The Voynich Manuscript Raymond Clemens, Deborah E. Harkness

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

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.”

More about this title

For North America sales visit

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.

"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, Boston Globe

"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

“The Voynich MS has inspired generations of enthusiasts dedicated to deciphering it . . . This beautiful facsimile will make it available for many more people to become enticed and entranced by it.”—David V. Barrett, Fortean Times

“Handsome and well-produced. . . This fascimilie and the accompanying series of essays give a clear sense of the current state of knowledge on the manuscript and reveal the findings of new research.”—H.R. Woud Huysen, TLS

"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

"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

"Sumptuous facsimile reproduction. . . . Jennifer Rampling’s judiciously skeptical essay . . . is a careful deconstruction of over-excited theories."—Kathryn Murphy, Apollo

"Perhaps studying these pages in the hope of unlocking secrets is to miss the point. It’s almost as though the book exists in order to make the inquiry into its existence possible."—Jamie Martin, London Review of Books

"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

Related links