I love #FolkloreThursday on Twitter because I love folklore and myth.
But most of all, I love mysteries. On the assumption that some of you might, I’m going to share one of my favourite mysteries each Thursday.
…when I’m not sharing dinosaur/helicopter erotica or whinging about my cats.
Today’s post features the Voynich Manuscript.
The Voynich manuscript is named after the Polish book lover who purchased it in auction in the early 20th century, but it was written in the early 15th, as proved by carbon dating.
So what’s the big mystery?
Nobody knows what the hell it is because we can’t decipher the code it’s written in.
People have been trying for almost fifty years to crack the code. Not just amateur codebreakers but the best minds of the first and second world wars.
All of them have failed. None have even come close.
Analysis suggests it is a real language–the patterns of its letters, the level of repetition, the pairings, the sheer length of the thing suggests it isn’t just nonsense. Its complexity is similar to many real languages, as is its composition.
Yet the best codebreakers in the world haven’t been able to translate even a single sentence.
Perhaps even more baffling than this undecipherable cipher is the manuscript’s purpose. Who on earth went to the lengths of creating an entire language and, more intriguingly, why? Who was supposed to read the manuscript, and how when the code is so complex?
Interspersed with the impenetrable text are strange drawings that combine known plants, unknown plants and naked ladies in a decidedly disturbing fashion:
Is it a botanical guide?
A fantasy novel set in a world where naked ladies grow on plants?
Perhaps it’s a first edition of the Little Shop of Horrors?
Or perhaps it’s an early advert. “Expert” advertisers these days seem to think naked ladies are the answer to every campaign.
Or maybe it’s a guide to astronomy:
Maybe it’s the most elaborate practical joke in the world. Considering its length, and the expense of vellum in the 15th century, this is perhaps the least likely explanation of all.
And who wrote it? There are theories ranging from Roger Bacon to Antonio Averlino. The truth is, we probably won’t know until we crack the code.
Some of the manuscript is lost but 240 pages (approximately 9×6 inches) have been analysed, PDFed and are available for anyone who wishes to try and crack the code: https://archive.org/details/TheVoynichManuscript (NOTE: I haven’t downloaded it or checked this source so don’t blame me if it installs 74,203 viruses on your computer which then starts growing strange naked-woman-plants that eat you in the night.)
So, what do you think the manuscript is?
Will you be the one to crack the code?
I won’t. I can’t even bear looking at English in Comic Sans let alone an unknown language in calligraphy. But part of me hopes the manuscript will be translated in my lifetime.
A smaller part hopes it won’t. We need to keep a little mystery in the world.