V is for Voynich Manuscript

The Letter VThe Voynich Manuscript is considered “the world’s most mysterious manuscript”. It is written in an unknown script and contains many pictures and diagrams that are unidentifiable.

Based on the subject matter of the drawings, the contents of the manuscript falls into six sections:

  1. botanicals containing drawings of 113 unidentified plant species;
  2. astronomical and astrological drawings including astral charts with radiating circles, suns and moons, Zodiac symbols such as fish (Pisces), a bull (Taurus), and an archer (Sagittarius), nude females emerging from pipes or chimneys, and courtly figures;
  3. a biological section containing a myriad of drawings of miniature female nudes, most with swelled abdomens, immersed or wading in fluids and oddly interacting with interconnecting tubes and capsules;
  4. an elaborate array of nine cosmological medallions, many drawn across several folded folios and depicting possible geographical forms;
  5. pharmaceutical drawings of over 100 different species of medicinal herbs and roots portrayed with jars or vessels in red, blue, or green, and
  6. continuous pages of text, possibly recipes, with star-like flowers marking each entry in the margins.

From Yale University Library

Investigators believe the manuscript was created at the end of the 15th century or during the 16th century. It is named after the bookseller that acquired it in 1912, Wilfrid Voynich.

The mystery of the manuscript lies in deciphering it as the text bears no relation to any known language. Some say it is a constructed language, an exotic natural language, a cipher, or a code.

Voynich Manuscript

One of the foldout pages in the Voynich manuscript.

The illustrations don’t offer any illumination on the text. Most of the plant drawings bear no resemblance to known plants, many being portrayed as having the roots of one plant, leaves of another and flowers of a third, creating a chimeric plant. Some circular diagrams appear to resemble constellation charts, but to no known constellations.

The general accepted theory is that the manuscript is probably a medical reference compiled by an herbalist in his own secret script in the 1500s. It was common practice of alchemists and herbalists of the time to write their notes in code to keep their knowledge out of the hands of the unlearned and unworthy.

But after one hundred years of study, we are no closer to understanding the manuscript despite the best efforts of mathematicians, linguists, physicists, cryptologists, art historians, programmers, and amateur enthusiasts.

Critics claim that the manuscript is an elaborate hoax

If you’d like to view the Voynich Manuscript for yourself, you can download a copy for free as it is in the public domain.

My Idea:

I would write a story about rival alchemists, each competing for fame and the favor of the king. One documents his knowledge meticulously in his own secret code. When the book disappears, the alchemist must get it back before his rival, a former apprentice, can decipher it.

What do you think of the Voynich Manuscript – authentic or hoax?

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