|2.||Description of the manuscript|
|3.||Origin of the manuscript|
|4.||Known history of the manuscript|
|5.||Past analysis and proposed solutions|
|6.||Analysis of the illustrations|
|7.||Analysis of the writing (script)|
|8.||Analysis of the text|
The long tour follows the same topics as the short tour, but addresses these topics more deeply. Readers of the long tour should already have a basic knowledge about the Voynich MS, at the level provided in the short tour.
cumque in mea Bibliotheca Sphinx quaedam, Scripturae incognitorum characterum inutiliter occupasset locum, ...
Ex pictura herbarum, quarum plurimus est in Codice numerus, imaginum diversarum, Astrorum, aliarumque rerum, faciem chymicorum arcanorum referentium, conjicio totum esse medicinalem; (1)
When, in 1639, the Prague citizen Georg Baresch wrote to the famous Jesuit
scientist Athanasius Kircher that he owned a mysterious book which was written in an
unknown script and profusely illustrated with pictures of plants, stars and
alchemical secrets, he thought that Kircher would be able to decipher this book
for him. He could not have guessed that not only was Kircher unable to do this,
but that a long row of vastly more expert codebreakers were equally going to fail.
The book has come down to us and even now, more than 360 years later, not a
single word from its 234 pages can be understood.
Nor was Baresch the first to attempt in vain to read the MS. Before him, various scientists which the Holy Roman emperor Rudolf II collected at his court may well have tried their hand.
The book is now known as the Voynich manuscript (MS), after its (re)discoverer in 1912. The discovery of the MS by Wilfrid Voynich is best told by himself:
In 1912 [...] I came across a most remarkable collection of preciously illuminated manuscripts. For many decades these volumes had lain buried in the chests in which I found them in an ancient castle in Southern Europe where the collection had apparently been stored in consequence of the disturbed political condition of Europe in the early part of the nineteenth century.
While examining the manuscripts, with a view to the acquisition of at least a part of the collection, my attention was especially drawn by one volume. It was such an ugly duckling compared with the other manuscripts, with their rich decorations in gold and colors, that my interest was aroused at once. I found that it was written entirely in cipher. Even a necessarily brief examination of of the vellum upon which it was written, the calligraphy, the drawings and the pigments suggested to me as the origin the latter part of the thirteenth century. The drawings indicated it to be an encyclopedic work on natural philosophy.
the fact that this was a thirteenth century manuscript in cipher convinced me that it must be a work of exceptional importance, and to my knowledge the existence of a manuscript of such an early date written entirely in cipher was unkown, so I included it among the manuscripts which I purchased from this collection.
two problems presented themselves - the text must be unravelled and the history of the manuscript must be traced.
It was not until some time after the manuscript came into my hands that I read the document bearing the date 1665 (or 1666) (2) , which was attached to the front cover.
This document, which is a letter from Joannes Marcus Marci to Athanasius Kircher making a gift of the manuscript to him, is of great significance
The Prague doctor and scientist Johannes Marcus Marci had been a faithful correspondent to Athanasius Kircher for over 25 years, and shortly before his death he sent the MS to Kircher. In the letter (3) he explains how he had inherited the MS from a close friend, who had tried to decipher this MS till the very end of his life, and had also asked for Kircher's help. He further explains that he learned from one 'Dr. Raphael' how the MS was originally bought by the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II of Bohemia (1552-1612) for 600 ducats, and that it was believed (at least by Raphael) that the MS was written by Roger Bacon.
Voynich wanted to have the mysterious manuscript deciphered and provided photographic copies to a number of experts. However, despite some spectacular claims, none of the proposed solutions has resulted in an acceptable and complete translation. In 1961 the book was bought by H. P. Kraus (a New York book antiquarian) for the sum of $24,500. He later valued it at $160,000 but was unable to find a buyer. Finally, in 1969 he donated it to Yale University, where it remains to date at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library with catalogue number MS 408.
The Voynich MS is a compact parchment codex of 23.5 x 16.2 cm, with 116 vellum leaves, of which 102 remain. Its limp vellum cover is blank: it does not indicate any title or author. The MS is written in an elegant, but otherwise unknown script. The text appears to be composed of 'words', and for a large part of the MS the text seems to be arranged in short paragraphs. Almost all pages of the MS contain illustrations. Illustrations of similar nature are grouped together in the MS, and thus one may tentatively identify the following sections in the MS (based on these illustrations):
Since the MS has not been translated, nobody knows what it says. It is assumed that the text relates to the illustrations, but this is not certain. There have been many suggestions about the historical importance of this MS, ranging between totally opposite extremes. These include:
This is by no means a complete list! Most of the proposed solutions of the Voynich MS have been disproved, and the following two fundamental questions remain unanswered: