The Voynich Manuscript is a mysterious document that is kept in Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book Library. It is made up of 246 vellum pages of the original 262. The document is an unassuming 7 inches by 10 inches. At first glance, one may assume that it is simply an old document, written in a language that they cannot understand, and they would be right, in a way. The thing about the Voynich Manuscript is that no one on Earth can read the language that it was written in. Furthermore, there are no other examples of the language and the author, date it was written and its place of origin are unknown.
Discovery and History of the Voynich Manuscript
The Voynich Manuscript is named for the American rare book collector and dealer who found the document. His name was Wilfred M. Voynich. Wilfred found the document in a Jesuit College just outside of Rome in 1912. The Voynich Manuscript had been documented and attempts made at discovering its origin before then. However, it had slipped out of history. Voynich brought it into the modern public eye.
The earliest definite knowledge of the Voynich Manuscript that researchers can find is dated 1608. Therefore, we know it is at least this old. However, there seems to be some disagreement about how much older than this date the document is. Voynich dated it back to the 13th century. Modern estimates date it back to between the 15th and 16th century. It is generally agreed that it is European in origin. Nonetheless, the contents of the Voynich Manuscript throw many people off and guesses as to its region of origin do vary.
Contents of the Voynich Manuscript
The pages of the Voynich Manuscript contain both pictures and text. The author used black, red, yellow, green and blue ink. Two-hundred-twelve of the pages contain pictures and text. Thirty-three of the pages contain only text. Some researchers refer to some of the pages as the key. Unfortunately, the key has not been very helpful in translating the text.
The pictures in the Voynich Manuscript are as mysterious as the language that it is written in. There are pictures that are obviously botanical in nature. Some of them depict plants of which modern science has no knowledge. There are drawings that seem to be related to astronomy. There are also drawings of nude women bathing in what seems to be an elaborate unknown plumbing system. Many of the pictures contain what appear to be captions. However, they are of no use.
The language used to write the Voynich Manuscript has resisted translation before and since its discovery in 1912. Experts disagree as to whether it is a language or a cipher. There seem to be patterns that point to a language. It also seems to be alphabetic. The perceived alphabet is thought to be between 19 and 28 characters. There may even be more than one language. However, the complete lack of other examples of this language and its resistance to translation leads some to believe that it must be a cipher created by the author, or authors.
Despite the lack of even so much as a title, most experts agree that the Voynich Manuscript is scientific in nature. They believe that the information thought to be contained within it pertains to botany, biology, astronomy and medicine. The only evidence of what purpose it may have served is conjecture. We can make an educated guess as to its contents, based on the drawings, but a manuscript of that nature could have been used for any number of things.
The Author of the Voynich Manuscript
Amongst the earliest evidence of the Voynich Manuscript is a letter that mentioned Roger Bacon as its author. Unfortunately, the author of the letter was only guessing at the author of the manuscript. Roger Bacon was a scholar and a Franciscan friar. It is possible that he penned the document. However, this was only one man’s guess. There is no evidence that Roger Bacon was responsible, beyond that letter.
One theory regarding the author of the Voynich Manuscript has more to do with the author’s motives than the author himself. Because the document has resisted translation for so long, many people have come to think of it as a hoax. The idea is that someone wanted to pawn it off as a curiosity to Rudolph II of Bohemia, to whom the aforementioned letter was addressed.
A woman named Edith Sherwood concocted one interesting theory that I have come across. Edith has theorized that the Voynich Manuscript was written and illustrated by a young Leonardo DaVinci. While this is an intriguing theory, it may not hold much water.
There is still much research going on regarding the Voynich Manuscript. Some top experts have dedicated a lot of time to attempting to decipher the ‘code.’ Of course, there have been those who have claimed to have succeeded. However, all such claims are unsubstantiated, unfortunately. For now, we will just have to leave the answers up to our own imaginations and hope that it does not turn out to be a cookbook full of terrible recipes.