The Unreadable Voynich Manuscript

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Mondays, 9:30-11:00 a.m. 6-week course begins 11/8

Welcome to the “ugly duckling” of manuscripts, lodged at Yale University. Part botanical or herbal, part unknown writing, the manuscript was discovered (or created) in 1912 by Wilfred Voynich, a London book dealer. Voynich claimed that this was acipher manuscript written perhaps by Roger Bacon and present at the Prague court of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II in the seventeenth century. Or maybe it was a forgery created by Voynich himself. Thanks to the internet, this is your chance to research and explore this manuscript deemed unreadable by legions of linguists, historians, cryptographers, and Voynich addicts. Your exploration will be a fascinating mix of detective story, art history, botany, cryptography, and just plain fun. Enjoy the ride. Recommended reading: The best single source is available online from the National Security Agency: Mary D’Imperio, The Voynich Manuscript: An Elegant Enigma (1978). Robert C. Williams is a retired Russian historian who has taught courses on espionage, the philosophy of history, and codebreaking at Williams College, Washington University in St. Louis, and Davidson College.