The Voynich Manuscript
Raymond Clemens (editor), Deborah Harkness (introduction).
Beinecke Rare Book andManuscript Library & Yale University Press, 2016.
The first authorised copy of this mysterious, much-speculated-upon, one-of-a-kind, centuries-old puzzle
Many call the fifteenth-century codex, commonly known as the “Voynich Manuscript,” the world’s most mysterious book. Written in an unknown script by an unknown author, the manuscript now has no more apparent purpose than when it was rediscovered in 1912 by rare books dealer Wilfrid Voynich. The manuscript appears and disappears throughout history, from the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II’s library to a secret sale of books in 1903 by the Society of Jesus in Rome. The book’s language has eluded decipherment, and its elaborate illustrations remain as baffling as beautiful. For the first time, this facsimile, complete with intricate folding sections, allows readers to explore this enigma in all its stunning detail, from its one-of-a-kind “Voynichese” text to its illustrations of otherworldly plants, unfamiliar constellations, and naked women swimming through fantastical tubes and green baths.
The essays that accompany the manuscript explain what we have learned about this work—from alchemical, cryptographic, forensic, and historical perspectives—but they provide few definitive answers. Instead, as New York Times best-selling author Deborah Harkness says in her introduction, the book “invites the reader to join us at the heart of the mystery.”
This complete reproduction is a rare volume that offers the mysteries of the text and images to a broader audience. The paper quality is first-class, and the reproduction seems to be done with precision. A much-recommended book for all those who love to dwell on bookish puzzles.