Historians Can't Figure Out The Language Of This Ancient Book

Feb 17, 2016

History is only remembered as well as it has been recorded, and there is so much of the past that has simply been lost to time. Historians and archaeologists have done what they can to recover, record and analyze fragments of our past, but it is impossible to piece together absolutely everything.

One artifact in particular – a book –  has been surrounded by controversy and speculation since it was first discovered in the modern era. Known as the Voynich manuscript, the contents of this manuscript are a complete mystery. It is written in a "language" that no one has ever come across, and its purpose and author are both unknown.

The name Voynich comes from a Polish book dealer, Wilfred Voynich, who first came across the text in 1912.

After purchasing the book, Voynich became obsessed with unraveling its secrets. It has since been studied by cryptographers and historians, as well as American and British code breakers from World War I and World War II to no avail. No one has ever seen anything like it.

Through carbon dating the pages, it has since been estimated that the book was most likely composed sometime during the first half of the 15th century.


The ingredients of the inks and paints used in the book’s creation are consistent with the carbon dating of the pages. Though it is not definitively known where the book came from, researchers have guessed it was created in Europe – possibly in Northern Italy during the time of the Italian Renaissance.

The book spans 240 pages and is presumed to be written from left to right. Some of its pages have gone missing over the centuries, but much of its words and illustrations are still in very good condition.

In respect to the words that are written inside, some have theorized that it is a long-lost language. Others have guessed that it is probably something that was more common, but written in a coded cipher. There is a fair amount of evidence that points in both directions.

Without a way of reading it, it is nearly impossible to determine the exact purpose of the book.

The pictures contained within the book are also a large part of the mystery. Because the text cannot be read and used to divide the book into different sections, the images have been used to create the divisions instead.


The images split the book into six distinctive categories: herbal, astronomical, biological, cosmological, pharmaceutical and recipes.

Most of the historical information we know about the book comes from a letter that was found inserted between the book's pages. The letter was sent from Johannes Marcus to Athanasius Kircher, and it claims that the book had once belonged to Emperor Rudolf II. From there, it came into the possession of Jacobus Horcicky de Tepenecz – the head of Rudolf's botanical gardens in Prague.

From there it was passed on to an alchemist named Georg Baresch who then sent it to Athanasius Kircher, a Jesuit scholar.

The book would change hands many more times between scholars, as well as political and religious figures, before eventually coming into the possession of Wilfrid Voynich. It is still not known who wrote it, but some have guessed that it was occult Renaissance figure Edward Kelley (left). Others have stated that it could have been created by mathematician John Dee (right), who supposedly sold the text to Emperor Rudolf. It has also been suggested that Roger Bacon (1214-1294) created it, or that it was all an elaborate hoax by Voynich. To this day, nobody knows for sure.

Via: Boredom Therapy | Wikipedia

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