I truly enjoy that there are so many things to discover still in the world. The world needs a little mystery to keep things going. There are things that are OK being a mystery. Solving the mystery actually takes away that special something that draws you in.
I recently heard about the Voynich manuscript. It’s fascinating if you haven’t heard about it. Imagine a book written hundreds of years ago that still survives today. More than the fact that it still survives, imagine that nobody can read it. That’s right – it’s some kind of code or language that nobody can figure out. There are dozens of images and notations. There are multi-page fold outs and super vibrant colors… and nobody has any idea what it all means. The name even comes from the book dealer that rediscovered it in 1912 because nobody is certain who actually wrote it.
The book has been tested, chronicled, studied and discussed. Scholars, scientists and cryptographers have all attempted to figure it out to no avail. They’ve decided it’s not a hoax. The chemical mix of the inks are right for the time. The parchment has been tested and dated, showing it was created around the year 1420. That’s right, we’re coming up on 600 years and nobody has figured it out.
Kind of cool, right?
When I said there are some things that are acceptable as a mystery? This is one of those times. Would it be valuable to history if we figured out what it all said? Maybe. Would lose something in my mind if we cracked the code and figured out it was a big fat book on medicinal plants? You bet. It’s likely to be something like that really, but it’s better to leave it wrapped up in mystery. Doesn’t it sound better if we can say that John Dee has been associated with it? It could have been referenced by alchemists or coded to keep rival magicians from stealing secret recipes? Was it sold to Emperor Rudolf II in Prague? Where did it go between 1600 and 1912? The mystery is what draws you in.
It’s actually available for download now. Somebody has created a PDF version of it (pretty large download). It’s a fun thing to check out. You can find it here.
I suspect that with more access, a worldwide viewing audience and multiple modern tools the code will be cracked. Somebody has already claimed to have a start on it (here). I’m hoping it’s still a mystery, it’s far more interesting that way.