The Voynich Question

The Voynich Manuscript (VMS) manuscript contains 232 pages plus a good number of fold-out pages. (246 page quarto). It is small in size, approximately 15 by 22 centimeters and contains around 40 thousand words. Thirty three pages contain only text while the other 212 pages contain text and drawings. The manuscript has a limp vellum cover, once attached with leather throngs, and paper end leaves. The cover is blank: it does not indicate any title or author. It is currently housed at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

 The manuscript is written in an elegant, but otherwise unknown language script and the illustrations are of unknown plants, systems of tubes transporting liquids and populated by tiny naked ladies, and illustrations of various sorts of cycles. The illustrations appear to be unique to this manuscript. There appear to be few mistakes (i.e. no crossed out bits or corrections). The writing is neat, with good rows, although the spacing around some of the illustrations is a bit tight.

(In the illustration on the left, the top right hand seems to be right-justified.)

The title, author, language, and the alphabet are all unknown. The subject is also unknown but some researchers have surmised from the variety of illustrations, that the text is sectioned into herbal, astronomical, biological, pharmaceutical, and recipe parts.

The Voynich manuscript dates back into the Middle Ages, but it may have been produced as a copy of a much older manuscript. At first glance, it appears to be typical of the many manuscripts that were produced by scribes or monks in the years before the printing press. The first character of many paragraphs is enlarged and decorated.

Dennis Stallings states on his web page ( that the date of the VMS is most likely the late 1400's because of the script's similarity to a "humanist hand" style that was only used during several decades of the 1400's. The nymphs' hair styles point to 1480-1520.

There is a signature on one of the pages, dating to 1608. The book was obviously produced before this date. The signature is most likely that of one of the many owners of the book as it passed from hand to hand through history.

The Voynich Manuscript(VMS) was deemed "The Most Mysterious Manuscript in the World" by Harper's Monthly magazine in 1921.

Most researchers feel that the document is a copy. It is too neat and too well laid out to be a first copy. The look of the pages, especially around the images, has the appearance of someone trying to put words where they should be, not necessarily where they fit nicely. The presence of two hands indicates either two different people performing the copy, or one person performing the copying over a long period of time. The language/style differences may also reflect differences in the original document, or the presence of two copyists. A single author does not usually preclude a change in style. It is distinctly possible that the manuscript may be a copy of an earlier copy that may have been a copy of an even earlier copy and so on. There is no possible method to date the original copy, as the text has not yet been translated. If this is a very old book, going back to the time of the Roman Empire then this copy may be many copies removed from the original. During the production of a new copy, various small changes may have been introduced. If the original language was not known, then the copyists would inevitably try and create their own interpretation of the original alphabet which they would use throughout the book. As the manuscript was copied down through the centuries, the individual characters in the book may have evolved. The severity of this would depend on the skill and dedication of each of the copiests. Secondly, as the illustrations had to be copied, small changes may have taken place here as well, as they would have taken on a more 'modern' interpretation. The copyists would have to redraw all of the artwork, and replace the text around it. Since the language of the book was unknown, it would have been very hard to spot textual errors. It is possible to view the Voynich Manuscript by visiting this web page:

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