The Book That Can’t Be Read

46 minutes 6.9/10 based on 7 votes

The mysterious and centuries-old Voynich Manuscript was written by an unknown author, illustrated with bizarre, puzzling pictures and composed in a language that even the best cryptographers can’t decode. Now, Naked Science follows new leads in the hunt for the author’s identity.

The Voynich manuscript, described as “the world’s most mysterious manuscript”, is a work which dates to the early 15th century, possibly from northern Italy. It is named after the book dealer Wilfrid Voynich, who purchased it in 1912.

Some pages are missing, but the current version comprises about 240 vellum pages, most with illustrations. Much of the manuscript resembles herbal manuscripts of the time period, seeming to present illustrations and information about plants and their possible uses for medical purposes. However, most of the plants do not match known species, and the manuscript’s script and language remain unknown and unreadable. Possibly some form of encrypted ciphertext, the Voynich manuscript has been studied by many professional and amateur cryptographers, including American and British codebreakers from both World War I and World War II.

As yet, it has defied all decipherment attempts, becoming a cause célèbre of historical cryptology. The mystery surrounding it has excited the popular imagination, making the manuscript a subject of both fanciful theories and novels. None of the many speculative solutions proposed over the last hundred years has yet been independently verified.

The Voynich manuscript was donated to Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in 1969, where it is catalogued under call number MS 408 and called a “Cipher Manuscript”.

Released 4 February 2011. 46 min. Narrator: Jason Alan Carvell. TV documentary.

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Discuss This Documentary

  • Dean

    Any chance that the person that wrote this did it for the reason that we are watching it for ?

    • James

      LMAO!!! Every time I see that guy I can’t help but wonder if he has ever heard of a barber! That is some crazy hair for a crazy dude!

  • Dog Brain

    Hah! Great stuff.

    That guy is the main point in my argument against ancient aliens.

  • Baron Von Watermelon

    Gotta love the ridiculously over-the-top dramatic music!

  • James

    Well it was sort of interesting. However I think the people in the doc are blowing the importance of this book out of proportion. Big deal, its a book about plants we already know about. Pictures about stars and zodiac symbols aren’t really that mind blowing. To me it’s not really a big deal that they cant read a book that was written 600 years ago. Even will all our fancy technology it’s not a big surprise since there is a ton about history we will never know.

    Entertaining none the less. As always thanks for the new documentaries! Cheers!

  • Henryetta

    TERRIBLE Dumb documentary.

    Read the Wiki entry which has better info albeit wiki.

    That idiotic woman going on about “Erbs” Ugh.

    Don’t waste your time on this moronic doc.

  • Just A Trailer

    Just a trailer. How do I watch the film? I’m in the UK.

    By the way, looking at the other comments, I see no one who has seen the film was impressed with the doc. I believe the comments — the trailer was only 4 minutes and it was pretty silly. National Geographic docs are pitched at entertaining 10-year-olds so I don’t hold out much hope that the full film is that good. Still, I’d like to see it all the same if possible.

    • Hi,

      whenever we find broken links we exchange them with trailers or small parts of the same documentary. Sadly, this documentary was pulled down from YouTube yesterday, which is where we embedded it from.

      When we’ve found the full documentary again, I’ll be sure to announce it in the News. (The link is at the top of the website)

      You can get a good idea which documentary isn’t a full edition by looking at which category its in, as we place the incomplete documentaries in the Documentary Trailers category.

    • nikki

      the documentary is available on hulu–not sure if it is the same one but it has some of the same scenes

      http://www.hulu.com/watch/303178/orf-universum-documentaries-voynich-code-the-worlds-most-mysterious-manuscript

  • lost

    vonti fleinthy

  • greeneddespair

    I think I’ve found something that’s connected to the book. You know, the women bathing in ‘green lagoons’? Well, I found this photo on Tumblr as I was scrolling through my dash:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/hauksven/7789323658/sizes/l/in/photostream/

    As you can see the water on the right hand side of the photo is a greenish color. I think this photo may be connected to the book. I don’t know I may be wrong, but it’s worth a shot.

  • waneman .

    After having spent 2+ years (off and on) studying this manuscript as well as delving deep into its history of ownership I have conclusively identified the purpose of this piece. Without circumventing what papers I plan to publish on my findings I can offer you this; Its propose is not as intriguing as one would wish, nor as much as indicated in recent media.

  • Prakhar

    I think that this book is written in Theban language . This was the language which was read by witches . I am saying this because . after inverting the page up side down and watching the mirror image of this language i saw some wordings which were related to this language . BUT it could also be possible that the book was written in the mixture of theban and urban language ……

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