Jul 8, 2007

The Voynich Manuscript- The Most Mysterious Yet!

“BEINECKE RARE BOOK AND MANUSCRIPT LIBRARY” at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut houses the world’s most mysterious manuscript. Curators narrate a frustrating story of attempts to decipher the book to inquisitive visitors.

Under the Beinecke Library’s roof are countless rare books and invaluable manuscripts, one of them- Voynich Manucript.

The Voynich Manucript is of particular interest because no one has been able to read it till date. The world’s greatest cryptographers and linguists have failed in their attempts to make sense of the Manuscript.

The Manuscript has dimensions 5-three-fourth by 8-half inches and is some 200 pages long. The Vellum leaves have an extraordinary flowing handwriting that have been written by the author in a completely unknown set of alphabets. Illustration along with the text is as bizarre- they seem to represent plants, women and astronomical configurations. Since neither the text nor figures are interpretable the Voynich Manuscript remains the most inexplicable manuscript.

Discovery of this manuscript happened when a New York book dealer, Wilfrid M. Voynich discovered the curious volume in the library. He brought it from the Mondragone College Library, where the manuscript was and initiated to unravel its history. The book also concealed an old letter which was a key to its history.

Year 1666, the letter was addressed to prominent scholar and former tutor, Athanasius Kircher from Marcus Marci, rector of the University of Prague.

Marci wrote that he had got the manuscript from an “intimate friend” and that “for I was convinced it could be read by no one except yourself. He also informed that it was earlier owned by Rudolf II, the holy Roman emperor who died in 1612. Rudolf had paid 600 ducats for it, a huge sum at that period.

More importantly, Marci also said that Rudolf believed the author to be “Roger Bacon, the Englishman.” Bacon who lived in the 13th century was a great figure in medieval learning. Bacon was acknowledged as Doctor Mirabilis, he was a person centuries ahead of his time, he predicted cars and aircrafts- features of the 20th century. A formidable understanding in Physics and Mathematics was his forte; and he was also a renowned philosopher and alchemist.

Could the Voynich Manuscript have ideas, contain scientific theories so groundbreaking that they could not be set down in plain language?

No valid headway was made for nearly 60 years. In the 1970s Robert S. Brumbaugh at the Yale noticed a few symbols on the Voynich manuscript that reminded him of diagrams he had come across in another document. A more meticulous look at some of the margins revealed doodled calculations, suggesting that a similar number code might have been implemented.

On one page there was an illustration of a plant that resembled pepper. He implemented the code that he thought it to be, on studying, he learnt the symbols under the figure read PEPPER. The names of the other plants and stars could be deciphered similarly.

However, the secret of the Voynich Manuscript can still not be said to have been solved by any means. For example the main text is repetitive and absurd. Professor Brumbaugh suggested that they might be disconnected deluge of an alchemist. Brumbaugh believes Bacon as a follower of the ancient art of alchemy that tried to turn base metals into gold, via a use of a secret substance or elixir.

Ideas maybe too radical for the present era, which perhaps will finally be decoded to reveal the ultimate secret within these confusing intricate pages of the Voynich Manuscript


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