Publisher Wins Rights to Publish Mysterious Ancient Manuscript that Has Never Been Deciphered

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The enigmatic Voynich manuscript, an ancient text that has never been cracked despite more than a century of research, is set to be reproduced in its exact form. But if you want to get your hands on a copy, be prepared to by top dollar. 

The Guardian reports that Siloe, a small publishing house in northern Spain, has obtained the right to clone the document after a 10-year battle for permission. The publisher will make 898 exact replicas of the Voynich manuscript, so precise that even stains, holes and tears in the parchment will be reproduced.

Yale University’s Beinecke Library, where the precious manuscript is currently being held, decided to grant permission to Siloe to print the manuscript because so many people have been trying to get their hands on it.  In fact, more than 90% of all the access to their digital library is for the Voynich manuscript.

“We thought that the facsimile would provide the look and feel of the original for those who were interested,” said Raymond Clemens, curator at the Beinecke library [via The Guardian].  “It also enables libraries and museums to have a copy for instructional purposes and we will use the facsimile ourselves to show the manuscript outside of the library to students or others who might be interested.”

Pages from the Voynich manuscript showing various illustrations of plants ( public domain )

The Medieval manuscript, which has been dated to between 1404 and 1438 AD, is considered to be the most mysterious text ever uncovered as it has never been deciphered despite over a century of attempts to uncover its meaning and more than 25 different analyses from top minds around the world. An academic war has raged for years between those who think the manuscript contains a real language that could eventually be decoded, and those who think it was a clever forgery designed to dupe book collectors.

The 240-page book, which uses a cryptic language and numerous illustrations depicting astronomical, biological, cosmological, herbal and pharmaceutical themes, was discovered in 1912 by a Polish-American named Wilfrid M. Voynich.  While the manuscript appears to be written in an unknown language, latest finding supports the hypothesis that there are meaningful words and messages within the text.

As for what those messages are, that still remains elusive. Craig Bauer, author of ‘Secret History: The Story of Cryptology’, believes it could be hiding something significant. “It could solve a major crime, reveal buried treasure worth millions or in the case of the Voynich manuscript, rewrite the history of science,” he said

Illustrations in the Voynich manuscript, which appear to be related to astronomical phenomena

Illustrations in the Voynich manuscript, which appear to be related to astronomical phenomena ( public domain )

The reproduction will be a painstaking process in order to replicate the original manuscript as closely as possible.  The paper will be given a special treatment to make it feel like parchment and the script and illustrations will be made to look authentic.

Siloe is planning to see the copies for £6,000 to £6,900 (US$ 7800 to $9000) apiece. Nearly 300 people have already put in pre-orders.

Hopefully with hundreds of copies in distribution, the secrets of the Voynich manuscript will one day be unravelled.

Top image: A page from the mysterious Voynich manuscript, which is undeciphered to this day. ( public domain )

By April Holloway



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