Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Nerd History: The Voynich Manuscript

This week, there is scheduled to be a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the discovery of one of Earth's great mysteries, The Voynich Manuscript. The Voynich Manuscript is a puzzling text purchased by Wilfrid M. Voynich in 1912. Contained in the book is text written in some sort of code or yet-uncracked cipher, illustrated with different plants and animals along the way. It's carbon-dated to the 1400s, meaning that the manuscript is at least 600 years old.

The book had its first appearance in the Court of Rudolph II in Prague. Emperor Rudolph had significant interest in the occult and in strange findings, so this manuscript, being an early mystery, fit right in. Believed to be the writings of an early astronomer, Roger Bacon, the document left Prague with one of Rudolph's nobles, and was passed along from nobleman to nobleman throughout history before eventually ending up in the hands of Voynich and, later, the Yale University library. I've always loved this manuscript in part to the crazy theories that go around with it. The most likely theory is that it's some sort of manual for alchemical theories or even botany - there's plenty of pictures of plants and such to go along with it. I also like the broader scientific theory, touched upon in the link above, that involves discussion of the spiral Andromeda nebula and a comet from 1273 (which may be influenced by the belief of Bacon being the author). I've also heard the work of aliens, the belief that its actually Asian in nature due to some similarities in characters, etc. Truly, no one knows.

There's been a lot of work in trying to translate it with no real breakthroughs. This has lead some to come to the conclusion that it is quite possibly a huge hoax, and the way that they got there is quite compelling. For me, I sure hope not - the book has so much history in where it was handed down, I really hope it's something historically significant, and not just important because an Emperor had deep pockets and a love for the weird. The entirety of it is available at Archive.org if you're interested in more images.

1 comment:

  1. I would suggest that anyone interested in the history of this manuscript should look at three sites:
    and voynichimagery.blogspot.com/

    The Prague side of things is explained at voynich.nu

    The cipher side at ciphermysteries.com

    and the imagery is analysed by comparison with historical and archaeological data at voynichimagery.blogspot.com