Voynich Manuscript online

Avi sez, "Yale's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library has put complete high resolution scans of the enigmatic, undeciphered Voynich Manuscript online."

Written in Central Europe at the end of the 15th or during the 16th century, the origin, language, and date of the Voynich Manuscript—named after the Polish-American antiquarian bookseller, Wilfrid M. Voynich, who acquired it in 1912—are still being debated as vigorously as its puzzling drawings and undeciphered text. Described as a magical or scientific text, nearly every page contains botanical, figurative, and scientific drawings of a provincial but lively character, drawn in ink with vibrant washes in various shades of green, brown, yellow, blue, and red.

Based on the subject matter of the drawings, the contents of the manuscript falls into six sections: 1) botanicals containing drawings of 113 unidentified plant species; 2) astronomical and astrological drawings including astral charts with radiating circles, suns and moons, Zodiac symbols such as fish (Pisces), a bull (Taurus), and an archer (Sagittarius), nude females emerging from pipes or chimneys, and courtly figures; 3) a biological section containing a myriad of drawings of miniature female nudes, most with swelled abdomens, immersed or wading in fluids and oddly interacting with interconnecting tubes and capsules; 4) an elaborate array of nine cosmological medallions, many drawn across several folded folios and depicting possible geographical forms; 5) pharmaceutical drawings of over 100 different species of medicinal herbs and roots portrayed with jars or vessels in red, blue, or green, and 6) continuous pages of text, possibly recipes, with star-like flowers marking each entry in the margins.



  1. One time I tried to go through and catalogue every doodle I’d made during high school, just sifting through my notes and taking pictures of each doodle to preserve them for posterity. That project ended up looking almost exactly like this.

    Mystery solved.

  2. I am starting to think that maybe it is merely the medieval Czech analog to John Hodgman’s “Areas Of My Expertise”.

  3. As an art teacher I used to set a yearly project where students made their own artist’s book containing an (indecipherable) personal secret and in my opening talk I used pages from the Voynich manuscript as a launch-point. 
    I don’t think there’s much doubt that it was a mediaeval hoax of some sort but those little female figures in their weird settings (plus the cryptic script) never failed to fascinate.

  4. Looks like a good candidate for the holy text of a new religion.

    If you’re going to use an old science book as a fixed and indefinite source of knowledge, it might as well have some actual science in it.

  5. As a unusual piece of artwork, the book is wonderful. I love the idea of finding some strange, seemingly legitimate tome from another world, outlining their alien botany and ideas about astronomy. The wonder and sense of mystery it inspires appears to be the whole point of its existence, as we already know that the reference imagery inside is pure fancy. The manuscript is a great idea for a way to bridge the gap between reality and some imaginary world.

  6. I used to know a guy who was also an artist and one of his coolest projects involved making cement casts of tablets bearing pictograms and languages of his own creation. Several dozens of these are now buried throughout the NE united states awaiting future archeologists.

    Good times.

  7. I was always fond of the theory that it was a hoax, albeit an ancient hoax, essentially a gaffed-up fake science book someone created to make themselves look learned in the eyes of their peers and/or victims.

  8. to me it really looks like someone needed to have a scientific text for some reason, but said person, despite their skills as a book maker, could only produce something that had the appearances of a genuine scientific work only to the uninitiated.

    the text appears quite similar to the easter island ‘rongorongo’ script which was most likely an experiment to replicate the power of written communication. many societies that hadn’t been exposed to writing were convinced that those who had were capable of telepathy.

    compare the voynich manuscript with strabo’s  de cultura hortorum sive hortulus


  9. Actually, the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library first posted the hi-res images back in 2006.

    Oh and personally, I like to read the Voynich Manuscript for its incisive political commentary, the naked women are just a bonus. ;-)

    1. Thanks for clarifying that. But the introduction and image set browser seems to be more recent. I remember it being notoriously difficult to link to individual images from the Beinecke digital library (having used it since 2004 for accessing materials).

  10. The Beinecke is a beautiful building and a wonderful place to visit. It’s free and open to the public. Check it out!

  11. I’m pretty sure this is just one of the books Thomas Messenger left behind during his journey through the Vellum.

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