The Voynich MS enters recorded history when it surfaces at the court of emperor Rudolf II of Bohemia (1552-1612). The Marci letter quotes that he supposedly bought it for 600 gold ducats. The MS was certainly owned by Jacobus de Tepenec, a trustee of Rudolf who was his private physician for some time and the director of his botanical gardens. He must have owned it some time between 1608 (when he received the title "de Tepenec") and 1622, when he died. It is usually assumed that he somehow obtained the MS from Rudolf, before or after his death, but it is not impossible that Jacobus was, in fact, the mysterious seller of the MS to Rudolf.
The next known owner of the MS is the little-known alchemist Georgius
Barschius who graduated from the Jesuit University (Clementinum) in
1603. He met Marci before 1622, the year of Jacobus' death, but it
is not clear how or when he obtained the Voynich MS. Barschius wrote
to Athanasius Kircher twice, asking for his help in translating
this MS. The second letter from 1639 (where he signs his name as Baresch)
has been preserved. No answer from Kircher has survived.
Barschius died before 1662 and left his alchemical collections and
library, including the Voynich MS, to his intimate friend Marci.
The latter had become a famous physician and professor of the Prague
University, and in 1662 also rector of the University. Marci
met Kircher at the turn of the year 1638 and became one of
Kircher's close correspondents for 28 years.
According to his last letter to Kircher, accompanying the Voynich
MS in 1666, he intended to
send him the MS as soon as he got it, but in reality he did this
just before signing his last will, about half a year before his death.
There is no evidence about what the famous Jesuit philosopher Athanasius Kircher did with, or thought about the MS. He does not mention it anywhere in his vast literary output. Perhaps he just filed it with the rest of his correspondence. Yet the MS is not listed in any catalogue of his museum and library. It is clear that the MS did belong to Kircher's institute, the Roman Jesuit university: the Collegium Romanum, since it was later found among its collections. Its path between 1666 and 1912 can be partly reconstructed.
The library of the Collegium Romanum was at risk of being confiscated
by Vittorio Emanuele's soldiers in 1870.
The Jesuit order had been abolished by the pope.
It was decided that the Jesuits would be allowed to keep their private
possessions, so the most valuable items in the library were listed
as belonging to the 'private library' of the general of the society:
P.Beckx S.J (1795-1887, general of the society of Jesus from 1853 to 1883).
They henceforth disappeared from sight. Among the many valuable
books, this collection included the Voynich MS and the bound
correspondence of Athanasius Kircher.
It was apparently brought to the Villa Mondragone in Frascati,
near Rome, where it was kept for more than a century.
In 1912, when the Villa was in dire need of money for restaurations,
W.Voynich managed to buy about 30 MSs from the Jesuits under condition
of absolute secrecy, to which Voynich held unto his death. In the same
year, the pope bought about 300 of these MSs and donated them to the
Vaticna library. The Voynich MS was among he books bought by Voynich.
For 18 years Voynich tried to interest people for his MS and to find
a buyer for it. He also studied the MS history and incited Newbold to
publishing his theory about the Baconian origin of the MS.
He died in 1931 and his widow, Ethel Lilian Voynich owned it for another
30 years, until she also died and the book, inherited by Ms. Nill was
finally bought by H. P. Kraus (a New York book antiquarian) in
1961 for the sum of $24,500 and later valued at $160,000. Unable to find a
buyer, he donated it to Yale University in 1969, where it remains to date
at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library with catalogue number MS