Historians can only guess at the true origins of the enigmatic document known as the Voynich Manuscript. Some claim it was written in Central Europe (?) at the end of the 15th or early in the 16th (?) century. It is known that the codex at one time belonged to Emperor Rudolph II of Germany (1576-1612), who purchased it for 600 gold ducats and believed that it was the work of 13th century British friar/alchemist/mystic Roger Bacon (1214-1292). The exact origin and date of the manuscript are still being debated as vigorously as its puzzling drawings and undecipherable text.
It is very likely that Emperor Rudolph acquired the manuscript from the English astrologer John Dee (1527-1608) whose foliation remains in the upper right corner of each leaf. Dee apparently owned the manuscript along with a number of other Roger Bacon manuscripts; he was in Prague from 1582-86 and was in contact with Emperor Rudolph during this period. In addition, Dee recorded that he had received 630 ducats in October 1586, and his son Arthur (cited by Sir T. Browne, Works, G. Keynes, ed. (1931) v. 6, p. 325) noted that Dee, while in Bohemia, owned "a booke...containing nothing butt Hieroglyphicks, which booke his father bestowed much time upon: but I could not heare that hee could make it out."
Emperor Rudolph seems to have given the manuscript to Jacobus Horcicky de Tepenecz (d. 1622); inscription on f. 1r "Jacobi de Tepenecz" (erased but visible under ultra-violet light). Johannes Marcus Marci of Cronland presented the book to Athanasius Kircher, S. J. (1601-80) in 1666. It was acquired by Wilfred M. Voynich in 1912 from the Jesuit College at Frascati near Rome. Eventually, it was given to the Beinecke Library in 1969 by H. P. Kraus (Cat. 100, pp. 42-44, no. 20) who purchased it from the estate of Ethel Voynich.
The Voynich manuscript is currently located at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University (121 Wall Street, New Haven, CT 06511, U.S.A.).
By current estimates, the book originally had 272 pages in 17 quires of 16 pages each. Only about 240 vellum pages remain today, and gaps in the page numbering (which seems to be later than the text) indicate that several pages were already missing by the time that Voynich acquired it. A quill pen was used for the text and figure outlines, and colored paint was applied (somewhat crudely) to the figures, possibly at a later date.
The illustrations of the manuscript (which you can see in the links on page 2; linked to below) shed little light on its contents, but imply that the book consists of six "sections," with different styles and subject matter.
To continue, please go to page 2.
[ Voynich Manuscript
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