The mystery of the Voynich Manuscript

Voynich_Manuscript_32-595x800Kevin Jackson at Prospect Magazine:

In the middle of August—traditionally the “Silly Season” for reporting—several British newspapers ran the story of a small publishing house which had just secured the rights to produce a limited edition of “the most mysterious book in the world”: the Voynich Manuscript. As all lovers of curious lore will know, this is a richly and strangely illustrated text, written in a language that has never been translated, or a code that has never been cracked. Carbon-dating has shown that it was created some time in the early fifteenth century, thus exploding the legend that it was the work of the thirteenth-century English occultist Roger Bacon, but otherwise its origin and purpose are entirely obscure.

The book had been lost to history until 1912, when a Polish collector, Wilfred Voynich, bought it from a Jesuit monastery in Italy. Since 1969, it has been housed in Yale University’s Beinecke Library, where it goes by the less glamorous name of “MS 408.” In recent years, the library has received thousands of emails about it every month, both from a few serious academics and from hordes of obsessive types who believe it to possess the Key to All Mythologies or evidence of extra-terrestrial life. It is partly in the hope of stemming this electronic tide that Yale has finally agreed to allow its publication.

more here.