The Voynich Manuscript is now on Flickr.

Mar 17, 2016

Depending on whom you talk to, the Voynich Manuscript is either one of the strangest books on the face of the planet, the key to the secrets of the universe, an elaborate puzzle by Dr. John Dee/Abdul al-Hazred/the Comte de Saint Germain/$other_mystical_figure, or a brilliant hoax. The text of the book is utterly incomprehensible - if it's a cypher, it's a damned good one. Many cryptographers and puzzle freaks over the years have tried and failed to decode it, though they've discovered a few interesting things. Current thought has it that the script was created from scratch by whomever penned the text specifically for this project. Textual analysis shows that the text itself contains patterns suggestive of the presence of a language. If it does, then it's very likely that the language is either fictitious as well or gibberish that happens to contain a high amount of entropy, in the cryptographic sense. This isn't as difficult task as one would think - software exists today that can generate nonsense words that have patterns similar to those found in spoken and written languages.

The book is also notable for the unusual hand-drawn illustrations that it contains. The book is roughly broken down into six chapters, one reminiscent of herbalists' manuals found in the 15th and 16th centuries, unusual astronomical and astrological diagrams, what appear to be maps or cosmological diagrams, and other images that look useful at first glance, but don't actually refer to anything that any modern scientist or biologist has ever seen.

The Yale Library has high-resolution scans available for download, but they're in an unusual graphics format that nobody (not even Microsoft) uses, so an enterprising individual converted the files into JPGs and posted them on Flickr as a photostream.

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