The Voynich Manuscript Raymond Clemens, Deborah E. Harkness

Publication date:
04 Nov 2016
Yale University Press
304 pages: 305 x 229mm
268 color illus.

The first authorized copy of this mysterious, much-speculated-upon, one-of-a-kind, centuries-old puzzle. The Voynich Manuscript is produced from new photographs of the entire original and accompanied by expert essays that invite anyone to understand and explore the enigma.

Many call the fifteenth-century codex, commonly known as the “Voynich Manuscript,” the world’s most mysterious book. Written in an unknown script by an unknown author, the manuscript has no clearer purpose now than when it was rediscovered in 1912 by rare books dealer Wilfrid Voynich. The manuscript appears and disappears throughout history, from the library of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II to a secret sale of books in 1903 by the Society of Jesus in Rome. The book’s language has eluded decipherment, and its elaborate illustrations remain as baffling as they are beautiful. For the first time, this facsimile, complete with elaborate folding sections, allows readers to explore this enigma in all its stunning detail, from its one-of-a-kind “Voynichese” text to its illustrations of otherworldly plants, unfamiliar constellations, and naked women swimming though fantastical tubes and green baths.
The essays that accompany the manuscript explain what we have learned about this work—from alchemical, cryptographic, forensic, and historical perspectives—but they provide few definitive answers. Instead, as New York Times best-selling author Deborah Harkness says in her introduction, the book “invites the reader to join us at the heart of the mystery.”

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Raymond Clemens is Curator of Early Books and Manuscripts at the Yale University Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library and coauthor of Introduction to Manuscript Studies.

Deborah Harkness is a historian of science, professor at the University of Southern California, and the author of the New York Times best-selling All Souls trilogy.

“Bibliophiles rejoice—one of the book world’s most fascinating and enduring riddles is now available for all to examine. The so-called ‘Voynich Manuscript’ is proof that, even in our increasingly demystified world, mystery is still alive. . . . For the first time, Yale has reprinted the manuscript in full, in a gorgeous new edition coupled with scholarly essays on the book. All told, the new edition should continue to stoke interest in the eternally mysterious artifact.”—New Criterion

“For the first time, a complete reproduction [of] The Voynich Manuscript (Yale University Press), has been published, featuring essays exploring what is known about the book and extra-wide margins so readers can record their responses to its beguiling, beautiful strangeness.”—Nina Maclaughlin, The Boston Globe

The Voynich Manuscript, a volume edited by the library’s curator Raymond Clemens, revivifies this tantalising artefact… Wide margins are deliberately provided for readers’ notes on their own ideas. ’Bonne chance!’, writes Clemens. I’ll second that.”—Andrew Robinson, Nature

“For people who like a good historical mystery, this first authorized publication of the fifteenth- or sixteenth-century Voynich Manuscript will fascinate.”–Rebecca Onion, Slate?

“A mouthwatering facsimile of the incunabulum, complete with foldout pages — one origamied into six folios — and a handful of scholarly interrogations.”—Peter Lewis, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“This new book, reproducing the entire Voynich Manuscript, is a godsend. While the essays offer valid clues to the manuscript’s age and relation to late medieval science, the manuscript itself stubbornly refuses to yield its secrets.”—Roger S. Wieck, Department of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts, The Morgan Library & Museum

“A book worthy of its subject in every way. Clemens and his collaborators have done an extraordinary job teasing out some of the secrets and wonders of the enigmatic Voynich Manuscript in ways that will make this volume an invaluable resource for many years to come.”—Bruce Holsinger, author of A Burnable Book

“Many hands have held Voynich’s now-eponymous book over the centuries . . . yet none of them have managed convincingly to solve its mysteries.”—Deborah Harkness, from the Introduction

“As handsome a new book as you could own. This medieval beauty has it all: fold-out sections. Delicate illustrations of plants, astrological charts, what look to be alchemical recipes… But the main thing about it— the thing that makes publishing it so quixotic— is that it’s a book you can’t actually read. Nobody can.”—Sam Leith, Prospect

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