The elusive 15th-century text gets its name after Wilfrid Voynich, a Polish book dealer who purchased it more than a century ago. Some of the pages are missing, with around 240 remaining, but they are ineligible to experts who have spent decades trying to decipher the illustrations and diagrams. None of the many hypotheses proposed over the last 100 years have been independently verified and so the mystery of its meaning and origin inspired countless books and films.
But Quest TV’s ‘What Secrets Is The Voynich Manuscript Hiding?’ attempted to unravel the puzzle with the help of another document that was found alongside the book.
The narrator said: “Tucked inside the pages, Voynich found an old letter, the first clue for any investigator trying to understand the meaning and origin of the manuscript.
“The letter revealed the Jesuits had owned the book for 250 years and had been trying to decipher the strange text and identify the bizarre illustrations.
“It was sent to Athanasius Kircher, a leading Jesuit scholar, one of the greatest of all time, and the Jesuits – who count the current Pope among their number – are renowned to be the intellectuals of the Catholic Church.
The mystery of the book was unravelled
Author Gerry Kennedy
“The letter reveals one of the previous owners had a theory about its author, a potentially vital clue to the book’s meaning.”
Author Gerry Kennedy explained how the letter led researchers to believe the book was the product of an ancient branch of natural philosophy.
He said: “The letter revealed the book belonged to Emperor Rudolf, he believed the author was Roger Bacon, a 13th-century monk with a fascination for alchemy, he attempted to turn ordinary metals into gold.
“He was always treading in that area, there is a possibility that the whole manuscript is secrets of alchemy.
“So the assumption was that Bacon might have masked his research and put it into a cipher.”
Experts have tried to understand the book for years
However, this theory hit a stumbling block when codebreaking software failed to identify any lines with a pattern to suggest it was a code.
Cryptographer Gordon Rugg noted: “In the Middle Ages books of wonders were worth a lot.
“I think it’s almost certainly a hoax.”
The narrator went on to detail a theory of how the book may have been created to fool the emperor, who is said to have paid a lot of money to own it.
He added: “There is evidence to support this theory, Rudolf was the Holy Roman Emperor and was a tempting target for any hoaxers.
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A letter was found accompanying the book
“Even at 600 ducats, or £50,000 today, it would be a small price to pay if he believed it contained the secrets of alchemy.
“Prime suspect in this theory is John Dee and Edward Kelly – two Englishmen involved in a scheme to turn copper to gold.
“Kelly was in Prague – the capital of the Holy Roman Empire in 1590 when Rudolf reigned.
“To test the likelihood of this theory, scientists at the University of Arizona carbon-dated samples of the manuscript.”
But anthropologist Greg Hodgins threw another twist in the theory.
The mystery continues of the book’s meaning
He said: “We dated four pages in the book and found all four had tightly clustered dates.
“The radiocarbon date is 1404 to 1438 at 95 percent confidence.”
The series went on to explain how the dating rules out the possibility that Mr Dee and Mr Kelly hoaxed the book.
It concluded in July: “It was written 100 years before they were born, so it appears a genuine mystery.”