Mysterious Voynich Manuscript Now Online Clearly…Good Luck Deciphering

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
(photo: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University)

One of the great medieval mysteries that has confounded scholars for generations is now available for anyone to view online.


Digitals copies of the Voynich Manuscript have been uploaded by experts at Yale University, which houses the artifact. No one knows from where exactly the book came, who wrote it or, most importantly, what it says.


Carbon dating shows it was created in the late 15th or 16th century, possibly in Central Europe. Some say the manuscript originated in Northern Italy at the time of the Italian Renaissance, while researchers at Delaware State University believe it may have come from Mexico, based on the drawings of the strange plants found on its pages. It was reported to have made its way to German Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher in the 17th century and, roughly 300 years later, landed at Yale University in 1969.


“The 113 plant illustrations it contains seem to depict no flora found on Earth, and throughout its vellum pages are visuals of the cosmos, a small army of naked women cavorting through pools of water, and the arcane alphabet that has so frustrated linguists and cryptographers,” Allison Meier wrote at Hyperallergic.


One theory has been that the manuscript was created to serve as an herbal medicine book—a sort of medieval pharmacological guide to creating medicinal drugs.


A linguist at the United Kingdom’s University of Bedfordshire devised a series of sounds to match the book’s unusual symbols and, in doing so, claimed that he had successfully decoded 14 of them.


But now amateurs can take a stab at figuring out what the 240-page book says. The new high resolution images offer the best viewing to date of the colors and pen strokes used by whomever the author or authors were.


The manuscript got its name from Wilfred Voynich, a Polish antique book dealer who bought it in 1912. He devoted the rest of his life to unsuccessfully figuring out its meaning.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

New Scans of the Voynich Manuscript, a Medieval Book No One Can Read (by Allison Meier, Hyperallergic)

Voynich Manuscript (Wikipedia)

The Voynich MS - General Introduction



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