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10 of the world's biggest unsolved mysteries

By: Bryan Nelson on Sept. 13, 2017, 10:13 a.m.
The Voynich Manuscript is a document that is notable for it's strange text

Photo: Elusive Muse/flickr

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Voynich Manuscript

Named after the Polish-American antiquarian bookseller Wilfrid M. Voynich, who acquired it in 1912, the Voynich Manuscript is a detailed 240-page book written in a language or script that is completely unknown. Its pages are also filled with colorful drawings of strange diagrams, odd events and plants that do not seem to match any known species, adding to the intrigue of the document and the difficulty of deciphering it. The original author of the manuscript remains unknown, but carbon dating has revealed that its pages were made sometime between 1404 and 1438. It has been called "the world's most mysterious manuscript."

Theories abound about the origin and nature of the manuscript. Some, like historian and artist Nicholas Gibbs, believe it was meant to be a pharmacopoeia, to address topics in medieval or early modern medicine. In a recent essay for the Times Literary Supplement, Gibbs writes that it's "a reference book of selected remedies lifted from the standard treatises of the medieval period, an instruction manual for the health and wellbeing of the more well to do women in society, which was quite possibly tailored to a single individual."

Many of the pictures of herbs and plants hint that it many have been some kind of textbook for an alchemist. The fact that many diagrams appear to be of astronomical origin, combined with the unidentifiable biological drawings, has even led some fanciful theorists to propose that the book may have an alien origin.

One thing most theorists agree on is that the book is unlikely to be a hoax, given the amount of time, money and detail that would have been required to make it.