The idea of cracking codes and finding dead languages is something I was in to big style when I was a nipper. Probably due in large part to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. But once you reach the grand old age of 12 or 13 you realise there’s not really that many codes to crack anymore. There is however one that has been baffling the best cryptologists for years – the Voynich manuscript.
I know, I can hear you groaning, “please Mr Lazer Horse don’t give us another bloody history lesson please…” Alright, now fuck off the lot of you, this is interesting… I’ll keep it brief.
This Voynich manuscript is about 240 pages long and consists of writing and pictures, that’s not interesting in itself of course, but the fact that no one can work out what it says or what the pictures mean makes it a butt load more interesting. The pictures resemble herbal manuscripts about medicines made in the 1500s but none of the plants are identifiable with actual, real life species. Other pictures include weird astrological looking things and loads of naked women bathing. I bet that made your ears prick up didn’t it? I’m afraid the drawings aren’t exactly sensual though.
The book was acquired by a book dealer Wilfrid Voynich, who purchased it in 1912. Inside was a letter dated 1666 which said that the book had once been owned by Rudolf II, the Holy Royal Emperor of Hungary who allegedly paid the equivalent of about £60,000 for it. Some say that the book was painstakingly created to fool such a well off person into buying it which sounds reasonable.
Best guesses put this document’s birth in Northern Italy in the 15th Century, but it’s not 100% clear. Some people have been crying hoax for a long time, whereas others are completely sold on it being a genuine item.