13 April 2023

What is the Voynich manuscript? – Learn the history of the Voynich manuscript

By Donald

one of the books most enigmatic and mysterious in the world. It is an illustrated text, written in an unknown language, and with an alphabet that has not been deciphered. It has been studied by linguists and even cryptography experts, who declare to this day that its content is a mystery. Read on to find out all about the historical context of this manuscript.

What does Voynich mean?

It is the name given to the mysterious illustrated manuscript that has baffled both history experts and buffs. This is in honor of the Pole, Wilfrid Voynich, a dealer in rare and old books, who acquired it in 1912. Voynich was a graduate in pharmacy, bibliographer and chemist, who had to leave Lithuania for his political ideals, settling down to live in Hamburg, Germany.

Voynich became an expert in medieval and renaissance manuscripts, and also had a extensive private collection of rare books, including this manuscript. Which contains texts in a language that could not be deciphered, which is why it became the focus of attention in the academic community.

This character continued his work as librarian and collectoruntil his death in 1930. Later, his collections were donated to various institutions, including Yale University, where the Voynich Manuscript is now housed in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

After his death, the Voynich legacy lives on important to the academic community and the world of rare and mysterious books, due to the search and collection of these during his life.

What is the Voynich manuscript about?

It is an illustrated and encrypted book, which consists of 240 pages and most of them are full of highly detailed drawings. These range from plants and animals, to astrological symbols. It also features representations of humans in everyday situations.

His writing is elaborated in a unknown language and with an alphabet that has not been able to be deciphered, despite this, many theories have been proposed about its content, origin and purpose. One of the most popular is that it is an alchemy or magic book used by a secret group of practitioners to perform rituals and spells.

Many of his illustrations depict symbols used in the astrology and alchemyreason why many think that it is a book that details the use of plants and minerals for the creation of potions or medicines.

Another theory says that it is a codex originated by a unknown author and Voynich himself has even been mentioned as its author, and that through him they intended to entertain or deceive their readers. However, many believe this is difficult to speculate, due to the sheer amount of detail and complexity it contains.

It has also been suggested that it is a personal diary, and that the author developed a new language and alphabet as a whole and individual knowledge to keep your thoughts and experiences secret from prying eyes.

What is the history of the Voynich codex?

Like the content of this codex, its origin is a mystery. Its date of creation is known to be between 1404 and 1438, which rejects the first assumption that it was written by Roger Bacon, who was an English scientist, since he would have died in 1294.

The art historian Erwin Panofky deduced that it must have been written in southwestern Europe, since the form of each word has Arabic, Jewish and Dutch influences. Although later he himself affirms that it must have been written in Germany.

Some time later, the historian Sergio Toresella, contributes that the calligraphy and some illustrations of herbs have Italian influences.

The first owner of this manuscript is Rudolf II of Habsburg, who bought it for 600 ducats, a very large sum of money for the time, although some historians affirm that it is not entirely true and that It may be an invention of Voynich himself.

The manuscript comes into the hands of Jacobus de Tepenec, who is the first true owner of this book. He is a chemist and pharmacist who is known to have treated and cured Rudolf II’s serious illness. It is known that the manuscript was in his possession because His signature can be seen on the first page of thisthrough ultraviolet light. It is possible that it was a gift, hoping that he managed to translate or understand it.

George Barschius owned the book and attempted to translate it, stating that it was chemical symbolisms and medical issues. When he died, he left his entire collection to Johannes Marcus Marci, who also tried to decipher it and when he failed, he sent it to his friend Athanasius Kircher, obtaining the same result.

A series of books and articles were donated to the Jesuits of the Roman College, among which the manuscript was found, in this place, its cover was bound with wood, because the original deteriorated due to worms. The book was kept by the Jesuits until they decide to put up for sale many copies, and it is at that time that Wilfrid Voynich acquires it.

This last character opened a bookstore in London, after leaving Lithuania. Which aroused an interest in him for mysterious, hidden or lost books, this hobby led him to acquire the manuscript named after him, and which was previously known as the ‘Roger Bacon Encrypted Manuscript’. Which was presented in 1921 at the Philadelphia College of Physicians.

Major attempts to decipher the Voynich manuscript

William R Newbold: professor at the University of Pennsylvania, in 1921 proposed that the manuscript was written in a short word code, with letters belonging to the Latin alphabet. It establishes that the author of the manuscript was Roger Bacon, an English philosopher and scientist.

I rate some pages of illustrations astronomical or cosmological. In addition, I assure that the book contained investigations that are not accepted by the church.

His theories were later discredited, but despite this, it was a way to encourage others to continue exploring the text.

William Friedmann: It was an expert in cryptography, who studied the manuscript in 1940. He suggested that the ‘voyniches’, the way the language in which the text was written was called, could be a question of a universal synthetic tongue.

That is, a language designed entirely by human beings, experts in natural languages. But it does not mean that it was considered a language, and neither one built by the evolution of history.

John Tiltmann: was an expert in cryptanalysis from England, who continued the legacy of his friend Friedman in 1951, dedicated a long period to the study of this manuscript, accepting the theory that the text was written by Roger Bacon. Along with other researchers, they claimed that the illustrations had been drawn before the accompanying writing.

Likewise, Tiltman concluded that the language used is a combination that lacks logic, and that it is not an artificial languagebecause the latter began to form after the creation of the manuscript.

Mary D’ Empire: was considered the successor to the researcher surnamed Tiltman, was a mathematician from the United States. She conducted interviews with John Tiltman and Prescott Currier, thus documenting her work on the Voynich MS.

In her I collect the works that had been executed to decipher it. Also, I add notes about the biological illustrations, rating this section as the strangest and rarest drawings found within the text.

Robert Brumbaugh: in 1970 this philosopher proposed that the manuscript was a work written in a mixed language, which used elements from different languages. He suggested that it contained philosophical and religious themes.

He declared that he had deciphered certain labels in the pharmaceutical section of plants. His method consisted of replace the glyphs with numbers from 1 to 9this result was grouped into blocks that had nine boxes, and in turn assigned a letter to each digit.

Despite this, Brumbaugh mentions that this book it was written for the purpose of selling it Emperor Rudolf II just to get a beneficial amount of money from him.

Greg Hodgins: is the most recent investigator of this manuscript, in 2009 he used the radiocarbon dating to determine its creation. Thanks to this, it is established that it was in the fifteenth century, although it did not provide any clues about its content, it is an important discovery for the understanding of its history.

Who deciphered the Voynich manuscript?

Academic and linguist Gerard Cheshire, from England, He claimed that he managed to decipher the mystery of the Voynich Manuscript in 2019. He assures that this was done through an abbreviated script, which was used in Medieval Europe, and known by the name of “Tironian notes”.

It establishes that the manuscript was written by some Dominican nuns from the 15th century, on the Isle of Ischia. He mentions that the text speaks of:

  • Medicines.
  • Astrology.
  • Breeding.
  • A volcanic eruption of the date.
  • Therapies.
  • female loneliness.

The codex was written for María de Castilla, Queen of Aragon, and mentions that images of her and the court while taking a bath are included and proceeded to carry out negotiations. Despite Cheshire’s claims, some critics argue against it, saying that his theories do not have sufficient evidence and support.