It’s a book that has such an aura of mystery that when you see it for the first time … it fills you with an emotion that is very hard to describe.
No, we’re not talking about Fifty Shades of Grey. Juan Jose Garcia, the director of a small publishing house, is describing The Voynich Manuscript, a mysterious book written in a code that’s so unbreakable, many believe it was brought to Earth by aliens. Garcia plans to make 898 “clones” of the manuscript by creating exact replicas – down to the stains, holes and tears in the pages – and sell them to anyone who wants try and crack the code. Does that include aliens?
The book gets its name from Polish bookseller Wilfrid Voynich, who claimed he bought it in 1912 as part of a bulk fundraising sale by the Collegio Romano in Italy. The 240 pages contain drawings of stars, unidentifiable plants and naked women bathing in green liquid, but the real star attraction is the handwritten text that matches no known language, past or present. Cracking it has been attempted without success for years by the best cryptographers around, including those who deciphered Nazi codes during World War II.
Befitting a manuscript with such mysterious writing, its origin is a mystery as well. The vellum it’s written on has been carbon-dated to the early 15th century, but some experts believe the actual writing came from Voynich himself, who was rumored to be a forger with experience in medieval inks and pigments.
Some experts agree the manuscript is indeed a hoax, but not by Voynich. Instead, they tie it to a 16th century hoaxer named Edward Kelley, who allegedly created the book and gave it to his companion, mystic and astrologer Dr. John Dee, who sold it to Rudolf II, Emperor of the Habsburg Empire in Prague and an known occult artifacts collector. Other theories link The Voynich Manuscript to a young Leonardo da Vinci, a lost tribe of Israel or even the Aztecs.
Then there’s the aliens. A popular and controversial theory is that the language is unknown because it was brought to Earth by aliens who crashed here in the 1400s. The manuscript is a star chart (remember the star drawings?) of their home system and a journal of their life on Earth before they died here without being able to repair their ship and return.
Is it any of these or something else? Garcia’s publishing company, Siloe, is well-known for creating exact replicas of old books and somewhat of a trickster itself – the ‘898’ copies is a numeric palindrome. The real trick for most people will be to come up with the $7,800 to $8,900 needed to purchase a copy, and there’s already a waiting list of 300.
The first copies of The Voynich Manuscript, currently closely guarded at Yale University, will be out in 18 months. In the meantime, try brushing up on your Navajo.