On her wonderful page of "Famous Unsolved Codes and Ciphers" the game developer and recreational code-cracker Elonka Dunin describes the Voynich Manuscript, which is written in an as-yet uncrackable cipher:
At least 600 years old, this is a 232-page illuminated manuscript entirely written in a secret script. It is filled with copious drawings of unidentified plants, herbal recipes of some sort, astrological diagrams, and many small human figures in strange plumbing-like contraptions. Carbon-dated to the early 1400s, it was brought to modern attention in 1912 when it was purchased by Wilfrid Voynich from the collections at the Villa Mondragone, near Rome. Color images of all of the pages can be seen at archive.org and Yale's Beinecke Library website (the current owner of the manuscript). The script is unlike anything else in existence, but is written in a confident style, seemingly by someone who was very comfortable with it.
On Friday, May 11, a celebration commemorating the 100th anniversary of the re-discovery of the Voynich manuscript will take place in Rome. The program includes a number of presentations about the history of the Voynich manuscript, forensic investigations, word structure and statistical analysis, and an interpretation of its unusual drawings.
If any Boing Boing readers are attending, we'd love a report!
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects