Stories Of The Paranormal, The Unexplained, And All Things Incredible

February 14, 2012

Voynich Manuscript Overview

The Voynich Manuscript is one of the most 'searched for' unexplained phenomenon. The following information is taken from the book jacket flyleaf of

The MOST MYSTERIOUS MANUSCRIPT: The Voynich “Roger Bacon” Cipher Manuscript edited by Robert S. Brumbaugh 1978 Southern Illinois University Press

THE VOYNICH “ROGER BACON” MANUSCRIPT SECRETS – presumably magical or scientific and possibly containing a formula for an Elixir of Life – continue to defy deciphering efforts after almost four centuries, as this amazing history shows.

Bought about 1586 for a very high price by the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II, who had a keen interest in magic and science, the Voynich manuscript consists of some 200 pages, with many unusual botanical and astronomical illustrations. The work was thought to be that of Roger Bacon, the thirteenth-century English philosopher, who had a reputation for being a magician, and whom legend credited with discovery of an Elixir of Life.

The writing, presumably in cipher, defied reading by Rudolph’s’ scholars, and the manuscript passed in the eighteenth century from Prague to Rome, where it continued to defy attempts at decipherment. In 1912 it was bought and brought to America by Wilfrid Voynich, a rare-book dealer, and in spite of Voynich’s generosity in supplying photocopies to professional paleographers, military intelligence experts, botanists and the like, the text remained unread until 1921.

The modern history of the manuscript is not much clearer, as this account of the attempts to solve its mysteries shows, In the 1960s the manuscript was acquired by the Yale Beinecke Rare Book Library (Beinecke MS 48) through the gift of Hans P. Kraus, the legendary rare-book dealer, who bought it following the death of Mrs. Edith Voynich. Robert S. Brumbaugh, a philosopher at Yale who had served in military intelligence during World War II, became interested in it, and began what has turned out to be nearly ten years of scholarly effort, the involvement of a group of scholars – who are kept abreast of developments by a “Voynich Newsletter” – and the employment of sophisticated tools and techniques in an attempt to unlock the secrets of the cipher.

In the course of his investigations Professor Brumbaug brought together a collection of articles tracing the history of “the world’s most mysterious manuscript” the Voynich ‘Roger Bacon’ cipher, which form the basis for the present book.

Brumbaugh himself in 1972 identified the “alphabet” used in the cipher and read plant and star labels, but the results where the alphabet was applied to the text proper were unexpected and still unexplained. However, a good deal has been learned about the manuscript’s provenance, Brumbaugh reveals, and efforts to transcribe and decipher the manuscript continue.

The manuscript’s importance, needless to say, lies in what it can tell us about medieval science, numerology, botany, medicine, philosophy, linguistics, cryptography, astronomy, and cosmology.

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