The Voynich Manuscript Mystery

The Voynich Manuscript was purchased in 1912 from the Order of Jesuits living at the Villa Mondrogone, who were discreetly selling some of their holdings in order to bolster their impoverished coffers, by a man named Wilifrid Voynich . Though Polish by birth, he was a British citizen living in London. He acquired the book at the Villa Mondragone, which is located near Rome. The manuscript has been dated to the early 1400’s according to carbon dating techniques. He purchased 30 books at that time, including a mysterious notebook which would later take his name, and a bevy of controversy.

The book is only about 240 pages long. Some of the pages are missing, but what remains appears to be a pharmacopoeia used in the early 15th century, as well as commentary about astronomy, biology, cosmology, and recipes most likely for medicinal purposes.

So what’s so interesting about a several hundred year old medicinal journal? Well, it has defied all attempts at decoding leading some to believe that the manuscript is an incredibly well made hoax. Take, for example, the images of the flora; most of these cannot be identified either by comparing them to actual specimens or the stylized drawings contemporary to the alleged creation date of the manuscript.

Some appear to be direct copies from other books while others appear to be combining roots from one plant with the leaves of another and the flowers of yet another plant. Some drawings in the book appear to be a sunflower, native to the as of yet undiscovered Americas. Other drawings appear to be crude renderings of galaxies and cells…which, with the technology at the time, were not able to be observed.

Historians can confirm it was once in the possession of Georg Baresch who sent several letters to Athanasius Kircher who had published a Codex of Egyptians Hieroglyphs. It is unknown if he ever replied but he did make an attempt to purchase it. He was firmly refused. Upon his death it passed to Jan Marek Marci who in turn gave it to Kircher. A letter that came with the manuscript claimed that it had once belonged to Emperor Rudolph II who had either loaned or bequeathed it to Jacobus Korcicky de Tepenecz, The Emperor’s head of the botanical gardens.

Record of it disappears after that until Voynich purchases it in 1912. Upon his death it passed to his wife, then to a friend and eventually to Hans P. Kraus who, after he was unable to find a buyer, donated it to Yale University.

So, hoax or history? Well, no one truly knows, but linguistics professor Stephen Bax thinks he may have begun to decipher the script and discount the theory that it was an elaborate hoax. According to the professor he focused on what appeared to be proper names, much like Egyptian Scholars have used to decipher hieroglyphs in the past. He uses the plants and star depicted in the book to decipher the glyphs in the book. He has called on other scholars, cryptographers and linguists to join in and help him decode the centuries old manuscript.

Think you’re a crack decoder? Then go to Yale University’s open source of the document and join in on solving this case. Want something a little less challenging? Then join The Murder Mystery Company at one of our public shows, showing around the country. If there’s no public show in your area we will come to you! Just call to start planning your event today!

Famous Mystery Writers and Their Characters: The Doyle Edition

Having given a gracious nod to the silver tongued wordsmith Poe, let us turn our gazes ever forward to another literary genius in history, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The man is almost as fascinating as his most famous fictional character, our beloved favorite, Detective Sherlock Holmes.

Doyle was a Scottish physician and writer who popularized more than just his most famous fictional detective character. His interactions with university professor Joseph Bell, and the influences of Poe’s character Dupin, were a large contribution to the personality of Sherlock. While everyone knows the major facets of what made Sherlock who he is, such as his propensity for smoking a pipe, ability to play the violin, and penchant for certain illegal narcotics, there are a great many interesting tidbits not known to the modern day Sherlock lover.

Holmes is certainly an oddity, one that the world has embraced with open arms through the original works of Doyle, other authors, movies, and most recently, t.v. shows. While everyone has their own spin on how he looks, sounds, and acts; the one thing they all have in common is how exceptionally clever he is. A man of mystery dissected by the masses, he never fails to thrill and mystify, keeping readers and watchers captivated by his intellect, passion, and sometimes ridiculous methods of solving cases.

Sherlock was a very disorganized man despite having impeccable personal hygiene. He would often get upset if anyone tried to move or sort any of the multitude of papers he kept in his study. He hated to throw anything away, as it might be useful to him at a later time. Despite the extreme chaos of his belongings he had a knack for knowing exactly where anything he happened to be looking for was, to the continued disbelief of his roommate, Watson.

The genius didn’t just confound Watson with his disorganization but with his lack of social ability as well. Sherlock had no interest in the fairer sex as he was completely engaged in his work. He had a bad habit of not eating during times when he was solving crimes, to the point where he would sometimes go unconscious. He liked to impress and flabbergast anyone working on a case he was consulting on with very grandiose and cunning deductions he seemed to fabricate out of thin air. Flattery was one of the quickest ways to his socially inept heart. He was a master of disguise and also well versed in chemistry and literature.

Out of the numerous cases undertaken and solved by Sherlock, the most famous writings of Doyle were undoubtedly his four novels, A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, The Hound of Baskervilles, and The Final Problem, which allowed his avid readers to truly delve into the life and personality of Sherlock. He was so loved by the people of England that when Doyle killed him off, there was a public outcry so great that he brought him back to life ten years later to appease the disgruntled masses.

If you love case cracking, and you want to solve a mystery of your own, check out one of our public shows, or set up a night of mystery at your own private event, and don’t forget your detective hat!