Date: Thu, 2 Jan 92 14:19:38 EST
compiled 1/2/92 by
This is a slightly annotated bibliography on the Voynich manuscript,
compiled from a variety of sources, especially members of the Voynich
mailing list, who should not feel slighted by the fact that I won't
usually cite them by name, even when I steal their text word-for-word.
First, and most important, is the manuscript itself. This is in the Beinecke
Rare Book Library at Yale University. The work of previous Voynich
scholars accompanies the manuscript. They apparently will sell copies,
although I have not succeeded in obtaining one yet. Their catalog
number for the original is MS 408, ``The Voynich `Roger Bacon' Cipher
MS''. The person in charge is
1603a Yale Station
New Haven, CT 06520
but please don't flood him with requests: I will post when I am able to
reach him, after January 2, 1992.
The British Museum also has a photocopy of the MS donated to them by
John Manly circa 1931. They apparently lost it until
12 March 1947, when it was entered in the catalogue (without
cross-references under Voynich, Manly, Roger Bacon or any other useful
It appears as ``MS Facs 461: Positive rotographs of a Cipher MS (folios 1-56)
acquired in 1912 by Wilfred M. Voynich in Southern Europe.'
Correspondance between Newbold, Manly and various British Museum experts
appears under ``MS Facs 439: Leaves of the Voynich MS, alleged to be in
Roger Bacon's cypher, with correspondence and other pertinent material''
See John Manly's 1931 article in Speculum (see below) and Newbold's book
for what the correspondance was about. There are also a number of press
Both of these in are in the manuscript collection, for which special
permission is needed in addition to a normal British Library reader's pass.
The most useful book on the Voynich manuscript is that by D'Imperio,
first published by the NSA, and reprinted by Aegean Park Press;
apparently it is out of print, but velo-bound xerox copies may be
purchased (see below). This is essential reading for anyone seriously
interested in the Voynich, and those who fail to read are doomed to
repeat her work. IN PARTICULAR, HER BIBLIOGRAPHY IS AN ESSENTIAL
COMPLEMENT TO THIS ONE. The NSA version is as follows:
AUTHOR D'Imperio, M. E.
TITLE The Voynich manuscript : an elegant enigma / M. E. D'Imperio.
CITATION Fort George E. Mead, Md. : National Security Agency/Central Security
Service, 1978. ix, 140 p. : ill. ; 27 cm.
NOTES Includes index. Bibliography: p. 124-131.
The Aegean Park Press version has the same title. They may
be reached at Aegean Park Press, P. O. Box 2837, Laguna Hills CA
92654-0837, or by calling 1-800-736-3587. Wayner Barker, who works
there, says that certified Voynich Mailing List members can get 20% off the
list price, "which he forgot but declared to be $24.80." Add $2
shipping and handling. This discount applies to anything in their
inventory, in particular: "Solution of the Voynich Manuscript: A
Liturgical Manual for the Endura Rite of the Cathari Heresy, the Cult of
Isis," by Leo Levitov. But see Jacques Guy's negative review of this
purported solution in the file "levitov." Apparently this book is also
reviewed in Cryptologia XII, 1 (January 1988).
Another basic source is
AUTHOR Brumbaugh, Robert Sherrick, 1918-
TITLE The most mysterious manuscript : the Voynich "Roger Bacon" cipher
manuscript / edited by Robert S. Brumbaugh.
CITATION Carbondale : Southern Illinois University Press, c1978. xii, 175 p.
: ill. ; 22 cm.
This is a collection of articles, including the author's own (not very
creditable) claimed "solution" of the problem. It has about a dozen
plates of the manuscript. To find a given page of the Voynich, by the
way, your best bet at present is to consult the file "foliation."
What may be another basic source is
AUTHOR John H. Brigadier Tiltman
TITLE The Voynich Manuscript: "The Most Mysterious Manuscript in
apparently available in the Dumbarton Oaks Garden at Harvard, under HORT
638.H4T5. I will track this down.
A historically important book, in that it brought the Voynich manuscript
into the limelight, is
AUTHOR Newbold, William Romaine
TITLE The Cipher of Roger Bacon
CITATION Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press: edited with
foreword and notes by Prof. Roland Grubb. 1928.
Beware that most of his claims have been discredited. Other books
referring to the Voynich are:
TITLE Thirty-five manuscripts : including the St. Blasien psalter, the
Llangattock hours, the Gotha missal, the Roger Bacon (Voynich)
Catalogue ; 100
CITATION New York, N.Y. : H.P. Kraus,  86 p., lxvii p. of plates, 
leaf of plates : ill. (some col.), facsims. ; 36 cm.
NOTES "30 years, 1932-1962" ( p.) in pocket. Includes indexes.
SUBJECT Manuscripts Catalogs.
Illumination of books and manuscripts Catalogs.
AUTHOR Bennett, William Ralph
TITLE Scientific and Engineering Problem Solving with the Computer
PUBLISHER Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ
AUTHOR Kahn, David
TITLE The Codebreakers
AUTHOR Poundstone, W.
TITLE Labyrinths of Reason
PUBLISHER Doubleday, New York
Journal articles include:
Brumbaugh, Robert S., The Voynich 'Roger Bacon' Cipher Manuscript: Deciphered
Maps of Stars, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Vol.
39, pp. 139-150, 1976.
Friedman, Elizabeth Smith, ``The Most Mysterious Manuscript'' Still
Mysterious, Washington Post, August 5, Section E, pp. 1,5, 1962.
Manly, John Matthews, Roger Bacon and the Voynich MS, Speculum VI, pp.
O'Neill, Hugh, Botanical Remarks on the Voynich MS, Speculum XIX, p.126, 1944.
Zimanski, C., William Friedman and the Voynich Manuscript, Philological
Guy, J. B. M., Statistical Properties of Two Folios of the Voynich
Manuscript, Cryptologia, XV, number 4, pp. 207-218, July, 1991.
Guy, J. B. M., Letter to the Editor Re Voynich Manuscript, Cryptologia,
XV, number 3, pp. 161-166, 1991.
Jacques Guy summarized his analysis in Cryptologia as follows:
"I transcribed the two folios in Bennett's book and submitted them to
letter-frequency counts, distinguishing word-initial, word-medial,
word-final, isolated, line-initial, and line-final positions. I also
submitted that transcription to Sukhotin's algorithm which, given a text
written in an alphabetical system, identifies which symbols are vowels and
which are consonants. The letter transcribed CT in Bennett's system came
out as a consonant, the one transcribed CC as vowel. Now it so happens
that CT is exactly the shape of the letter "t" in the Beneventan script
(used in medieval Spain and Northern Italy), and CC is exactly the shape
of "a" in that same script. I concluded that the author had a knowledge
of that script, and that the values of CT and CC probably were "t" and
"a". There's a lot more, but more shaky."
There is much interest in John Dee's possible role in the Voynich
mystery. This role, for which there is no solid evidence, was first
hypothesized by Voynich. Relevant works are:
British Museum (now Library):
1) Harleian MS. 1879, arts. 1, 5, and 6. `Catalogus codd. MSS. numero plus
minus 230, iam olim ut videtur, in Biblioteca Joannis Dee M. D.
conservatorum'; catalogue of Dee's printed books; catalogue of Dee's
manuscripts. The last two items are dated 6 September 1583 and are in Dee's
2) Peter French's book (see below) lists the BM's Sloane MS 3189, the
``Liber mysteriorum sextus et sanctus'' as being in Kelley's hand.
More widely available:
1) The Private Diary of Dr. John Dee and The Catalogue of his Library of
Manuscripts, from the Original Manuscripts in the Ashmolean Museum at
Oxford, and Trinity College Library, Cambridge, edited by James Orchard
Halliewell, Esq. F.R.S., Hon. M.R.I.A., &c. &c. &c, Printed for the
Camden Society by John Bowyer Nichols and Son, Parliament Street, London, 1842.
2) Christopher Whitby, John Dee's Actions With Spirits 25 December 1581 to
23 May 1583, Garland Publishing Co., NY & London 1988, ISBN
0-8240-6399-6. One reader says: "It's got a lot of detail on Enochian,
and includes Kelly's discovery of the cipher manuscript -- they
occasionally called it the Book of St. Dunstan, or something to that
3) R. J. Roberts and Andrew G. Watson, John Dee's Library Catalogue, The
4) Peter French, John Dee, the World of an Elizabethan Magus
Routledge, 1972?, reprinted by Dorset Press, 1989, as ISBN
5) Nicholas H. Clulee, John Dee's Natural Philosophy: Between Science and
Religion, Routledge, London, 1988; ISBN 0-415-00625-2 (hardbound),
0-03122-2 (paperbound), xiv+347, index, bibliography.
6) Meric Casaubon, True and Faithful Relation, Askin Publishers, 1974.
(A modern reprint of a account of Dee's doings published by Casaubon in
London in 1659, with the title "A True and Faithful Relation of what passed for
many years between Dr. John Dee... and some Spirits".)
7) Donald Clarence Laycock, The Complete Enochian Dictionary - A Dictionary
of the Angelic Language as revealed to Dr John Dee and Edward Kelley,
Askin Publishers, London, 1978. Jacques Guy recently posted a review
of this book.
8) Frances Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, University
of Chicago Press, 1964.
Johannes Trithemius's "Steganographia" (steganography = secret writing)
was an early and influential book about codes, etc.. A modern edition
exists, trans. by Fiona Tait ansd Christopher Upton, Edinburgh: Magnum
Opus Hermetic Sourceworks, 1982.
A modern manuscript written in an "indecipherable code," probably an
elaborate practical joke, might be worth comparing to the Voynich. On
the back of the title page is the following information:
1. Imaginary Languages. 2. Imaginary societies.
3. Encyclopedias and Dictionaries-- Miscellanea.
PN6381.S4 1983 818'.5407 83.-7076
First American Edition, 1983.
Copyright (c) 1981 by Franco Maria Ricci. All rights reserved
by Abbeville Press. No part of this book may be reproduced...
without permission in writing from the publisher. Inquiries should
be addressed to Abbeville Press, Inc., 505 Park Avenue, New York
10022. Printed and bound in Italy."
According to one reader:
"The book is remarkable and bizarre. It *looks* like an encyclopedia
for an imaginary world. Page after page of beautiful pictures
of imaginary flora and fauna, with annotations and captions in
a completely strange script. Machines, architecture, umm, 'situations',
arcane diagrams, implements, an archeologist pointing at a Rosetta stone
(with phony hieroglyphics), an article on penmanship (with unorthodox
pens), and much more, finally ending with a brief index.
The script in this work looks vaguely similar to the Voynich orthography
shown in Poundstone's book (I just compared them); the alphabets
look quite similar, but the Codex script is more cursive and less
bookish than Voynich. It runs to about 200 pages, and probably
ought to provide someone two things:
- a possible explanation of what the Voynich manuscript is
(a highly imaginative work of art)
- a textual work which looks like it was inspired by it and might
provide an interesting comparison for statistical study."