Mysterious Proto-Romance

Wednesday, May 15th, 2019

The mysterious Voynich manuscript, named after the Polish book dealer who bought it in 1912, has gone uncracked despite the best efforts of experts like Alan Turing and his colleagues at Bletchley Park and the FBI during the Cold War, but now a linguist from Bristol University has decoded the document, which was written in a language we now call Proto-Romance:

It was written in accordance with the Catholic and Roman pagan religious beliefs of the time and has been carbon-dated to around the mid-15th century.

Dr Cheshire discovered that it was compiled by Dominican nuns as a source of reference for Maria of Castile, Queen of Aragon, who is the great aunt to Catherine of Aragon.

There are also images of Queen Maria (1401–58) and her court conducting trade negotiations whilst bathing as well as many other images of naked women bathing.

It demonstrates that the spa lifestyle was highly regarded as a form of physical cleansing and spiritual communion, as well as a general means of relaxation and leisure.

Also within the manuscript is a foldout illustrative map that helped Dr Cheshire to date and locate the origin of the manuscript.

The map tells the story of a rescue mission, led by the Queen of Aragon, to save the victims of a volcanic eruption in the Tyrrhenian Sea in 1444 off the western coast of Italy.

Voynich Folio 19 Borago officinalis

Proto-Romance is ancestral to today’s ‘Romance’ languages including Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian, Romanian, Catalan and Galician.

Some of the symbols were unfamiliar to scholars studying the text because they have different geographical origins or because they have different variants which indicate particular phonetic accents.

The language was ubiquitous in the Mediterranean during the Medieval period, but it was seldom written in official or important documents because Latin was the language of royalty, church and government.


  1. Graham says:

    That left me a bit confused but I’ll have to put off looking it up as it is after 2100.

    Proto-Romance made me think of something interim between say, Vulgar Latin and Old French or early forms of the Iberian language and Italian dialects, among others. All of which already existed in the early to high middle ages, or even later forms, including as literary languages. Even to some extent as legal and administrative ones, for all Latin did retain the major role as indicated.

    I must have the terminology wrong in my head.

  2. Graham says:

    Also, I had a mysterious proto-romance once. It did not go well.

  3. Bruce says:

    ‘It demonstrates that the spa lifestyle was highly regarded’-

    No. It demonstrates that the writer liked pictures of naked women.

  4. McChuck says:

    The article is mostly BS. There was no “proto-romance” language. There was Latin, which mixed with various local languages in different areas at different times, and was written in the Latin or Greek scripts. And “proto-romance” certainly wouldn’t apply to the languages spoken in the 15th century, from which we have numerous written records.

    The Voynich manuscript was, a couple years ago, found to be written in early Turkish. They have other examples of the script, and the language is recorded in their early government documents and religious texts. It is a book of herbology (thus all the detailed pictures of plants) and magic spells.

  5. Graham says:

    Maybe it’s a new name for this?

    “Proto-Romance” really introduces a thousand year confusion for me if that’s really the new name for something that existed in the early Renaissance.

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