In 1912, a polish book dealer named Wilfrid Voynich purchased 30 books from a private library known as “Collegio Romano”, that was selling books to raise money. The language that the book is written in is completely unknown. But the book is very much written in the European style of the time. It is just completely unreadable. Not to mention many of the illustrations themselves have no clear meaning, even though some are quite elaborate. One even folds out 4X its size.
There is evidence that at some point in its history, around 30 pages of the book were removed and the rest were re-arranged, though, no one knows why. The book is written on animal skin parchment paper, which was carbon dated to the early 1400’s. The ink has also been chemically analyzed and it contains the correct substances of inks commonly used at that time. Interestingly enough, cryptography was born in europe around the time of this books writing, perhaps it was one of the early experiments in this new style of hiding messages in plain sight. Wilfrid Voynich found a folded letter inside the book that was dated to 1666, it suggests the book was written by an english friar named “Roger Bacon”, but even the letter says its not likely.
Teams of code breakers during WWI and WWII attempted to crack the books code, but none were successful. Some suggest the book is an elaborate hoax, but to what ends? Books were extremely labor intensive and expensive to produce in the middle ages, it is unlikely such efforts would have went into a joke such as this.
In 2013, Marcelo Montemurro studied the book and found that the patterns of words in the book match patterns found in other languages, which suggests the scripts arent merely jibberish. In 2014, professor Stephen Bax proposed the first plausible effort to decode the books language. This type of work is likely to take many, many years because of the books complexity.
What could this book be hiding? Why was it written? In an age where only monasteries and monks were prolific book scribes, when men of science or hidden knowledge were often imprisoned or killed for being heretics, who would have taken the risks and time to write such an elaborate text? Was it an alchemists guide? Did it harbor some secrete of herbal knowledge? Hopefully in the near future these answers will come to light. But until then, we are all free to speculate what these strange scripts can tell us about their scribe and his intentions.