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Monday, April 10, 2023

Something About Various Voynich Owners

Voynich Manuscript

Divine provenance?

Bellairsia has mentioned the infamous Voynich manuscript a few times over the years. 

There is a high likelihood the book Prospero and Roger Bacon discuss early in The Face in the Frost (1969) – with “flowers drawn in the margins...minutely detailed, [but] correspond[ing] to no flowers that I have ever seen, either in life or in my herb books” – was the mysterious manuscript (or one similar to it). Later, Professor Charles Coote produces a copy in The Wrath of the Grinning Ghost (1999). Coote tells Johnny Dixon the book was:
...discovered by a man named Wilfrid Voynich. He found it at the Jesuit college of the Villa Mondragone in Frascati, Italy, and purchased it in the year 1912. He published a description of it in 1921, and not long after that he made photostatic copies available to scholars. No one who has seen the manuscript has ever been able to read it or even to make a guess about who wrote it, or when.
Blogger Livius, of the always lively (and nicely revamped) History Blog had a story earlier in the year about a new study purporting to know the name of an earlier owner:
The vellum pages radiocarbon date the folio to between 1404 and 1438, but the earliest reference to it on the historical record dates to 1639.  It’s a letter from Prague alchemist Georg Baresch to Jesuit linguist Athanasius Kircher. Baresch was the owner of the manuscript at that time, and sent a copy of the glyphs to Kircher hoping he might be able to translate. Kircher was just as unsuccessful as everyone else who has tried, but he was hooked and wanted to buy it. Baresch refused. Kircher ultimately did receive the book when Baresch’s good friend Jan Marek Marci inherited the manuscript and forwarded it to Kircher in 1665. The letter Marci wrote to Kircher contains another precious hint to the manuscript’s ownership history. He said that the book had at one point been bought by Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II (r. 1576-1612).
If you want to get a sense of what Propsero and Roger Bacon were dealing with, you can attempt deciphering it yourself by browsing the digitized pages of the manuscript on Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library website.

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