An elaborate ruse by a Charlatan to fool a client during a time when Alchemy was at its prime? Or could it possibly be a language no one has ever seen before, and will lay hidden until its author is revealed? One of the mysterious of all texts, the Voynich Manuscript has remained untranslated for several centuries. Considered at the time of discovery a small but thick book, this leather-bound tome was approximately 7 inches by 10 inches, and held over 200 pages. The pages themselves hold what are thought to be herbal depictions of unidentified plants, astronomical drawings depicting many nude women and zodiac constellations. Some pages have biological drawings of tubs with intricate piping network that seem to depict body organs with nude woman bathing, and short paragraphs marked with star-like “bullets” that could be recipes. They also contain circular diagrams that seem to be cosmological in nature, and pharmaceutical depictions of plant parts with texts.
None of the texts have been seen anywhere else in the world, and has intrigued those that have seen its pages or heard of its existence. Unlike the Rosetta stone, there is no other language that is discernible to those attempting to decipher its code. The finest of the American and British “code-breakers” during World War II seemed to have failed.
(Re)Discovered in 1912 by an antique book dealer in a Jesuit College in Frascati, Italy, Wilfrid M. Voynich bought the book from the Jesuits. Later photographing and sending them out to experts around the world in an attempt to decipher the book and its many pages, Voynich failed to make any leeway as to what is actually contained in any of the texts itself.
However, a letter was found tucked in the manuscript written by Johannes Marcus Marci of Cronland to Athanasius Kircher that was dated 1665 or 1666 by Voynich. It states that the manuscript was originally purchased by Emperor Rudolph II of Bohemia, sometime around 1586, for a great sum of 600 ducats, or what some experts say would have been $14,000. In the letter, Marci asks Kircher to attempt to break the cipher, and mentions that Roger Bacon, a Franciscan Friar who lived from 1214-1294, may be a possible author of the manuscript.
The letter left very little clues to those who have tried to decipher the words in the manuscript. In fact, it left more questions to be answered. Questions that couldn’t be answered without knowing what the symbols in the book mean. This brought about questions of who wrote it and to what purpose? Although Voynich went about to prove that that Roger Bacon was indeed the author of the book, many theories have been presented. These theories have included anything from Leonardo da Vinci to a massive hoax on a very historical scale.
The theory that Roger Bacon wrote the manuscript has been debunked by carbon dating in 2009, which puts the vellum of the book to the early 15th century. Well after Roger Bacon’s lifetime in the 13th century. It is with the C14 dating of the early 15th century that would probably exclude Leonardo da Vinci as its author, since he would either be a very small child (if the carbon dating was off by decades) or was yet to be born.
That leaves the possibility of a hoax. As before, if the carbon dating is accurate, what would possess a person to go through such extensive work to fool others? Was it an elaborate ruse by a Charlatan to fool a client during a time when Alchemy was at its prime? Or could it possibly be a language no one has ever seen before, and will lay hidden until its author is revealed?