The Voynich Manuscript: From a mad world or outer space?
Copyright 2017, InterAmerica, Inc.
The New York Review of Books, April 20, 2017 issue has a exegetical review, by Eamon Duffy, of the new replicant issue of The Voynich Manuscript [Yale University Press, $50].
Reviewer Duffy is Emeritus Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Cambridge.
The Voynich Manuscript, as some of you know, is a mysterious book of scribbles – an unknown language? – and odd drawings, many of plants or herbs that are unknown to botanists.
The Manuscript was written or derives from the 15th Century but was originally thought to have been a work of Roger Bacon, the 13th Century Franciscan polymath. (Various testings, such as carbon dating, proved that the work comes from the 1400s, thus Bacon could not have been its author.)
The book (manuscript) was bought by Wilfred Michael Voynich, a Polish-Lithuanian bookdealer and adventurer, Professor Duffy tells us; Voynich acquiring the work from the library of Athanasius Kircher, a 17th Century Jesuit polymath.
The manuscript has had several owners with the Yale getting it from Hans Peter Kraus, in 1969, after a circuitous raft of owners who tried diligently to decipher it or get it deciphered.
The first 130 pages consist of the “herbal” drawings, “followed by a cluster of large foldout pages decorated with circular zodiacal or astrological diagrams, and this in turn gives way to a section of ten folios containing yet more unrecognizable text, interspersed with decidedly unerotic drawings … of plump naked women, bathing in pools and conduits of blue and green water.” [op. cit. Page 44]
Another group of large foldout pages with astronomical images followed by more “herbal” images “embedded in the text … alongside objects … that resemble pharmacological jars … The books closing section consists of twenty-three pages of closely written text without illustration, made up of short paragraphs of just a few lines apiece, each paragraph prefaced by a star or asterisk.” [ibid, Page 44]
Wikipedia provides a lucid offering about the work:
Reviewer Duffy presents the view that the work may have been a Medieval hoax, to what purpose unknown.
He also writes “That leaves lunacy or lucre as possible motives [for the work’s creation]. Madness can’t entirely be ruled out: mania takes many forms, and a well-to-do obsessive convinced he (or she) held the key to great secrets might drive the production of such a compilation.” [ibid, Page 46]
The “herbals” or plants are not representative of anything botanistic on this planet: “Roots and branches bifurcate and then rejoin again to form a single stem … two separate stalks are joined by a single lateral branch or end in the same single leaf … slender stalks emerge from holes in the thick flat surfaces of toots that have been cut across like sawn tree trunks … and spiky leaves exactly mirror the forms of the same plant’s improbable roots.” [ibid, Pages 45/46]
So, we have a unique work – a manuscript – that may have come from a “brilliant” mad person, or from another mad world, (in another dimension or on a planet elsewhere), a world where plants do not grow as they do here.
The Voynich Manuscript is one of those mysteries that have intrigued scholars, vibrantly, in ways that UFOs haven’t.
But is the “manuscript” an artifact left on Earth by visitors from afar, or another universe abutting ours?
Or is it merely a wonderfully creative fake from the mind of a person too creative to have lived in the Middle Ages?