Friday, Debtember 26, 2003
The Most Mysterious Manuscript in the World
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. 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.
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.
If it's a hoax, it's a very good hoax, as well as a very old hoax (possibly dating from the 15th to the 17th centuries). If not, then who knows what this manuscript is all about.
Update on Wednesday, Debtember 31st
Slashdot links to a Nature article claiming that the Voynich Manuscript is a hoax.
Talk about your synchronicity …