The intelligent reader will judge for himself. Without examining the facts fully and fairly, there is no way of knowing whether vox populi is really vox dei, or merely vox asinorum. — Cyrus H. Gordon
Written in Central Europe at the end of the 15th or during the 16th century, the origin, language, and date of the Voynich Manuscript—named after the Polish-American antiquarian bookseller, Wilfrid M. Voynich, who acquired it in 1912—are still being debated as vigorously as its puzzling drawings and undeciphered text. Described as a magical or scientific text, nearly every page contains botanical, figurative, and scientific drawings of a provincial but lively character, drawn in ink with vibrant washes in various shades of green, brown, yellow, blue, and red.
The Voynich Manuscript is considered to be ‘The Most Mysterious Manuscript in the World’. To this day this medieval artifact resists all efforts at translation. It is either an ingenious hoax or an unbreakable cipher. The manuscript is named after its discoverer, the American antique book dealer and collector, Wilfrid M. Voynich, who discovered it in 1912, amongst a collection of ancient manuscripts kept in villa Mondragone in Frascati, near Rome, which had been by then turned into a Jesuit College (closed in 1953).
Based on the evidence of the calligraphy, the drawings, the vellum, and the pigments, Wilfrid Voynich estimated that the Manuscript was created in the late 13th century. The manuscript is small, seven by ten inches, but thick, nearly 235 pages. It is written in an unknown script of which there is no known other instance in the world.
The Voynich Manuscript is a cipher manuscript, sometimes attributed to Roger Bacon.
Scientific text in an unidentified language, in cipher, possibly written in central Europe in the 15th century.
It is abundantly illustrated with awkward coloured drawings of::
- unidentified plants;
- what seems to be herbal recipes;
- tiny naked women frolicking in bathtubs connected by intricate plumbing looking more like anatomical parts than hydraulic contraptions;
- mysterious charts in which some have seem astronomical objects seen through a telescope, some live cells seen through a microscope;
- charts into which you may see a strange calendar of zodiacal signs, populated by tiny naked people in rubbish bins.
Detail from page 78r of Voynich Manuscript depicting the “biological” section
“Tiny naked women frolicking in bathtubs” – a fragment of page 70
Copyright: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale UniversityPage 70r
Image Source >>
No one really knows the origins of the manuscript. The experts believe it is European They believe it was written between the 15th and 17th centuries.
From a piece of paper which was once attached to the Voynich manuscript, and which is now stored in one of the boxes belonging with the Voynich manuscript holdings of the Beinecke library, it is known that the manuscript once formed part of the private library of Petrus Beckx S.J., 22nd general of the Society of Jesus.
A sample of untranslatable text from the Voynich manuscript
There is no other example of the language in which the manual is written.
It is an alphabetic script, but of an alphabet variously reckoned to have from nineteen to twenty-eight letters, none of which bear any relationship to any English or European letter system. The text has no apparent corrections. There is evidence for two different “languages” (investigated by Currier and D’Imperio) and more than one scribe, probably indicating an ambiguous coding scheme.
The VM is written in a language of which no other example is known to exist. It is an alphabetic script, but of an alphabet variously reckoned to have from nineteen to twenty-eight letters, none of which bear any relationship to any English or European letter system.
Apparently, Voynich wanted to have the mysterious manuscript deciphered and provided photographic copies to a number of experts. However, despite the efforts of many well known cryptologists and scholars, the book remains unread. There are some claims of decipherment, but to date, none of these can be substantiated with a complete translation.
View Voynich photos
curtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University.
To see all images go to Beinecke Library at Yale
(search for “Voynich Manuscript”)
Click on image to enlarge. Page 70r Image Source >>
Copyright: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
Copyright: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
To see all images go to Beinecke Library at Yale (search for “Voynich Manuscript”)
History of the Voynich Manuscript
The book was bought by H. P. Kraus (a New York book antiquarian) in 1961 for the sum of $24,500. He later valued it at $160,000 but was unable to find a buyer. Finally he donated it to Yale University in 1969, where it remains to date at the Beinecke Rare Book Library with catalogue number MS 408.
It is known from a letter of Johannes Marcus Marci, rector of the University of Prague, to Athanasius Kircher, a Jesuit scholar, dated 1666, that the manuscript was bought by Emperor Rudolph II of Bohemia (1552-1612).
REVEREND AND DISTINGUISHED SIR, FATHER IN CHRIST:
This book, bequeathed to me by an intimate friend, I destined for you, my very dear Athanasius, as soon as it came into my possession, for I was convinced it could be read by no one except yourself.
The former owner of this book asked your opinion by letter, copying and sending you a portion of the book from which he believed you would be able to read the remainder, but he at that time refused to send the book itself. To its deciphering he devoted
unflagging toil, as is apparent from attempts of his which I send you herewith, and he relinquished hope only with his life. But his toil was in vain, for such Sphinxes as these obey no one but their master, Kircher. Accept now this token, such as it is and long
overdue though it be, of my affection for you, and burst through its bars, if there are any, with your wonted success.
Dr. Raphael, tutor in the Bohemian language to Ferdinand Ill, then King of Bohemia, told me the said book had belonged to the Emperor Rudolph and that he presented to the bearer who brought him the book 600 ducats. He believed the author was Roger
Bacon, the Englishman. On this point I suspend judgment; it is your place to define for us what view we should take thereon, to whose favor and kindness I unreservedly commit myself and remain,
At the command of your Reverence,
JOANNES MARCUS MARCI,
PRAGUE, 19th August, 1665 (or I666).
Historically, it first appears in 1586 at the court of Rudolph II of Bohemia, who was one of the most eccentric European monarchs of that or any other period. Rudolph collected dwarfs and had a regiment of giants in his army. He was surrounded by astrologers, and he was fascinated by games and codes and music. He was typical of the occult-oriented, Protestant noblemen of this period and epitomized the liberated northern European prince. He was a patron of alchemy and supported the printing of alchemical literature.
The Rosicrucian conspiracy was being quietly fomented during this same period. To Rudolph’s court came an unknown person who sold this manuscript to the king for three hundred gold ducats, which, translated into modern monetary units, is about fourteen thousand dollars. This is an astonishing amount of money to have paid for a manuscript at that time, which indicated that the Emperor must have been highly impressed by it.
Accompanying the manuscript was a letter that stated that it was the work of the Englishman Roger Bacon, who flourished in the thirteenth century and who was a noted pre-Copernican astronomer. Only two years before the appearance of the Voynich Manuscript, John Dee, the great English navigator, astrologer, magician, intelligence agent, and occultist had lectured in Prague on Bacon.
The manuscript somehow passed to Jacobus de Tepenecz, the director of Rudolph’s botanical gardens (his signature is present in folio 1r) and it is speculated that this must have happened after 1608, when Jacobus Horcicki received his title ‘de Tepenecz’. Thus 1608 is the earliest definite date for the Manuscript.
Codes from the early sixteenth century onward in Europe were all derived from The Stenographica of Johannes Trethemius, Bishop of Sponheim, an alchemist who wrote on the encripherment of secret messages. He had a limited number of methods, and no military, alchemical, religious, or political code was composed by any other means throughout a period that lasted well into the seventeenth century. Yet the Voynich Manuscript does not appear to have any relationship to the codes derivative of Johannes Trethemius of Sponheim.
In 1622 and the manuscript passed to the possession of an unidentified individual that left the book in his/her will to Marci. Marci must have known about this manuscript before 1644, as the information concerning the price that the Emperor paid came from Dr. Raphael Missowski (1580-1644) (as mentioned in his letter).
Marci sent the manuscript immediately with the letter to Athanasius Kircher (a Jesuit priest and scholar in Rome) in 1666 who apparently also knew of it and had exchanged letters and transcribed portions with the previous unidentified owner. Between that time and 1912 (when Voynich discovered it) it is speculated that the manuscript may have been stored or forgotten in some library and finally moved to the Jesuit College at the Villa Mondragone. Marci’s letter to Kircher was still attached to the manuscript when Voynich bought it. In that letter, Marci mentioned the name of Roger Bacon (1214-1292) as a possible author, although no conclusive evidence of authorship is available. A possible link between Rudolph and Bacon is John Dee (an English mathematician and astrologer, collector of Bacon’s work) who visited Rudolph’s court in 1582-86.
Parts of the Manuscript
The Voynich Manuscript is about 6 by 9inches. Some believe it to be a book about alchemy. It contains the equivalent of 246 quarto pages, but may have originally contained not less than 262 pages.
There are 212 with text and drawings, 33 pages contain text only, and the last page contains the Key. The text is written in an enciphered script, and the drawings are colored in red, blue, brown, yellow, and green.
The contents of the Manuscript are divided up into 5categories:
- The first and largest section contains 130 pages of plant drawings with accompanying text, and is called the Botanical division.
- The second contains 26 pages of drawings, obviously astrological and astronomical in nature.
- The third section contains 4 pages of text and 28 drawings, which would appear to be biological in nature.
- The fourth division contains 34 pages of drawings, which are pharmaceutical in nature.
- The last section of the Manuscript contains 23pages of text arranged in short paragraphs, each beginning with a star. The last page (the 24th of this division) contains the Key only.
View online pages from the manuscript:
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Photonegatives Database (enter Voynich)
Theories about the Manuscript
To this day the Voynich Manuscript resists all efforts at translation. It is either an ingenious hoax or an unbreakable cipher. The contents and origin of the manuscript have been a matter of continuous and stimulating debate. To name some of the possibilities that have been discussed in the Voynich mailing list forum (modified from a posting by Karl Kluge):
There is an intelligible underlying text:
- in a natural language
- Latin, abbreviated Latin,
- English, German, Norse,
- Chinese (in a phonetic script),
- Greek, Hebrew, Sanskrit, Arabic,
- “pig Latin” and many others.
- in a fake natural language like:
- in a coded language
- in cipher (single, multi substitution, etc.)
- in an artificial language like:
- Lingua ignota (Hildegarde von Bingen, 1153/54)
- Arithmeticus nomenclator (anonymous Spanish Jesuit, 1653)
- Wilkins’ (1641)
- Dalgarno’s (1661)
- Beck’s “Universal Character” (1657)
- Johnston’s “Synthetic Language” (1641)
There is no intelligible underlying text
- glossolalia (something like “writing in tongues”)
- random (i.e. some forgery)
- psychologically “random” strings
- mechanically generated random strings
In analytic terms, there are a few particularities worth noting:
- The 2nd order entropy is too low for an European language using a simple substitution cipher.
- The text follows roughly the 1st and 2nd Zipf’s laws of word frequencies.
- The word length distribution is different from Latin (words tend to be shorter than Latin words).
- Correlation analysis seems to indicate that the spaces are indeed separating “words” as in a natural language.
- There is some evidence for two different “languages” or dialects (investigated by Currier and D’Imperio) and perhaps more than one scribe, probably indicating an ambiguous coding scheme.
- The text has very few apparent corrections.
- The structure of words is extremely rigid.
- There are many words repetitions (up to 3 times!)
- Some characters in the “key-like sequences” do not appear anywhere else in the manuscript.
Source: The European Voynich Manuscript Transcription Project
Computer analysis of the Voynich Manuscript has only deepened the mystery. One finding has been that there are two ‘languages’ or ‘dialects’ of Voynichese, which are called Voynich A and Voynich B. The repetitiousness of the text is obvious to casual inspection. Entropy is a numerical measure of the randomness of text. The lower the entropy, the less random and the more repetitious it is. The entropy of samples of Voynich text is lower than that of most human languages; only some Polynesian languages are as low.” “Tests show that Voynich text does not have its low h2 [second order entropy] measures solely because of a repetitious underlying text, that is, one that often repeats the same words and phrases. Tests also show that the low h2 measures are probably not due to an underlying low-entropy natural language. A verbose cipher, one which substitutes several ciphertext characters for one plaintext character [i.e., ‘fuf’ for the letter ‘f’], can produce the entropy profile of Voynich text.” – Dennis Stallings
When the manuscript was first shown to expert cryptologists, they thought that solving it would be easy as the text was composed of “words”, some of which were more frequent and occurred in certain combinations (Kahn, 1967). This soon turned out to be a mistake; the text could not easily be converted into Latin, English, German or a host of other languages which might possible be at the base of this document.
A first “solution” was announced in 1919, by William Romaine Newbold (Newbold, 1921), who caused a sensation by claiming that the manuscript did indeed contain the work of Roger Bacon and that Bacon had known the use of the compound telescope and microscope, seeing the spiral structure of the Andromeda galaxy* (!) only visible with modern telescopes and cell structures unknown in the 13th Century.
What Newbold discovered in the text was absolutely astonishing— enough to gather a lot of attention from the scientific community. The biological drawings in the text were described asseminiferous tubes, the microscopic cells with nuclei, and even spermatozoa. Among the astronomical drawings were the descriptions of spiral nebulae, a coronary eclipse, and the comet of 1273. One of the more baffling things about this was that many of the drawings of plants, and of the galaxies appeared to have been invented. There was no doubt that if Bacon were the author of such a text, he must have had some way of obtaining the information.
For instance, Newbold’s translation of the caption near the drawing of the nebula of Andromeda (which clearly shows its spiral characteristics), gave its location by the following:
“In a concave mirror I saw a star in the form of a snail….between the
navel of Pegasus, the girdle of Andromeda, and the head of Cassiopea”.
The attempts to crack the code, however, were not over. In 1931, Mrs. Voynich took a photostat copy of the manuscript to Catholic University in Washington where Fr. Theodore Petersen reproduced it photographically and started a complete hand transcription of the manuscript, with a card index to the words, and lists of concordances. The transcription alone was reported to have taken him 4 years. Unfortunately, it is not known what conclusion, if any, he reached.
In 1944, Hugh O’Neill, a renowned botanist at the Catholic University, identified various plants depicted in the manuscript as New-World species, in particular an American sunflower and a red pepper (O’Neill, 1944). This meant that the dating of the manuscript should be placed after 1493, when Columbus brought the first sunflower seeds to Europe. However, the identification is not certain: the red pepper is coloured green and the sunflower identification is equally contested.
Other people involved in the study of the manuscript were prominent cryptologists such as W. Friedman and J. Tiltman, who independently arrived at the hypothesis that the manuscript was written in an artificial, constructed language. This was based on the structure of the “words” as described below. Such artificial languages were devised at least a century after the probable date of the Voynich manuscript. Only the ‘Lingua Ignota’ of Hildegarde of Bingen (1098-1179) predates the Voynich manuscript by several centuries, but this language does not exhibit the structure observed by Friedman and Tiltman, and it provides only nouns and a few adjectives.
Friedman came to know Petersen who at some time presented his hand transcription and other material to him. After Friedman’s death, all the material was moved to the W.F. Friedman collection of the Marshall Foundation. Recently, electronic versions of the transcriptions made by Friedman’s groups were produced from the typed sheets and made available on the Internet (Reeds, 1995).
Later acclaimed solutions see in the manuscript a simple substitution cipher which can only decode isolated words (Feely, 1943), the first use of a more or less sophisticated cipher (Strong, 1945; Brumbaugh, 1977), a text in a vowel-less Ukrainian (Stojko, 1978) or the only surviving document of the Cathar movement (Levitov, 1987). No acceptable plaintext has ever been produced though.
Some interesting new insights into the manuscript were provided in the 70’s by Prescott Currier, presenting some of his results at an informal Voynich manuscript symposium at the National Security Agency in Washington (D’Imperio, 1978). Basing his findings on the statistical properties of the text, he showed that the manuscript is written in two distinct “languages” which he simply called A and B. Each bifolio was written in one of the two, and bifolios in the same “language” were generally grouped together. Only in the herbal section there is a mixture of A and B folios. Based on the characteristics of the writing, he showed that the manuscript seems to have been written in two distinct “hands”, and he even suggested there could be as much as five or even eight different hands. A significant feature is that the hand and language used on each folio are fully correlated. Currier’s conclusion was that at least two people were involved in writing the Voynich manuscript, (which he considered a point against the “hoax theory” summarised below), although alternatively, the manuscript could have been written by one person, in two distinct periods.
Due to the lack of success in the decipherment, a number of people have proposed that the manuscript is a “hoax”. The manuscript could either be a 16th century forgery, to be sold for a hefty sum to emperor Rudolf II, who was interested in rare and unusual items (Brumbaugh, 1977, deriving from earlier unpublished theories), or a more recent one by W. Voynich himself (Barlow, 1986). The latter is effectively excluded both by expert dating of the manuscript, and by the evidence of its existence prior to 1887.
One problem with the earlier hoax theory is that, as will be shown, certain word statistics (Zipf’s laws) found in the manuscript are characteristic of natural languages. In other words, it is unlikely that any forgery from 16th century would “by chance” produce a text that follows Zipf’s laws (first postulated in 1935).
Since 1990, a multidisciplinary group of varying size, generally between 100 and 200 individuals, dispersed all around the globe and connected through the Internet, has maintained an electronic mail forum on the decipherment of the Voynich manuscript. This has led to a lively exchange of ideas and the definition of two main goals: a machine readable transcription of the manuscript text and the study of the text through numerical experiments. The following sections relate to these issues.
* Another interesting possibility is that the image above is a mirror image representation of our own galaxy, the Milky Way Galaxy…
The mapping of variable stars, neutral hydrogen radio maps and star clusters gives us our current view of the shape of our Galaxy shown above.
This picture shows the Milky Way Galaxy with superimposed
mirror image of the “galaxy” from the Voynich Manuscript.
The match is not perfect, but too close to be ignored.
Copyright 2003 by World-Mysteries.com
Edith Sherwood Ph.D., ideas about the Voynich Manuscript, Leonardo da Vinci, Bartolomeo Marchionni, and Portugal’s influence on Africa.
Having reviewed the available data and taking into account the variety of possible errors in 14C dating, I have come to my personal conclusion that the animal(s) whose skins were used to make the parchment for the Voynich Manuscript were probably killed some time during the first half of the 15th century.
I give examples to show that the code used in the Voynich Manuscript is probably a series of Italian word anagrams written in a fancy embellished script. This code, that has been confusing scholars for nearly a century, is therefore not as complicated as it first appears.
I offer my interpretation of Folio 116v, the Michitonese page, of the Voynich Manuscript. Using the modified Voynich alphabet outlined in my previous paper and analyzing the subsequent Italian anagrams, I have deciphered the top paragraph of Folio 99r. This folio was chosen because it and the Michitonese page appear to be discussing the same subject matter. This may be the first time, in about 500 years, that anyone has read any of the text of this mysterious manuscript. What I found was very surprising and unexpected. I also present my deciphering of a botanical page and an astrological page.
The Voynich Manuscript may have been written by a young Leonardo da Vinci as evidenced by a similarity to Leonardo’s script and signature, an indication of mirror writing, and an astrological chart that corresponds to Leonardo’s birthday. Mistakes in the manuscript point to the possibility that a precocious child could have been the author.
In this paper I suggest that Tarot cards were the source of the sun, moon and star motifs found on drawings in the Voynich Manuscript and carvings on an Afro-Portuguese ivory horn. In addition it likely that the VM’s illustrations of little nude ladies, bathing in green pools, were inspired by 14th century manuscripts based on Roman/Greek mythology. These observations make it unlikely that Roger Bacon was the author of the VM, or that John Dee, Edward Kelley or Wilfred Voynich forged the manuscript. Additional evidence indicates that the author of this mysterious manuscript was left-handed.
It would normally be regarded as a distinct handicap when viewing the botanical drawings in the VM, never to have seen a medieval herbal or botanical manuscript, however having no preconceived ideas as to what to expect, I am able to view the drawings without bias. Like everyone else who sees these drawings for the first time, I was totally confused by some of their fantastic and eccentric characteristics and was ready to abandon the project. Fortunately I printed out a few of the more normal drawings, and while studying them at home one night I realized that the creeper illustrated in folio 32r was growing outside my back door. The following morning I confirmed that the flowers and leaves were very similar to this creeper.
The intention of this paper is to show that Leonardo da Vinci may have had a life long association with Bartholomeo di Domenico Marchionni, the wealthy Florentine banker in Lisbon, who financed some of the Portuguese voyages of exploration to West Africa, India and Brazil and who played a prominent role in the early years of the African slave trade. He may have been the person Leonardo referred to as “Bartolomeo the Turk.”
During the latter part of the 15th century, the king of Portugal sold rights to trade with Guinea and Benin to the wealthy Florentine merchant banker and slave trader, Bartolomeo Marchionni. This paper investigates the possibility that he may have been responsible for having African artists from Sierra Leone and Benin trained to carve ivory artifact, which he subsequently sold to his wealthy clients in Europe. Those ivory pieces that have survived the last five centuries are now known as the Afro-Portuguese ivories.
The purpose of this article is to identify potential errors in radiocarbon dating with the view to evaluating the Voynich manuscript 14C data. Anyone reading this article should have a basic understanding of statistics.
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The Voynich Manuscript: The Unsolved Riddle of an Extraordinary Book Which has Defied Interpretation for Centuries
[Illustrated] (Hardcover) Gerry Kennedy (Author), Rob Churchill (Author)
In 1912, Wilfrid Voynich, an antiquarian book dealer, stumbled upon a strange volume, its vellum pages covered in a beautiful but unrecognisable script accompanied by equally mystifying pictures. The codex has remained undeciphered from that day to this. Voynich believed the codex to be the work of medieval philosopher Roger Bacon, others that of the Elizabethan mathematician and occultist John Dee. Whoever created the book—which now resides at Yale University—it remains to this day a singular enigma which continues to defy the best efforts of linguists, cryptologists, and scholars. With the benefit of the authors’ exhaustive research, readers can hazard their own guesses as to the meaning and provenance of this most beguiling of mysteries.
‘This brilliant, page-turning story makes ‘The Da Vinci Code’ seem like a slightly lame round of Hangman… Kennedy and Churchill’s style is certainly very accessible… this will surely give the Voynich Manuscript an audience beyond cryptologists and internet conspiracy theorists, and that is an important achievement.’ — Scarlett Thomas INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY ‘This book is not, as one might have feared, the bearer of another wacky hypothesis; rather it is a fair-minded, lucid and enjoyably written guide to the various theories.’ — Blair Worden SUNDAY TELEGRAPH ‘Gerry Kennedy and Rob Churchull conduct the reader with straight faces and fair minds, and… an admirable amount of relevant detail, and a more admirable absense of the “My Quest” local colour which has disfigured literary investigations since Corvo.’ TIME LITERARY SUPPLEMENT ‘There’s nothing like a good mystery, and here’s one that’s as impenetrable now as it was when the world first encountered it nearly a hundred years ago… Their [Kennedy & Churchill] exhaustive research… helps readers to make their own guesses.****’ WESTERN DAILY PRESS ‘They [the authors] are fair-minded and inclusive about the ideas of others, and include a final section in which different experts give their ideas… [a] fascinating introduction to the mystery.’ THE TIMES OF ACADANIA (US) ‘A facinating paper chase across time and space… [The authors] convey well the eerie draw of the book in a meditation onf the power words have to enlighten or confound.’ NOTTINGHAM EVENING POST ‘a fair-minded, lucid and enjoyably written guide to the various theories.’ SUNDAY TELEGRAPH ‘This brilliant, page-turning story makes ‘The Da Vinci Code’ seem like a slightly lame round of Hangman’ INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY
The Friar and the Cipher: Roger Bacon and the Unsolved Mystery of the Most Unusual Manuscript in the World (Hardcover)
Lawrence Goldstone (Author), Nancy Goldstone (Author)
The Goldstones, bibliophiles and authors of Out of the Flames and other books, offer a witty biography of controversial 13th-century Dominican friar Roger Bacon, whose Opus Majus “presented a way of thinking, of approaching science, that is virtually unsurpassed in the thousand years since its creation.” According to the Goldstones, by challenging the accepted view of the Bible as the source of literal truth, it opened a schism between religion and science. The Church’s response, recounted here, was filled with political intrigue, heroes and villains, and enough twists and turns to keep readers immersed. But this book’s highlight is the story of a mysterious book discovered in 1912 and named for its owner, Wilfrid Voynich. The manuscript has a coded text enhanced by hundreds of illustrations depicting exotic plants, astronomical phenomena and strange “strings of tiny naked women cavorting in a variety of fountains, waterfalls, and pools.” Various experts have attributed the manuscript to Bacon—but as it has kept its secrets from some of the world’s greatest cryptanalysts, including some in the CIA and England’s MI-8, as well as the largest supercomputers in the world, the attribution remains speculative. But these efforts make a compelling story for readers of the history of science and of code breaking. B&w illus. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In 1919, the discovery of the phrase “To me, Roger Bacon” in a centuries-old manuscript startled the antiquarian book trade. The world of cryptography also took notice, for the manuscript was in a still-unsolved cipher. Therein lies the historical detective story that the Goldstones tell. Essentially, the authors wrap the provenance of the Voynich manuscript, as it is called, around a biography of Roger Bacon, an English scholar of the 1200s. The Goldstones dynamically render the medieval time, describing the intellectual ferment–especially the implications of Aristotle’s findings for Catholic doctrine–in which Bacon lived. Regarding Bacon as a pioneer of empiricism in science, the authors’ contrast him with logician Thomas Aquinas, champion of biblical revelation as the way to truth. Were Bacon’s ideas too hot, hence the cipher? Leaving the question open, the Goldstones then relate a rather rambunctious chain of possession that links John Dee, the Elizabethan magus who might have found the manuscript, with its present owner, Yale University. In engaging, entertaining fashion, the Goldstones offer history readers an intriguing mystery. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Solution of the Voynich Manuscript
by Leo Levitov (Paperback – August 1987)
Described as the most studied and most mysterious manuscript in the world, hundreds of scholars have attacked the Voynich manuscript. Dr. Levitov tells how he broke the text, including his discovery of the word ISIS, a pattern-word. A transliteration of the script symbols is provided.
Dr. Leo Levitov, author of Solution of the Voynich Manuscript, presents the thesis that the Voynich is nothing less then the only surviving primary document of the ” Great Heresy” that arose in Italy and flourished in Languedoc until ruthlessly exterminated by the Albigensian Crusade in the 1230s. The little women in the baths who puzzled so many are for Levitov a Cathar sacrament, the Endura,’or death by venesection [cutting a vein] in order to bleed to death in a warm bath’. The plant drawings that refused to resolve themselves into botanically identifiable species are no problem for Levitov. He stated, “There is not a single so-called botanical illustration that does not contain some Cathari symbol or Isis symbol. The astrological drawings are likewise easy to deal with; The innumerable stars are representative of the stars in Isis’ mantle. The reason it has been so difficult to decipher the Voynich Manuscript is that it is not encrypted at all, but merely written in a special script, and is an adaptation of a polyglot oral tongue into a literary language which would be understandable to people who did not understand Latin and to whom this language could be read. Specifically, a highly polyglot form of medieval Flemish with a large number of Old French and Old High German loan words. Many people disagree with his claims.
Some of the symbols used in the Voynich manuscript are similar to symbols in other scripts or notations. In particular, the following similarities have been noticed:
- Alchemical Symbols
- Early Arabic Numerals
- Latin Shorthand Abbreviations
- Beneventan Script
Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error
by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie (Hardcover – June 1978)
Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie (translated by Barbara Bray), 1978, George Braziller, Inc., New York tells about the testimony of peasants meticulously recorded in the Inquisition Register of Jacques Fournier, Bishop of Pamiers in Ariège. In it the Endura is described as a suicidal fast.
“There is no resemblance here to Levitov’s claim that Catharism was the antique cult of Isis – and certainly no truth to the picture of the Voynich nymphs’ opening their veins to bleed to death in the hot tubs!” – Dennis Stallings (private correspondence)
The Archaic Revival: Speculations on Psychedelic Mushrooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality, Ufos, Evolution, Shamanism, the Rebirth of the Goddess, and
by Terence K. McKenna, et al (Paperback – May 1992)
The Most Mysterious Manuscript- The Voynich “Roger Bacon” Cipher Manuscript
by Robert S. Brumbaugh (Editor)
The Voynich Manuscript is a mysterious late mediæval text, written in an unknown script in an unknown language or cypher. It reads as if written fluently, not by someone who was painfully calculating each next character, but by someone who understood what he was writing. It looks like a curious herbal or alchemical treatise, full of diagrams of unknown plants, unknown constellations, and elaborate networks of plumbing inhabited by plump, naked, crowned women. The text seems to contain all the redundancies expected in a natural language and then some. It can be traced back as far as the hands of Athanasius Kircher, the Jesuit polymath, who was but the first of many to have tried and failed to read the text.
For a time, this book was the best general overview of the history of the Voynich Manuscript. It still is a good one, though it has been superseded in that regard by Mary d’Imperio’s -The Voynich Manuscript: An Elegant Enigma.-
Brumbaugh proposes in this book a partial “solution” that yields texts like ILEXER ILUS YUS PURUS POURLY ILUY YJSUUS PURUS PLUS URICUS. These decipherments have the merit of seeming to read like the repetitious text of the manuscript itself. He interprets this text, though, as “The Elixir is a game, purely, purely a pure game; and European.” Even if he has deciphered the script, no doubt you can probably think of other interpretations on your own.
His method of reading seems to involve first turning the script into Arabic numerals, reading those numerals as any of several possible letters in the Latin alphabet. He got this by forcing letters into the script based on his attempts to identify some of the plants in the diagrams, and then attempting to extract a method of reading the characters. His decypherments are occasionally tantalising, but if this is the actual text behind the symbols, there doesn’t seem to be much point in further effort. The readings appear to be flawed by the polyvalence of the script he believes he sees.
Voynich Manuscript an Elegant Enigma- An Elegant Enigma (Cryptographic Series , No 27)
by M. E. D’Imperio, M. E. D’Amperio (Paperback – June 1981)
D’Imperio, a cryptographer, collected and summarized all previous research on the Voynich manuscript in 1978. Sometimes dubbed the “most mysterious manuscript in the world,” the Voynich Manuscript (VMS) was written at least 300 years ago (no one is sure quite when) in a fantastic unknown script, in an unknown language, by an unknown author. Given the strange illustrations (duplicated in this book) present in the VMS, it could contain secrets of astrology, alchemy, or ancient herbal knowledge. Now, thanks to the internet, a concerted effort to “crack” the message has been born, and D’Imperio’s monograph has become the bible of serious researchers and hobbyists alike. Full of references and historical data related to the VMS, this work is a must for anyone intersted in mysterious history and culture, alchemy, or cryptography.
Erich von Daniken again shows his flair for revealing the truths that his contemporaries have missed. After closely analyzing hundreds of ancient and apparently unrelated texts, he is now ready to proclaim that human history is nothing like the world religions claim and he has the proof!
In History Is Wrong, Erich von Daniken takes a closer look at the fascinating Voynich manuscript, which has defied all attempts at decryption since its discovery, and makes some intriguing revelations about the equally incredible Book of Enoch.
Von Daniken also unearths the astounding story of a lost subterranean labyrinth in Ecuador that is said to be home to an extensive library of thousands of gold panels. He supplies evidence that the metal library has links not only to the Book of Enoch but also to the Mormons, who have spent decades searching for it, believing it to contain the history of their forefathers.
And what about the mysterious lines in the desert of Nazca that resemble landing strips when viewed from the air? Archeologists claim they are ancient procession routes. Think again! cries von Daniken, as he reveals the data that the archeologists never even thought to check.
History Is Wrong will challenge your intellect…and maybe a few long-held beliefs. This is Erich von Daniken’s best book in years!
If you’re looking for images of the Voynich Manuscript, look no further. All images of the Voynich Manuscript are Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, which serves as the current caretaker of the Voynich, known as Ms 408 in the Beinecke Collection.
- The Voynich Manuscript
- Catharism, Levitov, and the Voynich Manuscript
by Dennis J. Stallings
- Voynich Manuscript Mini-FAQ
by Dennis J. Stallings
- Jorge Stolfi on Voynich Manuscript
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Photonegatives Database (enter Voynich)
- http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/voynich.html – check the related links section
International explorer, archaeologist and author Jonathan Gray has traveled the world to gather data on ancient mysteries. He has penetrated some largely unexplored areas, including parts of the Amazon headwaters. The author has also led expeditions to the bottom of the sea and to remote mountain and desert regions of the world. He lectures internationally.
“Dead Men’s Secrets” by Jonathan Gray is 373 pages of discovering ancient technology and lost secrets. Do not miss his new books that followed “Dead Men’s Secrets”:
Book 1 – “The Killing Of… PARADISE PLANET” lays out stunning evidence of a once-global paradise, with a temperature-controlled climate, idyllic landscape and long-lived human giants… but a super culture ready to wipe itself out. The world BEFORE the Great Flood of 2345 BC
Book 2 – “SURPRISE WITNESS” shows what happened DURING that great Deluge – the cosmic calamity that ripped the Earth to shreds and wiped out the original Mother Civilization. Not only were the antedeluvian people buried, but their technological achievements were destroyed, including all form of machinery and construction. The skeptic may shout himself hoarse. But this event surely happened. We have evidence that is more substantial than for any other event of history.
Book 3 – “The Corpse CAME BACK!” Now comes the fast moving, fascinating story of the settling down of Planet Earth AFTER the Flood, and its effect upon human history.
To order visit this page: Jonathan Gray