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The Voynich Manuscript, c.1500

The Voynich manuscript is a mysterious book consisting of approximately 240 pages of hand-written text and crudely drawn illustrations that depict plants, astrological diagrams, and naked women. The text is written in an unknown alphabet that has defied all attempts at translation. It is not certain exactly how old the manuscript is, but it appears to date to around the late fifteenth century. It is named after Wilfrid Voynich, who acquired it in 1912 from the library of Villa Mondragone, a Jesuit college in Frascati, Italy.

History of the Manuscript
The manuscript first came to the attention of modern scholars in 1912 when Wilfrid Voynich discovered it tucked away in the library of Villa Mondragone. He purchased the manuscript and brought it with him back to America.

The history of the manuscript before Voynich found it is unclear. A letter inserted between its pages revealed some of its history. The letter was dated 1665 or 1666 (the writing was unclear) and was addressed to the scholar Athanasius Kircher from Johannes Marcus Marci. Marci explained that the book had once been owned by Emperor Rudolf II, who believed it had been written by the English monk Roger Bacon (1214-1294?). Marci was hoping that Kircher would be able to translate the manuscript, but apparently Kircher was unable to do so.

Upon his return to America, Voynich circulated photostat pages of the manuscript to scholars whom he hoped could help him decode its strange alphabet. Cryptographers rushed to take up the challenge.

Theories about its meaning

Untranslatable text from the Voynich manuscript
The first to announce a solution to the manuscript's code was William Romaine Newbold in 1921. After microscopically examining the letters of the manuscript, Newbold decided that the letters were not themselves meaningful. The real meaning lay in the individual pen strokes that composed each letter and which, so Newbold claimed, corresponded to an ancient Greek form of shorthand. Newbold's translation, however, now reads more like a work of madness than the work of a rational mind, since what he believed to be individual pen strokes were, in fact, simply cracks in the manuscript's ink caused by age.

In 1943 Joseph Martin Feely, working on the assumption that the manuscript had originally been written by Roger Bacon, attempted to match the frequency of characters in the text to the frequency of characters within Bacon's other writings, and decode it in this way. His effort proved unsuccessful.

In the 1970s, Robert Brumbaugh, using a complicated decoding scheme, decided that the manuscript might be a medieval treatise on the elixir of life.

Since then, a variety of theories about the manuscript have been suggested. In 1978 John Stojko argued that it was an account of a civil war written in an ancient, vowelless form of Ukrainian. In 1987 Leo Levitor theorized it was an ancient prayer-book, offering repetitive meditations on the themes of pain and death. More recently, Jacques Guy has wondered whether it might not represent an ancient attempt to transcribe an east-Asian language, say Chinese or Vietnamese, into alphabetic form.

Theory that it's a hoax
The fact that the text has defied all efforts at translation has led many to believe the writing is actually meaningless and that the book itself was created as a hoax.

Computer scientist Gordon Rugg has argued that a sixteenth-century hoaxer could have created the gibberish text using an encryption tool known as a cardan grille. He argues that the book was created by a sixteenth-century Englishman, Edward Kelley, in order to con Emperor Rudolph II.

Sergio Toresella has suggested the manuscript might be an "alchemical herbal" — that is, a book of nonsense writing that quack doctors used to impress clients. In 1986 Michael Barlow suggested that Voynich himself might have written the manuscript as a hoax, since as an antique book dealer he had the necessary knowledge. However, there is no compelling evidence to indicate this.

To this day the Voynich manuscript continues to resist all efforts at translation. It is thought that the horror writer H.P. Lovecraft might have used the manuscript as the model for the fictional work, The Necronomicon, which he refers to in many of his stories.

Links and References
  • Grossman, Lev. "When Words Fail: The Struggle to Decipher the World's Most Difficult Book," Lingua Franca, 1999.
Just thought you'd like to know that the language behind the Voynich manuscript isn't all that mysterious. It's actually early WELSH. The main obstacle to translating it is that most of the words no longer 'exist', i.e. you won't find them in current English-Welsh/Welsh-English dictionaries. The language has changed an awful lot after 800 years. Still, there are enough there to tantalize...
Posted by Visitor  on  Tue Oct 29, 2002  at  04:37 AM
Another theory on the Voynich manuscript from someone who's convinced it is a hoax: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa006&colID=1&articleID=0000E3AA-70E1-10CF-AD1983414B7F0000
Posted by Matt  on  Wed Jun 23, 2004  at  02:31 PM
While it's possible that Lovecraft knew of the Voynich manuscript, his history of how he created the Necronomicon never mentions Voynich. Colin Wilson created the link in several stories; the first one was "Return of the Lloigor".
Posted by jhmcmullen  on  Thu Jan 27, 2005  at  02:56 PM
It certianly isn't written in Welsh, as you can see if you go to samples of the text on the Omniglot site. It doesn't even appear to use any known Latin charater set variant. The language --if any-- and writing system are either a code designed to conceal something, or an outright hoax. IMHO, it is the latter.
Posted by Milton  on  Fri May 06, 2005  at  01:32 PM
The wife of of Wilfred Voynich was Ethel born in Ireland.On the 1901 census she gives her occupation as " Novelist" perhaps she had the imagination to produce it in collaboration with her husband.
Posted by Paul  on  Thu Aug 11, 2005  at  09:31 AM
A recent expert and proclaimed genious, Sir Dominicus Flemmiling,made a startling discovery that the voynich manuscript is actually the writings of a monk who liked to experiment with cannabis sativa and other plants and even tried successfull and unsuccessfully to combine through splicing other plants in which would create a 'super' (if you will) plants.
The documents actually refer to his creation of these horticultural specimens and also documents his network of suppliers and customers in which his buissness run, in other words the author was a druge dealer and the manuscript is his 'ledger/diary'
The reasoning behind the strange language and format as well as the obviously inept ability to create an acceptable quality of images is a direct result to his sampling of his own specimens.specimens



CRACKED!
Posted by Simmarilliamirrion  in  A subway near you  on  Thu Nov 17, 2005  at  09:36 PM
Is it possible that the author simply invented a language for his own amusement (a la Tolkein), and then wrote a book in it?
Posted by cranberry  in  Maryland  on  Fri Nov 25, 2005  at  01:21 AM
Dominicus Flemmiling is mentioned ONLY on this page in Google.
Posted by Tom Mazanec  in  Ohio  on  Sun Dec 25, 2005  at  02:37 PM
Perhaps it is a hoax... but check out my theory if interested: http://www.santa-coloma.net/voynich_drebbel/voynich.html
Many "tubes" in the Voynich look quite like microscopes.
Posted by Proto57  in  USA  on  Mon Aug 20, 2007  at  10:43 AM
Its not Welsh, its not Greek, its not even a foreign language that currently exists or has existed within the last 400 years. The form of writting being used is a type of shorthand, for what language, I don't know and I am not going to lie and say I do. The manuscript itself is not desribing the different uses of cannabis sativa nor is it describing any form of "super plants". You have to first of all be able to relate the drawings of the text, naked females (as assumed), plants, placement of stars and moon phases, etc. Have you ever watched a foreign film, and after a while you get the feeling you actually understand it? Thats kind of what you have to do with the manuscript, ACT like you understand it first, then try to decipher it. Relating drawings to the characters a picture develops, of what though? What could naked women, plants, and celestial beings have in common? The Voynich Manuscript is simple: Women have their menustral cycle once a month, generally towards the end, there have been many studies with herbs to find which could be a natural cure for cramps, period hemmoraging, and other feminine issues. What the Voynich Manuscript is stating is that someone was attempting to find a celestial link to a woman's period and ovulation cycle, and how taking certain plants and herbs could cure cramps, slow bleeding, act as a natural fertility drug, or just something as simple as a aphrodisiac. Also another celestial link is the 9 months a pregnancy takes, in that time they did not have the set months of sorts, therefore to determine the length of time a woman carries a baby, you would have to depend on the phases of the moon. Think this is dumb? Wait until some scientist can prove it, then I won't sound so crazy.
Posted by LMK  on  Wed Nov 28, 2007  at  12:57 PM
Proto57, that's fascinating! Thank you for pointing that out!
Posted by Roland  on  Tue Mar 17, 2009  at  04:20 PM
http://www.edithsherwood.com/index.php
Posted by The Crusher  in  Florida  on  Wed Mar 21, 2012  at  11:54 AM
I agree with allot of what LMK wrote in their post.
A good portion of the Manuscript revolves around pregnant women. The picture with a circle represents 12 cycles of 24. Every 24 days after a woman’s period ends she should start her period again and when she does not it starts the 12 cycles, at the end of the 12th cycle the baby will be born, 288 days after the last period. The naked ladies in the water and the naked lady in the water represent water births to make the birthing process easier. The pictures of the plants are herbs required for different medication uses throughout the process for pain or to control different parts of the pregnancy period. This section of the book was probably like a mid-wife self help guide written in code due to fear of death if a person was caught with the book due to religious intolerance. This is what I believe from what I have seen.
The book also contains other scientific findings that were made by the books author and also by the second person that finished the book that they passed it down to or that was helping with the discoveries which would explain the two different styles of writing.
I believe that the church realized how important the information in the book was but also believed that to acknowledge it 500 or so years ago would be like admitting that science was not witch craft and that was impossible at that time. Someone in the church saved this book and hid it because they felt it was the right thing to do. I would love to see every page in the book.
Posted by Michael  in  Oklahoma  on  Thu Aug 23, 2012  at  11:45 PM
An exact replica of the Voynich Manuscript is available for 50% off at http://ambushprinting.com/voynich-book/. For more information on this complete reproduction of the famous Voynich Manuscript, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
Posted by Patrick Broughton  in  Arizona  on  Sun Nov 03, 2013  at  06:49 PM
The write-up on here needs to be updated. The book has been carbon dated to approx 1420, significantly earlier that previously thought and more than 100 years prior to the invention of the Cardan Grille. This eliminates the theories of Gordon Rugg and Michael Barlow definitively.
Posted by Gregory Eckert  in  United States  on  Sat Mar 01, 2014  at  02:56 PM
The Voynich Manuscript is no longer a mystery, because it is solved. For more see http://www.voynich-manuskript.de. Also available in English.
Posted by J. Kellner  in  http://www.voynich-manuskript.de  on  Sun Mar 23, 2014  at  02:36 AM
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