrological portions of the manuscript, or is there a reason the herbs work better?

Stephenbax10 karma

The problem with the star pages is that it is very tough to identify a particular name to latch onto. At least the plants have usually one plant per page. For example I looked at a page of stars and picked out some possibilities, but to be honest that is a rather random way of doing it.

NickConrad6 karma

I saw on a TV show that a hallmark of handwritten manuscripts is that the words lack spacing in between them, but it seems that there are spaces with V M. What gives?

Stephenbax14 karma

No, many manuscripts from the time have spaces between words. It depends on the place they were written.

dontspillme5 karma

At that point of your research, what type of finding will you accept as a disproval of what you've found so far. That is, per the principles of the scientific method, can you give an example of a refutal of your hypothesis.

Best of luck, and I also wish you strength of will to continue cracking this bastard! I so hope you're right (but still that doesn't stop me from doubting, as is my duty as a follower of science :)

Stephenbax6 karma

Yes, and can I be cautious with you, as a fellow follower of science? It's never proven till it's proven.

I suspect the only thing which would count as a dis-proval would be an analysis which convincingly fits more of the data, i.e. which decodes more words better.

aramanthe5 karma

First off, thank you for tackling this :)

My question has always been, regarding the VM at least, how did we only find one remaining piece of this language and culture? I by no means think that the VM is a hoax but that wonder just haunts me sometimes.

Stephenbax9 karma

Yes, me too. It is very odd. We have things like the Phaistos disk:

which are unique examples of - apparently - a language system, but usually with very little data. With V we have masses and masses of text - but none anywhere else. That is why it bugs so many of us!

Da_Car5 karma

Pancakes or Waffles?

Stephenbax15 karma

Waffles, with butter and syrup please.

N8theGr8-2 karma

Heretic. Pancakes are clearly superior.

dudethatsnice1 karma

Delusional.. Waffles hold together better..

Stephenbax15 karma

I'm still waiting - where are my ******* waffles?

MattSpych5 karma

If you were to choose: you solve the VMS tonight and live on, or time-travel to meet the guy who is writing it (no coming back), which do you choose? :)

Stephenbax7 karma

Number one, because I like BB theory too much.

FizxTeacher5 karma

The Voynich Manuscript is relatively famous for its mystery. I've been intrigued since I was a kid. What other manuscripts might be out there to be decoded? Where else could we look to learn and decode?

Stephenbax6 karma

People are hot about the Indus civlization language. Linear A is still bugging people. I like Rongo Rongo from Easter Island because the place itself is so beautiful. Amazing - best place in the world.

devilbones5 karma

I would love to get involved. Is there anything that I can do to help?

Stephenbax12 karma

Hard to say..... it depends on your background and interests. Stars? Plants? Semi-nak....... um, linguistics?


I was very excited when I read about your research on the manuscrip and it's wonderful that you're doing this AMA. So thanks!

Um, I can't think of a clever question now so I'll have to go with: Do you have any pet theory/ies about all those naked ladies?

Stephenbax10 karma

Well, someone else does - look at the article in this journal which I think is convincing:

somewatcomplete5 karma

I downloaded the manuscript for the pictures (I draw in a similar style apparently). Keep up the great work! Nothing to ask, just impressed by anyone who would have the knowledge to try and translate the manuscript.

Stephenbax7 karma


UtterlyDisposable5 karma

I know that all you can do at this point is speculate, but what would a reasonable explanation for the uniqueness of the script be? It seems almost like the text is too new for it to belong to a completely unknown language or script, and some of the contents of the book seem to suggest that its creator had some contact with Europe either before or during its writing. I ask because since I had first read of the codex and saw some scans of its text, I had wondered if it might have been a cipher or code. Such an explanation would certainly account for it's apparent uniqueness without the requirement of a lost script or language.

Stephenbax7 karma

Some say it is a code - and it is possible. I am a believer of the natural language theory and natural script theory because I see no reason to encode information which was probably common knowledge, and if it was secret why put pictures which would give a clue to decoders?

But you are right - why then do we not find examples of the script anywhere else? Still unsure.

drukweyr4 karma

Hey Stephen. I'm late to the party, but I wanted to say congratulations and that I really enjoyed reading your paper. It was easy to follow for a someone with no linguistics background and your excitement filtered through. Is there anything that interested amateurs can do to help crack it further?

Stephenbax3 karma

Well, research on plants... and looking at old manuscripts? Doesn't sound fun, I admit. Sorry, but if you like that sort of thing.... I do!

Sparksman914 karma

كيف حالك؟

Stephenbax9 karma

AlHamdu Lilla, shukran jazeelan!

MattSpych4 karma

Were you able to discover a seqence of words, a sentence Or are your discovered words scattered across the pages?

Stephenbax9 karma

I worked mainly on the FIRST word of the pages with plants on them, because in mediaeval herbal manuscripts that is usually where the names are found.That was an important part of the procedure. NOT random words.

addrian273 karma

Dear Professor, can you please tell us how is your work financed?

Stephenbax4 karma

It isn't! I do it in my own spare time. Large donations welcome! :-)

pantz_3 karma

Is the entire manuscript all still in one piece? Are you studying the original or do you have copies of every page? Is/will the original be in a museum where the public can view it? Thanks for doing this ama!

Stephenbax5 karma

It is all in Yale Library, but you can see it all at:

Queentoad13 karma

How did you first learn of the Voynich Manuscript?

Stephenbax4 karma

I heard a radio programme in around March 2012 about John Dee, the Elizabethan magus and scholar, and looked him up on Wikipedia! There was a link to the V manuscript. He was thought to have owned it, but most people don't think so now.

kolaloka3 karma

I very much enjoyed your video about your investigative process and I think it's very promising. I'd love to lend my mind to the effort, is there any formal way folks like me can help you crowdsource further discoveries? Specifically, which plants are we most certain we can identify?

Stephenbax8 karma

Hard to say, but I've had some great suggestions from people this last week, and some really good ideas. The key is not only to spot the plant, but also to find what it could have been used for in 15th century medicine.

For example, someone told me today that cotton seeds were used in mediaeval Persia for male fertility, which might explain why the picture I thought could be cotton would NOT show the fluffy cotton - because they were interested only in the seed. That is interesting...

Cykuta3 karma

Can you tell us what do you think the decoding of the manuscript will achieve, aside from "solving the mystery"?

I am definitely not trying to diminish your work, or promote ignorance or anything like that, I'm just wondering - could it change what we know of the period, or could it uncover the existence of some scientists of the period we have never heard of?

Stephenbax12 karma

Ha! Good question. I told my son about it and he said - "Yes Dad, very interesting. But it's not important is it?" Says it all, really!

Seriously, the contents seem so interesting I do think it could open new understandings of how people saw the world in those times. But, hey, maybe my son is right...

Sirlantedise3 karma

You should definently start decoding the Indus river civilization's language.. that is after you finish the voynich.

Stephenbax5 karma

I'm tempted.. but lot of others are on it already!

mobugs3 karma

Hello, I find it hard to believe that no one attempted the methods you are attempting. Although this may be because I don't really have an understanding of your methodology, it was portrayed as simple in the recent coverage. Can you shed some light on how come no one before tried what you are doing before?

Stephenbax3 karma

Yes, it did come across as simple because I tried to explain it clearly - and maybe I should have been more d***** obscure! That conceals hours and hours of work. I do feel that my unusual language knowledge, and study background, plus experience of lots of non-European scripts and languages was a help.

dead_lift_it3 karma

is the manuscript likely a hoax?

Stephenbax7 karma

Nope, I don't think so. On my website I answer that.

bowlofpancakes3 karma

Have you tried turning the book upside down? Makes perfect sense then.

Stephenbax10 karma

I tried that, and Yale Library threw me out.

HellaFella4202 karma

I understand you aren't even finished with this endeavor yet, but do you have any plans about what you might like to undertake next?

Stephenbax3 karma

See another posting! Barbados? Linear A is fascinating

BuritooMan2 karma

What is your favourite color and why?

Stephenbax7 karma

Purple, because it goes with my eyes.

JETwaterpipes2 karma

Do you think the voynich manuscript is a hoax? I watched a show on it and they seemed to think that it was created as a red herring.

Stephenbax2 karma

No, I don't think that is convincing - see my posting at:

Stephenbax3 karma

Plus, herrings in the 15th century were always green, not red, so it can't be a red herring. :-)

mindfu2 karma

What do you think of theories that the Voynich manuscript may be based on attempts to transcribe "New World" (South American) languages?

Stephenbax7 karma

I don't believe them, largely because of the carbon dating - which puts the vellum at 100 years before the supposed use in the Americas. Why would anyone keep good, expensive vellum clean for 100 years?

mindfu3 karma

Forgery, for hoax purposes? : )

But fair enough.

Stephenbax5 karma

Still, we can't rule it out 100%

svjatomirskij3 karma

This doesn't work, the manuscript is too old for this.

Stephenbax4 karma


mindfu1 karma

Actually, no, it does work. They discuss a book by Europeans with similar New World info that was written in 1552, and the first recorded date for the Voynich is 1576.

Stephenbax1 karma

The carbon dating for the vellum is around 1420. Why keep good expensive vellum clean for 100+ years?

LewisDodgsonHere2 karma

What's your favorite dinosaur?

Stephenbax4 karma


brianpi2 karma

The VM is a very interesting piece of history, especially in relation to John Dee (a spurious relationship we now know). Have you come across any occult (alchemical, etc.) indications within the text itself?

Thanks for taking the time!

Stephenbax3 karma

Not directly. I'm fascinated in the planetary and star stuff, though. Someone was trying to set out a grand theory of something... dying to know what. But no, nothing seriously occult, not like the great Ripley scrolls:

juicebox4141 karma

What is Voynich manuscripit? I've never heard about it in my life and would like to get some information from someone researching this thing in particular.