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Mystery Manuscript Is Much Older Than Once Believed

The Voynich manuscript remains as much a mystery as ever, though researchers believe that now, at least, they have determined its age. After recent carbon 14 testing at the University of Arizona, experts say the manuscript was created in the early part of the fifteenth century, making it about a century older than previously believed. As for the coded pages themselves: still unknown.

Filled with 240 vellum pages, most with colored drawings of unknown plants and nymphs surrounded by an or­nate but inexplicable script, the document has been described as “the world’s most mysterious manuscript.” Since its discovery by rare book antiquarian Wilfred Voynich in 1912 in the Villa Mondragone near Rome, the manuscript named after him has defied all attempts to unravel it. Computer examination of the text has shown it indeed to be some kind of coherent language, not nonsense, as some have argued. The pictures are well drawn and consistent in style. The creator was clearly at great pains to put it all together properly. An analysis of the paints and inks used is consistent with renaissance sources.

Since its discovery, the manuscript has attracted many would-be code breakers who have speculated endlessly about the possible meaning of its contents. The most plausible explanation seems to be that it is an alchemical work of some kind, possibly by Roger Bacon or John Dee. Alchemists were active at the time of its creation and pursued many esoteric projects which were often expressed in code and which could be understood only by the initiated. Most such works have been translated, but the Voynich remains a mystery.

If you feel like trying your hand at unraveling the Voynich mystery, all the pages have been posted on the Inter­net. You can access them through Wikipedia.

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