Voynich manuscript

Illustrated codex in an unknown script / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The Voynich manuscript is an illustrated codex hand-written in an otherwise unknown script, referred to as 'Voynichese'.[18] The vellum on which it is written has been carbon-dated to the early 15th century (1404–1438), and stylistic analysis indicates it may have been composed in Italy during the Italian Renaissance.[1][2] The origins, authorship, and purpose of the manuscript are debated. Various hypotheses have been suggested, including that it is an otherwise unrecorded script for a natural language or constructed language; an unread code, cypher, or other form of cryptography; or simply a meaningless hoax.

Quick facts: Voynich manuscript, Also known as, Type, Date...
Voynich manuscript
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
A floral illustration on page 32
Also known asBeinecke MS 408
Typecodex
Dateunknown, parchment dated to early 15th century[1][2]
Place of originpossibly Italy[1][2]
Language(s)unknown
possibly natural[3] or constructed language[4][5]
a very small number of words were found in Latin and High German[4]
Author(s)unknown
suggested:
Roger Bacon,[6]
Wilfrid Voynich himself,[7]
Jakub of Tepenec,[8]
Athanasius Kircher,[9]
Raphael Mnishovsky,[6]
Antonio Averlino Filarete,[10]
Cornelis Drebbel,[11]
Anthony Ascham[4] etc.
Materialvellum
Size≈ 23.5 cm × 16.2 cm × 5 cm (9.3 in × 6.4 in × 2.0 in)
Formatone column in the page body, with slightly indented right margin and with paragraph divisions, and often with stars in the left margin;[12]
the rest of the manuscript appears in the form of graphics i.e. diagrams or markings for certain parts related to illustrations;
the manuscript contains foldable parts
Conditionpartially damaged and incomplete;
240 out of 272 pages found (≈ 88%)[13][10][12]
i.e. 18 out of 20 quires found
(272 pages i.e. 20 quires is the smallest estimated number, and it contains > 170,000 characters)[14]
Scriptunknown
possibly an invented script[15]
very small number of words found in Latin script[4][13]
Contentsherbal, astronomical, balneological, cosmological and pharmaceutical sections + section with recipes
Illumination(s)color ink, a bit crude, was used for painting the figures, probably later than the time of creation of the text and the outlines themselves[13]
Exemplar(s)two manuscript copies which Baresch sent twice to Kircher in Rome
Previously kept?   Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor Jakub of Tepenec Georg Baresch  Athanasius Kircher (copies) Jan Marek Marci (Joannes Marcus Marci) rector of Charles University in Prague Athanasius Kircher Pieter Jan Beckx Wilfrid Voynich Ethel Voynich → Anne Nill → Hans Peter Kraus Yale[4][9][12][16][17]
Discoveredearliest information about the existence comes from a letter that was found inside the covers of the manuscript, and it was written in either 1665 or 1666
AccessionMS 408
Othercryptography case which has not been solved or deciphered
Close
Evidence of retouching of text; page 3; f1r
Retouching of drawing; page 131; f72v3

The manuscript currently consists of around 240 pages, but there is evidence that additional pages are missing. Some pages are foldable sheets of varying sizes. Most of the pages have fantastical illustrations or diagrams, some crudely coloured, with sections of the manuscript showing people, fictitious plants, astrological symbols, etc. The text is written from left to right. The manuscript is named after Wilfrid Voynich, a Polish-Lithuanian book dealer who purchased it in 1912.[19] Since 1969, it has been held in Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.[20][12][21]

The Voynich manuscript has been studied by many professional and amateur cryptographers, including American and British codebreakers from both World War I and World War II;[22] with codebreakers Prescott Currier, William Friedman , Elizabeth Friedman and John Tiltman having been unsuccessful.[23]

The manuscript has never been demonstrably deciphered, and none of the many hypotheses proposed over the last hundred years have been independently verified.[24] The mystery of its meaning and origin has excited the popular imagination, making it the subject of study and speculation.

In 2020, Yale University published the manuscript online in its entirety—225 pages—in their digital collections library.[25]