Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Just as mysterious as the Turin Shroud is the Voynich Manuscript (enter Voynich into the search string), a handwritten and illustrated book which is likely to also have been created in the early 15th century by author/s unknown. It is written in a language or code that, despite extensive research and theorising, to this day nobody has identified or deciphered. The book's contents appear to be subdivided into several sections that cover areas such as the astronomical, pharmaceutical, biological and so forth - indeed many of the favoured topics of the era's alchemists.

As you begin to survey its pages, the pareidolia kicks in hard as you vainly try and make sense of it all; just as the potential value of its meanings and revelations increase in direct ratio to its tantalising incomprehensibility. It's an undeniably fascinating process. Yet not only must we accept ignorance of what's being said, in what language or code, we neither know whether it says anything at all.

In the case of the Voynich Manuscript, the range of theories put forward are impossibly, exquisitely balanced between the plausible and implausible. Exotic, hybrid, or constructed language? Meaningful or meaningless? Glossolalia? Outright hoax, ancient or modern? None of them entirely convincing, yet all make a little bit of sense. To each our final preference, to each our personally honed romantic notion.

In contrast are the shelves of texts and books for which we'll never demonstrate the slightest interest, their crime merely to be in a familiar acculturalised form.



Sypha said...

One of the more amusing theories I've seen is a short story written by Colin Wilson which suggests (somewhat tongue in cheek) that the Voynich manuscript is in fact the Necronomicon!

Jeff said...

The University of Arizona via radiocarbon dating has placed it in the 15th century.

Another confusing and much older mystery is the Gobekli Tepe temple:

William Bennett said...

thanks, Sypha! is it part of a published anthology?