The Voynich Question

History of the Manuscript
A book collector, Wilfrid Voynich, (after whom the manuscript is named) bought the medieval manuscript from the Jesuit College in Italy in 1912. Despite the efforts of various cryptologists and scholars, the manuscript remained unread but has been called the "Voynich manuscript" since then. The book was donated to Yale University in 1969 by H. P. Kraus where it remains to date at the Beinecke Rare Book Library with catalog number MS 408. It is possible to view the Voynich Manuscript by visiting this web page: http://www.voynichinfo.com/
 
When it was found in 1912 by Voynich, a letter from Johannes Marcus Marci to Athanasius Kircher (a Jesuit priest and scholar in Rome) dated 1666 was still attached to the manuscript. In that letter, (http://www.voynich.nu/letters.html#mm66) Marci mentioned that the manuscript was bought by Emperor Rudolph II of Bohemia (1552-1612) for 600 ducats (a very large amount in those days for a manuscript).

Marci also tells that the un-named previous owner believed the author was Roger Bacon, the 13th century Franciscan monk, philosopher, mathematician, and alchemist. Bacon frequently referred in his works to the necessity of hiding his great secrets in cipher. That's the reason why the manuscript is sometimes also called a "Roger Bacon's cipher."
 
 Owners or influences  Life span   Events/Evidence
Roger Bacon?  1214-1292 Raphael told Marci, mentioned in the 1666 Marci letter to Kircher (Beinecke MS 408A)
John Dudley (Duke of Northumberland) ?  1502-1553 Suggested by M. Voynich who knew Dee
John Dee  1527-1608 Visited Rudolph II, collected Bacon's work, had 630 ducats in 1586 (while in Prague: 1582-1589). Prof A. G. Watson suggested foliation numbers were Dee's. See here for R. Prinke's detailed analysis
Emperor Rudolph II  1552-1612 Paid 600 ducats for the Ms. Thought to be Bacon's Ms. Raphael told Marci, all mentioned in the Marci letter (Beinecke MS 408A)
Jacobus de Tepenecz  1575-1622 Signature found by Voynich in folio 1r. Received title in 1608, left Prague in 1619
 Georg Baresch 1590?-1662? 1637 & 1639 Baresch letters to Kircher describing the MS (APUG 557 [353r-354v], 1640 Marci letter to Kircher (APUG 557 [127r-127v]
 Johannes Marcus Marci  1595-1667 1666 letter to Kircher presenting the MS
 Athanasius Kircher  1602-1680 1666 Marci's letter, 1667 Kinner's letter (APUG 562 [151r-151v]
 Some Jesuit archive

 ?-?
During the Italian Civil War, many Jesuit possessions were moved and stored for safety
 Petrus Beckx  1795-1884 Some manuscripts sold to Voynich with the VMS had belonged to his "private library."
 Villa Mondragone

  -
Ms. bought by Voynich in 1912 (with other manuscripts) from Villa Mondragone. Location kept secret, but revealed by Ethel Voynich in a letter opened after her death.
 Wilfrid M. Voynich  1865-1930 Bought it (with other manuscripts) in 1912 from the Villa Mondragone
 Ethel L. Voynich  1864-1960 Inherited it in 1930. [Co-owned with Ms. Nill?: Friedman letter to Strong (c1945) not sure]
 Anne M. Nill  1894-1961? Inherited it in 1960. Anne M. Nill's birthday, thanks to R. Prinke tracking down the Ellis Island docs: 12 Jan 1894 (Buffalo NY)
 Hans P. Kraus  1907-1988 Bought it on 12 July, 1961
 Yale Univeristy

 -
Received as a gift from H. P. Kraus in 1969. Current owner
 
A more detailed chart of the history of the Voynich manuscript can be found at: http://web.bham.ac.uk/g.landini/evmt/owners.htm


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