The Voynich Manuscript is the most famous unsolved crypto mystery in the world. For this reason, I put it at the first position of my top 50 list.

Click here for the complete top 50 list

It’s time to finish my article series about the top 50 unsolved crypto mysteries. It should come as no surprise that the number one in this selection is the most famous and most controversial encrypted document ever written: the Voynich Manuscript.

Source: Beinecke Library


The Voynich Manuscript introduced

I know, introducing the Voynich Manuscript to readers of this blog is carrying coals to Newcastle, but I do it anyway.

The Voynich Manuscript is a hand-written collection of approximately 230 pages containing an unknown text and cryptic illustrations. It is named after book dealer Wilfrid Voynich (1865-1930), who allegedly purchased it from the Society of Jesus, a religious order of the Catholic Church, in 1912. Today, the manuscript is owned by the Beinecke Rare Book Library at Yale University in Connecticut.

Source: Beinecke Library

The script of the Voynich Manuscript is based on an alphabet comprising approximately 25 symbols, and the vellum it is written upon was dated using radiocarbon analysis to the early 15th century. It is not known how much time passed between the production of the vellum and the writing of the manuscript.

Some of the pages in the Voynich Manuscript are missing. For those who didn’t notice: My article from April 1, which reported on the missing leaves having been found, was an April fool’s joke. The following illustration showing the corona virus on a rediscovered manuscript page is a fake.

Source: Beinecke Library

Countless experts and hobbyist researchers have examined the manuscript in great detail, but all the main questions about it are still unanswered. It is unknown where, when, and by whom it was created. The purpose of the manuscript is also unclear. Theories range from a herbal to a religious text to an alchemical tome to a meaningless forgery.

Source: Beinecke Library

The plants depicted in the Voynich Manuscript cannot be identified, and most look like mere fantasy images. The book contains nothing that provides a clear relationship to any specific place, time, religion, or ideology. It is completely unclear in which language the plaintext (if there is one) was written. Arguments have been put forward for Latin, Italian, Greek, English, German, and many others.

Source: Beinecke Library

Over the last several decades, at least 60 alleged solutions of the Voynich Manuscript have been published, but none of these have been accepted by experts. I have published a method for testing if a suggested solution makes sense, but to my knowledge no Voynich decipherer has taken this test so far.

Source: Beinecke Library

Since the beginning of the internet age, when the Voynich Manuscript’s mysterious images became available to a wider audience, the thriving culture of Voynichologists has grown even further. A Voynich Manuscript conference held in Italy in 2012 attracted over 80 of researchers (I’m the one in the yellow shirt, by the way).

Source: Schmeh

The Voynich Manuscript is not only the number one on my top 50 list, but it’s also listed as book #00001 on my encrypted book list. When I intoduced a selection of the top 25 unsolved cryptograms (in German) years ago, the Voynich Manuscript ranked number one, too.

Every list of famous unsolved crypto mysteries I have ever seen contains the Voynich Manuscript, including the one maintained by Elonka Dunin, who is the co-author of my next book.


A new Voynich forum

Is there anything new about the Voynich Manuscript in the times of the corona crisis? Yes, my friend Richard SantaColoma from New York State …

Source: Schmeh

… has started a new Voynich online discussion forum:

Of course, there are many other online resources about the manuscript. The most comprehensive website is operated by René Zandbergen (

Source: Schmeh

Moreover, there are many books by a variety of authors, along with a mailing list operated by aforementioned Richard SantaColoma ( My books Nicht zu Knacken and Codeknacker gegen Codemacher cover the Voynich Manuscript, as well.

Whoever does finally provide an agreed-upon decipherment of the Voynich Manuscript will be considered one of the greatest codebreakers ever.

Further reading: The Voynich manuscript covered in the German TV series “Terra X”


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Kommentare (8)

  1. #1 Richard SantaColoma
    12. April 2020

    Thanks much, Klaus, for the mentions of me, and the new “Official” Voynich Net forum. It is a fledgling so far, but hopefully it will attract many of those interested in this wonderful mystery.

    I think it is great that you continue to help gain an ever greater audience for the “Voynich Problem”, through your books, articles, lectures and blog. I think that the more open minds working on this, with their hopefully infinite perspectives, the better the chances are of solving it.

    Stay safe!


  2. #2 Richard SantaColoma
    12. April 2020

    … FYI, In the picture in front of the Villa Mondragone, I’m the bald guy leaning the wrong way in front of the center column. To my left is Greg Stachowski. Elonka Dunin and Dennis Stallings are next to you, with their copies of the Voynich.

    Also in the picture are Michelle Smith, Nick Pelling, the late Stephen Bax, and many others. I can’t make out René Zandbergen, Phil Neal, Rafal Prinke, and many others that were there during this event, but perhaps some of them are in this picture, too…

    It was a wonderful time, and I hope we can all meet again someday.

  3. #3 Seth
    12. April 2020

    This is supposedly a book about plants, yet the names of plants are never mentioned a second time in the book. What plant book never says “xxxx is related to yyyy” or “yyyy has similar properties to xxxx” or even just uses the name a second time in the plant’s description?

    A hoax.

  4. #4 Torsten Timm
    13. April 2020

    I suggested a solution to your test back in 2017 (see comment #14 to your blog post from 07/24/2017).

    My answer is based on the observation that the occurrence of a word token depends on the usage of similar tokens within the same context. When we look at the three most frequent words on each folio, for more than half of the folios two of three will differ in only one detail. No obvious rule can be deduced which words form the top-frequency tokens at a specific location because a token dominating one folio might be rare or missing on the next one. A more formal definition for this observation would be that the presence/absence of a letter combination increases/decreases the chance towards another occurrence.

    One example for context dependency is the observation of different dialects known as Currier A and Currier B. It is noteworthy that the text is also context dependent on the scale of a folio or even a paragraph. For instance the most strict writing rules within the text apply to EVA-[q]. [q] is used in 5389 (99.4 %) out of 5423 cases at the start of a token and in 5290 (97.5 %) cases it is followed by EVA-[o]. But even for EVA-[q] the rules doesn’t apply for the whole manuscript. On folio 84r it is not only possible to find the words ‘yqokain’ and ‘oqofchedy’ but also a sequence ‘oqol.yqor’. And on folio 77v it is possible to find a line that includes three words where [q] is not followed by EVA-[o]’. This are the words ‘qeedy’, ‘qeedeey’, and ‘qedy’.

    To check if some Voynich words belong into the same context it is therefore possible to count repeated character sequences. However, it is not possible to decide this way if the words follow each other in the given order. The number of repeated character sequences would also increase if the word tokens were picked from the same paragraph or if the order of the words had been changed.

  5. #5 Klaus Schmeh
    14. April 2020

    Richard SantaColoma:
    I’ve posted a “sticky” on the Voynich Forum, which is meant to be a comprehensive list of useful Voynich links. They include websites, blogs, and two forums.

    No doubt I am missing many. If any one has links that should be on this list, I can either edit the list, or they can reply to this post, and add a post of their own with the links.

  6. #6 Richard SantaColoma
    16. April 2020

    Thank you for posting the links! It may also be of interest to your readers, and all Voynich researchers, to see this Voynich bibliography I put together:

    This is not a “theory specific” list, but rather these books might be a good start to a general understanding of the Voynich, from all perspectives.


  7. #7 Thomas Kiefer
    Nebraska, USA
    2. Juli 2020

    I’m new to this problem. Has anyone noted the similiarity in style, or family resemblance, between the manuscript’s script and Greek Miniscule Book-Hand? Also, some of the characters are reminiscent of the Glagolitic alphabet. If this manuscript is a copy, I would guess the original came from Byzantium. Mountains of Greek texts had entered Italy by the time the manuscript was carbon dated, thanks to the Ottomans.

  8. #8 Thomas Kiefer
    Nebraska, USA
    6. Juli 2020

    A few more questions–the enthusiasm of a novice!
    Could it have been written with a mirror, like DaVinci and his notebooks? I.e., to read the ms. properly one needs to read it in a mirror.
    Has anyone postulated the original text being an Arabic or Persian compendium, of which there were many like this ms.? If Arabic, there might not have been any vowels in the original text, and so no vowels here. Likewise, there will be consonants with no European equivalent, e.g. the glottal stops. (Since Arabic & Persian are written right-left, the mirror may have been used for a Byzantine/Italian scribe writing left-right?)
    Finally, if this a copy, the Mitteleuropaischer/Byzantine scribe(s) may have been inclined to change the human figures to look European from Middle Eastern.
    Thank you. I won’t post any more comments.