Monthly Archives: February 2014

Decoding The Voynich Mystery – Are We Getting Close?

voynich-manuscript-finding-proper-nounsIn September 2012 and April 2013, I wrote about the Voynich mystery.

The Voynich Manuscript was created during the 15th century and is still an intriguing unsolved mystery. It is written in an unknown language that not even military cryptographers were able to decipher. It also contains beautiful illustrations and descriptions of events and flora unknown to man.

It seems that finally at least a small part of the code has been cracked. Stephen Bax, Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Bedfordshire, claims to have deciphered part of the manuscript using linguistic analysis.

Professor Bax is an expert in mediaeval manuscripts and familiar with Semitic languages such as Arabic. This helped him to analyze text letter by letter. Up till now, he was able to decipher 14 letters and 10 words.

He identified one of those words as the term for Taurus, alongside a picture of seven stars which seem to be the Pleiades. He also found the word KANTAIRON alongside a picture of the plant Centaury as well as a number of other plants.

Professor Bax explained: “The manuscript has a lot of illustrations of stars and plants. I was able to identify some of these, with their names, by looking at mediaeval herbal manuscripts in Arabic and other languages, and I then made a start on a decoding, with some exciting results.”

To learn more, watch the following video.

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Filed under Language, TipTopWriter, Uncategorized, Writing

The Controversial Use of the Coffin of Famous Dutch Author Harry Mulisch in a Notary Ad

mulischNationale Notaris (National Notary) is an organization of 60 notaries throughout the Netherlands.

The organization wanted an ad campaign for promoting last wills and testaments. It hired ad agency DKTD that came up with the slogan: “Ready to go? Try out the free last will scan of nationalenotaris.nl

The ad needed a strong visual. DKTD approached photographer Merlin Daleman and asked him for permission to use a photo of a funeral featuring six pallbearers with top hats carrying a coffin at the Zorgvliet cemetery. It was the funeral of Harry Mulish, a famous Dutch author whose works include The Assault. The film version of that novel won a Golden Globe and Academy Award.

Daleman said that he told the ad agency “you know that’s Harry Mulisch, correct?” He assumed that it was a national campaign sponsored by the Dutch government to advise people to take care of their affairs during their lifetime. Once he saw the photo featured in the ad, he wondered. “I didn’t expect that, but since they bought the photo from me, they are entitled to use it once as they please.”

The CEO, Albert van der Wijk, loved the ad and ordered 5,000 posters were printed. There are 1,500 posters distributed in 12 cities. The ad also features prominently on the homepage of the nationalenotaris.nl website.

Family members of the late author were shocked when they saw the poster in Amsterdam. They were not informed by the ad agency.

Danny Tournier, owner of DKTD, claims that he himself was not aware that the photo was of the famous Dutch author’s funeral. “It is quite likely mentioned somewhere in the paperwork, but it did not surface at the crucial moment.”

Mr, Van der Wijk also stated that he was not aware that the photo was taken at the funeral of the author who passed away in 2010. “I just thought that it was a beautiful image. I was surprised that the family had not been informed.”

Nationale Notaris contacted the family and wants to see how the organization can adapt the ad campaign if family members so desire. Removing and destroying all the posters would be a major financial setback for the organization.

DKDT also reached out to the family and contacted Frieda Mulisch, the author’s daughter.  According to Tournier: “Frieda and I understand each other. She understands that we chose this photo, but that there was somewhere along the line miscommunication.”

It will be interesting to see what the Mulisch family will decide…

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Will Book Clubs Be A New Marketing Venue For Authors?

book_open_pagesBook clubs could become a great way for authors to promote their books. Jean Hanff Korelitz, a novelist herself, started “Book the Writer”. A book club can book a writer for an appearance for the sum of $750. From this amount, the author gets $400 while “Book the Writer” keeps $350.

Authors such as Kurt Andersen, A. M. Homes, Zoë Heller, Michael Cunningham and Amy Sohn are happy to be booked. They appear in person at those book club meetings to discuss their works with their fans. The attending club members can ask the writer in person about writing processes, characters, plot lines, etc.

It’s a new way of marketing for writers. They directly interact with their target audience. It’s a great way to build word-of-mouth for their books, especially since opportunities for book signings in bookstores and book tours are declining.

“Book the Writer” is currently mainly active in New York, the center of the publishing industry. According to the founder, she based the concept on the author hosting she did when she lived in Princeton, N.J. She provides the service to book clubs in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Publishers also use book clubs to reach their customers. Little, Brown and Company let its authors attend book club meetings via Skype at no charge. The publisher also sends complimentary copies of upcoming novels to about 75 book clubs throughout the country.

It will be interesting to see if “Book the Writer” will be successful and spread to other cities.

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