593: Voynich Manuscript

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 22:28, 31 May 2014 by (talk) (Explanation: clarified use of "your")
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Voynich Manuscript
Wait, is that the ORIGINAL voynich manuscript? Where did you GET that? Wanna try playing a round of Druids and Dicotyledons?
Title text: Wait, is that the ORIGINAL voynich manuscript? Where did you GET that? Wanna try playing a round of Druids and Dicotyledons?


The Voynich manuscript is a very detailed book written in an unknown script, describing plants and recipes, most of which lack a real-world analogue. Over the past few decades, linguists and cryptographers have unsuccessfully attempted to decode the book.

Tabletop role-playing games (such as Dungeons and Dragons) are fantasy games with extremely detailed descriptions of fantastical worlds.

After being shown the manuscript for the first time by Megan, Cueball argues that it should be obvious that it's just an ancient role-playing-game rulebook, since the human tendency to invent fantastical worlds must have also existed in the past.

After concluding this, a shocked Cueball then asks in the title text how Megan got her hands on the original manuscript (which is in the Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library). Megan unexpectedly suggests the prosaic activity of playing Druids and Dicotyledons, assuming such a game could be defined by the manuscript.

Note that the use of the pronoun "your" in the last frame is anachronistic, as in early modern English it was used as a plural pronoun, or as a singular pronoun only to a superior; the proper pronoun would be "thy": "Thy Druid doth lose two points."

Note also that it's glossolalia not glossolatia at the third panel.


[Weird root vegetables surround a strange script.]
[Megan holding up book.]
Megan: This is the Voynich manuscript—a book, allegedly 500 years old, written in an unrecognized script. It's some kind of visual encyclopedia of imaginary plants and undeciphered "recipes".
[Cueball opens the book.]
Megan: It could be a hoax, a lost language, a cipher, an alien text, glossolatia—no one knows.
Cueball: No one? But it's obvious.
Megan: ...Obvious? Linguists and cryptographers have been stumped for decades.
Cueball: They forget. Human nature doesn't change.
Cueball: Just imagine someone found a book from our time, full of lists, illustrations, tables, and long, dry descriptions of nonexistent worlds written in an invented language. What have they found?
Megan: ...Dear Lord. It is obvious.
500 Years Earlier:
[Three people are standing around pawns and a die. One is holding a sheet of paper, another is holding a book, the third is holding a scythe.]
Person #1: Forsooth! I concoct an elixir of courage.
Person #2: Nae! The source booke sayeth that requires some wolfsbane!
Person #3: Your druid doth lose two points.

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I feel that the title text is not well enough explained, but I don't know if it's enough to add an incomplete tag. 03:37, 2 January 2014 (UTC)

It has been proposed that the VM is a token artifact for Francis Bacon's utopian book Atlantis. Under this theory, it would be akin to a prop replica made in relatively recent times. --I Should Get Out More (talk) 14:43, 18 March 2014 (UTC)

I feel like the Codex Seraphinianus should be mentioned, but I'm not sure how it would fit in. Leafy Greens (talk) 17:05, 16 November 2014 (UTC)

Alternately, Megan could be attempting to distract Cueball from his line of questioning about where she got the book, by suggesting they play a game (possibly with the book), to steer the conversation away from the difficult question of where she got it. 15:59, 28 June 2017 (UTC)