An "authorized" reproduction of the legendary Voynich Manuscript is finally available in print form, published by Yale University from new photographs taken for the purpose. Yale's Beinecke Library owns the document and has taken its sweet time putting out a decent art book. The quality is better than the popular "unauthorized" edition published last year; that one uses older scans widely available on the web, but I suppose was good enough to force the university's hand.
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The first authorized copy of this mysterious, much-speculated-upon, one-of-a-kind, centuries-old puzzle. The Voynich Manuscript is produced from new photographs of the entire original and accompanied by expert essays that invite anyone to understand and explore the enigma. Many call the fifteenth-century codex, commonly known as the “Voynich Manuscript,” the world’s most mysterious book. Written in an unknown script by an unknown author, the manuscript has no clearer purpose now than when it was rediscovered in 1912 by rare books dealer Wilfrid Voynich. The manuscript appears and disappears throughout history, from the library of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II to a secret sale of books in 1903 by the Society of Jesus in Rome. The book’s language has eluded decipherment, and its elaborate illustrations remain as baffling as they are beautiful. For the first time, this facsimile, complete with elaborate folding sections, allows readers to explore this enigma in all its stunning detail, from its one-of-a-kind “Voynichese” text to its illustrations of otherworldly plants, unfamiliar constellations, and naked women swimming though fantastical tubes and green baths.
In 1912, bookseller Wilfrid Voynich discovered an illustrated manuscript that was written in a mysterious alphabet that had never been seen before. The text bears the hallmarks of natural language, but no one has ever been able to determine its meaning. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll learn about the Voynich manuscript, which has been bewildering scholars for more than a century.
We'll also ponder some parliamentary hostages and puzzle over a tormenting acquisition.
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This high quality paperback reproduction of the Voynich Manuscript is lovely. You, and your guests, can take a stab at decoding this mystery!
Purchased 1912 by book dealer Wilfred Voynich, this 15th century manuscript remains a mystery today. The meaning of this manuscript has puzzled codebreakers for the last century. The 240 remaining pages are available for viewing online via the Yale Rare Book and Manuscript Library, but this $40 edition gives me something to sit and enjoy without staring at a screen.
The online scans are higher resolution than the print edition.
The Voynich Manuscript: Full Color Photographic Edition (Paperback) via Amazon Read the rest
The 600-year-old, strangely-illustrated Voynich Manuscript (which resides at Yale University) has been called the most mysterious manuscript in the world. Not a single word of the secret language has been decoded, at least not until now. Stephen Bax of the University of Bedfordshire says he has decoded ten words from the Voynich Manuscript. This seems to indicate that the document is not a hoax filled with nonsense words, as some scholars have concluded.
Stephen Bax, who teaches at the University of Bedfordshire, has produced a paper and a video where he details his theories on the text and provides translations of ten words from the manuscript, which are proper names of various plants that are depicted in the manuscript.
Professor Bax explains, “I hit on the idea of identifying proper names in the text, following historic approaches which successfully deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs and other mystery scripts, and I then used those names to work out part of the script.
I have not yet watch Bax's 47-minute video, above.
Voynich Manuscript partially decoded, text is not a hoax, scholar finds (Thanks, Gareth and Syd!) Read the rest
A page from Codex Seraphinianus, first published in 1981, an encyclopedia of an imaginary world.
Dangerous Minds interviews Rizzoli publishing house chief Charles Miers about a forthcoming new edition of "Codex Seraphinianus" and about Serafini himself. Mr. Miers is a long-term fan of the Codex and of Serafini's work. So are we.
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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!
Conference: VOYNICH 100 -- A Hundred Years from the Re-discovery at Villa Mondragone Read the rest
Avi sez, "Yale's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library has put complete high resolution scans of the enigmatic, undeciphered Voynich Manuscript online."
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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.
Scientists have carbon-dated the Voynich manuscript, a puzzling and beautiful document covered in botanical and scientific drawings. Named for the Polish-American bookseller who acquired it in 1912, its undeciphered text and purported 15th-16th century origins have long been a matter of controversy. So just how old is it?
According to the University of Arizona, the sample was dated to between 1404 and 1438, making it older than previously thought; it predates the Gutenberg bible, printed in 1453.
The dating team, led by Greg Hodgins in the university's physics department, did not decipher the language, itself hand-written in elegant "alien characters" on many of the manuscript's pages.
They used an accelerator mass spectrometer
to detect traces of carbon-14, a rare radioisotope found in plants and animals. As the rate of decay is predicable after the plant or animal dies, the concentration of carbon-14 in a sample of organic material is an accurate indicator of age. Four samples, each measuring about 1 by 6mm, were taken from four different pages of the manuscript, according to the university, then cleaned and burned to leave only its carbon content for analysis.
Inks on the document were also found to be consistent with colors available during the Renaissance, but it is not easy to date them.
"It would be great if we could directly radiocarbon date the inks, but it is actually really difficult to do. First, they are on a surface only in trace amounts" Hodgins said in a press release. "The carbon content is usually extremely low. Read the rest
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(Mark) Read the rest
Enjoy these high-res scans of the mysterious 16th-Century parchment book known as the Voynich Manuscript (which is likely to be a 500-year-old hoax
While there may be other reasons to suspect the Voynich Manuscript as
a hoax, Dr. Schinner's work reflects only a failed attempt to
cryptanalyze an encrypted message. Even truly awful cryptosystems will
emit a stream of numbers that will match a "quasi-random gibberish
generator". In fact, it's here that Dr. Schinner has a real problem:
Humans are notoriously awful at generating high quality entropy. So if
Dr. Schinner has in fact detected an excess of randomness in the
datastream, then he's shown the author had available to him the raw
materials necessary to encrypt an arbitrary message. Read the rest
The 500-year-old Voynich Manuscript, kept at Yale University, is a beautiful and mysterious parchment book filled with arcane symbols and coded handwriting. Ever since it was discovered, researchers have been trying -- and failing -- to decipher the text.
Some people suspect the Voynich Manuscript to be the work of a rascal by the name of Edward Kelley, who may have written it in the 16th century to make money. (Here's a good history of the Voynich Manuscript from the BBC.)
Now, an Austrian physicist and software engineer at the Johannes Kepler University reports that the Voynich Manuscript is likely to be a hoax. Dr Andreas Schinner analyzed the text and his findings suggest that it's gibbberish.
This does not prove that the manuscript is a hoax, but it strongly suggests that the hoax theory is correct. If there is meaningful coded material in the manuscript, then either:
* there is only a small amount, surrounded by large amounts of meaningless padding – otherwise the statistics would have come out differently, or
* if there is a large amount of meaningful coded material, then it must have been encoded using a method which just happens to produce the same statistical properties as a quasi-random gibberish generator.
Previously on Boing Boing:
• The Voynich Manuscript Read the rest
Could this be a project for distributed computing?
The Voynich manuscript is by far the most mysterious of all texts. It is seven by ten inches in size, and about 200 pages long. It is made of soft, light-brown vellum. It is written in a flowing cursive script in alphabet that has never been seen elsewhere. Nobody knows what it means. During World War II some of the top military code-breakers in America tried to decipher it, but failed. A professor at the University of Pennsylvania seems to have gone insane trying to figure it out. Though the manuscript was found in Italy, statistical analyses show the text is completely different in character from any European language.
(Thanks, Jeff!) Read the rest