When I claim that a Mysterious Medieval manuscript is still being deconstructed, studied and confounding the people of today, it sounds a little hard to believe isn’t it? With the advancements of science and technology being at its apogee in this day and age, how is it that an encrypted piece of writing has been as elusive as can be?
In 1912, Wilfrid Voynich, a Polish-American antiquarian and bibliophile, discovered a cryptic codex - The Voynich manuscript, amidst a pile of manuscripts in Villa Mondragone in Italy. It is thought to have been written in the 15th or 16th century. The mysterious aspect is that no one knows who the original author is or what language the manuscript is written in. Ever since it was discovered, scientists and scholars have been trying to decipher the text but have made only a little progress. While the language or code used in the book is still an enigma, the elaborate illustrations provided within has helped divide the book into six sections - botany or herbal-science, astronomy and astrology, balneology or biology, cosmology, pharmaceutical, and continuous pages of text with short entries thought to be recipes of some kind.
The first and the large section of the manuscript contains 113 detailed illustrations of plants and herbs, some of which exist, while the others have been elusive.
The second section was identified as astronomy by the drawings of the arrangement of stars, the sun and the moon, and zodiac symbols. The third section features many women immersed in fluids and interconnected tubes. And the next section composes the drawings of nine medallions filled with stars and other shapes. The fifth section contains representations of plants and herbs again, but this time, enclosed in jars or bottles.
That the codex showed multiple letter-like styles repeatedly leads to the conclusion that it holds either a language that existed eons ago, a cryptic message, or a language invented by the anonymous author. However, the hypothesis that it might be a hoax cannot be rejected. By analyzing the illustrations, especially the plants, some existing species were identified and their names were compared to the respective word given below the drawings. In 2017, it was disclosed that most of the texts and illustrations were plagiarized from two medieval Latin books. The ownership of this manuscript has been contested, but it's believed to have been under the care of Emperor Rudolf II after he bought it for 600 Ducats, then went to the care of Jacobus Horcicki, followed by Johannes Marcus Marci, Georg Baresch, and finally Wilfrid Voynich.
The script is hypothesized to be a codebook cipher, shorthand, glossolalia, a constructed language, or written in an ancient Indo-European or Asian language. Ten people have claimed to have decoded the script as of now, the latest being that it's written in calligraphic Proto-Romance language. The text comprises over 170,000 characters where 8,114 of them are considered to be unique.
Sometimes, a common word seems to appear about thrice in a row. The general impression of the manuscript, however, is that it addresses medieval medicine. Only with more research and evidence, may we arrive at a conclusion- whether this book might be an infrangible encryption or merely a well-orchestrated hoax.