The Voynich Manuscript Travels to Washington, D.C.

November 3, 2014

The Voynich Manuscript has left the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library for the first time since 1969, when antiquarian bookseller H.P. Kraus donated it to the library. The mystifying, fifteenth-century cipher manuscript was recently shipped to Washington, D.C. where it will be featured in the Folger Shakespeare Library’s upcoming exhibition, Decoding the Renaissance: 500 Years of Codes and Ciphers.  
The exhibition, curated by Bill Sherman of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and Ronald Bogdan of the Folger Shakespeare Library, focuses on the Renaissance as the birthplace of modern forms of secret writing. It draws a straight line from early modern cryptographers like Sir Francis Bacon to the allied code breakers who deciphered Japanese communications during World War II.  Decoding the Renaissance will run from Nov. 11, 2014 to Feb. 26, 2015. 
As part of the exhibition, the Beinecke Library has re-digitized the entire Voynich Manuscript, highlighting the conservation work done to stabilize it. Folds and curls that had obstructed the images of several pages were removed. To access the new photos, visit the Beinecke’s Digital Library.  
The subject of documentaries, young adult and graphic novels, and countless theories on its origin and meaning, the Voynich Manuscript remains an enigma. Its puzzling text, seemingly an encrypted language, and bizarre illustrations continue to confound scholars and fascinate the public.  The manuscript’s curious, convoluted history is described in detail on historian René Zandbergen’s website.