Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Voynich Manuscript

Voynich Manuscript
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Source: Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript LibraryYale University 

The Voynich Manuscript is a document of about 230 vellum pages that is believed to have been written in the 14th or 15th century. It surfaced in 1912, when Wilfrid Voynich, an antiquarian bookseller, purchased it.

The book is filled with some sort of script that no one can determine or decipher. Analysts have determined that it is an alphabet of over twenty letters, but probably less than thirty. Though it has been reviewed around the world, no one has yet been able to state what the alphabet is or what the language is.

Detail from page 78r of Voynich Manuscript
 depicting the "biological" section 
In addition to the unreadable words, there are drawings of some form of plants, though none have been affiliated with modern day plant life. There are also drawings of tiny naked women in some sort of round bathtub or other item. In addition, there are pages that seem to be related to astronomy and other things.

It is generally thought to be either magic-based or scientific, due to the botanical drawings and what are theorized to be herbal recipes (perhaps).

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The text is written left to right, there are paragraphs (some set apart by "bullets"), and there are words that repeat throughout, but there are also words that don't repeat, symbols/letters that appear only at specific points in each word (some only in the center, some at beginning or end), and very few two letter or short words. It is obvious that some pages are missing, and it is considered that the pages may have once been in a different order. One odd thing is that there are absolutely no signs of mistakes or corrections. It was either written sans mistakes (or the mistakes weren't corrected, but left in place) or it was copied from another manuscript (like monks used to do, perhaps).

I did find an article from someone who claims it is Italian anagrams written in embellished script.

If you want to see a significant chunk of the pages, visit the Wikimedia Commons page.

So who wrote this book? Is it written in code, or is it some language we have yet to decipher? Was it copied or written perfectly from the start? What the heck is it about? Is it a scientific text, a magical one, or some combination thereof?

May you find your Muse.


  1. maybe some civilization that no longer exists? Atlantis perhaps?

  2. it raises fascinating questions, doesn't it?

  3. Neat. I'd love to look at that. It has to be aliens. Right? :)

  4. Ha! I know all about the Voynich Manuscript as it figures mightily in my novel, Grimoire. It is a fascinating piece of work.

  5. Alex, ah, the Atlanteans. Could be!

    Inger, it does!

    Mary, those aliens have their fingers in every pie, I tell you.

    Marcy, fun! I bet you learned a lot more than I did in the amount of time I spent researching it.

  6. One of the leading theories about this, I believe, is that it is the language of Angels, which is why it -can not- be translated.

  7. Andrew, what do you think of that theory? And why would they have written the book?

  8. I've never really researched it, so I don't have a real opinion. But I don't think that's very likely. What is likely is that whoever wrote it wrote it in some sort of shifting cipher that requires a key to translate it. I would imagine the key has been lost.

  9. I think the same thing. There had to have been a key somewhere, OR there was a group of people who knew it. I do wonder, though, what is so important about the content that they felt they needed to disguise it.

  10. Unless, of course, the images are part of the key or a means to distract from the more important content of the manuscript...

  11. Very interesting! Never knew about the presence of so many fascinating riddles!

    - Dishit from Only the Crazy Survive!!!

  12. There's nothing to say that it actually -is- important. Importance may be nothing more than someone's diary. However, for the time period, it wouldn't surprise if it has something to do with magic or perceived magic.

  13. A lost interesting. I hope someone is researching all the monastery archives. Sounds like something monks would have known.

  14. I wonder if years and years from now, people would examine a book we have today and wonder what that's all about.

  15. You'd think some code breakers could make sense of it. How fascinating. Maybe it was especially nonsensically written in answer to someone's 'voices' in their head.

  16. What a cool find! I like Andrew's theory.

  17. Shannon, while I had brief good internet connection I wanted to drop in and say Hi and to let you know I will be catching up on your posts I have missed, when I get home Sunday.

  18. Never heard of this - but I love it!

    Maybe it was a fantasy writer who invented his/her own alphabet and language? :D

  19. As a language nerd, I love that script. It doesn't look like any of the 6 alphabets I've studied, or any of the other major world alphabets I recognize but can't read. The style of the calligraphy vaguely reminds me of Old English and Gaelic.

  20. Atlantis was my first thought, or aliens. Fascinating story.


  21. Its probably a lost language. There are countless languages that have died out over time. It would have taken a very long time to create, but each page with mistakes was probably removed and replaced with one without it.

  22. I think it's probably written by someone who thought of himself as an inventor, and was writing down ideas in some made up language. Maybe he was nuts... Although, it could also be one of the many lost languages that were spoken by few people.

    #atozchallenge, Kristen's blog:

  23. My suggestion to decode the Voynich Manuscript is in the fact that each of its individual pages encodes some other information . Encryption is not just a written form . There's a whole spectrum of gnosis , which, because of the limited capabilities (eg letter runicze - oldest inscriptions are from the second and third century AD, before the Egyptian hieratic writing , etc.) were also encoded in a different form - for example, by means of signs and symbols : see semiotics - from the Greek : " semasticos " - significant , " semasia " - meaning "," semeion " - a sign of " sema " - a sign , the image signal . And in such a manner is encoded Voynich manuscript - it is not my task , classic cipher written , only symbolic rebus - ideogram . Below to better illustrate the time- historical continuum in brief , a summary of the earlier descriptions of each manuscript illustration . ( From 1R to 19R )

    1R - Big Bang and Kolaps - cyclical nature of the universe.

    1V - Approximately 4.5 - 5 billion years ago - the formation of the Earth's crust.

    2R - About 3.5 billion years ago - the first organisms .

    2V - About a billion years ago - the first single-celled organisms ( eukaryotes ) .

    3R - Approximately 900 - 700 million years ago - the first multi-cellular organisms .

    3V - approximately 700 - 600 million years ago - the first invertebrates .

    4R - 500 million years ago - the first vertebrates .

    4V - 400 million years ago - vertebrates came out of the water.

    5R - 220 million years ago - the beginning of the reign of the dinosaurs.

    5V - 65 million years ago - extinction of the dinosaurs , evolution of mammals .

    6R - About 65 - 30 million years ago - carnivores .

    6V - About 30 - 7 million years ago - the formation of plants and animals.

    7R - About 12 million years ago - the first hominids .

    7V - About 7 - 5 million years ago - the appearance of man .

    8R - About 100 thousand . years ago - the emergence of modern man .

    8V - Approximately 15-12 thousand . years ago - man hiking - "bridge" Bering .

    9R - Approximately 11.5 thousand . years ago - the end of the last ice age.

    9V - About 10 thousand . years ago - hunter -gatherers , the birth of agriculture.

    10R - Around 4000 , the BC - Development of urban community Mesopotamia.

    10V - Around 3000 , the BC - The beginnings of civilization of ancient Egypt.

    11R - The turn of the second and first millennium BC - Judaism , Jerusalem.

    11V - turn of the century - Christianity . Rome .

    12R - None. According to me - Ancient Greece .

    12 V - None. According to me - the Empire of Alexander the Great .

    13R - The Roman Empire .

    13V - Persian Empire .

    14R - Huns . Mongol Empire .

    14V - Byzantine Empire .

    15R - The State of the Franks.

    15V - The spread of Islam.

    16R - Vikings .

    16V - Slavs .

    17R - The Crusades .

    17V - The Hundred Years War .

    18R - Ottoman Empire .

    18V - War of the Roses .

    19R - The Order of the Teutonic Knights .