The collection of the Yale University Library (USA) contains a unique rarity, the so-called Voynich Manuscript (Voynich Manuscript). On the Internet, many sites are devoted to this document; it is often called the most mysterious esoteric manuscript in the world.
The manuscript is named after its former owner, the American bookseller W. Voynich, the husband of the famous writer Ethel Lilian Voynich (author of the novel The Gadfly). The manuscript was purchased in 1912 from one of the Italian monasteries. It is known that in the 1580s. the owner of the manuscript was the then German emperor Rudolph II. The encrypted manuscript with numerous color illustrations was sold to Rudolph II by the famous English astrologer, geographer and researcher John Dee, who was very interested in getting the opportunity to freely leave Prague for his homeland, England. Therefore, Dee is said to have exaggerated the antiquity of the manuscript. According to the characteristics of paper and ink, it belongs to the 16th century. However, all attempts to decipher the text over the past 80 years have been in vain.
This book, measuring 22.5x16 cm, contains encoded text, in a language that has not yet been identified. It originally consisted of 116 sheets of parchment, fourteen of which are currently considered lost. Written in fluent calligraphic handwriting using a quill pen and ink in five colors: green, brown, yellow, blue and red. Some letters are similar to Greek or Latin, but mostly are hieroglyphs that have not yet been found in any other book.
Almost every page contains drawings, based on which the text of the manuscript can be divided into five sections: botanical, astronomical, biological, astrological and medical. The first, by the way, the largest section, includes more than a hundred illustrations of various plants and herbs, most of which are unidentifiable or even phantasmagoric. And the accompanying text is carefully divided into equal paragraphs. The second, astronomical section is similarly designed. It contains about two dozen concentric diagrams with images of the Sun, Moon and all kinds of constellations. A large number of human figures, mostly female, adorn the so-called biological section. It seems that it explains the processes of human life and the secrets of the interaction of the human soul and body. The astrological section is replete with images of magical medallions, zodiacal symbols and stars. And in the medical part, there are probably recipes for the treatment of various diseases and magical advice.
Among the illustrations are more than 400 plants that have no direct analogues in botany, as well as numerous figures of women, spirals from stars. Experienced cryptographers in attempts to decipher the text written in unusual letters, most often acted as was customary in the 20th century - they carried out a frequency analysis of the occurrence of various symbols, choosing the appropriate language. However, neither Latin, nor many Western European languages, nor Arabic came up. The search continued. We checked Chinese, Ukrainian, and Turkish ... In vain!
The short words of the manuscript are reminiscent of some of the languages of Polynesia, but nothing came of it. Hypotheses about the extraterrestrial origin of the text have appeared, especially since the plants are not similar to those we know (although very carefully drawn), and spirals from stars in the 20th century reminded many of the spiral arms of the Galaxy. It remained completely unclear what the text of the manuscript is about. John Dee himself was also suspected of a hoax - he allegedly composed not just an artificial alphabet (there really was one in Dee's works, but has nothing to do with the one used in the manuscript), but also created a meaningless text on it. In general, research has reached a dead end.
History of the manuscript.
Since the alphabet of the manuscript has no visual similarity with any known writing system and the text has not yet been deciphered, the only "clue" for determining the age of the book and its origin is illustrations. In particular, there are the clothes and decorations of women, as well as a couple of locks in the diagrams. All the details are characteristic of Europe between the years 1450 and 1520, so that the manuscript most often dates from this period. This is indirectly confirmed by other signs.
The earliest known owner of the book was Georg Baresch, an alchemist who lived in Prague in the early 17th century. Bares also appears to have been puzzled by the mystery of this book from his library. Upon learning that Athanasius Kircher, a renowned Jesuit scholar from the Collegio Romano, had published a Coptic dictionary and deciphered (what was then believed) Egyptian hieroglyphs, he copied part of the manuscript and sent this sample to Kircher in Rome (twice), asking help decipher it. Baresch's 1639 letter to Kircher, discovered in our time by Rene Zandbergen, is the earliest known reference to the Manuscript.
It remains unclear whether Kircher responded to Baresh's request, but it is known that he wanted to buy the book, but Baresh probably refused to sell it. After the death of Bares, the book passed to his friend, Johannes Marcus Marci, rector of the University of Prague. Marzi supposedly sent it off to Kircher, a longtime friend of his. His cover letter from 1666 is still attached to the Manuscript. Among other things, the letter claims that it was originally bought for 600 ducats by Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II, who believed the book to be the work of Roger Bacon.
The further 200 years of the fate of the Manuscript are unknown, but it is most likely that it was kept along with the rest of Kircher's correspondence in the library of the Collegium of Rome (now the Gregorian University). The book probably remained there until the troops of Victor Emmanuel II captured the city in 1870 and annexed the Papal State to the Italian Kingdom. The new Italian authorities decided to confiscate a large amount of property from the Church, including the library. According to research by Xavier Ceccaldi and others, many books from the university library had previously been hastily transferred to the libraries of university staff, whose property was not confiscated, according to research by Xavier Ceccaldi. Kircher's correspondence was among these books, and apparently there was also a Voynich manuscript, as the book still bears the ex-libris of Petrus Beckx, then the head of the Jesuit order and rector of the university.
The Bex Library was moved to the Villa Borghese di Mondragone a Frascati - a large palace near Rome, acquired by the Jesuit society in 1866.
In 1912, the Collegium of Rome needed funds and decided to sell part of their property in the strictest confidence. Wilfried Voynich acquired 30 manuscripts, among other things, the one that now bears his name. In 1961, after Voynich's death, the book was sold by his widow Ethel Lilian Voynich (author of The Gadfly) to another bookseller, Hanse P. Kraus. Finding no buyer, Kraus donated the manuscript to Yale University in 1969.
It remains to state the fact that despite all the efforts of scientists in our era of global information and computer technologies, the medieval puzzle remains unsolved. And it is not known if scientists will ever be able to fill this gap and read the results of many years of work of one of the forerunners of modern science.
Now this one-of-a-kind creation is kept in the library of rare and rare books at Yale University and is estimated at $ 160, 000. The manuscript is not given to anyone in the hands of anyone: everyone who wants to try their hand at deciphering can download high quality photocopies from the university website.