Let me back up for a second. Life is full of conspiratorial nutjobs chasing grumkins and snarks in the shadows, and looking for hidden wisdom and "ancient astronomers"; healing crystals and magic pyramids, where frankly no evidence exists to support these wild claims (like, for instance, unschooling).
But, occasionally, nature or accidents of history churn out something so freaky, so bizarre and mysterious that it begs to be explored.
Such is the case of the Voynich Manuscript.
What is the Manuscript? Good question, no one really knows. And the reason that no one knows is because it describes plants and animals that do not exist, in strange milieus unknown in 15th Century Europe. And, worst of all, is a a language that we cannot read, cannot decipher, yet is incredibly consistent throughout. And, it's illuminated and illustrated.
Looks like Friday at my house...
Let the good ole' Wiki explain the linguistic style of this one:
The text consists of over 170,000 discrete glyphs, usually separated from each other by narrow gaps. Most of the glyphs are written with one or two simple pen strokes. While there is some dispute as to whether certain glyphs are distinct or not, an alphabet with 20–30 glyphs would account for virtually all of the text; the exceptions are a few dozen rarer characters that occur only once or twice each.
Wider gaps divide the text into about 35,000 "words" of varying length.
These seem to follow phonological or orthographic laws of some sort e.g. certain characters must appear in each word (like English vowels), some characters never follow others, some may be doubled or tripled but others may not, etc.
And, the subject matter:
The illustrations of the manuscript shed little light on the precise nature of its text but imply that the book consists of six "sections", with different styles and subject matter. Except for the last section, which contains only text, almost every page contains at least one illustration. Following are the sections and their conventional names:
- Each page displays one plant (sometimes two) and a few paragraphs of text—a format typical of European herbals of the time. Some parts of these drawings are larger and cleaner copies of sketches seen in the "pharmaceutical" section (below). None of the plants depicted are unambiguously identifiable.
- Contains circular diagrams, some of them with suns, moons, and stars, suggestive of astronomy or astrology. One series of 12 diagrams depicts conventional symbols for the zodiacal constellations (two fish for Pisces, a bull for Taurus, a hunter with crossbow for Sagittarius, etc.). Each of these has 30 women figures arranged in two or more concentric bands. Most of the females are at least partly naked, and each holds what appears to be a labeled star or is shown with the star attached by what could be a tether or cord of some kind to either arm. The last two pages of this section (Aquarius and Capricornus, roughly January and February) were lost, while Aries and Taurus are split into four paired diagrams with 15 women and 15 stars each. Some of these diagrams are on fold-out pages.
- A dense continuous text interspersed with figures, mostly showing small naked women bathing in pools or tubs connected by an elaborate network of pipes, some of them clearly shaped like body organs. Some of the women wear crowns.
- Many short paragraphs, each marked with a flower- or star-like "bullet".
Pharmacopiea? Madman's rantings? Who knows....
So, know one knows who wrote this tome, what language it's in, why there are plants from the New World in a 15th Century manuscript, much less how cellular anatomy came into play.
But, at least now, thanks to Carbon 14-Isotope dating, we do, in fact, know when it was written: drumroll please....
According to Physorg
University of Arizona researchers have cracked one of the puzzles surrounding what has been called "the world's most mysterious manuscript" – the Voynich manuscript, a book filled with drawings and writings nobody has been able to make sense of to this day.
Using radiocarbon dating, a team led by Greg Hodgins in the UA's department of physics has found the manuscript's parchment pages date back to the early 15th century, making the book a century older than scholars had previously thought. (specifically 1404-1438).
Again, we have no idea what its purpose was, but as one of the Ariz. U profs conjectures, and I think it's just as likely as any other reason:
"The text shows strange characteristics like repetitive word use or the exchange of one letter in a sequence," he says. "Oddities like that make it really hard to understand the meaning."
"There are types of ciphers that embed meaning within gibberish. So it is possible that most of it does mean nothing. There is an old cipher method where you have a sheet of paper with strategically placed holes in it. And when those holes are laid on top of the writing, you read the letters in those holes."
"Who knows what's being written about in this manuscript, but it appears to be dealing with a range of topics that might relate to alchemy. Secrecy is sometimes associated with alchemy, and so it would be consistent with that tradition if the knowledge contained in the book was encoded. What we have are the drawings.
Just look at those drawings: Are they botanical? Are they marine organisms? Are they astrological? Nobody knows."
I'm sticking with alchemy...
Anyway, just an awesome little piece of news about one of the most awesome, mysterious objects on the planet today.