Sunday, 23 February 2014


The unique and enigmatic Voynich Manuscript, a six century old pharmacopoeia, which supposedly only returned into the world's stacks after its purchase by a Polish antiquarian in 1912 when the papal college in Rome was forced to auction off some of its collection, may have at least been demonstrated as something other than a hoax, according to one British researcher.

The text still defies deciphering and the abugidas are beyond our compre- hension—even with the aid of bizarre illustrations, but the linguist may have puzzled out ten proper names for plants—apparently as recipes for herbal-cures. Theories abound about what the book could be about, from an encrypted treatise of medicine with secret cures transmitted from antiquity, an undiscovered language to a phonetic rendering of by a European scholar of some Asian text—like the transliteration of Mandarin into pinyin and the Latin alphabet or the addition of invented lower-case letters and punctuation for Ancient Greek texts, which originally had neither, by scholars and copyists—with shorthand and ligatures, that certainly would have appeared inscrutable to readers on either extreme of these aids for reading.  One can browse or download the scanned manuscript from the holdings at Yale, where the book resides.