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John Foster

The Voynich Manuscript


Recently, in The New Yorker online, I read a fascinating article by Reed Johnson relaying his description of a rare and undecipherable manuscript said to have been written and illustrated more than six centuries ago. Reed tells the story of the modern discovery of the manuscript in 1912 by Wilfred Voynich, a rare book dealer who found the tattered manuscript in Rome. The wonderfully maddening aspect of this book is that, despite the best efforts of cryptologists and code breakers — not a word has ever been officially declared deciphered.

The manuscript includes muted watercolor drawings of plants, herbs, astronomical diagrams, and odd human figures that are as otherworldly as the undecipherable text. While some of the plants may appear familiar, we quickly realize that these illustrations seem to emerge and take shape from a Hieronymus Bosch-styled artist who lives in his own garden of earthly delights.

You can see the entire Voynich manuscript online at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.


The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript

Posted in: Accidental Mysteries, Books, History, Illustration

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