Voynich

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There’s a book out there that’s either one of the last great unsolved cyphers or a massive medieval hoax. Welcome to the weird world of the Voynich Manuscript. And no, it isn’t solved yet.

I did this comic for The Nib last year (The Nib is an amazingly great place for comics on Medium if you don’t know that already). You can follow all my work on Medium here.

Here’s a list of weird/strange articles on wikipedia in no particular order for you to read and just add more useless knowledge in your puny human brain. General murder/death trigger warning for most.

Bloody Mary || Kennedy curse || Taman Shud Case || La Voisin || Greyfriars Bobby || Pripyat || Albert Fish || Mary Toft || The Cure for Insomnia || Roanoke Colony || John Murray Spear || Arecibo message || Nuckelavee || Phaistos Disc || Tanganyika laughter epidemic || Mad Gasser of Mattoon || Murder of Junko Furuta || Peoples Temple || Ed Gein || Stargate Project || Jackalope || Numbers station || UVB-76 || Bélmez Faces || Donner Party || Adam || Mariana UFO incident || Valentich disappearance || Cleveland Torso Murderer || Trepanning || Dyatlov Pass incident || Grey goo || Overtoun House || The Garden of Earthly Delights || Wilhelm Reich || Starchild skull || Original Night Stalker || Owlman || Ararat anomaly || British big cats || Jack the Ripper || Clapham Wood Mystery || Pope Lick Monster || Shadow person || Out-of-place artifact || Black Dahlia || Jersey Devil || Crawfordsville monster || Koro || Philadelphia Experiment || Glasgow smile || Roswell UFO incident || David Parker Ray || D. B. Cooper || Total Information Awareness || Goatman || Grey alien || Joachim Kroll || Peter Kürten || Gilles de Rais || Alien abduction || Joseph Vacher || Mothman || Polywater || Catacombe dei Cappuccini || Villisca Axe Murders || Grace Sherwood || Loveland frog || The Hermitage || Jatinga || Sankebetsu brown bear incident || Mongolian death worm || Devil’s Footprints || The Sick Child || H. H. Holmes || Dysaesthesia aethiopica || Bloody Benders || Lamia || Black Paintings || The Monster with 21 Faces || Shirime || Lina Medina || Exploding head syndrome || Quantum suicide and immortality || Mokele-mbembe || Spontaneous human combustion || Dulce Base || Chandre Oram || Oscar || Men in Black || Vladimir Demikhov || The Great Red Dragon Paintings || Bloop || Retroactive continuity || Elizabeth Báthory || Delphine LaLaurie || Silverpilen || Polybius || Guided rat || Robert J. White || Chelyabinsk meteor || Armin Meiwes || Big Crunch || Belchen Tunnel || Moberly–Jourdain incident || Boy Scout Lane || Princes in the Tower || Rosenheim Poltergeist || Peter Stumpp || Bermuda Triangle || Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery || Hill of Crosses || Self-immolation || Lycaon || Burke and Hare murders || Pykrete || Kate Morgan || List of unusual deaths || Sawney Bean || Rogue elephant of Aberdare Forest || Yoshio Kodaira || Incorruptibility || Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus || Toynbee tiles || Rat king || Sailing stones || Thalidomide || Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916 || Tunguska event || Head transplant || List of cryptids || Borley Rectory || Sedlec Ossuary || Alien hand syndrome || Capgras delusion || Mellified man || Atuk || Monster of Glamis || Spring-heeled Jack || Allagash Abductions || Aokigahara || Raymond Robinson (Green Man) || Premature burial || Brain transplant || Nightmarchers || Decompression illness || Midgetville || Zombie || Mercy Brown vampire incident || Necromancy || Lamkin || Harry K. Daghlian, Jr. || Icelandic Phallological Museum || Neisseria meningitidis || Unit 731 || Bunny Man || Bubbly Creek || Malleus Maleficarum || Moll Dyer || Original Spanish Kitchen || Charles Bonnet syndrome || Voynich manuscript || Black Annis || True name || Dorothy Talbye trial || Black dog || Wandering Jew || Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway || Yara-ma-yha-who || Rod Ferrell || The Juniper Tree

Deep inside Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library lies a 240 page tome. Recently carbon dated to around 1420, its pages feature looping handwriting and hand drawn images seemingly stolen from a dream. It is called the Voynich manuscript, and it’s one of history’s biggest unsolved mysteries. The reason why? No one can figure out what it says. 

A recent theory surfaced this past month, claiming that it was a ‘mostly plagiarized guide to women’s health’, but it was quickly debunked.

Watch the TED-Ed Lesson to learn more about this mysterious book and how scholars have been picking it apart for decades here: The world’s most mysterious book - Stephen Bax

Animation by TED-Ed

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Decrypting the Most Mysterious Book in the World

In the six or so centuries that it’s been floating around, bouncing from scholar to scholar and occasionally disappearing for decades at a time, the Voynich manuscript (as it’s come to be called) has yet to be translated. That might be due to the fact that it’s written in a language no one’s ever seen before or since.

But it does have some grounding in the reality that we know, namely via the dozens of familiar plant species sketched throughout the pages of this manuscript. And some researchers think these botanical illustrations are integral to cracking the code that, as one expert put it, has proven “academic suicide” for so many scholars throughout the ages. Click through for the full story! —MN

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Voynich Manuscript

Weird plants that never existed; nude women frolicking through intestinal shapes; mandala-ish diagrams of spirals and stars; words in an indecipherable code: nobody knows what the deal is with this thing. Maybe made in Italy in the 15th Century. Maybe it’s a real language that nobody has ever spoken. Maybe not.

Currently stored in one of my favorite buildings: Beinecke Library

This year is wild.  What the fuck.

Some bitch scams her way to the top of the NYT bestseller list and isn’t even subtle about it

The author of My Immortal comes forward and is writing her memoirs with the notorious fanfiction being very relevant

Someone decoded the Voynich manuscript

For the first time we used DNA analysis to prove the existence of female Viking warriors

We’re gonna make contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life by the end of this year you mark my words

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Voynich Manuscript

Discovered in 1912 by a book dealer, this rare manuscript remains an incredible mystery. No cryptographer has been able to decode it, as the book is basically illegible. The pages have been dated back to the early 15th century and contains about 116 pages, though many of them are missing. The author also remains unknown. The illustrations present in the book seem to divide it up into sections: astronomical, biological, cosmological, herbal, pharmaceutical, and possibly recipes. It seems likely the book was written to keep information secret, but what information was so important that it needed such indecipherable language to keep it secret? The reason for its secrecy, most people believe, is the books connection to alchemy. In recent years, there have been efforts to prove the book as a fraud. 

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This is the book commonly known as the Voynich manuscript; the book itself has no title but is called so because its retrievement by antiquarian Wilfrid Voynich in 1912 after almost 200 years of being shrouded in thick obscurity. The book holds a legendary place in cryptographic and literature history because its author, origins, meaning nor script has been understood by modern interpreters and scholars. 

The script seems to have originated somewhere between 1404 and 1438, according to C14 dating. The pages themselves are richly illustrated with weird paintings and sketches seemingly ranging from depictions of botany, biology, astronomy and cosmogony to pharmaceutical illustrations looking like classic medieval/renaissance style apothecary jars and so on. The script remains undeciphered after being subjected to a wide array of renowned WWI and WWII codebreakers, language scholars, and amateurs through-out the 20th century. Its mystery - the code of the script, the fascinating illustrations, its origins and its author all bring forth questions of how, when, and of course, why.

Of course, allegations of it being a fraud and a hoax have been put forward, but not with any withstanding evidence or definite substantial theory. And even if this remarkable piece of history would be in fact a hoax, the C14 dating of it - rendering it approximately 600 years of age -, is still a mystery. Scholars point out the sophistication of the script; it would probably be one of the most elaborate, complex and strenuous hoaxes known to literature history. And simply that itself raises the question as to…

why? 

Paging through The Voynich Manuscript today! ‪Perplexed as much as the next (and last) person, but gloriously ‬getting lost in the photos and text!
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The intro by #DeborahHarkness is extremely intriguing and perfectly sets the tone and preview for what’s to come in the pages that follow – not to mention it’s such a pleasantly familiar voice! Raymond Clemens and the various essay authors have such a command over the information and beautifully present it. Not to be outdone, the facsimile illustrations are of the highest quality and make us feel like we could be looking at the real manuscript not a copy.
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While this book won’t fit in your stocking, it would certainly look great under your tree or make a lovely holiday gift! Satisfy your inner student, delight a hobbyist cipher or fellow bookworm - go for it! We already learned a ton…