In the last week, BoingBoing caught my eye by reporting how University of Arizona researchers have announced a new piece of information discovered about the Voynich Manuscript. For those who don’t know, the Voynich Manuscript is one of the world’s biggest mysteries and most-interesting books of all time. Trick is, no one can read it.
The book was discovered in modern times (1912) by a rare books dealier, Wilfrid Voynich, and later after his death it was donated to Yale University (1969).
The book consists of a number of pages with writing and some illustrations divided into sections covering subjects which appear to include Astrology, Herbology, Pharmaceutical, Cosmology, and Medicine. The writing resembles Latinate scripts at first glance, but one quickly realizes that the letters don’t conform to known languages, and even the sequences of words formed by the letters are very odd and do not seem to conform to familiar language patterns. The weird illustrations, with sort of psychedelic combinations of people, plants and tubes, tubs and pipes are puzzling. Are they illustrating biological processes of movements of biles and humors? Are they explaining some weird machinery or alchemical process? The other diagrams of stars and cosmologies in combination make it even stranger:
Over the course of years, the manuscript has been analyzed by many linguists, cryptographers, experts and other hobbyists with no one satisfactorily breaking the code or language that may be involved.