Nothing can be more strange and mysterious than the Voynich Manuscript, which dates back to about six centuries ago. So many scholars and scientists were obsessed with deciphering this bizarre 600-year old manuscript that puzzles them; cryptographers, physicists, and computer scientists.
The Voynich manuscript, named after Wilfrid Voynich, a Polish–Samogitian book dealer who purchased it in 1912, is an illustrated codex hand-written in an unreadable language, whose pages are partly missing; it is a roughly 240-page medieval codex brimming with bizarre drawings of esoteric plants, naked women; some wearing crowns, bathing in pools or tubs connected by an elaborate network of pipes, and astrological symbols. Every page in the manuscript contains texts, mostly in an unidentified language, but some have extraneous writing in Latin script. Much of the text is written in a single column in the body of a page, with a slightly ragged right margin and paragraph divisions and sometimes with stars in the left margin. Other texts occur in charts or as labels associated with illustrations. There are no indications of any errors or corrections made at any place in the document.
The overall impression given by the surviving leaves of the manuscript is that it was meant to serve as a pharmacopoeia or to address topics in medieval or early modern medicine. However, the puzzling details of illustrations have fueled many theories about the book’s origin, the contents of its text, and the purpose for which it was intended.
Whatever the paleographic explanation for Voynich manuscript might be, since the fifteenth century C.E., this manuscript has attracted attention. Researchers, such as William and Elizabeth Friedman, who were best known for cipher-breaking, applied codebreaker techniques to the manuscript, but never landed a solution to the Voynich.
Robert Richards, a historian of science, compared the Voynich text to the inscrutable language used by aliens landing on Earth in the 2016 film, Arrival. According to him, there is a probability that the texts written in the Voynich manuscript is not really a language at all, since it’s so far outside our linguistic paradigm. Richards suggested that it means something, but can only be understood if translated into our language. Who knows, he says of the Voynich manuscript: “It may be, after all, just a medieval nonsense joke.’’
Over the years, a train of researchers have come up with different speculations with claims to have cracked its secrets. However, none of the claims of a Voynich solution proved confirmable; they have either been ignored or debunked by other independent bodies, media outlets, and Voynich obsessives.
In the end, the manuscript has proved to be an unexplained mystery.