Monthly Archives: February 2011

Voynich manuscript dated

Written anonymously in an indecipherable language using an unknown alphabet, the Voynich manuscript (Wikipedia) is one of our most mysterious historical texts. Slipping in and out of history, the text first surfaced during the 1600s when it entered the private collection Georg Baresch, an alchemist in Prague. Baresch considered the manuscript a useless waste of space, and contacted Athanasius Kircher, a scholar of language at the Collegio Ramano. When Baresch died, Jan Marek Marcia, a mutual friend and scholar, sent the manuscript to Kircher with a letter. The letter, dated 1665, disappeared along with the manuscript until 1912. At this time it was aquired by book dealer Wilfrid Voynich as part of a bulk purchase during a Collegio Ramano fundraising sale, with the 1665 letter still inside the front cover. Voynich died in 1930 and his wife maintained possession until her death in 1961. In 1969 the manuscript was donated to Yale University, where it remains.

Widely believed to be a cyphertext, the manuscript has thwarted codebreakers, linguists, cryptograhers, and all other comers. The many colorful images contained within allude to various scientific topics, such as biology and astronomy, but none of this can be substantiated without deciphering the text. The only widely accepted assumption about the manuscript is that it was written in the 1400s. Until recently, this was supported by analysing the style of the drawings and appearance of the people portrayed in them. Now, a group of researchers at the University of Arizona have proven the accuracy of this date. Through carbon dating, these researchers have narrowed the creation of the manuscript to somewhere between 1404 and 1438. This discovery will hopefully lead to further insight in to the origins and meaning of the Voynich manuscript.

Read more about carbon dating the manuscript at PHYSORG.

Example of the Voynich manuscript.