Thursday, January 22, 2004

The mysterious Voynich manuscript: an elaborate hoax?

rennaissance > hoaxes
For those that have not heard of the Voynich manuscript and its legend here's a brief summary (from the initial linked article):

The Voynich manuscript is often described as the world's most mysterious book. It is hand-written in a unique alphabet, about 250 pages long, and contains pictures of unrecognizable flowers, naked nymphs and astrological symbols.

The manuscript first appeared in the late 1500s, when Rudolph II bought it in Prague from an unknown seller for 600 ducats - about 3.5 kilograms of gold, worth more than US$50,000 today. The book passed from Rudolph to noblemen and scholars, before disappearing in the late 1600s.

It surfaced again around 1912, when US book dealer Wilfrid Voynich bought it. The manuscript was donated to Yale University after Voynich's death.

More can be found at Philip Neal's Voynich pages, or René Zandbergen's, to mention just two among the thousands of web pages (6280 according to google), on the subject...
Now Gordon Rugg, a computer scientist seems to prove that the whole thing was a hoax perpetrated by the use of a "Cardan Grille" (the page is in French, but the application is illuminating even for non-French speakers), by a shady English alchemist, scryer and lawyer and renaissance con-man Edward Kelley.

If you're really interested, here's an extensive bibliography.

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