Voynich Manuscript - The Book that cannot be read

The Enigma of the Voynich Manuscript: History or Hoax?

(Read the article on one page)

In 1912, a Polish-American book dealer named Wilfrid M. Voynich went to Rome on an acquisitions trip. There he happened upon a trunk that contained a rare manuscript now known as the Voynich manuscript. Since its appearance, this document—which is now under lock and key at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript library at Yale—has been studied extensively and has stumped even the most successful cryptographers and code breakers. You must be asking yourself why the intrigue? The answer is simple: the book is almost entirely illegible.

The Voynich ManuscriptVery little is known about this book, though it has recently begun to volunteer some of its secrets. What is known about this mysterious book? The 240 vellum, or calfskin paper, pages that remain have been radiocarbon dated back to the early 15 th century—between 1404 and 1438 to be precise—and the pages are numbered up to 116, though probably not by the original author. In fact, entire pages are missing, and sections of the book appear to have been removed or rearranged, with the missing pages probably long gone by the time Voynich discovered it.  Also, the script was penned from left to right, and the author was very familiar with the language as there are no mistakes.

Yet what is unknown still outweighs that which has been discovered about this elusive book. Experts estimate the original text may have contained as many as 272 pages, though who took the pages and why can only be speculated. The author is also unidentified, as is the obscure language used throughout the text. Even many of the illustrations remain enigmatic, as many of the plants portrayed in the book—which are often crudely drawn—are unidentifiable, and the numerous pictures of nude women are involved in inexplicable acts.

The Writings

As previously mentioned, very little can be made of the cryptic language used throughout the text. Many experts believe this was a language constructed by the author to hide secret information, though it does not follow any known code, causing some to speculate that the book is nothing more than an elaborate hoax. The text contains few similarities to established languages, one of which is similar word entropy to both Latin and English. Again, the differences are far more numerous.  Some words only appear in certain sections, some letters only in certain places in words. The repetition of wording is also peculiar, and does not follow any identifiable rhythm. For example, in some places a word can be repeated three times simultaneously. Could this be a language somehow be constructed based on limited recognized etymological and phonetic principles for the sake of concealing knowledge, or is it conceivable to believe it was carefully constructed to deceive readers into thinking that it is hiding valuable information?  While most of this text remains a mystery, the author did include limited Latin script which appears in some of the astronomical charts and the last section of text , though these offer no further clues.

The Illustrations:

Almost every page in the text, except for the section at the end, contains at least one illustration. These illustrations provide a method of division, sectioning the text off into 6 topics: astronomical, biological, cosmological, herbal, pharmaceutical, recipes.

  • Astronomical: This section is composed of charts and diagrams. The Latin names for the ten months are included, as well as 12 diagrams that use conventional symbols for the constellations. Each of the 12 diagrams also contains a series of 30 female nudes that, when rotated, actually generates a moving image.
  • Biological: This section contains many partial nudes of women among some type of possible pipe work.
  • Cosmological: Many circular diagrams can be found here, as well as foldout pages, one of which contains a potential map that spans 6 pages. The inclusion of foldouts is unusual for this period, and suggests that the book was a great expense to the author.
  • Herbal: At first glance, this is seemingly similar to other books that describe herbs and their uses. Each page displays a different plant, though many of the plants are unidentifiable, and may be compiled from the parts of various plants. Some of the plants depicted here also appear in the pharmaceutical section.
  • Pharmaceutical: This section appears more like an alchemist’s book, containing plant parts and alchemy jars surrounded by what appear to be descriptions.
  • Recipes: This section contains short paragraphs separated by stars that seem to function as bullets.

The Voynich ManuscriptIf this is an attempt to hide secret information, then who did it and why? What was the author hiding…or protecting? To ponder on this question, we first have to identify the originator of the manuscript. Speculation begins with Roger Bacon , an English clergyman and Franciscan monk in the 13 th century referred to as a ‘Doctor Mirabilis’, or the miracle doctor, who was known for his use of experimental research in the study of nature, a.k.a alchemy. In fact, he is mentioned in a letter to Athenasues Cursuer as the original author, which coincidentally increased the value of the manuscript. Bacon was a monk who believed that nature should be studied through systematic experimentation. Some even credit him for his contribution to the formation of the scientific method, though others believe this to be a stretch. The problem with this theory is that it does not coincide with the date provided by radiocarbon testing. If the testing is accurate, then he could not have been the author of the manuscript.

Comments

timwilkersonalchemist's picture

Perhaps this manuscript is an attempt to record the history of astrological and alchemical studies? I can see similarities in the script to symbols used in alchemical manuscripts. Also, the seven maidens remind me of the Plaiedes star cluster which is of particular interest to ancient astrologers. They can be seen depicted on images of the Bull in prehistoric cave paintings in France dated from 40 to 50 thousand years old. Additionally the eight sectioned wheel images are similar to Sumerian clay tablets used to chart the Planets, dated to 3300 BCE. This fits with the ancient astrological House system referred to as the Octopus. I suggest that modern alchemical researchers may shed light on the subject of this manuscript. Dennis W. Hauck, author of, The Complete Idiots Guide to Alchemy, may be a good choice. I must also say that transmutation of metals has been proven by science and there are substantiated credible witnesses to transmutation using ancient alchemical principals as well. There will always be those who participate in fraudulent schemes but I think it's dangerous to state or declare that something is such, especially when claiming a scientific mindset. If I'm not mistaken, scientists can't disprove a theory, they can only prove it or not.

 

 

Peace, love, time and space, abundant,
Tim Wilkerson
alchemyastrology.com

Wonderful article. Very informative. I wrote a fictional book, Irrefutable Proof, where the main character deciphered the Voynich Manuscript. I had thought of writing a sequel to it, and your article has given me an idea for it. I wasn't aware until I read your article (even though I did a lot of research on the manuscript) that there were pages missing. Perhaps my next installment in my book series will include the finding and decoding of those pages!

Although I used the Voynich Manuscript in a fictional manner, I don't believe that the book is a hoax. I also don't necessarily believe what's inside has any particular value to anyone other than who wrote. Perhaps someone's personal diary in a language they concocted and shared with only a few others. It's not to say that the writing wasn't one of a scientist or scholar, or that it doesn't have any value at all. It may very well be scientific observations, conclusions and theories. Unfortunately, the book was a personal journal of sorts, we may never discover what is written inside.

If anyone is interested, you can "flip" through the pages of the Voynich Manuscript on my website. Just follow the link from the Home page under the caption, "Do You Know What This Is?"

Thanks for sharing a good, informative article.

Abby L. Vandiver
www.abbylvandiver.com

Wow "the Roman emperor Rudolph II (1152-1612)", 460 years old!! I reckon it contains a recipe for the elixir of life!!!!

 

Hi there, I don't believe the manuscript is a hoax. Although I don't know about the text, I see a great deal of information in the diagrams. Here is a paper I've written regarding a world tour as depicted in the "biological" section. However it could still be biological as there exist many old astrological pieces which correlate the constellations with parts of the body, but I have not written that part up, nor the detail I have seen within the geographical context. Also working on outlining the Rosettes, a lot of geographical information there too.

http://figshare.com/articles/Geography_101_Periodos_Ges_Hydrographical_I...

The first illustration (very top) on the right is clearly a peyote button. I get a second to last authorship when that breaks the code.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

The Spirit of the Dead Keeps Watch’ (1892) by Paul Gauguin.
A belief in ghosts is held by many cultures (both modern and ancient) around the world. Some of these ghost beliefs are well-known, whilst others, such as those held by the Polynesians, are less so. In terms of geography, Polynesia covers a large area in the central and southern parts of the Pacific Ocean.

Myths & Legends

An image of Enki from the Adda cylinder seal.
In the belief system of the Sumerians, Enki (known also as Ea by the Akkadians and Babylonians) was regarded to be one of the most important deities. Originally Enki was worshipped as a god of fresh water and served as the patron deity of the city of Eridu (which the ancient Mesopotamians believe was the first city to have been established in the world). Over time, however, Enki’s influence grew and this deity was considered to have power over many other aspects of life, including trickery and mischief, magic, creation, fertility, and intelligence.

Human Origins

Detail of ‘God creating the Sun, the Moon and the Stars’ by Jan Brueghel the Younger.
Although most mainstream scientists and most of the developed world now accept the theory of evolution and the scientifically established age of Earth and the universe, there is still a group of people that resist the status quo and insist, based on a particular literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11 in the Hebrew Bible

Ancient Technology

Representation of an ancient Egyptian chariot.
The wheel can be considered mankind’s most important invention, the utility of which is still applied in multiple spheres of our daily life. While most other inventions have been derived from nature itself, the wheel is 100% a product of human imagination. Even today, it would be difficult to imagine what it would be like without wheels, since movement as we know it would be undeniably impossible.

Opinion

El Caracol Observatory at Chichen Itza (Wright Reading/CC BY-NC 2.0) and Composite 3D laser scan image of El Caracol from above
In 1526, the Spanish conquistador Francisco de Montejo arrived on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and found most of the great Maya cities deeply eroded and unoccupied. Many generations removed from the master builders, engineers, and scientists who conceived and built the cities, the remaining Maya they encountered had degenerated into waring groups who practiced blood rituals and human sacrifice.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article