The Biological Section of the Voynich Manuscript: A Textbook of Medieval Plant Physiology?
By Lincoln Taiz and Saundra Lee Taiz
Chronica Horticulturae, Vol.51:2 (2011)
Abstract: The Voynich manuscript, written in a mysterious cipher and illustrated in a herbal-like form with stylized paintings of bizarre, unidentifiable plants, remains to this day one of the most enduring enigmas of the medieval period. Discovered in 1912 by the antiquarian book dealer Wilfred M. Voynich, the vellum codex has since attracted legions of cryptoanalysts and history sleuths (but unfortunately few professional botanists) dedicated to unlocking its secrets. Voynich apparently happened upon the codex during a book-hunting expedition in Frascati, Italy, near Rome at the Villa Mondragone, then a Jesuit college. The Villa had been built in 1573 by a wealthy Cardinal and used as a summer residence for Pope Gregory XIII. Voynich later found a letter written in Latin inside the book, signed by Joannes Marcus Marci of Cronland, Prague, and dated August 19, 1665. According to Marci, the book had once belonged to the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II (1552-1612), who believed it to be the work of the 13th century English cleric, Roger Bacon. Although the codex’s authenticity has often been questioned, its medieval origin has recently been confirmed by carbon-14 analysis. The parchment dates to the early fifteenth century, between 1404 and 1438. In addition, the ink used in the manuscript is consistent with a medieval origin, although there is no way of telling when it was applied to the vellum. These findings rule out the 13th century scholar Roger Bacon as the author, an idea favored by Voynich himself.