The Voynich Manuscript: World’s most mysterious book

A page from the mysterious Voynich manuscript, which remains undecipherable to this day. (Wikimedia Commons pic)

Have you ever picked up a book only to find it is in a language that you don’t understand? You would probably leave it for someone who can read it. But what if you came across a book written in a language that nobody knows how to read?

There is such a book at Yale University that has baffled historians for years. It is called the Voynich Manuscript.

It is believed the 240-page book was written in 1420, by persons who remain unknown.

The writings are accompanied by hand-drawn illustrations that are nothing short of fantastical.

A scientist studying the Voynich Manuscript. (AFP pic)

These range from castles in the clouds, star charts, zodiac rings and bizarre plants.

But if the illustrations are confusing, the written contents of the book is a mystery, with no one able to read it.

When Wilfrid Voynich, a Polish bookseller, came across the book in an Italian Jesuit college in 1912, he had many questions about it. Who wrote it? Where? Why? What was the mysterious book about?

He eventually took the book to the US, where historians have been poring over it since, trying to unlock its secrets.

Experts confirm that the writing appears to be an actual language, just not one anyone has ever seen before.

Pages from the Voynich Manuscript that are illustrated with what are believed to be astronomical charts. (Wikimedia Commons pic)

The writing is not gibberish and there is a structure to the sentences, as can be seen in other languages. The book’s vivid imagery is believed to be the product of more than one author and artist.

There are three main schools of thought on the nature of the book.

Some experts believe it is written in code to prevent people from understanding its contents. Others think it is a hoax meant to fool people into thinking that the book is more important than it is and some suggest the work is actually in a language that is known but a script that is not.

A copy of the Voynich Manuscript undergoing quality control. (AFP pic)

The writing in the Voynich Manuscript could be one of many scripts that were used by now-extinct cultures.

For years, experts have been trying to decipher the mysterious writings and figure out what the book says. The theories range from it being an encyclopaedia to an attempt at creating a new language.

More fantastical suggestions have also been made about it being a book of witches or a product of an alien civilisation.

Modern science has enabled researchers to shed some light on the book, with carbon dating revealing its age.

Some words have been tentatively identified, particularly the names of constellations and certain plants.

Whether it is a dream diary, a journal filled with nonsense or an encyclopaedia of lost knowledge, there is no denying the mystery that surrounds the Voynich Manuscript.