The Voynich Manuscript: The Mysterious Code That Has Defied Interpretation for Centuries
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An examination of the many theories surrounding this enigmatic text, apparently written in code
• Reveals the connections between this work and the Cathars, Roger Bacon, and John Dee
• Explains the cryptanalysis methods used in attempts to break the code
• Includes color images from the manuscript juxtaposed with other medieval writings
Since its discovery by Wilfrid Voynich in an Italian monastery in 1912, the Voynich Manuscript has baffled scholars and cryptanalysists with its unidentifiable script and bizarre illustrations. Written in an unknown language or an as yet undecipherable code, this medieval manuscript contains hundreds of illustrations of unknown plants, cosmological charts, and inexplicable scenes of naked “nymphs” bathing in a green liquid that some interpret as a symbolic depiction of human reproduction and the joining of the soul with the body.
Gerry Kennedy and Rob Churchill explore the mystery surrounding the Voynich Manuscript, examining the many existing theories about the possible authors of this work and the information it may contain. They trace the speculative history of the manuscript and reveal those who may be connected to it, including Roger Bacon, John Dee, and the Cathars. With the possibility that it may be a lost alchemical text or other esoteric work, this manuscript remains one of the most intriguing yet enigmatic documents ever to have come to light.
Gerry Kennedy is a freelance writer and has produced a number of BBC Radio 4 programs, including one on the Voynich Manuscript in 2001. Rob Churchill is a professional writer who has written scripts for many production companies, including the BBC and Thames Television. Both authors were consultants for the BBC/Mentorn Films documentary The Voynich Mystery. They live in London.
dry/moist, in varying proportions. These components, too, operated from the highest order to the lowest—thus if the planet Mars was prominent at birth, being hot and dry it might influence a man’s appearance, its heat disposing in later life towards a tall, slim build, to put to use as a smith or baker, occupations associated with hot processes. Any dispositions at birth, however, would be modified by celestial influences operating throughout one’s lifespan, dependent too on other mediating
likely or most attractive. Gerry Kennedy It is now two years since my tryst on the other side of the Atlantic with the Voynich manuscript at Yale—has the love affair prospered? As with all such fleeting encounters, undernourished images of the beloved tend to dim ardour following an initial passion. The black-and-white reproductions offered by the Beinecke Library are rather inadequate to maintain the appeal of a wrinkled and creased skin, beneath which, nevertheless, lies the charm of an
taking the risk that whoever the message was intended for would somehow, through luck or judgement, be able to recreate the correct arrangement), and look at the most important element of Newbold’s work on the Voynich manuscript, the discovery of the minute Greek shorthand characters that he found within each letter of the Voynichese alphabet. It was for this part of Newbold’s theory that Manly reserved his harshest criticism. The minute shorthand, that Newbold took such pains to identify, simply
among other distinguished sufferers from migraine . . . Two questions now arise. The first is whether Hildegard’s descriptions of her visions accord with accounts of migrainous phenomena. If they do, the second question is whether the visions are then reducible to this physiological cause.14 What is a migraine? It is not, as is so often the misapprehension of non-sufferers, simply a bad headache. In fact, although this is one of the physical manifestations that can be associated with a migraine
duplicitous hands at work? In other words, could the Voynich manuscript be a hoax? Others, as we shall see shortly, have toyed with this idea, but Michael Barlow in his article in Cryptologia has pointed out that, despite a sense of coherence in the Voynich manuscript, no experts from the fields of botany, astronomy, astrology, pharmacy, cryptography, or art and book historians can adduce anything other than nonsense in it from their perspective.1 Barlow’s line of thought is clear: some agency