Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The World's Most Mysterious Manuscript: The Voynich Manuscript

The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University is the home for the vexing Voynich Manuscript. Thanks to carbon dating, we know the manuscript was created between 1404 & 1438, but little else is known about it besides that. The text resists all translations, & even the top linguistics & cryptographers can't figure out the meaning of the text. They know it isn't gibberish, as gibberish is actually obvious & quite hard to create. Still, the double or triple word combination throughout the text (ex. appleappleapple) stumps experts.

The manuscript contains 240 vellum pages, many of which fold out & are covered with illustrations. There seems to be six sections: herbal, astronomical, biological, cosmological, pharmaceutical, & a section of recipes. Still, the illustrations are unclear; the plant life is unidentifiable & zodiac charts come from an unknown calendar. There also appears to be images of stars & planets seen through a telescope & biological cells seen through a microscope, both scientific devices that didn't appear until the 17th century.

There are many theories about the Voynich Manuscript. Some say that it may have been a hoax manuscript, meaning that the author created the manuscript for a wealthy buyer & passed the text off as part of a lost language. Others think is just may be text about modern medicine during the Medieval Period. The more radical theorists (the Bigfooters & the Nostradamus fans) think the text may be a way to predict the future or means to contact aliens. All that we know is that the Voynich Manuscript may be one of the first artists' book, in the sense that the text & purpose of the manuscript may never be known, but we can still appreciate the manuscript for its design & illustrations.

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