The Voynich Manuscript is a book which dates from the early 15th century and is written in a language which has never been deciphered. It is filled with bizarre drawings. Some think it is a copy of a more ancient book.
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.
This is the Voynich Manuscript. It’s an ancient codex written in an unknown language with pictures that split the text into 6 sections. The text has never been decoded or understood. The manuscript contains approximately 240 pages, with 10 presumed to be missing.
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
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.
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.
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…
Paging through The Voynich Manuscript today! Perplexed as much as the next (and last) person, but gloriously getting lost in the photos and text!
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.
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…