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article imageMysterious book no one can understand will be reproduced

By Karen Graham     Aug 22, 2016 in Science
Burgos - The Voynich manuscript has been locked away in a vault at Yale University for almost a half-century, its pages accessible to only a few, and its secrets still hidden in its undecipherable code.
The Voynich Manuscript is a hand-written, illustrated codex of about 240 pages. The vellum on which it has been written has been carbon-dated to the early 15th century (1404–1438). The thing that sets this manuscript apart is the language in which it has been written.
To better explain, scholars and scientists think the text is an unknown language, and if it's not, it certainly has been one of the greatest and most elaborate hoaxes in history. As the Guardian puts it, the book combines an "intriguing mix of elegant writing and drawings of strange plants and naked women" that have stumped scholars for years.
A close up of a page from the  biological  section.
A close up of a page from the "biological" section.
Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University
The manuscript, written in an unknown language or perhaps a secret code, had been studied by many professional and amateur cryptographers, including American and British code breakers from both World War I and World War II, and no one has succeeded in deciphering the text.
Small publishing house wins right to reproduce the codex
But now, after trying for ten years, Siloe, a small publishing house in the north of Spain has won the right to clone or reproduce 898 copies of the manuscript, in the hopes that a copy will end up in the hands of someone who can break the coded text, reports the Telegraph.
Page 66  f33v  has been interpreted to represent a sunflower.
Page 66, f33v, has been interpreted to represent a sunflower.
Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University
“Touching the Voynich is an experience,” says Juan Jose Garcia, sitting on the top floor of a book museum in the quaint center of Burgos, Spain where Siloe’s office is, a few streets from the city’s famed Gothic cathedral.
Siloe Publishing was chosen because of the high quality of the work they do in replicating old texts. They won't reveal the secret of their techniques to anyone, but their work speaks for itself in the remarkable reproductions they have done in the past, says Santa Maria Polo Club. The reproduced manuscripts will cost in the neighborhood of $8,000 to $9,000 a piece. Over 300 copies have already been pre-sold.
A page from the mysterious Voynich manuscript. Retouching of drawing; page 131; f72v3
A page from the mysterious Voynich manuscript. Retouching of drawing; page 131; f72v3
Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University
The Voynich Manuscript and its origins
The earliest confirmed owner of the text is Georg Baresch (1585–1662), an obscure alchemist from Prague. The text had sat on a bookshelf for many years and was a curiosity because of its unreadable writing. Baresch heard about Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680), a Jesuit scholar from the Collegio Romano who had deciphered the Egyptian hieroglyphs, producing a Coptic dictionary.
Baresch sent a copy of some of the manuscript along with a letter to Kircher in Rome, and this is the first documented evidence of ownership of the manuscript. Kircher tried to buy the book, but to no avail. When Baresch died, the book went to his friend Jan Marek Marci (1595–1667; also known as Johannes Marcus Marci), then rector of Charles University in Prague.
A page from the mysterious Voynich manuscript.
A page from the mysterious Voynich manuscript.
Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University
It was Marci who ended up sending the book to Kircher, a good friend, and correspondent. The book remained in the safe hands of the Jesuits for the next 200 or so years. To make the story shorter, the book was finally purchased by Wilfried Voynich, the Polish book dealer who bought it in 1912 from the Jesuit College.
What is the book about?
There has been a lot of speculation over the years as to what the manuscript was. Was it a book about medicine or was it a notebook on microscopy and alchemy? The manuscript appears to be divided into six sections, based on the illustrations. There is a section on herbs, astronomy, biology, cosmology, pharmaceuticals and lastly a section of recipes.
Now all this is just pure conjecture because none of the plants depicted in the illustrations are identifiable and none of the writing makes any sense. But for pure human interest, the book is full of mystery, and who doesn't like a mystery?
More about Voynich manuscript, 15th Century, undecipherable, Yale university, unknown code