Master Voynich Bibliography

Books about or mentioning the Voynich Manuscript, or any related discipline.
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Master Voynich Bibliography

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Rather than make separate topics, I thought I would make a master list of Voynich related books. I'm sure I am unaware of, or missed others, so please let me know so I can add them. Others can make separate topics, too, with their lists, if they choose.

Because the Voynich has so many facets, in so many possible disciplines of art, history, science, religion, culture; and so many different possible underlying meanings, purposes, and content, many of these may not seem appropriate to every Voynich researcher. That is, any bibliography of the Voynich will tend to be somewhat personal, as all approaches are different. But perhaps this is a good start, from one perspective, and we can add titles that others find valuable.

Books on the Voynich:

1) The Voynich Manuscript: An Elegant Enigma, by Mary D'Imperio, National Security Agency, 1978

While now in the fifth decade since publication, this work still stands serves as a solid foundation to all Voynich research. The depth of detail and wealth of knowledge in it are really unsurpassed in almost any Voynich source. Don't let the age fool you, this is a must read, as a starting point, and as a continual reference. Downloadable from the NSA: ... script.pdf

2) The Voynich Manuscript: The Mysterious Code That Has Defied Interpretation for Centuries, by Gerry Kennedy & Rob Churchill, 2004, 2006.

This work is not only comprehensive in its scope, but manages to present the Voynich problem in a way that lets the reader make up their own mind about what the answers may be. It covers the history, content, various hypotheses, even proposed and suggested methods of attack for the manuscript. And it is well-written, and entertaining.

3) The Voynich Manuscript, Edited by Raymond Clemens, with an introduction by Deborah Harkness, 2016, Yale University Press.

Another "must have" in my opinion, for several reasons: First of all, it is a high quality work, which does the Voynich manuscript justice. I was at the Yale introduction of the book, and Mr. Clemens, and the graphic staff and other editors explained the methods used to accurately reproduce the colors, and details, of the original. And the pages are reproduced actual size... even the foldouts! The resolution may not of the detail one would find with the digital downloads from the Beinecke website, but that is a reflection of the limits of the printing process, and understandable. The book is a bargain, in my opinion, and another one that anyone would want on their shelf.

The essays describe much analysis of the manuscript, in some detail. My recommendation would be to read those sections several times, to really absorb the implications which the forensics actually revealed. Most outside opinion is based on these reports, from this book, and may not accurately reflect the true findings in this modern, but seminal and source work.

4) The Voynich Manuscript: The World's Most Mysterious and Esoteric Codex, with introduction by Dr. Stephen Skinner, and introduction by Dr. Rafal T. Prinke & Dr. René Zandbergen, 2017, Watkins Publishing.

Another fine reproduction of the Voynich in print, the colorful photographs of the pages are each accompany by a simple graphic which shows that leaf's location in the book, and individual quire. The fore matter gives an overview of the history and provenance of the manuscript, but with a bias toward 15th century European origins, and projects it only as a genuine work. If one keeps that in mind, it is a worthwhile addition to any Voynich library.

5) Unraveling the Voynich Codex, by Jules Janick & Arthur O. Tucker, 2018, Springer Press

I wrote my glowing review for this book in a separate topic under "Books", and in my review on the Amazon site under "proto57", but suffice it to say I strongly recommend it. This, whether or not one agrees with the author's conclusions (New World Origins), it is still a fine reference to the plants, animals, and other illustrations of the Voynich.

6) Flora of the Voynich Codex: An Exploration of Aztec Plants, by Jules Janick & Arthur O. Tucker, 2019, Springer Press

I had an opportunity to peruse the pages of this fine work, although I do not yet own a copy. The work expands on their identifications in "Unraveling...", above, and so I consider this another great addition to Voynich studies.

7) The Curse of the Voynich: The Secret History of the World's Most Mysterious Manuscript, by Nicholas Pelling, 2006, Compelling Press.

Currently out of print, but worth finding a copy. This book is really a "two in one", as it is both a detailed codiological and art historical examination of the manuscript; and at the same time the author's personal hypothesis as to the authorship, content and meaning of the same. Nick has carefully examined the Voynich in person on at least two occasions, spending many hours observing and recording the smallest detail. So it is not relevant to that, then, whether one agrees or disagrees that this theory is plausible or not, as the forensic content makes the work totally worthwhile.

8) Il Codice Voynich, by Claudio Foti, Eremon Edizioni publishers

For readers of Italian, and overview of the Voynich mystery, its history and possible provenance, along with various theories. (Translated) from the publisher's website, "A mysterious manuscript with an indecipherable text, unusual designs, unknown temporal and geographical origin. The author collects the interpretative theses that over the years, from 1912 (date of the discovery in Villa Mondragone, near Rome) to today, have been proposed by researchers and analysts from all over the world proposing different hypotheses, on who and why he was written."

9) The Most Mysterious Manuscript: The Voynich "Roger Bacon" Cipher Manuscript, edited by Robert S. Brumbaugh

I had already been familiar with Brumbaugh through is History of the Greek Philosophers, and so have great respect for his abilities. In that context, this work gives a sound warning to those who rely on expert opinion, and respected scholarship, to judge anyone's ability to discern the depths of the Voynich mystery. Brumbaugh cannot have the solution here, like some before him, and so many who came after. This alone makes the book a great resource (if you are lucky to find a copy), because we should always keep this in mind, when reviewing the "translations" of others, or more importantly, descending down that dark and slippery road, ourselves.

10) Cipher of Roger Bacon, William Romaine Newbold & Roland Grubb Kent, 1928, University of Pennsylvania Press

Like the above, but more so, this work is both a warning, and a lifeline, to anyone thinking they might take a stab a deciphering the Voynich. Newbold's claims famously went down in flames, and his reputation forever tarnished by the attempt on the manuscript. Read with awe at the ever hopeful ability of a brilliant human mind to see meaning in the most obscure.

11) Solution of the Voynich Manuscript: A Liturgical Manual for the Endura Rite of the Cathari Heresy, the Cult of Isis, by Dr. Leo Levitov, 1987, Aegean Park Press

No. It isn't. But again, if one wants avoid the pitfalls of other attempts, I feel it is important and valuable to read and understand them. I do see, however, I was lucky to get my copy over ten years ago, as copies of these can now cost over $600.

12) The Friar and the Cipher: Roger Bacon and the Unsolved Mystery of the Most Unusual Manuscript in the World, by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone (2005), Doubleday (hardback) and Broadway Books (paperback)- (thanks Jay Cole)

The authors present one of the latest cases that the Voynich is a work by Roger Bacon, who was of course an early candidate, but not one often held any longer. But in outlining this case, they also present an interesting history of the philosophies of "the two Bacons", and many in between. As the Amazon reviewer Wesely Coll wrote, "Goldstone offers the possibility that the Voynich was a work of Bacon, a theory that has since been debunked, while tracing his amazing legacy of invention and erudition, culminating with the founding of Oxford University."

Books with Voynich Chapters & Mentions:

1) The Codebreakers: The Story of Secret Writing, by David Kahn, 1969 (?),The Macmillan Company.

Still available, and now offered in an e-book format, Mr. Kahn's work was probably one of the earliest serious introductions to the Voynich problem for many modern investigators. The chapter covering the manuscript is insightful and informative, but since it is in the context of the many other historical codes and cipher the author describes, it puts it in a good historical perspective.

2) Nict Zu Knacken: Von ungelösten Enigma-Codes zu den Briefen des Zodiac-Killers, by Klaus Schmeh, 2012, Carl Hansen Verlog München.

For readers of German. The author intersperses the various known and possible Voynich cipher types, against the backdrop of other historical unsolved ciphers. Schmeh presents the problem in his usual open and unbiased way, allowing the reader the necessary knowledge in order to let them come to their own conclusions.

3) Unsolved!: The History and Mystery of the World's Greatest Ciphers from Ancient Egypt to Online Secret Societies, by Craig Bauer, 2017, Princeton University Press

Another "must have", in my opinion, as this work contains not only another source on, and perspective of, the Voynich "problem", but covers many other historical cipher mysteries, in a knowledgeable, colorful, and insightful way.

The Voynichs & Other Players:

1) Rare People and Rare Books, by E. Millicent Sowerby, 1967, C. Tinling & Company

The charming Ms. Sowerby found work as Wilfrid Voynich's cataloger just at the time his "Roger Bacon Manuscript" was first introduced to the world. Her observations and insights are fascinating and valuable, not only to the actions, business, and personality of her boss, but also to other key "players" of the time, and the contemporaneous world of rare book sellers and practices. It is only through this context that anyone can possibly hope to understand the world that the Voynich manuscript was born into.

The author seemed somewhat of a babe in the woods, so that seemingly inadvertently at times, she reveals a bit of a darker side to the practices of Voynich, and his fellow booksellers. The fixing of auctions, for one thing. How they dealt with returns, books which were suspected by buyers: Silently, quickly, taken back, with no question. And especially, Voynich's operation as a veritable "safe house", with friend, and occasional foe, coming through the business. I read with interest her discussion of Philipovitch, the manager of the Libreria Franceshini, and subject of a "white wedding" to a Voynich female compatriot, and by the way, assassin. There is so much more... but this work, if you can find it, is probably the best way to get a feel for the environment that other cold, hard analysis of manuscript substance and provenance cannot do.

2) Adventures of a Bookseller, G. Orioli, 1938, Robert M. McBride & Co.

Mr. Orioli was quite a libertine, I'd say, with a colorful past, and imaginative memory. Some of his description of Voynich is known to be inaccurate, for one thing. But there is still a great value in this rare and personal account of Voynich, his dealings and outlook. That is, we can't through out the wheat with the chaff, because in this work, approached cautiously, there is great value. Others may disagree, and think nothing here can be trusted. But read it, and decide for yourself.

Orioli was also, by the way, partner in the rare book firm Davis & Orioli, which was right down the street from Voynich's Florence shop, the Libreria Franceshini. In fact, according to Orioli, it was on the advice of Voynich that he got into the business, in the first place. If you can believe him.

3) A Rare Book Saga: The autobiography of H.P. Kraus, 1978

Kraus never met Voynich, but of course he knew Anne Nill, Wilfrid's secretary, and tried to sell the manuscript for her (he didn't buy it from her, as often stated, but rather gave Nill an advance on a future sale). But it has a detailed chapter on the Voynich, and his history with it, and views on it. This book could really, then, be in the above category... but as he was a "player" himself, in the history of the Voynich, I'll keep it here.

In any case, Kraus was a really extraordinary person. He built a huge business in Europe, only to have it stolen by the NAZIs. Then he managed to escape to the USA with his wife, and began again, with very little, and succeeded, against all odds, a second time! Worth a read, for this, in addition to one owner's insights into the manuscript and its mystery.

4) Ace of Spies: The True Story of Sidney Reilly, by Andrew Cook, 2011, The History Press

Not to be mistaken for another "Ace of Spies" biography or Reilly, this work corrects many of the historical inaccuracies about the famous double-agent, and separates fact from fiction. Much of that fiction generated by the colorful Reilly himself. But importantly to the Voynich researcher, the man was a friend, colleague, and possible fellow traveler of and with the Voynich's. In that regard, then, it colors out the more nefarious side of the life and activities of the couple, and so helps complete our knowledge of them... their environment, activities, motivations.

It is also a great read in it's own right, especially for those interested in true life spy stories, and even James Bond genre: For Reilly was one model used for the fictional character (possibly defining our Ethel Voynich as the "first Bond Girl").

5) The Booles & the Hintons: Two dynasties that helped shape the modern world, by Gerry Kennedy, 2016, Atrium Press

Another wonderful work by Gerry Kennedy, it gives a detailed and well-illustrated background of Ethel Voynich's family, and weaves into this history the story of the Voynich manuscript, too. Mr. Kennedy is actually related to the Boole's, which gives him an increased personal interest and insight. But in any case, if one wants to really know the backgrounds and origins of the Voynich story, both the people and the manuscript, this is a great read.

Other Useful Works

1) Introduction to Manuscript Studies, by Raymond Clemons & Timothy Graham, 2007, Cornell University.

The title is somewhat deceiving, because although this is "only" an introduction, the book covers, in clear and understandable detail, a description of the materials, methods of preparation and construction of manuscripts through the ages. For anyone trying to muddle through the many characteristics of the Voynich, and the opinions and stated conclusions as to what those features mean, I would recommend they keep this book close at hand. This allows one to make some sense of it all, what those observations really mean, against a true scholarly outline of actual manuscript practice throughout history.

2) The Story of Decipherment: From Egyptian Heiroglyphs to Maya Script, by Maurice Pope, 1999 (revised edition), Thames and Hudson, Inc.

Like the above "Introduction to Manuscript Studies", this work gives one a solid historical background to the history of language and script development, along with the progression of attempts, successes and failures, as to how decipherment of them proceeded. But it is far more than this, because for in the context of any attempt on the Voynich script's meaning, one is well-advised to both have an idea where in the corpus of known and deciphered languages that script may fall; and also, the trials and pitfalls and methods of those who came before, on both similar and different problems. Unless one wants to "reinvent the wheel", that is, it might be wise to consult books such as this, to know what came before. I would go as far as to say it provides some of the basic tools and insight necessary to intelligently approach this problem.

3) Follies of Science in the Court of Rudolf II, by Henry Carrington Bolton, 1904

A very inaccurate reflection of the Court of the man who is said by many to have owned the Voynich, but useful to understand the mindset of an early 20th century person who learned of the manuscript. This was the popular view of the time, of Rudolf, and the world the manuscript had supposedly passed through. Although I try to keep my own theoretical perspective out of this list, I cannot resist my belief that this book acted as the "primer" for the Voynich, as a modern creation, as Wilfrid stated he was very familiar with it, cited it, and the book reflects a great many of the specific content suspected in the manuscript itself.

4) The Magic Circle of Rudolf II: Alchemy and Astrology in Renaissance Prague, by Peter Marshall, 2006, Walker and Company

A far more modern and accurate , if somewhat popularized version of the Court of Rudolf II, than Bolton.

5) The Man Who Deciphered Linear B, by Andrew Robinson, 2002, Thames and Hudson

In my opinion, the best relation of the famous story of one of the greatest decipherments in the history of language and literature. Why do I feel it applies to this bibliography? Because this man did the impossible, and so for anyone attempting to try the impossible in relation to the Voynich, the process that succeeded here... although the mystery is different in countless ways... still, the methods and thought process and so much more, in this case, can serve as a model and inspiration for our case.

6) The Shakespearean Ciphers Examined, by William F. and Elizebeth Friedman, 1958, The Cambridge University Press

This work does not mention the Voynich, but the authors had studied it. What is valuable in our investigation is that it is a look at failed attempts at finding ciphers in the works of Shakespeare, and how the originators of those ideas came to believe in them. But importantly it outlines the logical set of standards derived by the authors to determine without question that these efforts were in error. These standards can be applied to any Voynich attempt. In short, any solution must have 1- Repeatability, and 2- Meaning.

A brilliant work, by two brilliant minds.

7) Lost Languages, by Andrew Robinson, 2002, McGraw-Hill

By the prolific and erudite Mr. Robinson, again. This work only very briefly mentions our manuscript, so it is not in that section. What it does provide, though, is a context in the history of all languages, that one is welcome to sift through, in an attempt to determine just where Voynichese lands. For if the characters and language are genuine, they can fit "between the lines" somewhere in this book, geographically, and chronologically. Without that background, any proposed origins are swimming around in a vast vacuum; any proposals lacking any anchor, any context in the long history of language.

A wonderful, interesting, and educational book on its own, however.

8) The Code Book, by Simon Singh, 1999, Doubleday

There are a great number of books on the history and practice of Codes and Ciphers, but this is one of this layman's favorites. For anyone wanting a good background on ciphers, you can't go wrong with this one. And it is important, I think, to know that background, as much as the history of languages, when trying to make sense of the so far insensible, Voynich.

9) Rudolf II and his World: A Study in Intellectual History, 1576-1612, by R.J.W. Evans (1973), Oxford University Press

This work, suggested for the list by Jay Cole, I haven't yet read. But it looks very good, and I would like to read it: so I hope to find an affordable paperback copy at some point.

Voynich Manuscript Fiction:
This section has books which partially, entirely, or somewhere in between, "fictionalize" the Voynich Manuscript story.

1) The Book of God and Physics: A Novel of the Voynich Mystery, 2010, by Enrique Joven

Suggested by Jay Cole. I have this book, but have not yet read it through. From the Amazon description, "... rumors abound: the Bohemian court also gave refuge to two of the greatest, and most controversial, scientific minds of all time. Could the manuscript be codified findings, written in a special language to conceal scientific discoveries from the Church and its brutal Inquisition?

"When a key to unlocking Voynich is discovered in the church where a young Jesuit teaches, he suddenly finds himself at the center of a centuries-old mystery . . . uncovering secrets both ancient and modern."

2) The Voynich Manuscript: The History of the Mysterious Renaissance Codex that Has Never Been Deciphered, by Charles River Editors

Each of the books in this section have different proportions of fact and fiction, and I confess I am not certain what the balance of the above contains. But I looked at Amazon's "Look inside" feature, and it is clear that the text is heavily "novelized", so I am putting it here.

3) The Voynich Project: Nephilim Rising, 2008, by James K. Rollings

I have a copy of this on my Voynich shelves, and did read it. It is a bit of a pulp-fiction adventure, weaving the mystery of the Voynich into a fantastical stew of a storyline, which manages to include Jung, Nazis, mysterious societies, and a world-girdling protagonist. A bit of a mix of Clive Cussler and Dan Brown, along with some of my own image composites "borrowed" from my own website! But I don't mind... it's nice to be part of the game.

3) I Custodi della Pergamena Proibita: Il thriller che svein il mistero del codice Voynich, by "Aldo Gritti"

Well this one! I became personally embroiled in the announcement and promotion of this book, in several ways, over the course of a year or so. First of all, one of the speakers at the 100 Annual Conference in Frascati in 2012 was a Mr. Conti. For some reason his name no longer appears on the list of participants or abstracts... that may be because he was a last-minute addition, but I am not sure.

In any case, Mr. Conti gave a somewhat indecipherable, alt-history version of the Voynich, including WWI secrets, the sinking of the Titanic, a confession by Wilfrid himself, and so on. The promoters of this work, supposedly written by the pseudonymous "Aldo Gritto", approached me to promote the work, promising that in the archives of the Villa Mondragone they had found a "confession" letter by Wilfrid, saying he had forged the Voynich! Although I think the Voynich a forgery, I would of course not simply accept any such claim without proof. I asked to see a copy of the letter. They told me they would only show it to me in person, if I met them at the Villa. Well I'm in the USA, so that would have been an expensive, and probably fruitless journey. I suggested that a trusted friend meet them, instead, after she agreed. My friend lives only an hour away. But at that suggestion, all the players went "poof!"... Gritti, Conte, the publishers, and a well-known European Fascist radical author, all disappeared when I called their bluff. At least, I hope it was a bluff. This is a long "review", but I thought it may interest some.

It is probably a story large enough for another whole Voynich work, but I'll add one more tidbit: To gain credibility, one of the players told me that "proof" was in the Voynich archives of the New York Society library. They didn't realize I had read every scrap of paper in those archives, backwards and forwards, and so already knew this was patently untrue. I'm confident the above book is, therefore, another wild fiction. As I cannot read Italian, it will have to remain a fiction-mystery to me.

4) Marvel Adventures: Black Widow and the Avengers, 2010, writer Paul Tobin, by Marvel Worldwide

A Graphic Novel, which includes as a (very minor) part of its story-line the Voynich Manuscript and its mysteries.

5) The Voynich Deception, 2014 by Mr Michael Lancashire

I do not have this one. From Amazon, "When a book dealer comes to him with the key to the manuscript and a promise of untold riches, mob boss Gezim Petrela is hooked. Then the dealer disappears and Petrela tracks down the team he’d chosen to demand that they finish decoding it. And he uses his own brand of persuasion to make sure they comply.

"Petrela gives Ben Jarvis, a linguistics reader at a small university, two weeks to do what the world’s top cryptologists have failed to do in a hundred years. Or his girlfriend will die…

"Secret codes, a turf war between rival gangs, a theft from a government building and a shadowy, offstage figure known as the Architect all collide in this thriller that will keep you guessing to the end."

Probably a hoot... but I have to say, we are already "guessing to the end" with the reality of this thing, and our end might not end, like the book. So the author's guess is, really, as good as anyone's.

6) The Sixth Day, by Catherine Coulter & J.T. Ellison

Suggested by my cousin Terri, who saw it in her local library. From Goodreads, "With the help of Dr Isabella Marin, a young expert in the enigmatic Voynich Manuscript and cryptophasia (twin language), Nicholas and Michaela home in on Roman Ardelean, a wealthy cybersecurity genius and a descendant of fifteenth century Romanian Vlad the Impaler - often romanticised as Dracula. Ardelean believes the Voynich Manuscript will unlock the secret to curing his severely ill twin brother’s blood disorder...". Seems to play on a common, but genuine hope: that if this is a rare old herbal, it may have pharmaceuticals unknown but useful to us, today.

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