The Most Baffling Book Ever Written- The Voynich Manuscript, 1400s

The Voynich Manuscript has professional code breakers scratching their heads even now trying to decipher its meaning, filled as it is with exquisite illustrations and an unknown language.

The Voynich Manuscript is possibly written in a proto-Romance language (

A book was once written that’s had everyone from cryptographers to professional code breakers scratching their heads in bemusement. Who wrote it, What does it mean, or even, what language is it written in? No one really knows.

The Voynich Manuscript, named after a Pole who purchased it in 1912, has been carbon-dated from the early 15th Century. It’s a fantastic piece of craftsmanship — too good to be some prank. It’s over 240 pages long and written in a language which no one’s been able to identify and crammed with 6 types of exquisitely drawn illustrations:

  • Plant/herbal — none of which have been clearly identified.
  • Astronomical/Astrological — includes suns, stars, moons, some symbols of zodiac signs and female figures arranged in concentric bands.
  • Balneological — dense text interspersed with images of small nude women.
  • Cosmological — circular diagrams, includes a 6 page foldout with a possible map of islands or ‘rosettes’ connected by ‘causeways’ with castles and a possible volcano.
  • Pharmaceutical — many labelled drawings of plant parts ranging from the mundane to the fantastical.
  • There’s also a recipe section.

Very weird. The best guess for its purpose is that it was a kind of medieval technical manual to cover medieval or early modern medicine. 

Experts speculate that the Voynich Manuscript contains a meaningful text in some European language that has been hidden in the VM ‘alphabet’ through a cypher of some sort; this was the working hypothesis for most 20th-century deciphering attempts, including an informal team of NSA cryptographers led by William F. Friedman in the early 1950s.

In recent years, further research by a scholar at the University of Bristol, England has revealed the book is possibly written in a proto-Romance language that was spoken centuries ago and is the forerunner of modern languages like Spanish, Italian, French and Portuguese. And the scholar theorises that Dominican nuns compiled the manuscript as a reference book for Maria of Castile, Queen of Aragon—Catherine of Aragon’s great-aunt.

As of 2019, however, this research is also far from conclusive and the mystery of the Manuscript remains, for now.


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