Unexplained Mysteries

The Rohonc Codex

Genuine or forgery?

The Voynich Manuscript is an archaic but well-known book written in an unknown language accompanied by primitive illustrations about unknown topics. But it is not the only book that fits that description. The same could be said of a book currently housed in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences now known as the Rohonc Codex.

rohonc codex

Efforts to crack the Rohonc Codex have been unsuccessful. Image Credit: The Codex from Rohonc Project

Some scholars believe the Codex (named after the city Rohonc in Hungary) to be genuine and have spent years trying to decode the text and illustrations, while others believe it to be a deliberate hoax. But nothing has been proven for certain.

The Codex first possibly appears in history in 1743 in a catalog of a Rohonc library, where, despite nobody being able to read it, it is categorized as a prayer book. But it is not definitive that the book described here is the Codex and not some other prayer book actually written in a contemporary Hungarian language.

The Codex definitely enters history in 1838, when a Hungarian nobleman living in England, Gusztáv Batthyány, donated his entire library of books to the Academy and the Codex was included with the rest. The Codex is included in the catalog of his library, but there is no information about the book’s origin or history before Batthyány. If Batthyány was questioned about the Codex and he provided concrete information about the document’s origin, that information is lost in the history of the Codex.

Over the years, the Codex has repeatedly stumped researchers in their attempts to translate the Codex into a modern language. As early as 1840 the book was examined by Hungarian scholars to no avail. Other attempts in 1884 and 1890 resulted in dead ends. Sections of the Codex are available on the Internet for amateurs wanting to try to solve the mystery.

 Claims of forgery and hoax began as early as the late 1860s when a researcher stated that the Codex was actually “written” by a Sámuel Literáti Nemes (1796–1842), an antiquarian known to have concocted multiple forgeries and spurious documents and books. Attempts to definitely link Nemes to the Codex, however, have been unsuccessful, despite the fact that Nemes was connected to other known forgeries created during the period of time the Codex was “found.” One interesting fact that is known to be true: the paper used to create the Codex dates back to 16th century Italy.

The Codex is almost 450 pages long and contains about 90 cartoon-like illustrations of both battle and Christian themes. The number of individual alphabetic “letters” in the text of the Codex is far more in number than those of known archaic languages of the time and locale of Hungary. It is not clear if the text is to be read right to left or left to right.

Researchers have tried in vain to link up the characters in the Codex to known alphabets of history. Everything from manual code breaking to computer software have been unsuccessful.

The parallels to the above-mentioned Voynich Manuscript are readily apparent in side-by-side comparisons. Both are written in cryptic codes/languages and both give tantalizing hints of subject matter by way of equally cryptic illustrations.

But the work goes on in the hopes that the code can be cracked and the puzzle of the Codex can be solved. A future researcher or computer program may be the key to unlocking the secrets of the Codex.

The Rohonc Codex“, Passing Strangeness website, pulled 5/14/2015
Rohonc Codex” Wikipedia, pulled 5/14/2015
The Codex from Rohonc Project“, Rohonc Project website, pulled 5/14/2015

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Doug MacGowan

Doug MacGowan lives on the San Francisco peninsula with his wife, a dog, and far too many cats. He has published five books on the topic of historic true crime. In his free time he enjoys reading.

Historic Mysteries